Seychelles Biennale of Contemporary Art 2022 – July 31 to August 28 |04 August 2022
‘The standard between local and international artists in this biennale is balanced’ – artist Ryan Chetty
Our very own artist, Ryan Chetty, the Grand Winner of the Seychelles Biennale of Contemporary Art 2022, is still basking in the joy and pride that the unexpected win has brought him.
Moreover all the people who appreciate his art are keen to know how he came about to create such an award-winning installation piece and his message behind it.
Meeting up with our journalist yesterday, Ryan was eager to share his insights into art in general, talk about his winning piece and his journey as an artist.
Seychelles NATION: Tell us about yourself and your background
Ryan Chetty:Well, as you know my name is Ryan Chetty and I am 33 years old. Right now, I live at La Misère. I did my studies at the Bel Ombre primary and Beau Vallon secondary schools. From 2006 until 2008, I did my studies in Visual Arts in Seychelles and in 2009 until 2014, I went to further my studies in India at the MSU University of Baroda. I did four years there and came out with a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts. From then on after my return I have been employed by the Ministry of Education as an art teacher at the Mont Fleuri secondary school until now.
Seychelles NATION: Typically, what kind of art do you do?
Ryan Chetty: For the first works that I did for my first exhibition in 2015, I was more or less interested in architecture. Basically, empty spaces, the size of the spaces and the impact they create on an individual. When I say space I mean like industrial areas, places that have been abandoned or neglected. That space itself. This, in general, tends to create a certain impact on an individual. It makes a person feels a bit powerless, you can say. So my interest has always been along this same line on the side of architecture on which I continuously focus and make many of my works. The technique I use is semi-abstract.
Seychelles NATION: What messages do you try to convey through your art works?
Ryan Chetty:Like I mentioned, the focus of my first works was on space. I was showing that man-made architecture can create an impact on an individual where it makes a person feel powerless. In my other works, especially the ones I exhibited in the Biennale, I am passing other messages. I am passing a message of comfort and appreciation. The theme is ‘Lost and Found’. I interpreted it in the way that we Seychellois have the tendency to complain about many things. At the same time, I look at it in another context where many people are facing hardship, are suffering, are struggling in their lives. But when we look at us Seychellois, we are a small country where we are very comfortable and even yet again we tend to complain. So I tend to show this in my board and I am expecting my audience to be appreciative of whatever we have. Let us appreciate it, cherish it, instead of complaining.
Seychelles NATION: As an artist, what would you consider to be the most important values?
Ryan Chetty: Like I showed in my board, my most important value is appreciation. Let us be more humble in life. Even though there are people who are less fortunate, they were able to face a certain difficulty in their lives that made them reach that stage. Instead of judging the way they are now, let us try to understand what they have been through in the past. Let us help those who are less fortunate.
Seychelles NATION: Now tell us a bit more about the installation piece and the process of setting it up that made you the grand winner in the Biennale.
Ryan Chetty:To be honest, I have not come up with a name for this piece of my work yet. Basically when the open calls to take part in the Biennale were sent out to artists in 2019, of course I applied and I succeeded. Initially, at the time that I applied, my work was different. The concept is still the same, but my work was a different form. There was supposed to be two tablets and life-sized sculptures, passing the same message. But after the biennale got postponed due to Covid-19, it gave me a lot of time to reflect on my work and my concept – how I could execute it while passing the same message. I sat down and did a lot of research and I came up with this video projection with the four tablets. These four tablets are a technique that I just identified recently, which I myself did not have enough time to experiment with.
I have done only one piece of work with this technique so it was a huge risk for me to put it in an exhibition of such a level because believe it or not, I only saw the end result when I installed my work. I did not see it when I was working on it in the studio. It was a risk for me but at the end of the day, it paid off. I saw that it turned out the way I had visualised it. I also saw that many people actually saw my work and understood the message that I am conveying. On top of that, I am open to other interpretations by different individuals. I have a message that I am passing but some people may see other messages.
Seychelles NATION: How did Covid-19 affect the art works you produced?
Ryan Chetty: I cannot really say it affected me in my work but on one hand I thank Covid-19 because if I had actually executed my initial idea then, I might not have ended up getting this prize. Covid-19, which gave me time to reflect, helped me in a way instead. I did not really struggle because of Covid-19 with regard to my art work. On the contrary it gave me more time to sit and do some good work.
Seychelles NATION: Were there any major difficulties that you faced while preparing for the Biennale?
Ryan Chetty: Last year, I was enrolled on a one-year course with a university which I just completed in April. I basically had to focus only on my course doing many assignments and making many sacrifices. I knew that I had the Biennale which was supposed to take place this year, so I had to balance. I remained focus on my course and once I finished, I went back to my Biennale work. By then, I had only two months to work on my Biennale installation. So it was a short time.
Seychelles NATION: What are your thoughts on the works by the other artists who are taking part in the Biennale?
Ryan Chetty: For me, honestly, when I am looking at this Biennale on the standard that it is, with so many international artists many of whom practice art for their living, I believe that the standard between local and international artists is balanced. You would not notice any big difference. It is all on the same level. I really appreciate the different art works I have seen and it was a bit worrying because I could not tell who would win, but I really appreciated them all.
Seychelles NATION: Is there anything you would like to say to young people aspiring to be artists?
Ryan Chetty: I would pass two messages to them. First, find yourself a skill. Once you get a skill, set a goal. Once you have set a goal, do not aim for your goal. Go beyond it. Once you do that, you will see that each and every day you will have something to keep yourself busy and of course you will produce works that are excellent.
Editor’s note: Since Ryan Chetty’s work is a video projection, it is therefore difficult to capture it with still photographs. For those interested in viewing the artist’s work it is advisable for them to do so in person at the Chinese Cultural Centre (Chinese pagoda) on Benezet Street.