Repainting the Scene: An Interview with Vivek Pereira

Erratic, charismatic and influential are just some of the words used to describe London based artist Vivek Pereira. Born and raised in India, his multi-cultural upbringing has led to him creating a unique style of art that only seems to grow in popularity as it spreads around the world. I managed to steal him away for a few minutes and we somehow end up discussing everything from the rat race to close calls with fire alarms with plenty of art in there too.

The Curve: What influences and different mindsets do you feel growing up in India has given you?

Vivek Pereira: Growing up in India wasn’t as different as you would think. I was raised in the south in a state called Goa. Every state in India is very different with their food and festivals, but I spent the majority of my time in Goa. I find the UK quite similar to India in many ways as lots of people are still very connected to their roots and communities that they have been a part of for years. That doesn’t seem to include London all the time though! This city can feel like a bit of a rat race sometimes.

TC: Did you draw and paint when you were growing up? When did you realise you had this talent?

VP: Well, I feel everyone I know was painting and drawing as a kid, but when I was in the fourth grade, I won this competition where I’d ended up accidentally mixing two colours and I used that in the seascape and I actually won the competition! That was kind of strange too because I think I’ve always known I had a natural talent, but I was scared of being compared to other people. I feel in the UK people are more insightful and more encouraging towards art unlike in India where it can be so elitist.

TC: So, when did you realise this was what you wanted to do as career?

VP: There was just this point where I started taking it a bit more seriously I just kind of gradually moved towards art full time. I never told myself oh, I’m an artist and this is the career I’m going to have, it was a very natural shift. I was in Cuba actually in 2018 on holiday and I just had time to think about a lot of things. I’ve always been making art, but I never actually considered myself an artist until this point. I remember this one time that really stood out to me though, it was five in the morning and the smoke alarm went off in my flat and in a panic all I thought to take was my work from my room. There I was, standing out in the cold February air with no jacket just holding my pieces and I could just see how much it meant to me. Anyways it turns out one of my flatmates had just left his food in the oven too long while he had a smoke!

Pereira (centre) with two of his paintings (L & R)

TC: Why did you move to London?

VP: Well, my sister lived here first and she loved it. I said to myself that this was a different place so I can start fresh you know, without having the baggage of people knowing you or having expectations about you. I feel to create something you first have to deconstruct what you know about yourself and this move really did that for me.

TC: And how is the art community here in London?

​VP: It’s really booming! People in London accept art as a career and not just as a hobby which is quite different from Goa where, especially if it’s not traditional art, you can be singled out. Here in London though they almost encourage you to be different and stand out!

“People in London accept art as a career and not just a hobby.”

TC: How was your first exhibition?

​VP: Yeah, so it was a year and a half ago and it was at the Directorate of Cultural Activities in Panjim, the capital of Goa, which was also right in the city centre, so I had a lot of people just wondering in from the streets. It was a multi-sensory experience, so I had the sound of crashing waves playing and handed out tamarind sweets to everyone to signify the sweet and sour parts of life. There was also the smell of eucalyptus leaves and plenty for people to touch as they went around. I got these ideas from my time working in hospitality and hotels and so I had no trouble just creating an experience for everyone coming in. The newspaper came to interview me about it all too and I actually sold quite a few of my works as well.

TC: Was there any backlash from the public or issues you faced?

​VP: I definitely got a reaction from everyone, so I’d say mission accomplished. There were some people who walked up to it and just hated it, but they would ask me about it, and lots would just leave after that, but I feel like I started a discussion. I had one sculpture where I took a cow’s skull and painted the horns and on one side, I collected plastic from the beach and the other side had this dress of a child and Facebook likes around the skull because, right now in India, they’re focused on the wrong things. There is the beef ban which has stopped a lot of personal freedoms and there have also been reports of journalists being attacked and killed for speaking out against the government. I just wanted people to look more at the real issues instead of focusing on social media and other pointless topics while there is so much suffering.

TC: What do you hope to achieve through your work and what is your final goal?

VP: ​I’ve always had goals, but I don’t have a particular goal where I feel I could say I’m ready to stop. Even with a Knighthood and the Turner Prize or exhibitions in the Whitechapel Gallery I know I would still have this hunger that’s always driven me. I like to make people think and I always hope that this is this is something I’ve done through my work. I guess my final goal would be to achieve immortality. I guess not literally, but to live on through my work in people’s minds and to always inspire the next generation with pieces that stand the test of time.

TC: What’s the next step for you and what have you got in the works?

​VP: I’m working on this community project for the transgender community in India. There is a long history of suffering and injustice within this community and I hope to provide them with a sustainable business making and selling clothes that use designs I have made. It’s similar to pop art in some ways as I have combined Bollywood posters from India’s golden age of film with adverts from daily commodities to make screen prints that will then be used to make very unique clothes and garments. I’ve been doing this in partnership with non-profits here in the UK as well as in India. I hope to combat the stigma surrounding the transgender community in India, who have been marginalised for so long, and provide them with a sustainable way to earn a living.

TC: Do you have any advice for young artists looking to make their first steps into this world?

​VP: My advice would be that; there will be days where you question yourself and try and compare yourself to those around you, but this will never do you any good. You are on your own journey and all your experiences are yours and yours alone. Whatever you do, embrace it fully. There will always be someone you feel is better than you, but your voice is unique, and no one can ever produce work like yours. Accept that there will be failures and setbacks but your voice is special and, if your work excites you, there’s a good chance it’s going to excite someone else too.

You can follow Vivek’s journey here: