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Shantanu Hazarika: The Intersection of Art and Rebellion

Updated: Apr 5

Shantanu Hazarika: The Intersection of Art and Rebellion

In the vibrant tapestry of the creative world, Mumbai-based graphic designer and visual artist, Shantanu Hazarika, emerges as a dynamic force, challenging conventions with his rebellious spirit and distinctive style. From seizing the title of Red Bull World Doodle Art Champion to weaving his artistic prowess into collaborations with global giants like Red Bull International, Adidas, and Reebok, Hazarika's journey is a testament to the transformative power of self-expression and unyielding perseverance.

Join us as we unravel the layers of Hazarika's narrative, exploring his defiance against societal norms that dictate conventional career paths, and his fervent belief in the liberating potential of art as a vehicle for truth and self-expression. From his nervous anticipation of debuting his first sneaker design to his bold vision for the future, Hazarika's story resonates as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring artists and rebels alike, beckoning us to embrace the transformative power of creativity and chart our own path towards authenticity and fulfillment.

Shantanu Hazarika: The Intersection of Art and Rebellion

Shantanu Hazarika, a Mumbai-based graphic designer and visual artist, has carved out a niche for himself in the creative industry with his distinctive style and rebellious spirit. From winning the Red Bull World Doodle Art Champion in 2014 to collaborating with renowned brands like Red Bull International, Adidas, and Reebok, Hazarika's journey is a testament to the power of self-expression and perseverance.

Shantanu Hazarika: The Intersection of Art and Rebellion

Shruti Hassan (@shrutzhaasan) and Ali Fazal (@alifazal9) styling Custom Comet Sneakers by Shantanu Hazarika.

In this exclusive interview, Hazarika shares insights into his artistic journey, challenges the societal norms of traditional career paths, and delves into his passion for sneaker design.

BFH: What inspired you to be an artist?

 SH: I mean, it’s sort of a combination of many things. First, I was always a rebel. I always wanted to question the status quo, to question everything. I loved observing how things worked and functioned; there was an inbuilt curiosity in me. Also, I wanted to express myself. So, initially, I thought maybe studying science would help me understand a lot of things and answer many questions, but then I realized that art is the only way for me to express my truth freely. Gradually, I started to realize that for me to get those answers and actually express myself, art was the only way. Art gave me the freedom I needed. Also, being an artist fulfills my purpose as a rebel because, to me, an artist is the truest form of rebellion.

If you are not an artist, you will never find it within you. As I always wanted to be an artist, I immediately took on this form because I felt like an artist. Art is a very humble yet very strong and violent expression at the same time. Additionally, I really love drawing. I love to sketch and express my feelings through sketches. I am also fascinated by comic books and video games. I think these are the combinations of things that pushed me to become an artist. I was always fascinated by visual art and how things appealed to me visually. I think these are a few points that drove me to become an artist.

BFH: Men are often pushed into certain mainstream careers to become breadwinners. How do

you fight that current?

 SH: Yes, I completely agree that men are pushed to become breadwinners, especially in a society like India where there is a very high population of middle- to upper-middle-class people. In strata where you have to get into a certain industry, be it as a doctor, engineer, CA, or any other stable job, and be part of an ecosystem in order to earn for your family because that’s how our generations have been doing it. We have made it a set of templates in all our lives, especially in a community or country like India. But I had no option, to be honest. I had to fight this because I never thought that I would be a perfect fit for a 9 to 5 job or that I would be able to work under a system or any ecosystem, or even have a boss for that matter, because I always had this little bit of rebellion. For me, I always wanted to do things on my own. Luckily, I’m grateful that I am my boss, and I can work and make money out of something that I’m passionate about. I think I achieved it by just being strong, holding my ground, and working towards it patiently because it became more like a challenge for me to prove everyone wrong who thinks art doesn’t pay. I wanted to prove to them that this stereotype was completely wrong. I wanted to show them that art does pay a decent amount, and you can also earn from art, or maybe, I would say, art can give you a very good living. So I took every opportunity that was available to me. I took every chance and learned from the curve. I learned everything on the job, which even included my failures. I basically had no options, and when you are really cornered like that, I guess there’s no other way than success. I feel that has worked out for me because I actually come from a background where I studied engineering for four years, but then I decided to drop out, and I knew the consequences. I knew what I was losing, and there was no other plan. There is only one plan, and that’s the endgame for everything, and I just had to risk it all.

