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Jot Sandhu on 'Objects of Light' and more

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Images provided by Jot Sandhu

Interview by Esme Carty

Jot Sandhu is an artist here in Phoenix, with roots in both California and India. Speaking with him about his most recent art exhibition Objects of Light opened up the conversation to his beginnings as an artist, his experiences throughout, and concepts that have definitely stuck with me since. For instance Jot introduced me to the cognitive bias that is the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which those who have little experience in an area often overestimate their abilities within that given area, and those who are experts in an area underestimate their abilities because they think it is just as simple for everyone else. He relates this idea to the feeling that the more you create, the more you realize how meaningless art can be. Given that, he notes that despite it not holding the same usefulness as math and science, it does not mean there is no value; it just takes a longer time to realize what it means to you. The entirety of the interview holds a certain kind of importance and new lens to look at what you love and how you live through. Enjoy the words provided, much like we did when it was spoken. 

I: You mention that in the last three months before the Objects of Light exhibit you stepped away from social media, was it because it was affecting how you created?


JS: Social media doesn’t get in my way, I know it is detrimental to a lot of artists; for me, it was taking away from the process in a meaningful way. Documenting my work and presenting it, is its own platform and should be done well, and that wasn’t my focus at the time. 


I: Do you feel you want your artwork to speak for itself as opposed to trying to explain it?


JS: Yes and no. I love talking about my work. A lot of it is not being weird or exclusive about it, or too intellectual about it. Make it for people, involve people, talk to people, otherwise people won’t love your art. You have to be an artist within the community.


I: If you’re exclusive, you're not allowing for people to relate to it or draw their own conclusions.


JS: It’s like being a parent, you don’t want to be overbearing and tell them what to think. It’s not cool to artificially make yourself rare or exclusive. 


I: When it comes to your start in art, was it an innate thing for you or was there a point where you discovered it was something you wanted to do and put your energy into? 


JS: It’s probably something that I’ve done innately, my entire life. In my childhood, I moved around a lot in California, then I moved to India. In India I was a complete outsider, and then I moved back and it was the same situation. My voice was quieter but I preferred painting. Including that, when I was a little kid I was always drawing Pokemon, video game characters–I just liked that, I never studied it. My life really revolves around me loving to paint and draw, I never have to pretend like I have a reason to do it. 


I: Or having to learn the steps to do it, it just was.


JS: Yes, I think that’s how most people are, they’re just cut off from it. 


I: When looking at your art, there is a lot of emotion and storytelling. Would you say you communicate through your paintings?


JS: Yeah, maybe it’s my age but it’s hard for me to grasp what I’m saying in my paintings. I know I’m definitely saying something, I think in hindsight it will connect and make sense. I don’t know, I just take stories from my life, my culture in India, my culture in America: mish-mash eastern and western stories. 


I: It’s the human experience, despite where you’re from. Obviously cultural things differ in the way we move through life, but for the most part people are moving pretty similarly. It is nice to see you cross those bounds.


JS: They’re still there though. People are 90% similar, it’s interesting to see that 10% difference because of culture; how they think about the same thing. 


I: I understand in a small sense, moving to a different country when you’re young. How long were you in India?


JS: Four and a half years, a random chunk of my childhood. Being an adult is unpacking your childhood, so unpacking eight through twelve is fun because of that experience. 


I: Do you think it gives you another perspective when living in two different places with such different cultures at a young age?


JS: To really understand that, you have to be able to see something through someone else’s mind, to be able to tell relatively how different you think. It’s hard to contextualize. I can compare it to my peers who grew up here and compare it to my family who just grew up in India though. 


I: Moving into Objects of Light specifically, was it your first showcase?


JS: It was the first one that I cared about. Before I was just posting on social media, I was going about it the wrong way: posting on social media, connecting with people, taking any opportunity that I could. I’ve had some paintings sent to New York, some paintings in LA. I've had shows here but they were just me grabbing whatever paintings I had and putting them out; they don’t tell a story or have a cohesive idea. So this was the first show that I cared about because I put it together from the beginning, even conceptually from the name. 


I: Where does the name come from, what does it tell us about what you’re creating/showcasing?


JS: It was interesting because it meant a lot of different things to me. First of all, my name Jot means ‘light’ in Sanskrit and Hindi, and other Indian languages; that was the basis for it. Then, in an Eastern philosophy, to refer to ourselves as objects of light makes sense to me: the soul is an object of light. Then a painting, being a visual medium, is reflecting light; it hits your eyes and you process what you want to process, so the painting itself is an object of light. It was a big synthesis of ideas, it was just satisfying. It gave me something pretty consistent to work with.


I: The showing was at the start of March, and I remember it because people were telling us that night how they needed to get to the Objects of Light exhibit. What is it like when people are showing up for you and your art?


JS: It definitely boosts your ego a little bit, but it’s multiple things. When I finished the show I wanted to move beyond it. I executed, I did it, people came; I want my life to look like that process of ideation where there's the execution and then we move on. The best thing about it was having my friends there because they hadn’t seen the paintings yet, and just befriending new people in a way that wasn’t even about my art. It was just like, ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re here and welcome to the community,’ I appreciated it, it was fun! 


I: What are your thoughts on the Phoenix art scene?


JS: The Phoenix arts government council, the Phoenix public art community, the Scottsdale gallery scene, all of that, is not very nice and not, in my opinion, what the city needs. It does not reflect the actual on the ground artists.


I: Would that also be why you went through the Greater Good to showcase it rather than through an art gallery?

JS: Oh absolutely! The Greater Good is awesome, I’m really thankful to those guys for letting me put on the show and helping me through it. I’ve shown through other galleries here and they have no grasp of the culture here, and almost no curational ability, just random pieces put together. They really just want to sell it but they haven’t done the groundwork of building a good show in the first place. So, I’m happy to be involved with the Greater Good, and in the future in Phoenix, I'm gonna put space like that first always.

Thank you to Jot Sandhu for sitting down with me to speak on his work and experiences as an artist. You can find his art on both his instagram and his website

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