Photo Credit:  Kanika Gupta, Amit Kehar

Multimedia artist Kanika Gupta and cinematographer Amit Kehar are passionate about engaging audiences with art in ways that are meaningful and inclusive. In our next profile story, the Creative in Residence duo discusses resilience, approaching work from different perspectives, and their upcoming project as part of the Ontario Culture Days 2021 Festival.

Photo: a woman's hand holding a paintbrush, painting a colourful round object
Credit: Amit Kehar and Kanika Gupta

“There’s something really special and magical about collaborating with another artist whose artistic medium and practice are different than your own,” Kanika shares. “For him (Amit), as a cinematographer and motion director, working with light is his specialty. For me, I’m such a tactile artist. I love to work with form, experiment with different mediums, and really get my hands dirty.”

“What’s really fun is he brings that whole process to life, and vice versa. I find that our skill sets and the ways in which we see the same thing so differently complement each other in such a beautiful way that it brings a whole new life to something that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”

For their 2021 Creatives in Residence series, Kanika and Amit will be creating works around themes of adaptability and using food waste as a metaphor for slow living, resiliency, and personal care. 

“Food as an artistic subject came to me after the pandemic began, actually. It was in direct response to this idea of being at home, having limited resources to work with. At the beginning of the pandemic, art supplies were a huge scarcity, and we weren’t even physically able to leave our homes. And so, experimenting with the stuff that we already had at home, it was natural to turn to food.”

“Food became such a big activity and pastime in our household,” Kanika shares. “We used that extra time to experiment in the kitchen and cook very interesting and creative foods, because that was a source of entertainment and pleasure for us. It was a very natural progression to see how I can work with food as a material and make it artistic. So it kind of came to me as a surprise, actually.”

“A kitchen is a very accessible place to begin. Food is such an essential part of all our lives, and there’s no one way to cook. We all cook in our different ways: some follow recipes, others are more inspired by their senses. One ingredient can be manipulated in so many different ways.”

Still photo of woman dressed in red, staring intently at camera
Credit: Amit Kehar

Reflecting on the centrality of food in our lives, Kanika points out, “Using that same ethos that you do when you use food from a consumption perspective, using food as an artistic medium allows me to really carry forward those same values. There’s no pretension; there’s no one way to use the food, and it’s really the creativity that guides that process.”

“Anything goes because there’s no precedent, necessarilysometimes you know what a painting looks like, and there are people who have been doing this for generations, but food as a medium is so experimental. That’s what I love about it. There are no rules.”

This excitement translates into their 2021 Creative in Residence project with Ontario Culture Days. Amit and Kanika will create a series of online works, as well as in-person public engagement experiences. This includes a video and poetry series that will transform items such as onion skins, banana peels and pomegranate shells into animated landscapes, emphasizing the importance of playfulness and taking joy in the little things during these difficult times. 

Still photo of children illuminated by light
Credit: Amit Kehar

“The fact that Amit sees light and shadow, and the objects and materials that I work with, with a different set of eyes and perspective allows it to come to life in a very different way. As someone who doesn’t work with video, it’s very beautiful and special to be able to share this medium and the work I do with a broader audience.”

Amit and Kanika will invite participants to engage in food preservation and turn food scraps into sculptures at home. This will conclude with an invitation for participants to collaborate on a final project with these sculptural objects they created.

Header photo: Kanika Gupta, Amit Kehar

You can check out our full list of 2021 Creatives in Residence here.