John Sinha

Students were asked to write a blog post about another student in their year group in the style of an interview. I’ll be talking to final year BA Graphic Design student John Sinha (pronounced Cena, that’s right,  John Cena. Hold your meme jokes until the end).

I asked him some pretty difficult questions and he gave me some pretty great responses. The following text will be the transcript of the interview. (It should also be noted that, due to a series of unfortunate events, most of Sinha’s work cannot be visualised to accompany this article.)

AS: As you start your final year in BA Graphic Design, what work have you done that you’re most proud of (from last year or the year before)?

JS: In hindsight I find it very hard to choose as when I look back at all the individual pieces there’s always something I want to improve and change, even though they’re all dear to me. But one favorite brief is the Boustrophedon, or snake book, that we did in our first year for Matthew Hobson. It was extremely useful as we got to play around with a classic and historic format together with our own interpretation and investigation of aliens and narrative. My final outcome was a rollercoaster-themed poetic display of feelings of alienation in the up’s and down’s of our break-neck society.

 

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John’s Boustrophedon project from the first year. Not just a visual experience but a tactile one, due to the robust nature of the finished piece

AS: What do you feel is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from the course to date?

JS: There are a whole bunch of lessons learned so far. I remember in the beginning of the course the critique given could seem and come off quite hard and unfounded. You just need to bear in mind that our tutors in most cases actually know what they’re talking about and that some of them have no prior experience with psychology so the fine line between constructive and destructive criticism may be crossed at one point or another. You just have to push through it, swallow your pride, take more risks, and try new things and to remember that failing a task is good, because you learn so much from your mistakes.

AS: Do you still have the same ambitions you had when you first started the course?

JS: My ambitions have not really changed. But my plans and modus operandi are under construction at the moment, due to this Brexit ordeal. I am a bit older than my fellow classmates so I’ve seen and been through a helluva lot more than they have, I’ve been to all the continents (except for Antarctica) and lived all over, so I’ve seen a great deal of design. I remember when I first moved to London I was very excited. This is one of the greatest cities in the world, especially when it comes to art, culture and design. But when I noticed all the mainstream visual communication I was deeply underwhelmed. I just do not get it. It is extremely unpolished and generic. It’s especially evident in adverts and commercials on TV and in print. Probably 7 out of 10 ad’s features either a person wearing a cheap animal costume; a robotic animal; a poorly animated animal, singing, talking or dancing for whatever it may be, British Gas, Insurance Firms or Broadband Companies. How about those singing and dancing packages of crackers and cereals? It is truly tacky, I’ve never seen anything like it in this vast amount and it has made me question the taste level of Britons. This has also caused me to question myself; maybe my practice is not for the British audience? So when this Brexit thing happens, it might not be such a tragedy after all, I would actually like to live and practice in a place more refined. Yes so my ambitions are the same, it is just the strategy that has shifted a bit.

AS: When you’re unsure of what to do, where do you take your inspiration?

JS: I tend to have multiple sources of inspiration. I find architecture intriguing with the likes of Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier and their Modernist formations. But also Brutalism awakens the creativity in me. When it comes to my photography practice I have always and ever since childhood been obsessed with old films from the Silent Era as well as from the Golden Age of Cinema. I believe these influences are very noticeable in my photography. Other influences, to name a few, are: the Stenberg Brothers and Constructivism, the Dada movement, the Bauhaus, Picasso and Kazimir Malevich. For me, Less Is always More.

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An example of John’s  photography from before the course.

AS: Do you have any definitive goals for this year?

JS: On this final stretch I am determined to be less of a stick-in-the-mud by taking more risks, even if this means getting sloppy or failing. This will hopefully amount to a more diverse, improved and enriched portfolio by the time of graduation.

 

This concludes the interview. I would like to thank John for offering his time and his candid opinions on all things. I’ve long admired his work output and have enjoyed this opportunity to put some questions to the mind behind the work. Even the interview itself is telling of John’s approach to design, as the PDF with his answers will attest.

 

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Even John’s response to the interview questions has been considered

You can check out John Sinha in all his glory here.

 

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Fiona Banner: Font

As part of our studio, we went to Fiona Banner’s Font exhibition showing at Frith Street Galley near Piccadilly Circus. Gallery display is a form of publishing also, so this fits into our focus on ‘publishing’ in all it’s forms. The body of the work was in one large room.

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The problem with an exhibition like this is that they are showing ‘art’. It is very easy to make judgements based on what you see without the knowledge of the artists’ intention or the context of their work before. You could argue both ways about the validity of opinions formulated in a vacuum, but this was my initial situation when walking into the room.

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The first major object in the room from the entrance is the titular ‘font’ ‘a found 19th century baptismal font… engraved with the word ‘font’ it creates a playful slippage between naming, language and object/image; a recurrent theme in Banner’s work’ according to the information provided at the gallery. It is a font with font inscribed into it with the typeface font that Banner created. This I get, so I move on.

