Artist shows work at exhibition

Pushing the boundaries of artistic expression in India during the summer of 2023

Author: Kedar Namdas, artist, designer, entrepreneur and student at the University of Brighton

In the vibrant narrative of the University of Brighton, my summer break of 2023 unfurled a story of artistic and intellectual exploration. As a master’s student in user experience design and a multidisciplinary artist, designer, and entrepreneur, I embarked on a summer odyssey that transcended geographical and disciplinary boundaries. My journey from July to September painted my days with hues of creativity, introspection, and adventure, weaving a tale that resonates with the aspirations of every visionary artist and designer.

Artistic endeavours through an exhibition and talks

My summer began with an amazing opportunity to exhibit my most recent artworks at the Ritz-Carlton’s ‘Frida House’ art gallery in India. This exhibition showcased my diverse skills in sculpture, canvas painting, woodcuts, and etchings, including a notable piece crafted during my Master’s in User Experience at Brighton School of Fine Arts. It would have been impossible without the support of  Philip Tyler, a senior lecturer in the School of Art and Media. Though I was studying in a different department, he allowed me to use the printmaking studio, offering insights into various techniques. He understood my passion for fine arts and motivated me, knowing that after my classes in user experience design, I was working on my personal fine arts projects, balancing academia with artistry. The themes of my work, exploring gender inequality, victimhood, brutality, the conflict between progress and nature, beauty, urban development, and human emotions, were reflective of my diverse experiences and insights.

photo of artwork

(I created this artwork within the University of Brighton’s Fine Art department while pursuing my Master’s in User Experience Design, and it was sold during the exhibition.)

Moreover, receiving invitations to give talks at three renowned art and design institutes in India enriched my summer. The first talk at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Gujarat, India, was especially dear to me. As an alumnus and speaker, this event marked a milestone in my artistic journey, connecting my past learnings with my current achievements. Standing at the podium of this highly regarded institution, a wave of gratitude and pride washed over me.

Artist giving lecture

MSU Fine Arts, known for its rank and reputation, was the crucible where my artistic identity was forged during my master’s programme. The talk I delivered, titled ‘Unleashing the Creativity of the Contemporary World’,  was not just a presentation; it was a profound tribute to the institution that nurtured my creative spirit. I explored the essence of being an artist in today’s world, discussing the journey of ‘discovering your artistic identity’ and emphasising that true artistry transcends mastering techniques; it’s about finding one’s unique voice amidst the cacophony of the world. I addressed the inevitable creative blocks, framing them not as dead ends but as opportunities to pause, reflect, and then creatively leap forward. Perhaps most significantly, I discussed embracing failure as growth, urging budding artists to perceive each setback as a stepping stone, an integral part of the creative journey. This talk at MSU Fine Arts wasn’t merely a dissemination of ideas; it was an expression of my evolution as an artist, an educator, and a lifelong learner in the vast, ever-unfolding world of art.

Following my talk at MSU Fine Arts, I was honoured to receive an invitation from Mrs. Ambika, the Dean of Maharaja Ranjitsinh Gaekwad Institute of Design, Gujarat, India, to speak on ‘Bridging Art and Industrial Design’.

Artist giving lecture

This talk was an amalgamation of my eight years of artistic exploration and  invaluable lessons from  Dr. Panagiotis Fotaris here at the University of Brighton. His teaching during the ‘design thinking’ module had equipped me with unique insights into melding my fine art background with industrial design processes, highlighting the significance of interdisciplinary knowledge. In this session, I began by exploring the symbiosis of art and industrial design, delving into why this fusion is crucial for contemporary innovation. A key focus was on the integration of various mediums, discussing how artists and industrial designers can collaborate to create novel and innovative products.

My third and last talk of the season at Abhinav Kala Mahavidyala on ‘Encouraging Art-Tech Fusion’ was a deeply personal chapter in my narrative. My journey, which began with an initial academic failure while a commercial arts student at this Institute, had come full circle. This very place, where I had once grappled with defeat and tears in the parking area, now hosted my return not only as a speaker but also as a former assistant lecturer, a role that had allowed me to implement transformative changes in the curriculum and teaching methodologies. During my time as an assistant lecturer, I endeavoured to merge traditional methods with contemporary techniques, organising the city’s first national printmaking art camp. This event was a reflection of my lecture’s core theme: the integration of art and technology. I advocated for a curriculum refresh, aligning with contemporary art practices and integrating design thinking into the fine arts syllabus.

artist giving lecture

I narrated my journey from a struggling student at this Institute to an internationally recognised artist, curator, and designer, emphasising the significant role of design thinking in the fine arts. The importance of socially relevant art, my experiences in various national and international art residencies, and guidance on applying for these programmes formed the core of my discourse. Furthermore, I discussed the post-graduation entrepreneurial opportunities for artists, effective art documentation techniques, field research methodologies, and the exploration of future mediums for artistic expression. This was more than an academic discourse; it was an emotional homecoming, a celebration of transformation and resilience. It underscored my commitment to continuous learning and innovation in the art world and my efforts as an assistant lecturer to sow the seeds of this transformation in the fertile grounds of this highly regarded institution.

