Santanu Hazarika: My rebellion is more like a silent scream today

The Indian art community recently witnessed a momentous event as Santanu Hazarika, a renowned artist and illustrator, launched a capsule collection of 300 sneakers for Comet that sold out within a mere two hours of their release. Reflecting on his ambitions, Hazarika said, “As a teen, I aspired to own a piece of limited edition collections but they were out of my reach. I want youngsters to be able to afford some of my creations.” His intention behind collaborating with brands for special edition collections is clear; it serves as an extension of his creative portfolio. “Not everyone might be able to afford my paintings, but they can buy the shoes or jerseys I design. These might be limited-edition pieces but are within an affordable range,” he shared.

Santanu, who ventured to Hyderabad for the Red Bull Soapbox Race India 2024, looks back at his life-changing victory a decade earlier at the Red Bull World Doodle Art Championship in Cape Town, South Africa. That winning moment catapulted his confidence in pursuing art full-time. He divulges that during his final year of engineering studies, which were punctuated by struggles, the championship served as a beacon of hope and a justification for his true calling.

The provocative piece that clinched his victory at the contest was a detailed representation of the book “7 Secrets of Vishnu” by Devdutt Pattanaik. Books on psychology, philosophy, and mythology became his staple, surpassing his interest in engineering material. Now reading “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas Hofstadter, Hazarika is engrossed in the interplay of disciplines that the book explores.

Santanu’s creative journey is fuelled by patience—a virtue he wishes he could impart to his younger self. Growing up amid the tumultuous times in Guwahati, his art became his way of questioning the established norms and expressing his dreams. His current approach in art is likened to “a silent scream,” an internal rebellion that persists subtly through his aversion to normalcy and stereotypes.

Santanu’s working ethos dabbles with various mediums but traditionally begins with a simple pen and paper, a practice embedded with a sense of nostalgia and belonging. His large Mumbai studio is a testament to his success, where he currently experiments with charcoal and acrylics on paper, challenging conventional sizes with larger artworks.

His recent work “Please Don’t Fight” encapsulates a personal recollection from an unsettling childhood atmosphere, where a child numbed by conflict may find solace in art. His drive for uniqueness is also powered by heavy metal music, which resonates with his philosophy to question everything and carve his own path.

A typical day in the life of Santanu starts with a workout followed by earnest efforts in his studio, often striving to complete a painting within a day. This intensity may partly stem from his recent diagnosis with ADHD, pushing him to focus on and finish tasks without postponement.

The artistic endeavor is not purely for self-satisfaction, as Hazarika acknowledges the necessity of commercial collaborations to sustain his livelihood and his art. He considers each brand collaboration as a potential platform to maintain his artistic integrity while providing for his practice.

When discussing his creative process, Santanu reveals that flexibility and the element of surprise are key. He recounts an unconventional approach he took when painting the Mona Lisa, choosing to splash black acrylic cleaning water over the canvas, leading to an unexpected rendition of the iconic smile.

Santanu is not limiting his artistic expression to visual arts alone. He’s currently collaborating with Global eSports to redesign team jerseys and has also ventured into film direction. With a penchant for video games and narratives, his diverse interests are continually shaping his artistic direction.

He has already made waves directing the intro for Amazon Prime Video’s series “Bestseller” and aims to harness those experiences as he climbs the steep slope of filmmaking.

In conclusion, Santanu Hazarika, through his art and collaborations, reaffirms his commitment to democratizing art and maintaining a rebel’s heart. Whether through splashy sneakers or poignant charcoals, his signature silent scream reverberates across the canvas of modern art.

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