The first observance of International Women's Day was held in February 1909 in New York. The event has since then metamorphosed into an important celebration of women's achievements while still being a reminder of the struggle and challenges ahead.
As most of us must have already realised, the Google Doodle for 8 March celebrates International Women's Day 2018 with an anthology of visual narratives. Twelve artists from 12 different countries bring forth unheard stories of womanhood and women in their lives. Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, an independent comics maker and illustrator from Bengaluru is one of the artists whose work has been featured in the Women's Day 2018 Google Doodle.
Her work is a comic about a young girl who reads books on her rooftop, becoming feather-ier with every page and takes flight. Kaveri tells Firstpost that the rooftop was her hideout where she would laze about with a summer drink and of course, a big pile of books. She describes her work as "shots from an animated film that are multi-sensorial". When she is drawing, she likes to feel the temperature, touch and bring back physical memories, which sometimes, come through on paper. She opens up on the thought process behind her Google Doodle, her influences and what womanhood means to her and her art. Excerpts:
How was your Google Doodle conceived?
'Hideaway' by Kaveri Gopalakrishnan is another artwork based on the same memory as the Google Doodle. Image from Instagram/@kaverigeewhiz
I've been wanting to make more stories based on things I felt as a child, and perhaps carry with me today. When the Google team sent in the brief for "Growth", I had an immediate picture of a small creature growing into a large, strong and mysterious being after feeding off books. My earlier drawings have literal books being chomped on while the characters feathers sprouted in excitement!
I've been drawing this memory over and over again over the past year, because the roof was my favourite place to hide away as a child, in the hot Madras summer, when I was really shy and constantly scared of the world and surrounded myself with all my books and cold Tang and just wanted summer to never end. Reading makes me feel comfortable with myself and my emotions, and excited about discovering new worlds and people in my own nest.
What is your earliest memory of drawing/doodling?
My earliest memories of drawing was during playtime with my friends, about 5 years old maybe? I'd insist that we all sit down for 'drawing time', and we'd fill up so many sketchbooks with all kinds of made-up animal/human characters and dramatic conversations that they would all have together. I still have these books, and these friends, and it's one of my favourite memories from childhood.
How central is womanhood to your art? Would you imagine your art devoid of it?
I have never seen womanhood as central to my art. I feel divorced from my gender on some days (and conflicted that it's a privilege to say so!) Honestly, I feel very strongly about public spaces being safe for women and that comes from my own experience which is personal. As I said earlier, I just want to be a good storyteller while staying personal and relatable in my approach, and get better at learning how to do so, to anyone who comes across content that I create.
Kaveri's #NewAgeWisdomEtc: A series of hand-painted illustrations. Image from Behance.
Whose literary works has influenced you and in what ways?
There are so many! Books that have taken me to other worlds or felt multi-sensorial, probably. I think off the top of my head, and in random order: The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, a lot of the translated Katha Inner Courtyard stories, select poems by Ted Hughes/WH Auden, the graphic novel version of The Fountain, Lord of the Rings and just a few years ago it was the Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin.
I usually have about 2-3 books on hand to alternate between. I'm currently reading mostly POC fiction and autobiographical content: A bit afraid of falling into the "danger of a single story" as Chinua Achebe says.
Your 'New Age Wisdom Etc' series received a greater response than your other artwork. What do you think makes it different?
At the time (a few years ago), this series suddenly got a fair bit of response. I feel like it connected with some people, as it was personal or rather private. It was about small or seemingly unimportant moments of spending time with yourself and appreciating things that pass in a flash; rain breaking during a power cut, the awe of being around a large, ancient tree. The title of the series is also breezy as I didn't want to advise anyone on how to lead their life.
On Women's Day, is there anything about women artists that you'd want people to view differently?
I just want good art to be seen as good art, and comics to be written well, and gender to be a subtext and not the sole context. This is the ideal that we should and can push for.