Contribution to the art community: a podcast feature with Art History Plus

Being featured on Art History Plus with the founder and an art curator, Vaibhav Raj Shah, was not just a privilege; it was a significant milestone in my journey, amplifying my voice in the art world. This platform, known for its insightful podcasts, shines a spotlight on the intricate narratives of art and its myriad expressions. Art History Plus  is  an influential  channel that delves deep into the essence of art, documenting the journeys and insights of renowned artists like Subodh Gupta, L N Tallur, Indrapramit Roy, and Nidhi Khurana. To be part of this distinguished lineup was immensely fulfilling, underscoring the recognition and appreciation of my artistic endeavours.

artist making podcast

In the podcast, I unravelled the tapestry of my life, shedding light on the diverse phases and facets of my artistic and personal journey. I spoke about my dual role as a teacher and an artist, detailing the critiques and accolades that have shaped my path. A poignant part of the discussion centred on my survival of the 26/11 terrorist attack, a harrowing experience that profoundly impacted me as both an individual and an artist. This episode underscored the power of art as a medium of healing and resilience. I explored the intricate dynamics of art and entrepreneurship, shedding light on how artists navigate the complex terrain of making a living through their art. The conversation also touched upon the artist’s relationship with money, highlighting the nuanced interplay between art and commerce. Furthermore, I shared insights into the challenges and triumphs of establishing my studio, ARTLAB, emphasising how I overcame myriad  obstacles to create a successful art space. The podcast also offered a glimpse into my cross-cultural experiences, particularly the differences I observed between the art scenes in the UK and India, providing listeners with a comprehensive understanding of the global art landscape through my eyes.

In essence, the podcast with Art History Plus provided an avenue for me to articulate the multifaceted journey of an artist, teacher, entrepreneur, survivor, and designer, contributing significantly to my growing profile in the international art community.

Podcast link:

Revisiting the roots: scrap sculpture creation

During a fleeting two-month visit, I revisited a project that illustrates the fusion of creativity and sustainability—the Scrap Sculpture Creation. This commercial endeavour took me back to the roots of an international scrap sculpture residency I had curated back in 2017. It was here, amidst the clatter and clang of industrial scrap, that my vision took physical form, transforming approximately 32 tonnes of industrial scrap into six colossal sculptures.

Scrap sculpture

Re-engaging with this project, I took the opportunity to modify one of these scrap sculptures, infusing new life and meaning into it. This endeavour was not just about artistic expression; it allowed me to express my adaptability, resourcefulness and commitment to reimagining waste into art. Leveraging a diverse range of materials and employing my curatorial acumen, this project gave me the freedom to transcend traditional artistic boundaries, crafting impactful art on an international scale while echoing a powerful message of sustainability and innovation.

Spiritual exploration at a monastery

Travelling 1,480 miles to the venerable Thiksay Monastery, dating back to 1433 AD, was a profound immersion into my spiritual and artistic depths

. meeting monk

There, engaging in a transformative dialogue with a monk not only deepened my comprehension but also rekindled my connection with ‘Vipassana’ meditation, a practice that has been a part of my life since childhood. This enlightening conversation resonated with the profound teachings found in Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and Gaur Gopal Das’s The Life’s Amazing Secret, books offering insights that transcend the ordinary and instil clarity and authenticity in my worldview. Such profound encounters are crucial; they steer one’s journey, fostering introspection and self-discovery. This pilgrimage transcended mere physical distance; it served as a powerful affirmation of the enduring influence of early spiritual teachings on my life and my artistry.

High-altitude adventure in Leh

My life, an ever-unfolding canvas of exploration and adventure, recently led me to an exhilarating experience in Leh, India. I have always had a  thirst for adventure and sought to push the boundaries of my experiences. From running marathons to embarking on challenging hikes and even learning the delicate art of snake-catching for conservation, my bucket list is  diverse! The latest addition to this list was the world’s longest high-altitude zipline in Leh, India, an experience I eagerly embraced.

Author on zipwire

Completing this zipline was more than just an adrenaline rush; it was a reflection of my adventurous spirit and my quest to explore life beyond conventional boundaries, seeking deeper experiences.

Reflecting on the last few months, I am struck by how varied and extensive my experiences have been. From the art galleries of India to the spiritual solace of a remote monastery, each moment has been a step forward in my artistic and professional journey. My commitment to the international art community is unwavering, and this summer has been nothing short of transformative.

Having depicted societal issues through my art for over two decades, I began seeking solutions to these challenges after the COVID pandemic. This  led me to enrol on the MSc in User Experience Design programme at the University of Brighton, here in the UK. Each milestone in my journey has shaped me into the artist and designer I am today. Balancing academia and art and tackling crucial societal problems through my creations, my artistic journey stands as a testament to the power of creativity, determination, and the  pursuit of excellence.

If you’d like to view some of my work, please feel free to connect with me on Instagram and visit my website to discuss all things art and design.


Helen Carley • 14/02/2024

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