Published: 14th October 2020
Remember the viral Wildlife Map of Odisha? Meet the designer who illustrated it in great detail
Captured by the Wildlife Map of Odisha, we track the works of visual designer Sudarshan Shaw and understand how it is in the discovery of India that he found the voice for his art. Check it out!
A true mark of an artist is when his work is more popular than his name. That's why the words Wildlife Map of Odisha might ring a bell and not the artist's name, Sudarshan Shaw. Yes, the credit for this wonderful creation goes to him. The map, which recently went viral, is still fresh in most of our memories. For the uninitiated though, this visual designer took elements from Pattachitra and incorporated it in this map, which he shared on his Instagram page just last month. The Asian elephant, Indian pangolin, Bengal tiger, Irrawaddy dolphin, spotted deer, fishing cat — many animals make an appearance on this map which is flagged on the sides with information about indigenous tribes of Odisha and wildlife hotspots. Truly, the map is a sight to behold. So you see, completely smitten with the art, like the rest of the netizens, we reached out to the artist to understand the mind that has this flair for art.
While I wish to create visual feasts that bend perspectives, I try my best to also add a smell to it, the smell of the soil we are born to, a smell that can take us back home, back to our folks
Sudarshan Shaw, Artist
His origin story
The temple walls of his hometown of Bhubaneswar, on which stories of yore were intricately carved, and the festive streets of Kolkata, the city he used to visit, which were lined with half-baked sculptures of goddesses — these two were the aesthetics that Sudarshan Shaw grew up around. "Growing up, I braided the visual languages of these two cities as an artist, the finesse from Kolkata and the primitiveness from Bhubaneswar, my hometown," says the visual designer. And this is the best way to describe his art.
Wildlife map | (Pic: Sudarshan Shaw)
Sudarshan pursued his Communication Design from NIFT Delhi and by his own admission, his turning point came with his graduation project, Wildlife Conservation Through the Medium of Art. Since then, he has been travelling a lot, in Odisha and outside it. "I constantly feel the need to feed the same fascination to the child in me and have been on a hunt for my secret ingredients, most of which I find in unusual places like a forest floor, the plumage of a garden bird, mud paintings in tribal homes, or an accidental excavation," says the 26-year-old passionately. As these inclinations grew stronger, he quit the job he had at a Gurugram-based design agency and started treading the path of a visual designer while working as a freelancer for various forest departments like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and so on.
He recently made a mud painting where he used various muds and mixed it with colours to make a wonderful portrait of a fishing cat. He buried the painting underground, a technique he learnt from the people in Ranthambore
If you have seen the Wildlife Map of Odisha artwork, you'll be surprised to spot a tribal man from the Kharia tribe. In fact, this created quite the stir we hear. But for Sudarshan, it came quite naturally. "When we speak about wildlife, we speak about animals. But for me, the definition of wildlife and civilisation are different from the conventional ones," he explains. He is an avid traveller and it is during his travels that he mines for stories and learns different art techniques, from Jim Corbett National Park to Simlipal National Park, he has covered a lot of ground. "I bring the whole of India into my art,” he says.
Hornbill and the Fig Tree | (Pic: Sudarshan Shaw)
The artist's latest series, which has us double-tapping on every post, is My Picture of Divinity (MPOD). "In the bygone days, tribal gods, who were nature-related, used to be worshipped. Now, their interpretation has changed. MPOD is an attempt to overwrite the conventional portraitures of these gods that centralised humans, while all the legendary powers they invented were inspired from the ways of the wild," he explains passionately. Thus, Tiger and the Forest, Frogs and the Rains, Cobra and the Earth and seven such artworks have been posted, which belong to the larger 12-part series.
MPOD is a tribute to the true ancestors, the teachers, the deities of the art of thriving, he says
Atop the fig tree
Describing his favourite from the series, Hornbill and the Fig Tree, Sudarshan says, "Several trips to the forests of the Shivalik range had a reward in store for me. The idea was to walk the forest and the most fascinating mysteries started to unfold only when the forest thought that I had merged, as I carried pollen on my clothes while I sat under one tree to another just like the bee," he explains poetically. This is when the hornbills showed him their way back home, on the highest fig tree. He was mesmerised. They naturally pick the tallest tree to keep their nests safe. Thus the series was born. Basically, "MPOD is a search for the godliness that lies in the relationship between humble lifeforms and magnificent systems of sustenance," he explains.
His other work | (Pic: Sudarshan Shaw)
Coming back to where it all started, the topic of wildlife conservation through art, the artist explains, "Ideally, the concept of conservation shouldn't exist. Because when you love wildlife and nature, you make an attempt to understand it. And when you understand it, you respect it and conservation is a byproduct,” he says and concludes.
Glimpse of MPOD, in his words
Owl and the Night
Noiseless flights of the owl is his fiery dance on the drums of silence to bring upon death for some lives and destruction for death itself
Turtle and the Sea
She reads through celestial coordinates and carries within herself the magnetic imprints of Earth ever since her birth. It is these imprints, which would guide her reappearance on the same beach, she was born on
Indigenous animals from the map:
- Irrawaddy dolphin: These dolphins that have a bulging forehead and a short beak are the pride of Chilika lake
- Olive ridley: With an olive green shell, these second smallest turtles have mass nests on the coast of Odisha
- Asian elephant: It is not for nothing that the kings of Odisha where called Gajapati, kings of elephants, in the past
For more on him, check out instagram.com/sudarshan_shaw