#InConversation with Victor Hazra

By Sanjana Srinivasan | Dec 5 2023 · 5 mins

Victor Hazra is a Delhi-based multimedia artist. His artworks explore space, time, geometry, flux, and texture as a transformational discourse. His most extended project defines the complex and precarious relationship between man and land. The artist witnesses the transfiguration of the metropolitan landscape and territory and renders the geometric forms and textures to extend his ideas. Here, Sanjana speaks to Victor about his practice. 
Sanjana - Hi Victor! Perhaps we can begin with the title of your OVR “Incoherent Anecdotes.” Can you tell me more about what it means or signifies? 

Victor - The collection of works featured in the show can be likened to sketches or entries in a diary. Here, events are captured using a combination of colour and texture. Some pieces serve as representations of specific occurrences, while others are more about the process of creating an image. I find a sense of coherence when I weave anecdotes with images and textures, yet, paradoxically, there's a pleasure in creating abstract images that may seem 'incoherent.' Personally, I often feel compelled to seek explanations for events, but there's also a part of me that relishes the tranquillity found in carelessness. It's comparable to a 'caesura' in music—a pause. On their own, each individual image may not instill a specific consciousness, but when combined, they harmonize to create a melody, forming a cohesive narrative.
Sanjana - So, what are your works largely about? I know you were talking to me about how you felt that you came back to the idea of urbanisation again and again, but also that your works are about transformation. 

Victor - The allure of urbanization gripped me as soon as I left my hometown, Agartala. While it's growing as a suburb, the overpowering intensity of the metropolitan city and its clustered architectural landscape dominated my perspective. The constant changes and the frenetic pace, especially during my rapid journeys to Gurgaon, deeply fascinated me. The obsession with the architectural traits of rapid growth has significantly influenced my work over time. 

However, in recent times, I've taken a closer look at these urban landscapes. I've discovered a transformation, a flux within these proud architectures. Stains and marks left by dampness tell a different story—one that goes beyond the apparent boldness of the structures. I've observed mushrooms sprouting in unexpected places, like my bathroom door, and snails leisurely navigating through plants. 

Growing up, I was surrounded by similar visuals: termites covering bamboo fences with soil, mushrooms finding a home in decaying trees, raindrops leaving trails on mud walls, and so much more. The countless phenomena of transformation in nature that I've witnessed have left a lasting impression. Now, I find myself reconnecting with the textures and colours of these occurrences, bringing about a transformation in my artistic works. Initially captivated by the grandiosity of the city, my perspective has shifted. I now appreciate the beauty in the small, constant occurrences happening around us.
Sanjana - As an artist, you experiment with a variety of mediums. Can you tell me more about the relationship between your experimentation with various techniques and the narrative construction within your art? How do these techniques help you convey what you want to say? It's interesting because of the many artists I have spoken to, you are extremely conscious about how you make what you make, the material you use, and the message all at the same time.  

Victor - The choice of medium is a vital aspect of my artistic practice—it's a simultaneous and intrinsic process. When an idea surfaces, the visual appearance of the work guides me towards the material or technique that can best express the underlying thoughts. In a particular sculpture piece titled 'Extemporaneous,' I utilised wire and painted a fiber head of a mannequin to construct the piece. The wire mesh structure gripping the head symbolises the encroachment of urbanisation on us. During this process, a desperate desire to convey the progress of urbanisation in motion led me to create a short video work, 'A Time Redemption,' using performative video and stop motion techniques.  

I find immense joy in exploring diverse techniques and mediums. This curiosity serves as a constant supplement, driving me to learn new ways of creating images. Despite being a trained painter, the simple act of applying paint to a surface often doesn't suffice for me. The images demand more—layers, dimensions. This desire leads me to juxtapose various materials and surfaces over the painted canvas, creating a visual that is more animated and dynamic. It's akin to moving along with the image. When spectators shift their gaze, they discover a different side or face of the work, reminiscent of observing a sculpture piece, albeit within limited dimensions. This dynamic interplay adds an extra layer to the viewing experience.
Sanjana - When we first spoke, I had asked you about your artwork “Sepulchre.” Can you speak about your interest in using glass as a medium? 

