Thokchom Sony is a passionate artist from Manipur, who has done his bachelor’s in fine arts from Jamia Millia Islamia, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Animation and VFX from AJKMCRC, Jamia. He started out as a freelance artist during his college days by illustrating children books, academic books and graphic novels. Ever since he has been living his dreams, painting his thoughts and holding an art exhibition at the capital. Sony is inspired by ethnicity, cultural diversity and mother nature. One could see in every artwork of Sony’s, there is a story to tell. Let’s find out everything about him and his work!
We had a chat with Thokchom Sony, artist from Manipur to talk about his work, his inspiration, his latest project and more!
Hello Sony! Please introduce a little about yourself.
My name is Thokchom Sony, originally from Imphal, Manipur, but currently living in New Delhi. I still carry the curiosity and imaginations of my childhood mind deep within my heart. I love exploring different cultures, meeting people from all around the world. I love nature and greenery, and that is where my greatest inspiration comes from. I came to Delhi after graduating high school from Manipur Public School. I have done Bachelor in Fine Arts from Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi and post graduate diploma in Animation and VFX from AJKMCRC, Jamia.
I started working as a freelance in 2nd year of B.F.A, where I used to illustrate for children books, academic books and graphic novels. In 2013, I was working as a junior illustrator and animator in a U.S.-based agency specializing in learning experience design and development for education. It was a learning experience and taught me about myself, what I really want to do in life. I left the job 9 months later and I put myself back together and started painting my own ideas and concepts.
Introduce us to your work. What got you started?
It has been a personal journey of self-discovery and awareness. We all have different and unique gifts and have to explore deeper within ourselves to find that gem. I seem to have found mine and it’s gradually shaping its form. We are born for a reason and we have to contribute or give back something to this world. My art is my contribution to the society and to this world.
As I grow older, my ideas and understanding of life and purpose became clearer. Every day is a learning experience. I get to learn so much from different people that I meet. When I look back, I see where I came from, my experiences, the subjects and things that I love, everything is reflected in my work. Fashion, people, science, culture, childhood memories, social issues etc. I have a vision that I look forward to, it’s all about connections and bridging the gaps. Breaking the bubbles that we live in and breaking the walls that we have built.
Illustration of wild and free living lady with the nature by Thokchom Sony
Artwork of a Manipuri wedding couple, surrounded by the beauty of nature by Thokchom Sony
Thokchom Sony’s amazing Artwork, “The Infinty”
What initially sparked your interest in drawing?
I started drawing when I was very little. Although I used to get terrified by my own drawings on the wall when I was little, it has always been my most favorite moment for I used to let my imagination go wild and free. I could see myself improving gradually as I grew older. I’m still working on it because I’m not perfect and learning never ends. Little by little, I observe and study in my own timeline. Earlier, I used to imagine and paint, then I started imitating nature and people in my artwork where there was not much thought process on them. Now, what I paint is not just a painting but it has got all of my soul, energy and wisdom. Art is a channel to express our inner voice that sometimes is difficult to express in words. It is a channel to release our energies in a positive way that can comfort or heal others, and ourselves too.
How have your roots and upbringing influenced your work or working style?
I grew up in the lap of nature, our northeast states of India has a rich diversity of vegetation, hills, landscapes, lakes, animals. So many different communities across the region and each have different languages, unique patterns and designs. We didn’t have any luxury gadgets as kids but rich foods, fresh vegetables from the garden and fish my father kept in the pots. I’m glad we grew up in a humble background as it also gave me a big room for my imagination. I never realized how rich we actually are until I came out from my comfort zone and experienced a different world in the city. I value every little thing, every little time I spend at home.
During the exhibition in Delhi_Khongool | Framed Arts on the wall by Thokchom Sony
During the exhibition in Delhi_Khongool | Illustration of a Manipuri bride with her best friends hung on the wall by Thokchom Sony
Sony while at work. Photo courtesy – Art for change
What are the challenges that you have faced and lessons you’ve learnt so far?
I’m a slow learner and I have accepted myself but my curiosity to learn will never end. I stammer when I talk and that makes me very anxious and conscious when people ask me to speak in public or in front of camera. So, my real voice came through visuals to communicate with the world. There are challenges and many turning points in my life. When I grew up I had the lowest self-esteem. Slow learner, stammering and my dark complexion from playing in the sun made me faced a lot of challenges as a kid. People used to call me names and made fun of me. Only my mother would listen to me when I cried and complained about this. No one really saw the passion for art. I was bad with memorizing the lessons in school and would get lower grades which then everyone would compare with other kids and say I’m not good for anything. When I came to Delhi, I also faced discrimination as a minority person. My friends and colleagues here are very supportive and caring but I also live in a bubble world. We all do. Outside the bubble world there are places that I would avoid going. Through my art, I wish to educate and give awareness to be curious and have open mind to learn a little bit more of the world we live in. We are all connected to one another. Each one of us are important and are a part of a very big picture that we will see only when we open our hearts and minds like a child.
What’s your creative work philosophy and where do you take inspiration from?
I find deep meaning in looking for beauty in diversity and gain a sense of freedom in expressing my findings. Ethnicities, cultural diversity and mother nature inspire me. I believe the creator of the universe loves diversity and variety. We all are a part of nature. We need to be aware of that and communicate visually with the world around in order to experience it. If we open our minds and soul, we will hear what nature is communicating to us. Green is my favorite colour since childhood days. I grew up in the heart of nature. Every scent and colours of nature gives me an immense energy. The patterns and colour palette of nature is my greatest inspiration of all. One just need to stop for a moment in our busy life and hear what nature is whispering to connect to our senses. Wild grasses in my artworks have a story to tell. Many a time, I felt invisible living in the city and I was made to feel like an outsider. People aren’t willing to just open up. Likewise, these wild grasses are invisible to many people who walk past by. Sometimes people would step over them. But when you stop and start observing the wild grasses closer, you’ll get the chance to see the intricate details and patterns so perfect how nature has made with high precision and calculations. ‘Golden tortoise beetle’ represents my childhood memories in my work.
A lot of strong women in my life have inspired me too. Women are more experimental and expressive when it comes to fashion. The women in my artworks express freely with no fear at all, each one having unique identity and personality.
“The golden tortoise beetle symbolize my childhood memories.” ~ Thokchom Sony
Illustration of three northeast sisters by Thokchom Sony
Illustration of two ladies having a tea break | by Thokchom Sony
What do you hope people take away from your Art?
I want my art to help people see and appreciate the beauty in the smallest things in life. I hope my work makes them more open to explore the differences in cultures and diversity around them. I want to tell the world that every individual is unique and beautiful. Learn to see the unique quality rather than making copies. How boring the world would have been if the rainbow has only one colour.
Lastly, do tell us about your recent work.
Earlier I was more focused on northeast Indian cultures and designs. In my new collection, I’m working on the wider diversity of cultures and people that I met and experienced in the metropolitan cities. You will see a lot of different communities coming together in my upcoming works. There has been a massive spread of hatred and intolerance in today’s India. I want people to see how I see the world.