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From India to US: How this self-taught young digital artist from Kerala made it

Aswathy Biju. Photo: Special Arrangement

Making it into the animation and digital art scene in the United States is not an easy task. But a young woman from Alappuzha in Kerala is creating a name for herself in the US by working in the field of generative art.

It was in 2019 that the 23-year-old Aswathy Biju moved to the US after she got an opportunity to study film and animation at the Rhode Island School of Design. Aswathy believes that it was her persistent desire to chase her love for arts that made her land in the US to study arts. She was also awarded for her academic excellence by Rhode Island School of Design. 

Learning how to use Blender all by herself at the age of 15, Aswathy started experimenting with it to create strange and funny shapes. “I saw the program as a tool, and I was experimenting with it. I like creating something new and pushing myself and the mediums to see what their potential is. I made strange and funny models, just like how children draw. Experimentation is a huge part of my practice,” Aswathy said.

Aswathy’s works also delve into pressing social issues, and her exhibitions in Tamil Nadu and Kerala during her school days touched upon topics like female infanticide. “Art is a political and conceptual tool. I find this function way more valuable than aesthetics. I was well aware of the disadvantages faced by women, especially in India’s patriarchal upbringing. Art is a propaganda tool, and I am very careful with the message I’m producing; hence, political themes are tricky for me, and I don’t dwell into them unless I know I can pursue them responsibly and ethically,” she said.

For her, art is a medium of self-expression with no strings attached, and she follows a path totally deviant from the established norm.

“My art-making is unconventional. I’m not creating work to fit within the market. Instead, I’m creating my own genre of filmmaking that could potentially create its own market. Filmmakers that I admire are Takashi Ito, Kenneth Anger, and David Lynch. Just like them, my art isn’t mainstream, and I don’t mind it. Artists who take risks like this need to have a lot of faith in themselves and, additionally, would have to learn marketable mediums to survive. I learned Python, p5js, and CSS coding on my own in order to create generative art, but I’ve been using my skills in web development currently for work. Web development isn’t an interest of mine, but it’s what I had to do to make money and fund my own art,” she said.

Aswathy, who uses DALL-E for her works, says that though AI is making major strides in different sectors, as an artist, it never worries her. “I really like AI. AI is a tool for me, just like Blender is. There’s always something so beautiful and handmade about old technology and processes, and I’m not worried about AI. There will always be a market for the analog, although it will never reach the mainstream. If you look at music, there’s a variation in tastes. Pop music is mainstream, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only genre that will ever be successful. Other genres of music coexist with it and are just as important and valuable to their targeted audience. Video works in the same way. I’m not worried about AI. I think traditional mediums will thrive regardless of advancement,” she adds.

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