You know you are doing something crazily extraordinary work with your paintings when people want to have that painting on their faces. Such was the case of a 31-year-old visual artist from Imphal in Manipur Thokchom Sony, whose painting of a Manipuri girl in traditional attire with a touch of modernity was used as a makeup inspiration by YouTuber Dayani Naorem.
In the 20: 04-minute video, Naorem recreates the picture down to the rainbow bangles and the red hibiscus. Seeing the two-dimensional art take up the shape in a human face was quite entrancing.
When asked about the genesis of Sony’s interest in paintings, he says, “I have always been passionate about drawing figures from a very young age. During early school days, I spent time on my painting using a pencil and crayons on leftover blank pages during holidays. After graduating from the 12th board exam I came to Delhi to do my graduation in fine arts. That was the beginning of my career.”
Finding canvas in the unlikeliest of places, Thokchom has been drawing and painting for as long as he can remember. After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, he attained a postgraduate diploma in Visual Effects and animation from Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre (AJK MCRC). He is now working as an Assistant Professor at AJK MCRC, in Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi.
Nature is Sony’s greatest inspiration. According to the artist, nature is perfect and is in a constant state of balance says Sony. “Nature always fills me with energy and rejuvenation. My curiosity and excitement for the diversity of culture, people and inequality drives me to bring my voice, to show people how I see life,” he adds.
The artworks of Sony are always rich in cultural elements with a hint of modern flair. With vivid floral backgrounds giving a fairy-tale undercurrent Sony mixes traditional elements with a contemporary touch in his artworks. “Yes, I observe the wild grasses, flowers, patterns in nature and they speak to me. Everything in nature is mathematical calculations and each plant and animal have different personalities like us. We can learn so much from them to understand life and humanity,” adds Sony.
Sony defines his art style as a reflection of his interests in nature, humanity, culture, his journey, his childhood memories, and his imagination. He further adds that it is a mix of fashion, illustration, botanical illustration and portraiture.
“It’s always exciting for me when I start a new project. My most intimate work was ‘I’m still beautiful and strong’,” he says. The painting depicts a woman who came out as a champion after battling breast cancer. A woman of a mixed ethnicity wearing a Manipuri shawl, sporting a short hairdo and adorned with flowers on her head.
Talking about his recent artwork Sony says, “I’m quite excited and happy about the recent work that I have created, ‘Love is all we need’. It took some time to finish the artwork, having lots of challenges in the concept and the details both.”
It was this painting that YouTuber Dayani Naorem took as her inspiration for her channel.
When asked if he uses his paintings to spread social messages, Sony replied: “Yes, I do. Everything painting that I have created tells a story. The more you observe, you will see a lot of symbolism and gestures, each one telling something deep about humanity.”
Sony’s love to explore the diverse cultures and places of the world but ultimately always staying connected to his roots and identity is what drives him to be culturally specific in his works. “The reflection of this comes in my work knowingly and unknowingly. I see people promote one culture dominantly than others. One superiority than the others. But I find beauty in every culture and colour,” he says.
As a message to budding artists, Sony offers: “Be kind, be unique, be you. We all have a different journey in life and each one has a different story to tell, whether it’s your cultural background, life experience, and journey. Find your voice and style. Let people see your imagination and creation. Don’t hide. There’s a big opportunity out there.”