Avilla Damar

What does your art bring to you?

Definitely not stackin’ loot! How I wish my art could bring me bucks! Alas, people prefer buying artworks that are glamorous in appearance, and that shy away from telling the bitter truth.

My art brings me the solace of being able to articulate my thinking visually- to voice out my disagreement. If I go and stand in front of a parliament to shout out my concerns, the probability is that I will land in jail within minutes. My art gives me Subaltern Voice, the possibility of doing it visually and metaphorically.

What artwork would you like to see in real life?

Michael Armitage is my current favourite contemporary artist whose artworks I would like to see in real. He is a Kenyan-born artist who works between Nairobi and London. His colourful, dreamlike paintings are loaded with provocative perspectives that play with visual narratives and challenge cultural assumptions, exploring politics, history, civil unrest and sexuality. Just some days back (22 May — 19 September 2021), the Royal Academy of Arts housed one exhibition of his.

Apart from having a huge liking for Michael Armitage, I am deeply drawn to the Modernists who had a gut- a daringness- that artists from other periods in art history rarely had. No sub movement within Modern Art survived for long. For, as soon as one started, another came to challenge it. Modernists took a U-turn from paintings that depicted a Supreme Power with everything else surrounding it. They chose the individualistic path and a painting style that contained spontaneity, the roughness of the moment and energetic brushstrokes, unlike the God-centered approach which was being practised before. I strongly relate to the values and qualities that the Modernists displayed. Van Gogh, in particular, has always occupied a soft spot in my heart, seeing that I share the same birthday as him, being born on March 30th. I definitely want to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. For, the museum contains the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world.

What are your inspirations?

My inspirations, I always say, do not really come from other people. I appreciate a few artists and leaders but then, it stops at appreciation only. Most of the time, people who search for sources of inspiration in the form of other people end up being products of the latter, unable to forge their own distinct identity.

My creations walk in parallel with what affects or impacts me directly. My life experiences are my push factors, whether these mean my rough childhood or my later direct experiences of being a victim of corruptible practices in systems where meritocracy is sabotaged to accommodate relatives, friends or followers.

Nonetheless, I have a methodological way of working where Visual, Psychological and Economic theories play vital roles. And if you want me to take a name, then it will undoubtedly be the philosopher-economist-sociologist-political theorist-socialist-revolutionary named Karl Marx.

What are your dreams?

I’ve always believed in the power of a good education. My immediate dream is to secure a Government scholarship for a PhD in yet another culturally and historically rich country in a good university. However, this is currently paused due to the global pandemic situation.

I also visualize myself sipping a coffee in the cafés of all the great art museums the world over while at the same time being a good ambassador of my country’s art.

Well, the ultimate dream is to be happy and to have peace of mind. The definition of happiness is subjective.

What is your favourite quote?

“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

-Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995)