Artist Tarini Sethi: “Everyone is the same, we all have imperfections”

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Tarini is a fine artist and illustrator, who is interested in exploring the themes of human intimacy and discomfort. In her most recent project, Enemy-Friend-Lover, she asks viewers to send her a photograph of themselves wearing the least amount of clothes possible, along with a few words.  In exchange,  she will draw you, add stuff, delete stuff and provide a representation that is ‘jarring’ and ‘possibly uncomfortable.’  She seeks to break boundaries through what we are sometimes most conscious about- our bodies.

1.   Tell us about your Enemy-Friend-Lover project.

Enemy-Friend-Lover is a project I started a while ago to talk about our insecurities and self image issues. I don’t think I know one person who is completely happy with their image, or anyone who perceives themselves as perfect and I wanted people to be able to let go of these thoughts for a day and let themselves go completely. Handing over rights to another person to represent you the way they want is a different feeling altogether. The act of sharing something so personal with a stranger is what led me to start the project.

2.    Why is it called Enemy-Friend-Lover?

I called the project Enemy- Friend-Lover to show that there were no boundaries or restrictions to who I drew. The intimacy of sharing was definitely the same for everyone, whether they were close friends or complete strangers.

nanaki3.    What inspired you to start the project?

The idea of breaking the huge stigma behind the nude body is an important catalyst for my work. I wanted people to get out of there comfort zone and feel empowered. Most importantly, just the act of sharing something you normally would not with a complete stranger or friend is important, and I think needed. The testament of trust it stands for between people is vital and very natural and easy once you commit to it, but still such a statement in the world we live in.


4.    Your project involves people sharing nudes with a stranger, i.e. you. Why do you think people do it?

The response to this project was quite overwhelming, and I have received thirty or more photographs in the last few months. Something that surprised me in the best possible way, showing that even living with these boundaries, constraints and norms, people are crying out to do something different.

Sharing something so personal with even a friend is invigorating and empowering. The act of de-robing and knowing that you are possibly going to be represented in a way you might not like but giving the artist full liberty to do what they want is, I think, a sense of relief after always having to worry about showing too much skin, or being too fat or too thin.

5.    What are your feelings when you receive these different images? How do those feelings impact the art you make?

I have to admit, even I was a bit uncomfortable when I got the first few photographs. I’ve seen my friends naked but it’s a different feeling altogether when you see a nude photograph of someone. I had to separate myself from these feelings to draw them as strangers. But I realised that they actually helped build the groundwork for a good drawing. At least with the people I knew well, I used what i knew about them and the feelings I had towards them to help me. I added plants for people who i knew were obsessed with plans, I gave a girlfriend of mine a penis because her character is very boisterous and loud and it seems perfect at the time.

hannah-copy-26.    Do you try to reach out to people who love their bodies or are awkward about their bodies? What is the significance of these two choices?

Honestly, the idea that I reach out to people who are awkward about their bodies is a simplistic explanation. Everyone is awkward about themselves in some way or another, and this is what I wanted to show. That it’s okay to hate parts of your body, but these parts are what define you and one has to learn to love them instead of hide them.

7.    How does your art relate to these two body or self-image relationships?

I’ve been asked quite a lot why I never draw people fully clothed, and I never really understand the question. We are at our best and our most honest without material things, without clothes and make up. We hide our insecurities with clothes but only when we are fully exposed do we see that everyone is the same, we all have imperfections.


8. How do people respond when they see the art work? Does it affect their relationship with their bodies?

I gave everyone an option to remain anonymous when I made the portraits public and not one person wanted that. This is the first thing that surprised me. The second they had committed to doing this crazy thing they realise it’s all or nothing. I don’t think anyone who saw themselves drawn felt odd or strange looking at themselves naked in a drawing. They were actually quite excited about it and some sent me more images for possible future projects. This is the second thing that surprised me. People who were hesitant at first were the most excited later.

9. What is your definition of desirable?

I think desirable means the need to feel loved by people. It’s a social acceptance that we all strive for, but we are actually all desirable in our own special way.

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Tarini is still accepting entries for her project. So if you are interested in breaking a few boundaries, send in your pictures and a few words to tarinisethi@gmail.com. The photos will be will be viewed only by her. Once the piece is ready, the drawings and words will be made public, but the identity of the subject can remain anonymous, if asked.

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