A calligraphy artist who celebrates the unique design of the calligraphic scripts of India through his creations. His calligraphy is an amalgamation of traditional Indian perspective with a modern twist.
Achyut Palav weaves his stylized calligraphy skills into a message of preserving ancient Indian scripts. With the majority of his work in the Hindi language, specifically the Devnagri script he strives to preserve the Indian heritage through his work. Being inspired by the hustle and bustle of his surroundings, he was curious to observe painters and imbibe the skills in his typographical creations.
Through the art of calligraphy, he celebrates his roots by showcasing beautiful stylized calligraphy letters that dance on-page through exhibitions that enthral appreciation worldwide. He hopes to pass down his extensive knowledge base and skills by organising a variety of workshops and demonstrations to inspire people to take up calligraphy. Furthermore, with the establishment of the Achyut School of Calligraphy, he hopes to leave an indelible mark on the calligraphy community. To find out his creative journey, the Creative Gaga team interviewed the calligraphy maestro.
CG. Tell us about your childhood memories, education, and professional journey?
Achyut. I was born in Lalbag, Mumbai where I grew up in a bustling neighbourhood among friends and family. My hometown was filled with the tussle and bustle of sounds and movement and it intensified during festivals and sporting events. My first experience related to lettering and typography were the hours I spent looking at various signboard painters who painstakingly created everything from small notice boards to huge hoardings with great precision. These unnamed yet highly skilled painters were my first teachers.
Then in school, my teacher entrusted me with the responsibility of writing the daily quote or moral thought on the class blackboard. The realization that the meaning of the text can be conveyed more effectively by stylizing the letters led to the first lessons in the fundamentals of calligraphy, layout, and design. I specialized in Calligraphy and Typography from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Arts. Here I was introduced to various known and lesser-known Indian scripts through studies and projects. So, I decided to use this specialization to promote and preserve the beauty and heritage of India through this work.
CG. What is the creative process behind selecting a script, style of calligraphy, and background for each project that you work on?
Achyut. The text to be used, its meaning, the purpose of the project, and how its final application is going to be are taken into consideration at the beginning of each project. Sometimes the first thoughts and spontaneity act as I use tools of guidance that aid him to create beautifully stylized typography.
CG. What is the reason behind the majority of your calligraphic expressions being in the Devanagari script?
Achyut. It is the script of his mother tongue (Marathi) as well as our official/national language – Hindi. Mainly, Devnagari like other Indian scripts has remarkable forms and each letter is an excellent specimen of design. This specialty is celebrated by me through my typographical creations.
CG. How does being appreciated by multiple reputed institutions and winning awards impact your work in terms of the pressure you feel to stay ahead of the curve?
Achyut. Each award, each recognition, and each gesture of appreciation increases my responsibility towards honing my craft. It makes my duty towards preserving the scripts of India of utmost importance. The accolades also inspire me to do better and be happy knowing that the work in Indian calligraphy has been acknowledged, admired, and appreciated.
CG. By showcasing your work worldwide, what impact do you hope to have on preserving ancient Indian scripts?
Achyut. By being a part of exhibitions, projects, and demonstrations, I was able to showcase the beauty and potential of Indian calligraphy across the globe. Which has helped generate awareness and promotion both nationally and internationally. I could see how well preserved and documented, scripts and art is outside the country and recognized the need to preserve them in our country. This led to promoting the calligraphy scripts and taking some steps in that direction.
CG. What tools and methods do you use most while creating a calligraphy project?
Achyut. Every tool has its unique presence in form of the result it generates and the method of its using it to write. It is difficult to use or stick to particular ones as choosing the tool and medium depends on the vision you have in mind. I am open-minded when it comes to tools- anything can be used to write beautiful stylized typography.
CG. Being a part of workshops and demonstrations since 1986, how has the interest in calligraphy evolved over the three decades of your career?
Achyut. If you wish any art to progress and elevate, you must promote its beauty, its various forms, and the potential of its applicability. Mainly, demonstrations provide an opportunity for great visual appeal and have been instrumental in generating curiosity as well as certain adulation towards calligraphy. I was able to impart the necessary training and introduce the fundamentals of calligraphy through meticulously developed courses in his workshops. We have come a long way as far as awareness regarding calligraphy is concerned. Its application has reached newer heights and can be seen in diverse fields. It has also helped in enhancing the aesthetic view of people and has been used as a successful therapeutic tool.
CG. How do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to staying up to date with innovations in the field of calligraphy?
Achyut. I love to interact with different artists and the masters of my field. It is inspiring and a great learning experience to observe their art and I am ever curious to know the background and the creative process involved. It allows me to keep reviewing my work and add new dimensions to his calligraphic types and perceptions. The Internet and social media have been instrumental in bringing information about various tools, media, noteworthy projects, and adventurous thoughts, ideas in real-time. There is also always something new to learn from budding artists of the younger generation who he interacts to keep himself up-to-date.
CG. How do you overcome challenges that arise while creating a calligraphy project?
Achyut. On a personal level, the sheer determination to solve, find a solution, and not let anything stop me from bringing a client’s or hid vision to life. I often read and re-read a text to delve deep into the emotions it conveys to be a source of inspiration. The sounds, the rhythm when listened to or felt once more can help me look beyond the challenge and creative block. I alter the use of tools and media or sometimes take a step back from the process and revisit it after contemplation which does the trick. The pause is often as necessary as action.
CG. What does calligraphy mean to you?
Achyut. Calligraphy is as essential and as calming as taking a deep breath. Especially Indian scripts and work that goes in them is the mission of his life. I have grown both as an artist and as a human because of calligraphy.
CG. How important is it to perform charity work for foundations and what do you hope to achieve through your efforts?
Achyut. It is a need of time. We need to give back to the society we have received so much from. In our possible way, we must use our skills to help people as well as fulfill the responsibility we as artists have towards our art and preserving and taking our country’s culture and heritage forward. While exploring the various aspects and applications of calligraphy, I was able to help people take it up as a viable career, use it as a therapy to overcome personal setbacks as well as unleash their blocked creativity. The money raised by calligraphy initiatives has been used to help those in need.
CG. What do you hope to inspire in people through the Achyut Palav School of Calligraphy?
Achyut. Calligraphy is a dynamic art. One must learn its fundamentals well methodically and scientifically to be able to develop stability and a sense of proportion. APSC was established to create awareness and popularize this beautiful art form and make it easily available to the masses, artists, and nonartists alike. Furthermore, various courses and initiatives have helped create a platform for learners and practitioners of calligraphy to express through their art. Specifically, with APSC, I wish to bring the application potential of all known and lesser-known Indian scripts into the limelight. An increase in the number of people taking up this art will help develop Indian Calligraphy and document its progress and preserve its ancient heritage.
CG. Having international exposure and masters that supported and guided you through your journey, what difference has that made in your calligraphy expression?
Achyut. I am exposed to new ideas, new views in each interaction with masters. I get to evaluate his work. Senior calligraphers have introduced me to new styles, helped me recognize the inherent beauty of letterforms, and hone my skills in layout and design. It was their generous guidance that taught me to explore without assumptions and self-doubt. My ideas of scalability, the vision to look beyond the mundane shapes, and the pride of our scripts are in a way developed through their teachings and advice.
CG. Your calligraphy collections have been featured worldwide in galleries, what are you looking forward to creating next?
Achyut. At times I feel my journey has just begun. India has a glorious past and a brilliant future in the field of calligraphy. I envision museums, events, publications, archives, and preservation of the art in this field.