Victor - "Sepulchre" holds a special place in my body of work as it marked my first venture into the realm of glass etching. The piece required a transparent overlay of etched flowers juxtaposed over bomb craters. The inspiration behind this work stems from a haunting experience I had in 2008 when I bore witness to one of the serial blasts in Agartala. The aftermath of this tragic event, combined with the ongoing trauma of terrorism in Tripura until 2010, affected many remote areas in the region. While I had heard stories and news of attacks, that day marked the first time I directly faced the impact. 

A decade later, as I sifted through random images of craters, I was simultaneously saddened and fascinated. This emotional turmoil motivated me to create "Sepulchre." In homage to the lives and possessions damaged by the blast, I chose to express my condolences with flowers. To bring this vision to life, I delved into the process of glass etching. 

However, it's important to acknowledge that no artistic gesture can wash away someone's pain or sorrow completely. While my work might offer a degree of relief, the underlying grief lingers, much like the images of blasts and craters beneath the overlay of flowers. The visibility of these underlying elements varies; at times, they are clear, and at other times, the image of the flower veils them, creating an abstract and poignant narrative. 

Accompanying the pieces, I incorporated a quote in one of my exhibitions: "Few People Laughed, Few People Cried, Most People Were Silent" by J. Robert Oppenheimer. This quote further encapsulates the complex and often muted emotions associated with such tragic events, reflecting a collective silence in the face of profound experiences.
Sanjana - Speaking of war and terrorism - many of the images you collect (and you collect images as opposed to photographing them, and use them in a collage technique) are of blast sites, or of conflicts surrounding Palestine and Syria specifically. Why is that? And strangely, from the last time we spoke, everything has changedin Palestine. How does that impact your work? 

Victor - The internet serves as a gateway to the unknown, allowing me to explore realms I've never physically witnessed. The images I encounter online come laden with narratives and data. Some carry specific information, while others are enigmatic, offering only a title. Yet, these images are open to diverse interpretations, posing a challenge in determining their true source. This mystery, the unknown, captivates me, and I enjoy reading these visual stories in my own unique way. 

In my stop motion works, I extensively utilize surface textures as landscapes, creating visuals that, at first glance, resemble paintings. This aspect of using open-source imagery fascinates me, providing endless possibilities for creative exploration. 

Reflecting on Gaza, it brings to mind my MFA final work. In this piece, I contemplated the word 'Gaza' with 'Ganza' (weed). I depicted two monks smoking weed in a cutout, juxtaposed against the cityscape of Gaza. The smoke from the weed was visually transformed into both weed smoke on one side and a blast cloud on the opposite side. The powerful impact of war footage on television had a profound effect on me. As I delved into images of bomb craters, the emotional toll became evident, reaching a point where I now feel apprehensive about viewing such imagery further. Contemplating borders and the conflicts surrounding them, I can't help but reflect on the trajectory of humanity. We engage in a perpetual cycle of creation, nurturing, demolition, and rebuilding—akin to the laws of nature. The key distinction lies in our heightened concern for personal gain and loss. The profound impact of these reflections shapes my artistic perspective, urging me to contemplate the direction of human existence.
Sanjana - I want to go back a bit and speak about the way you express these thoughts. One thing that a viewer will immediately notice when they look at your works,is how gestural and expressionist they are. You have your own style. What did it take for you to get here? Are there artists, art movements, or specific experiences that have had a significant impact on your artistic style and approach? 

Victor - My artistic journey has been deeply shaped by the inspiration drawn from various artists and art movements. While I don't replicate exactly what they've done, their work serves as a well of influence that I tap into. When it comes to creating images, I rely on my instincts and emotions, allowing them to guide my artistic expression. The knowledge I've gained from observing and studying how fellow artists express themselves, including their choice of mediums, techniques, and overall creative processes, becomes a valuable resource for me. 

