Down The Road Less Travelled

At the age of 15, Aneesha Shetty made the gutsy decision to choose art over the IB programme — and she is excelling at it


5/11/2018 7:23:19 PM
written By : Nivruthi Prasad Print

Choosing to study art over conventional academic programmes is a path that few would dare to tread with confidence. Spurred by her passion for art and encouragement from her family, Aneesha Shetty made the brave decision to drop out of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme at SJI International and pursue a diploma in painting at Lasalle College of the Arts. Her dedication to this choice has seen her topping the cohort, as well as producing her first dance film, Provoking the Silence. Yet, the 19-year-old’s passion for art shines through most when she humbly emphasises that the spotlight should be on the art, not the accolades. India Se spoke to her to find out more about her journey.

India Se: What made you choose to come to Lasalle?

Aneesha: At the time I had just finished my O-levels and I didn’t want to continue my IB programme. I was interested in doing art and my mum encouraged me to enrol here. I was 15 then. I pursued my diploma in painting, but slowly moved on to other mediums like installations, video work and also drawing.

India Se: Why did you decide to choose painting in particular?

Aneesha: Painting was all I knew at the time. Also, my grandmother was a painter, so that was kind of embedded into me. 

India Se: How did your grandma inspire you to take up painting?

Aneesha: My grandma passed away before I was born and the only stories I have of her are from my mum. My mum was an arts journalist and had art events to go to and I followed her around. I wouldn’t say that I am someone who is naturally good at drawing or painting. In fact, when I first joined Lasalle I was one of the weakest students in my class. It's a misconception that artists are good right from the start when actually a lot of the time, we are not. We eventually find our own ways of learning and expressing.

India Se: What inspires your work?

Aneesha: I'm inspired by everyday life. It can be as simple as people talking in a cafe or me conversing with my friend about what happened during the day. When you're an artist, you tend to be quite observant. 

India Se: Deciding to discontinue the IB programme and pursue art is an unconventional path for most. What was this transition like for you and what spurred it?

Aneesha: I was lucky because I had a supportive family and friends who believed I could do this. But on a personal level it was really difficult because when you go to an arts school, everyone tells you that once you graduate, you’re not gonna get a job. But my mindset was that if I’m going to do art I’m not going to do it for the money, I’m going to do it because I like it. I think that’s what a lot of artists have the courage to do. We create to show people what we see of the world and I think that if you keep on practising and developing that skill, eventually you will be noticed and things will go well. And that’s what I made sure to do, to keep working hard.

India Se: And this ethic of working hard has paid off now that you have topped your class. How do you feel about that?

Aneesha: The good thing about studying here is that you don't constantly worry about grades, unlike in O-levels. For me, if my work fails to convey my message then it means I have failed, no matter how good my grade is. 

India Se: Where do you see yourself a few years down the road?

Aneesha: My first goal after graduation is to support my family and for a few years I'll be doing that. I also look forward to travelling abroad to do artist residencies and explore different cultures and I do see myself finding a job overseas to expand my horizons. I feel that sometimes Singapore is a bit too small for me to explore things and I do need to put myself in a different environment to learn something new.

India Se: Do you think art in Singapore shows promise?

Aneesha: I think in the last 10 years it has grown so much. There's  a lot more opportunities for artists and I feel that the government does push the arts industry a lot more than before. It has grown, but because it is still a small country, I feel it is still restrained to certain styles and preferences that the society has, but it is something that will change over time. Art constantly changes. If your environment changes, art will change with it. 

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