Priyanka Meenakshi

Artist of the Month November 2017

Our Artist of the Month for November 2017 is Priyanka Meenakshi.

Bristol based self taught artist Priyanka Meenakshi started making art at a young age to manage, process and share experiences of trauma and growth. 

This month we ask Priyanka to answer some questions about her art practice..

When and how did your interest in art develop?

I have always made art since I was a child but I started making visual diaries when I was 18 after a difficult time where I found it hard to convey what I was experiencing. I then started to keep a visual diary by making art everyday before bed instead of writing in my diary, as a way to express myself and chart my experiences. I created my website to have a place to collate all these diaries, and found that people resonated with them and wanted to buy prints. From there, I started illustrating for a magazine I also wrote for (gal – dem.com) and now illustrate freelance. 

What influences your art?

I create my art in a stream of conciousness, sometimes with my eyes closed, often when I am bed bound by mental illness. I have no formal education in art and no interest in getting one. I just express what appears in my hands. Its all subconscious, from the subjects to the media. I end up going over the same themes that are reflected a lot in my personal life and dreams – bodies, dismemberment, boundaries, birthing, drowning, personhood, motherhood, watching and being watched, and joy. It is interesting to me how my self image has developed over the past few years. I used to always draw myself as an embryo, for example. Now I draw myself as a large woman with no, or disconnected limbs. I’m curious to see where my subconscious drawings of myself will go as I develop as a person – I’m still young. Colours are very important to me. Lately I have been reading graphic novels and using those to influence my art as I move more into illustration. 

 

Which artists, if any, have you drawn inspiration from? 

I don’t know any names. I actually stopped engaging with art a long time ago after it became difficult to see nothing but white art in art museums that were built by stealing from colonised countries. Previously, I could reel off many artists and art movements and facts about them. Now, my knowledge of art is purely internal – what I feel and what I want to create. I do seek a lot of comfort from the concept of Outsider Art as it reflects a lot of my own experiences within the institutions of psychiatry and racism. Also, the big eyes found in Bengali art (both in paintings and figures of Hindu deities) have stayed with me through childhood. 

Do you have a favourite piece? If so, which one and why?

Of myself, I think my collages in my first ever diary are my favourite. I was very young, around 18 when I made them and I think that comes through, and I feel protective over that young version of myself who was just starting to express herself. Of other people’s art, I don’t know the name but I will always remember a tiny painting I saw in Glasgow art museum. It was slightly bigger than A5, oil on canvas, of a red house in the middle of a snowstorm. I didn’t know the artist, the title, or what the painting was about but I immediately knew whoever painted it was in great mental pain when she did. I think about the white enveloping that tiny red house all the time. The house was only painted with 4 strokes but it was a whole house and I felt a lot of pain and empathy for the house. When I read the plaque it said that the artist had painted it while sectioned in a psychiatric facility. I sat for hours in front of the painting until the museum closed. I hope that painter knows that something she made spoke to my heart and body.

Another transcendental experience I had was with ‘Art from other places’ at the Arnolfini, an exhibition featuring purely black and brown artists. To see myself existing outside of the white gaze, where the museum was saying ‘we do this’ rather than ‘they do this’, rather than to see myself being seen as an object, or not being seen at all, was shocking. I cried a lot in that exhibition. 

What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?

For me, art is an ambigious and low pressure way to convey experiences of mine that a lot of people find hard to stomach in words. So I hope that people are able to understand and read into my experiences in some way, and understand, or atleast see, how I feel. For others, I hope that people who have experienced what I have can see themselves and feel seen. 

What has been the highlight of your artistic career? 

 

I would not call myself an artist or as someone with a career, purely because I want to keep my visual diaries as primarily an exercise for myself and only secondly as something I share with others. But I think the highlight has been whenever a young black or brown woman tells me that she found something she resonated with in things that I make.

Has being a part of Outside In been beneficial for you? If so, how?

I’ve deeply enjoyed having a platform for my work! I also appreciate the opportunities to apply for art competitions and exhibitions through Outside In, and looking forward to the next ones to apply to. 

What is next for you as an artist?

Rest! And go back to life drawing like I’ve been telling myself for the last two years that I will.  

View Priyanka Meenakshi's Outside In online gallery