If a specific work of mine demands a particular treatment or requires certain materials reminiscent of what I've observed in others' practices, I integrate those elements into my own creations. However, this integration doesn't translate to imitation; instead, it's a dynamic process of adaptation and reinterpretation. Experimentation is a crucial part of my artistic approach, and I actively explore new techniques and materials. This constant exploration and willingness to embrace uncertainty lead me through different stages of artistic development, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of various mediums and techniques. In essence, my art is a unique amalgamation of influences, instincts, and a continuous journey of discovery.
Sanjana - Tell me about the role of colour and lines in your work.

Victor - Lines hold a significant role in my artistic practice, serving as a rapid and expressive tool for conveying emotions. Going back to my college days, I used to engage in outdoor sketches to capture the essence of life and nature. Upon revisiting these sketches, I've come to realise that both vertical and horizontal lines were present unconsciously, a visual theme that I now find resonance with urban landscapes. 

In a series of wire sculptures, I embarked on a creative journey to draw landscapes using wires, transforming them into tangible forms. This process felt akin to drawing, with the only distinction being that instead of sketching on a surface, I was constructing a three-dimensional structure. Currently, my artistic focus is fixated on the captivating colour of rust and various tones of grey. To bring these elements to life, I explore different mediums, aiming to capture the authentic texture. Sometimes, the natural process of corrosion becomes an integral part of the creative process, fulfilling the aesthetic needs of the artwork. This nuanced exploration of lines, colours, and textures adds layers to my artistic expression and reinforces the evolving nature of my creative journey.
Sanjana - Tell me about your collaborative work. I know you work with communities in your hometown in Tripura and that a lot of your collaborative, community-oriented work is influenced by the fact that your home is on the India-Bangladesh border. How did you begin this kind of collaborative work? 

Victor - I can literally say that my home is essentially on the Indo-Bangladesh border, given Agartala's close proximity to it. The projects we've undertaken so far are situated right next to the border, where our aim is to capture the stories of individuals grappling with the socio-political dynamics of that region. In our recent community collaborative project, we actively involved locals to share their personal struggles and memories from the times before the fence. 

Tripura became a part of India in 1950, and until 2003, stones marked the boundary between India and Bangladesh before the fencing began. There used to be a lively exchange where people from Bangladesh would obtain jackfruits, olives, pineapples, and other seasonal fruits from nearby areas in India. Children would play cricket and football in fields on both sides, a scene now long gone. 

In our latest endeavour, my collaborator, Gopa, and I worked with the women of Bamutia Village. Together, we stitched a quilt that encapsulated their personal stories—recollections of Bangladesh, their journey to India, and various anecdotes reflecting their relationships in that space. Approximately 30 women contributed to this massive quilt, using their own pieces of cloth and incorporating stories, songs, and gossips into the fabric. 

Our initiative began in 2020 with the goal of reaching the people in our native state through the language of visual arts. We aimed to engage in diverse activities, nurturing the potential skills within the community and fostering collaboration to share each other's expertise. This initiative is a testament to the power of art to connect, preserve stories, and build bridges between communities.
Sanjana - That's lovely. Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects or themes you plan to explore in your future artwork, and can you provide a sneak peek into what we can expect from your next creative endeavour? 

Victor - In my recent endeavours, I've been delving into the realm of carpentry, aiming to develop and incorporate carpentry skills as a new dimension in my artistic practice. This exploration adds an exciting and tangible element to my work. Alongside this venture, my ongoing artistic practice maintains its momentum, marked by continual experimentation and creative exploration. The synergy of traditional and newfound skills contributes to the evolution of my artistic expression, creating a dynamic and multidimensional approach to my craft. 

Sanjana - I can't wait to see what you will create. Thank you so much Victor! 

Click here to view Victor's OVR and learn more about his practice.