COOL KL 2020: Anjali Believes In The Impact Of The Arts On Society

Text and Interview Aina Nur Sarah Photography Arifah Hadirah Styling Lim Lee Ann Art Direction Keisha Ryman Wardrobe Talent’s Own Videography Lucas Moujing

Anjali also curates for Malam Sayu

In this 2020 edition of COOL KL, we look to individuals making a change creatively and the youth who are impacting society in every way. 

If there’s something the youth truly believe in, it’s fighting for what they believe. These little doses of positive rebellion can often be seen in their art. They constantly fuel their fire (of belief) until society feels its sparks. 

“I think art is important to me because it, in a way, gives me strength to be who I am. Art isn’t pretty all the time and I think that’s great. It’s a great way to give space to something ‘ugly’,” says Anjali Venugopal, a multidisciplinary artist whose interests lie within theatre, film, art and poetry. She’s done exhibitions, performed for shows at KLPAC and written and curated poems for a showcase. As a multi-faceted artist, Anjali is always looking for ways to merge her craft

Her love for the arts was always there, she grew up around it. “My mother loves art and my father loves words. I was very appreciative of all forms of art because of this. I remember being around 4 years old, when I told my mother that I’d like to attend piano lessons.”

Anjali’s first exhibition was back in her hometown in Sabah in 2015 and even showcased her work in exhibitions in Japan like “Building Bridges” (2016) and “Celebrating Life” (2018). Her artwork is often of self reflections, self expressions and impulses. It’s like we get a sneak into her diary. 

An entry that caught our eye was Of dreams and the monsters you find in them and how they portray monsters in real life.’ It’s simple and straightforward, and we translated it into the dangers of the people who suddenly show up in your lives when they know you’re on track to something great. 

The challenges ahead are huge. But the trials proved that you are wise and smart enough to get through them. 

 

Social media has given art the platform to be consumed by a bigger audience. Some may get it, some won’t but every person it touches counts. Scrolling on your feed, it’s easy to discover these creations that aim to educate and provoke some sort of emotion from you. 

When it comes to poetry, Anjali lets her words flow. “I think a poem should be written as the poet wants it to be written. Sometimes poetry to me is just a form of ‘buang angin’, sometimes you just need to write it and get it out of your system.”

 


What’s your creative process like?

I think it comes from wanting and needing a space to express myself. There are times when it’s a form of escapism. I usually start with an idea and then think of the medium that might best convey that idea, and then just go from there. Those media could be film, theatre, poetry, art or a combination of a few of them. 

 

Where do your influences usually come from?

I’m not entirely sure. It usually comes from personal experiences, deep feelings or connections I have to someone or something. Sometimes I get motivated to make art while doing mundane things like staring at the sky which I do quite often, reading a book or watching a film. 

 

As a poet, how easy do you think a poem should be to decipher? And is it important to you that the reader translates it the same way you do?

I think a poem should be written as the poet wants it to be written. If the poet is happy with it, then I think that’s good enough. Sometimes poetry to me is just a form of ‘buang angin’, sometimes you just need to write it and get it out of your system. Personally, when I do perform a piece, I try my best to express it as I want it to be understood. There are magical moments when the listener relates to the poem but what’s more amazing is when they find deeper meanings than I intended and I think that’s beautiful. It’s crazy how words affect us differently and it’s a little silly if we scrutinise each other’s poetry too much. 

 

You’re also a curator for Malam Sayu, what’s the main thing you look for when curating a project?

We usually have themes during every show and I try to look for people of different backgrounds and experiences to express the themes as best as they could. During Malam Sayu Berpuisi, the poets can perform their poetry the way they like, it can be performed as a poem, a movement or a song. We also have musicians who would improvise along with the poets which makes each performance a whole lot more interesting. 

 

Do you think social media has impacted poetry in any way? 

Definitely. I think every form of art has been impacted by social media. I think for one, it is more accessible. It’s easier to share those poems that you write at 3 in the morning. It also gives space for people to say things about your poetry, good and bad. It’s definitely a great way to get people to read your work, to reach out to people who understand and like your work, and to learn about how different people react to your poetry. 

 

She believes that art gives way for the ‘ugly’

 

As an artist, what’s the biggest struggle you’ve gone through? 

I remember when I first started exhibiting my art pieces in galleries, people started referring to me as an “artist”. There were times when I felt that I did not deserve to be called that. There were months when I couldn’t create anything because I would have had a hard time expressing myself and would get unhappy and dissatisfied with my work. 

I think the hardest part of creating art is when you forget that you are doing it for yourself. It’s especially hard when I’m constantly surrounded by so many good artists who create good art. I find myself comparing and criticising myself. I always need time away when this happens, to remind myself that everyone’s art is different and that’s what makes it so special.

 

What’s the biggest message you’d like to convey through your art?

I think art is important to me because it, in a way, gives me strength to be who I am. Art isn’t pretty all the time and I think that’s great. It’s a great way to give space to something ‘ugly’. I guess I’d like people to use art to express themselves. It has helped me accept a lot of parts of myself that I would’ve otherwise hid away. I hope a lot of people will be able to accept themselves through art too.