Artist Interview: Suruchi Jamkar & Her Obsession With Ants

Artist Interview: Suruchi Jamkar & Her Obsession With Ants

“When you look at the stars they twinkle and make you smile. There is so much to live for, what’s the big rush? Why cant we just stop for a second and enjoy being alive?”– Suruchi Jamkar

In a world that is stressing over wars and economic instability, Suruchi Jamkar’s paintings makes you stop, breathe and smile. Painting her tales of tranquility, she is an upcoming Indian artist to look out for.

Here is our interview with Suruchi, the dreamer.

The imaginary ‘machans’

Outgoing and playful as a child, Suruchi loved painting, doodling and spending hours playing indoors and outdoors. She and her brother used to put her drawing board on a tree, imagining it to be a ‘machan’, i.e. a tree platform in a forest reserve. They spent hours catching imaginary fish from their ‘boat’ with their twin fishing rods.

Suruchi was highly intrigued and inspired by nature; a fascination that was encouraged by her parents who took her to various nearby tiger sanctuaries.With vivid imagination and passion for nature, the decision to pursue art was quite easy for Suruchi.

As a sixth grader, she knew she wanted to become an artist and paint the world the way she saw it.

Gaining professional education

Suruchi’s excellence got an early credit when she won the Nehru Cultural Award at the age of 13. But, she says, going to the JJ School of Arts and doing BFA really accentuated her skills and helped her put forward her thoughts with ease. Following her BFA, she pursued her MFA from the Lalit Kala Vibhag, Nagpur University.

As an artist you are never done learning, you continuously explore new horizons. After completing her college education, she felt that she needed to reflect and try some new things, that’s when she discovered her love for pottery (Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, and Bhadravati), fresco and tempera (Vanasthali, Jaipur).

‘Mungi’, the ant painter

During her college days in JJ School of Art, she fell in love; it was not with a person, but with small tiny ants. Starting in her fourth year, for almost a year and a half, the only thing she painted was ants.

Can you image a huge canvas filled with little tiny ants? Some would call it creepy, while some would call it really cool.

“My whole canvas was filled with ants and my fascination with these tiny creatures earned me the nickname ‘mungi’. ‘Mungi’ means an ant in Marathi (a language from Maharashtra, India).

But, how does someone get so fascinated with ants?

“It was just another beautiful day in college, when I wanted to paint the sunlight. I had decided to sketch out some bananas in the foreground with sunlight on them, just like the impressionists did.

I placed the Banana on the ground and setup my canvas. But, before I could start painting, I saw two ants hovering over the bananas. They looked so intrigued by the fruit and I was captivated by their persistence to explore. Soon, there were hundreds of ants and there it was, I had found my subject to paint.”

Ants are still Suruchi‘s favorite subjects as they show that being tiny is a limitation only in your mind.

In Search of Adventure

Suruchi derives her inspiration from her adventures and travels. She has spent years exploring her roots, travelling widely absorbing and reacting.

“Our country has so much heritage. History really appeals to me. To travel and see what happened in the past, amazes me and often gives me my subject.”

Searching for adventure, Suruchi went and explored, and painted Leh, Ladakh, followed by a stint in the lush tea gardens in Darjeeling (a hill-station in India). With her husband being a fighter pilot, her journey has often been unplanned, but frequent.

Every new place brings new experiences and these become the subject of inspiration for the artist. Suruchi tells us that she takes her work as a parallel journey in her life. She travels, soaks in as much experiences and creates memories. Then after a months gap she starts painting; all those experiences surface in her mind in the form of visual clouds, where she has the liberty to choose the ones she finds fit for her canvas.

Girls with turbans

During her journey, one pit stop was Bikanar; there she stayed for 5 years. It was in Bikaner that she found her ‘Turbans’.

“I was staying in Bikaner, a very male dominated place. Men there would wear big turban, while the woman hid their faces. It was a symbol of power and control. Being a modern day woman I like to make my own decisions. So I decided that my woman (in her paintings) would be in control and they would be strong.”

It’s a beautiful thought, showing that “she has a mind of her own. People expect her to do something, but she is strong enough to make her own decisions.” Since her experience in Bikaner, she continues to show her beautiful woman wearing jewelry and pearls, but adorned with a turban, a symbol of their individuality.

Inspired by the Divine

Her recent series of artworks is of imagery that came out after her visit to the ancient temples of Karnataka, namely Hampi and Somnathpura.

“At Hampi, it was all about God. People were so attached to the divine; It made me wonder how this connection could be so powerful?”

Depicting her experience on canvas, she makes her main subjects, the historical temples, big in comparison to the tiny human figures. She believes that history is bigger than all of us and has a lot to teach us.

Why become an artist?

Suruchi says it’s because of her particular system of gathering knowledge. She likes to think in her own way, she does just not reproduce things she learns. She likes to soak in the place and experience though all her senses and imagine‘how, when and why’.

It’s only when the images start to surface out of an experience that the flow of creativity starts. This process of self-exploration and discovery is what inspires her to continue as an artist every single day.

Pillars of support

Her Mom and her husband are the two biggest pillars of her creative life. Their support, encouragement, admiration, criticism keeps her grounded and on the toes. Most importantly they admire whatever she does passionately and for that she’s grateful to God. Family, friends, and viewers with their appreciation and support, make her creative journey thrilling and exciting.

There are cons and barriers too

Suruchi laments over the fact that we do not have Art History as a subject in many Indian circles. She remembered her visit to Louvre, Paris on a weekend; there were preschoolers, getting ready to see Da Vinci and Monet and Van Gough.

We miss out on a lot when our generations are not taught to appreciate and admire art. It is always ‘I don’t understand art’ sort of comments coming to the artist. Our buildings are crumbling, museums’s an utter waste. It’s not at all an easy task being an artist in this country, she remarks.

For the future

She promises that she has a lot of work to do and much to explore. So we have much to look forward to!



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