Stripping the world of colours is not an idea generally espoused by artists. And yet, this is exactly what Kapil Bhimekar does. The 35-year-old Dubai-based illustrator has been carving a niche for himself with his quirky illustrations and wall art. The most intriguing aspect of his work? Not only is it black and white with a dash of colour thrown in once in a while, Kapil uses elements from his surroundings to establish an instant connect between his work and the environment it's part of. Sounds avant garde? It isn't.
Sample this: for the bibliophiles, cinephiles and art-loving folk in Dubai, A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue makes for a superb retreat from the hustle bustle of the city. Until recently, its interiors had a black exhaust pipe - running all the way from the ceiling to the middle of the walls - that was doing absolutely no favours to its otherwise quirky décor. That's when the owners decided to let Kapil add his touch to the walls. "Initially, I tried to convince them to paint it white so that I could create something without any intervention, but the management did not agree," he recalls. Taking matters into his own hand, Kapil decided to use the black pipe as a bark of a tree and drew branches around it. From each branch hung a different offering from A4 - like a library, a café and a movie screening.
A clever PR exercise that also made for great art. The twain do not always meet, but, in this case, Kapil's background in advertising came in handy. Juggling between a day job (he is associate creative director at Young & Rubicam, Dubai) and his passion for larger-than-life illustrations is no cakewalk. What helps, explains Kapil, is that both are creative pursuits. "In advertising, you are given a brief. In other words, you are given a problem that you are supposed to solve with your work. The real-life objects that become part of my illustrations, I see them as real world briefs that need to be responded to with my drawings."
Drawing inspiration from external elements - such as the pipe mentioned above or a hook - means that there are times when he keeps looking at an object, as random as they may seem to a non-artistic eye, long enough to imagine a story around them. But his process, insists Kapil, is more fluid. "Sometimes I keep looking at an object and see different things around it and then draw. And then there are times when I draw first and then look for a suitable element to complete the illustration. There is no real formula or written rule. It's all imagination."
Looking at his works, their subtle messages and the form, there is a temptation to label Kapil's illustrations as being interventionist art. And why not? Take, for example, one of his recent illustrations where he draws fish inside a water dispenser with a man dispensing water from it. In this 'regular', 'quirky' illustration, Kapil makes a larger point about water conservation and how we have terrifyingly little time to address the issue and actually make a difference.
The artist, however, is wary of such nomenclatures being assigned to his work. "I don't try to create art. I see art in things around me. I feel anything you create should be effortless. If art tries too hard to create an impression, it loses impact. I keep my work honest, simple and minimal. I am not trying to change the world; I am merely co-existing," says the alumnus of Mumbai's prestigious J.J. School of Art.
Much of the appeal of the drawings also emerge from the lack of too many colours. It's as much a challenge to draw in black and white as it is a pleasure because "black and white is a very strong palette". "It's graphic and I love the minimalism it has. In my works, I am trying to convey a story using minimum lines and forms. I also feel it's a great challenge as an artist to create maximum impact using minimum colours," he adds.
If the artist comes across as modest, the man underneath is also unassuming. Given the adulation his works have received, one is tempted to ask that very obvious, very run-of-the-mill question - 'what next?' "I want to continue doing what I am doing. I have never been a great planner, as my wife would testify," jokes Kapil, while adding that a couple of projects on environmental design are underway as are some installations. Clearly, the world is a canvas to his imagination.