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Next up is Nose Art two graphite representations of harrier jump-jet nose cones provocatively placed side by side. The information supplied makes references to aircraft noses being ‘the most heroic part of an aircraft’ and a ‘military form of folk art where aircraft are graffitied with popular cultural icons’. And I just thought it was something to do with breasts. Does the ‘art’ fail if I don’t get it.Does the artist fail? Is it a failure on my part to comprehend the vast complexities and subtleties of the piece? Does it even matter? This is my problem with ‘art’. Like a good book, you must have an understanding of the vernacular the creator uses to fully appreciate the creation, but unlike a book, the vernacular in question isn’t something the everyman is taught in primary school,

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so when I see a ‘chair’ leaning against a wall because it lacks the ability to stand by itself, that I cannot even test whilst against the wall, because you may not touch it, because it is ‘art’, I cannot help but be dismissive of the whole enterprise.

My current working definition of ‘art’ right now is ‘something of no inherent use which has had value attributed to it.’ The issues which ‘art’ can address and tackle, in its own way, are as long as a piece of string. This is too broad for my liking, so when I see Banner’s exhibition, I am not just judging it, I am using it to judge all ‘art’.

While I may not wish to emulate the works of Banner on display here, the eternal question of ‘what is art’ and ‘what makes good art’ continues to rage on inside me.

Food for thought at the very least.

Studio Cuture Week – Print Club London

After Ditto Press in the morning, we went to Print Club London. We were shown around by Fred, one of the founders. Print Club London offers screen printing classes and facilities for a modest price. They also offer office/desk space for the independent creative.

Fred commented on the value of being in the right place at the right time: ‘It’s amazing how much work you can get if you’re in the same room. Someone will be doing their work and then need someone with a different skill set and will just shout out “can anyone do that?”‘It is a microcosmic example of working as a designer; the more visible you are, the more work you will be likely to get.

Print Club London also sells artists’ prints online, taking roughly 40% commission on sales. Fred showed us the shelves where all the work is stored. It is quite the juxtaposition between the online presentation and the real world equivalent.

Fred also gave useful advice on print runs. ‘Always make print runs out of 50 or 100. If you make less, you can make more later’. He also suggested using 300 gsm or more paper that is ‘archival’, so it doesn’t yellow.

Visiting Print Club London provided another example of the real world approach to this thing called ‘art and design’. No two paths are the same and not all lead to financial security, but the more examples we see of ‘success’ in the ‘industry’ the more options we will all realise we have open to us.

Check out Print Club London’s online presence here.

Studio Culture Week – Ditto Press

Ben showing us around
Ben showing us around

Following on from Blog Week was Studio Culture Week, where all students in the second and third year of their illustration or graphic design courses visited a couple of professional design studios. Students were split into small groups and went to varying places with varying philosophies.

As the student studio I will be working in has a focus on publishing work, we went to Ditto Press. While they do create original work from start to finish themselves, they do make most of their money from printing the work of others using their risograph printers.

Ditto Press print room
Ditto Press print room

Ben, one of the founders of Ditto Press was very straightforward as he walked us through the ins and outs of what he does. They have a store front to display work, a printing room hidden from view in the back and an area to discuss work with clients.

Double page spread of a book on display
Double page spread of a book on display

Ben imparted some excellent food for thought with comments such as ‘I can teach you to be good at typesetting, but I can’t teach you to be interesting’ when talking about people he would work with, academic grades versus strength of portfolio, and so on.

He said something about some art students doing really well in the education environment but not being able to turn that into actual success upon leaving. This is a poignant reminder that having a degree is not the same as having a job, and we all need to make opportunities for ourselves now, not wait until we’ve graduated.

Ditto Press offer a variety of printing options for the independent creative, offer workshops in printing techniques, work with education and more. Check them out at their website here.

Fresh to Impress

Adrian Beasley explaining the brief
Adrian Beasley explaining the brief

Blog Week also saw us get a live brief to help us generate content for our blogs. Smint are running a competition on Facebook offering prizes to those who create really cool posters fitting their brand values and using the tagline ‘Fresh to Impress’. Having looked at the designs already present on the Facebook page, Adrrian is quite confident some of us are going to be walking away with cash prizes…

The Importance of Visual Research

Head of Graphic Gesign Sara Carneholm Mytkowski explaining to us the importance of visual research
Head of Graphic Design Sara Carneholm Mytkowski explaining to us the importance of visual research

As blog week began, Sara Carneholm Mytkowski, head of Graphic Design at London Met, offered us advise on how to approach our blogs. She stressed the importance of visual research: keeping a record of all the interesting things we find and do. Also, to consider how we represent those thing within the blog. And to keep our eyes open for more great thing to include.