Sohum Chokshi

PHOTOS BY MATTEO MOBILIO
STORY BY EVAN BOYD

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While planning a meeting place for our interview, Sohum told me he had a studio in List, but insisted we talk in his room. I realized why when I walked in.

The open walls on either side of his single are covered in huge sheets of white paper. To the right, wild streaks of crayon, pencil and acrylic shoot across the surface, punctuated by complex doodles and written phrases of varying size. To the left, a flume of paint and color erupts above his bed.

Sohum’s artistic interests transcend any specific mode or medium. His mother introduced him to paints and crafts when he was young as an outlet for ample creative energy. Her love for nature, flowers, and a wide breadth of artistic forms is evident in the swirling colors that frame Sohum during our talk.

Then and now, creation is a process of channeling and translating thought; a way to soothe and access deeper feelings. Sohum describes making art like a meditative practice.

Perhaps that’s what drew him to portraiture, what he describes as a rather “formulaic” art form. “I just want to be as honest as possible with myself, and art is a way to do that,” Sohum remarks.

His first serious portrait was a gift for his sister. Later on, about five years ago, his art teacher recognized in him a natural proficiency. Under her guidance, he studied the lavish works of Daniel Gerhartz and honed his skills.

Sohum describes this background exposure to portraiture as a more classical approach. Last semester, in Professor Dawn Clements’ VISA drawing class, he had a different sort of experience. “She would tear an actual drawing and glue it back together,” he recalls. These demonstrations made an impact on his own thought process. “I can literally do whatever I want with art. Paintings are more like that for me now.”

This spirit of experimentalism has been translated into much of his work. Although Sohum emphasizes the methodical process of portraiture, his creations are anything but ordinary. Pulling out sample pieces, he seems to be drawn to a striking minimalist aesthetic—scratchy, linear forms composed of graphite and charcoal. What is most impressive about these faces is that, using only black and white, Sohum relays vast emotional depth.

I am particularly taken by one portrait---another gift for a friend. Her hair is sparsely rendered; there is a beauty to the concision. The woman’s lined face radiates warmth through crisscrossing lines of shadow and glistening empty space. “That’s how she is,” he smiles.

“I just want to be as honest as possible with myself, and art is a way to do that”

Each piece is imbued with its own vibrant personality. You get the sense that Sohum knows these people. Clearly there is more here than a simple, step-by-step process--a layer of understanding that exists in human interaction, before pencil or paint even touches paper.