Rohan Chaurasia on how his childhood in Thailand influences his design practice, exploring mundanity and animism
Rohan combines graphic design and art to explore “how the sacred, spiritual qualities present in ancient structures can also apply to the newer, quotidian ones”.
- Ruby Boddington
- 29 October 2020
New York-based designer Rohan Chaurasia grew up in Bangkok and Kolkata, “cities where contemporary images and objects co-exist with ancient architecture and iconography,” forming a childhood which led him in one direction – towards image-making. A Rhode Island School of Design graduate who went on to spend a year working at Pentagram, Rohan’s portfolio is characterised by an embracing of analogue processes, exploring themes of mundanity and animism.
Rohan initially gravitated towards graphic design because he “liked how it could exist on various forms of media, at varying scales,” he explains. Around Bangkok, he was drawn to posters and artworks which were “printed and pasted on to the surface of something like a wall, pillar or package,” he recalls. “I’d notice how these images would glow with light, wear away with rain, or fade with time, always shifting in a really alive and organic way.”
His upbringing surrounded by the meeting of new and old means Rohan thinks about “how the sacred, spiritual qualities present in ancient structures can also apply to the newer, quotidian ones,” and this massively impacts his outlook on design today. “[It’s] as if everyday things can have unapparent meanings. I feel like when we observe images in our surrounding environment, and project an idea onto what we’re seeing, we’re bringing the subject to life.”
A significant factor in Rohan’s practice is the tools he chooses to work with, as his visual language emerges directly from these. On any given project, he combines digital methods with analogue processes like drawing, airbrushing and collage, giving his work a distinct look. He tells us about why he chooses to work the way he does: “Drawing is meditative to me, and is where most of my work begins. Airbrushing allows me to engage with space, specifically the z-axis of a plane, letting me move in and out of a page. Collage lets me work with and remix found and photographic imagery. Digital tools let me tie some of these processes together, and sometimes push them beyond their physical limits. Generally, analogue processes help me best capture the organic and ‘alive’ essence in the very things that inspire me.”
The result is a portfolio which blurs the line between graphic design and illustration, expertly blending both approaches to produce raw and experimental imagery.
In a series called Daily Landscape, Rohan demonstrates his signature aesthetic approach but also his philosophical one. “I was interested in mythologising encountered objects through abstraction and assembly,” he tells us. “I was thinking about world-building, and how each of the objects in the scene individually come from environments of their own, yet weave together to create a new realm.” In turn, he sees the works as a representational of cultural detritus as the landscapes are borne from “the sacred and commercial vernacular I’m influenced by”.
In a more commercial setting, Rohan created the artwork for a collaborative EP by Thammudu and Mishti, developing the design off of the duo’s references and “their ideas surrounding cults, fundamentalism, and the promise of transforming material reality.” Rohan was able to “construct a mystical scene” by collaging a scene from a “south Indian horror film depicting a figure walking toward a glowing light, overlaid with an ominous drawn bird”. The effect is stirring, creating an artwork which hints to the tones of the music through both its visuals and process. “I began by taking a photo with my phone of the low-res video playing on a TV screen.,” Rohan explains. “I then printed this photo on to textured paper and scanned it at the highest resolution possible. This detailed scan felt like it uncovered new information in the source image. Much like one of the themes influencing the sound, this process also felt like it dealt with a transformation of material reality.”
Looking to the future, Rohan tells us he doesn’t currently have concrete plans but that he’s “curious to see how my work will evolve with continued research and experimentation,” concluding that, “I’m open to seeing where the work itself will take me”.
GalleryRohan Chaurasia (Copyright © Rohan Chaurasia, 2020)
Rohan Chaurasia: Daily Landscape II (Copyright © Rohan Chaurasia, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.