Former advertising man Arun KT, popularly known as ‘Artist Of Joy’, has come up with an interesting project titled ‘Dragonflies For Change’ with the aim of ‘transforming the tumultuous world we live in’. Arun believes that the little time we have on this planet is usually “wasted in insular, isolationist, bigoted angst”. And nothing can answer this prayer better than dragonflies, seen in cultures worldwide as a symbol of change and hope.
BY MEHNAZ NOOR
As Oscar Wilde said, “… the self-conscious aim of life is to find expression, and art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy”. Drawing inspiration from what Wilde said, Arun seeks to spread hope and optimism through art. Any individual can be a part of project ‘Dragonflies For Change’ by pledging canvases. One can buy 10 canvases for Rs. 3,000 and 50 percent of the profit generated by the Dragonflies For Change Project will be shared with the not-for-profit CRY (Child Rights and You).
Talking about the project, Arun, a Chemistry graduate, who began his career in advertising only to give it up when he discovered his calling in painting, says, “When you pledge a canvas, you do more than commission a painting, you become part of the project, part of the positive energy we wish to create. Remember that the greatest pieces of art have always had patrons supporting the artist. Without patrons, there is no art. Without art, there is no hope.”
Interestingly, Arun, who ended his career in advertising as Creative Director at Ogilvy and began his career in art with a symbolic gesture against rampant industrialization and its dehumanizing consequences, had back then launched an innovative project called ‘Plant a Tee’ where with every T-shirt one bought resulted in a tree being planted in a forest. In fact, Arun has over the years designed a number of cool tees — so that you wouldn’t just buy them for what they looked like but also for the good they did.
So, what did he make of art and his way of looking at the world? “I do not believe that art imitates life. I believe art has a greater purpose than creating still-lives. Think about the Taj Mahal. And in your mind’s eye you see a pristine, white monument, luminescent in the morning light, glowing with the many stories of eternal love you have been told, have read about. You do not see, the loud crowd clicking photographs on their phones. You do not see, the harsh rays of the Agra sun. You do not see, an AQI of 450+ that makes Agra among India’s most polluted cities. You do not see, the effects of pollution on the marble. You do not, because your mind has been trained to appreciate a beautiful, divine Taj by painters, photographers and writers. They have invented the beauty and poetry that you see.”
Referring to the philosophical basis of the project, Arun, who was born in the northern district of Kannur in Kerala and has now been in Bengaluru for over 25 years, said, “For me painting is an expression of how I want to see the world. Of what I want the world to turn into. And that, is a happy, bright, joyful world full of colour. With Dragonflies For Change, we release into the world a positive energy. And I cannot do that without you. Please join us in the Dragonflies For Change Project. Let us release that positive energy into the world.”
Positioning the campaign when asked about the context, Arun says the #dragonfliesforchange campaign has been created to heal, in whatever way possible, the consequences of the pandemic. “The marginalised, the underserved, underprivileged women and children… all of whose condition was now worsened in an economy which was falling due to the lockdown. This campaign was designed to bring a little hope and succor to them.”
When asked if his work was a comment on the current scenario, Arun says the campaign is a direct reaction to the current situation of a world held hostage by a pandemic. “Our motto is that however bleak and dark the current situation is, there is always hope. Things will change for the better because the human spirit is indomitable,” adding humans have had great “capacity for compassion”.
In keeping with his artistic oeuvre, Arun has released an ink dye called ‘One by Me’ which allows just about anyone to paint a T-shirt and have it look as though it was professionally printed. The first release sold out in very little time. Arun says that there’s enough and more sadness in the world, and with his paintings he wants to bring people “a touch of happiness”. Using bright colours, Arun’s paintings have a childlike simplicity to them.
Talking about the choice of the dragonfly as the mascot of the campaign, Arun says, “Why did we choose a simple, innocent creature like the dragonfly as the underpinning of our campaign? Because in a lot of cultures the dragonfly is a symbol of hope and change,” adding that the creature had a certain “simplicity of form that appeals to all — from grown up adults to little children”.
Through the campaign, Arun hopes to accomplish three things: Raise money to help alleviate the pain of at least some of the underprivileged women and children for want of money and resources; create awareness that there are less fortunate people who need help in these trying times; and, mobilize compassion by spreading the campaign far and wide.
As to the scale of the project, Arun says #dragonfliesforchange is a flexible campaign that can scale up to any dimension — national or even international. “However, realistically speaking, and considering available resources for advertising the campaign, a participation of 100,000 people (in the form of contributing creatively or monetarily) is what we are aiming for,” he adds.
Paying tribute to CRY for their partnership with the initiative, Arun says CRY has been the “definitive organisation supporting children”. “Children are our future and if we secure their present, we secure our future. Supporting children is a huge part of #dragonfliesforchange. So it is only logical to partner with the one organisation that is synonymous with supporting undeserved children and women,” he concludes.