BFH: What makes sneakers the "in" thing for the younger generation?

 SH: First of all, sneakers have always been popular. Sneakers are an aspirational product for many people because, as everyone grows up, sneakers become a statement for them. Sneakers have also become a fashion and societal statement. For example, people will actually look at your shoes no matter what. Sneaker culture has become huge, starting from the West, with the hip-hop community, the basketball community, and the sports community really highlighting the consumer aspect, the fashion aspect, and the athletic aspect of sneakers as high-end products. Sneakers have a rich history, whether it's the Jordans, Yeezy, Air Max, or Converse, etc. All sneakers are associated with some form of subculture or counterculture, which eventually becomes mainstream culture. That's why we're seeing sneakers become part of mainstream culture now. It has exploded in the hip-hop industry, the skateboarding industry, in music, films, and even in pop culture. The new generation has embraced it, but it took many years for that change to happen.

BFH: What were your feelings when your first sneaker design was coming out?

 SH: I was very nervous and excited at the same time. Ever since I started my journey into art or thought of becoming an artist, the first thing I wanted to do was have my own sneaker line. The design is inspired by my old work, my sketches, my core essentially. So, I was really nervous to see how the world would receive this idea as a whole, but I was also very excited because it’s a big dream that was coming true.

BFH: What are your plans for the future?

 SH: I want to expand my horizons. I want to get into filmmaking. I want to start experimentingwith a wider medium, be it films, because that incorporates all different senses, not just a 2D image. It encompasses music, direction, lights, sound, all of that; it’s a whole immersive experience. So I feel movies or film is the next medium that I want to experiment with. Also, I am working on lots of projects, be it fashion, automobiles, jerseys, eSports, etc. It's a very exciting time.

BFH: What’s your favorite outfit to wear with your sneakers?

 SH: It’s pretty simple. I only wear black. I mostly wear very loose, baggy-fitting pants. Right now, my favorite pants are by this brand called Garuda, and I pair them with the sneakers that I have made or I will probably pair them with some of my chunkiest sneakers like the Balenciaga Defenders or the ‘Out of the Office series’. These two pairs are my go-to right now. In terms of T-shirts, I will probably wear a hoodie or a band T-shirt or something baggy and loose. I like to dress very simply but also very much in a gothic black and heavy metal aesthetic.

BFH: What’s your daily schedule as an artist? Is it busier than you thought?

 SH: I wake up, play with my cat, and head for the studio. Sometimes, if I am free, I work out, but right now there are so many projects happening that I hardly get time to workout. I replace them with some video gaming, which relaxes me. I play a lot of Elden Ring, which is kind of soothing for me. Other than that, I paint, work on projects, attend meetings, go to events to support my friends, spend the whole day in the studio, come back by 10 pm, have dinner while watching Netflix.

BFH: How do you maintain your work-life balance?

 SH: It’s kind of tricky because I am very anxious. I just keep doing one thing after the other, which is a bad thing, and I should take some time off to think about other stuff in life. Sometimes my personal life goes for a toss because I’m constantly doing something or the other, but whatever time I get, I spend that time with my friends, and that’s how I maintain balance.

BFH: What are your favorite sneakers?

SH: Right now, there are many. I am a huge Balenciaga trainer fan. I love all the shoes that Balenciaga makes; I have a bunch of them. The Comet pair that I have designed has to be my favorite by default because it’s my first pair of sneakers, followed by the classic Air Force one. I used to be an Air Jordan 1 fan. Also, I'm a huge fan of the Con-Adidas ‘The Black’ collaboration campus; that's one of my all-time favorites, and Air Jordan IV ‘Black Cats’.

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