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"I'm Here to Express Not Impress": Artist Mohan Sundaresan Talks Art, Cannabis, and Inspiration

"I'm Here to Express Not Impress": Artist Mohan Sundaresan Talks Art, Cannabis, and Inspiration

Artists find their strength within their work but are always looking for the next thing, waiting for the future. We spend our days working towards something, hoping that the next big idea will fulfill us, making us hungrier and hungrier for more. 

This is exactly what artist Mohan Sundaresan avoids in his life. He fills his days with peace, allowing the inspiration to come to him instead of searching for the next big thing. 

His work has been showcased in the Jeff Mitchum Gallery in La Jolla, California, along with the art of Sir Anthony Hopkins. He has also exhibited in Los Angeles and San Diego and his artwork hangs in private collections throughout the world. Mohan has been featured in numerous art publications, blogs, and podcasts, more recently in the cannabis space. 

Mohan is now painting with fluorescent acrylics that make his cannabis leaf artwork glow under UV or black light. Mohan is a powerful artist. He hopes his work will be showcased in New York where it can be thoroughly appreciated. 

Honeysuckle sat down with Mohan to chat about grounding yourself in life, letting the small things inspire you, and how cannabis helps him create art and where he wants to go within the future.

An Interview With Mohan Sundaresan

Mohan on the ground with his paintings.
Credit: JDixxPhotgraphy

When did you start painting? Did your art look different in the beginning? 

Growing up, I wasn’t from a well-to-do family. We had enough food and presentable clothing; that was more than enough. We didn’t have toys so, my sister and I started making our own. It faded out as we grew up but the imagination and fantasy are always with me. 

Between the ages of 28 and 29, I started my own silk business. I took up designing scarves. It’s a different kind of art in itself.

I came to America in 1985; I was helping a friend who was a house painter. I used to take leftover pieces of wood and try painting on them. 

To tell you the truth, I never tried to paint like somebody; I am not here to impress, I want to express. There are so many secrets hiding within you; art brings them out and helps you face them. 

In 1999 my cousin, an artist from Austria, came to visit me and said, “Mohan you’ve got some crazy thoughts, have you thought of painting?” That encouraged me. I thought why don’t I play around with colors with no intention? But then eventually I was proud of my work. I kept painting and taking it down to galleries but they didn’t want to see it. 

One day I was so drunk I took two of my paintings where I felt I was expressing myself the most, and I said, “Dammit nobody wants to see my work”. I took the paintings and I cut them up into strips ready to throw them in the garbage. It was dark and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to find the garbage bins so I told myself I would throw them out in the morning. 

I slept off the booze, and the next morning I came out and saw the strips of canvas and immediately it came to me why I did what I did; It was all a procedure in my development. I decided to put the strips together face down. I wove them together, and to my luck one was cut horizontal, and one was vertical, when I turned it over I almost had a heart attack. 

What is your relationship with cannabis?

Mohan's Paintings
Mohan’s Work

Cannabis just fell into place in my life and it has been part of my lifestyle ever since. I have incorporated cannabis into my work. I paint cannabis leaves on HEMP canvas. It doesn’t have any advantage or disadvantage on my performance and it shouldn’t. I don’t drink alcohol any longer, and cannabis has helped with aches and pains.

My dog Dizzy is almost 15 years old and CBD has helped his aches and pains too.

You are from Bangalore, India. Are the attitudes towards cannabis similar or vastly different from what we see in the US?

I am not very connected with what is going on with cannabis all over the world. When I was a child, it was not used openly but people did use it within their homes. There is a drink made from cannabis called Bhang which Indians have consumed for centuries. The sale and consumption of bhang is permitted under law in India due to the NDPS Act’s definition of cannabis. While the NDPS Act prohibits the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers, the use of seeds and leaves is allowed.

Now, there is growing is activism in India to legalize cannabis. We shall see what happens.

Do you have a process when you start a new piece?

Mohan with his painting.

No, I just find pieces. I’ll take my dog for a walk, come rain or sunshine. I see water falling from the rooftops and I come back home, take a canvas out and let it soak. Then, I use a ladder and keep dropping paint; when it falls onto the water, it splashes as if they are stars. 

So you would say you get your inspiration from life?

I celebrate everyday. I don’t celebrate Christmas, Diwali, Ramadan or Hanukkah because I celebrate everyday. I was brought up that way. Whenever there was any kind of festival in India, people of all faiths, Christians, Muslims, Jewish people all celebrated together. If there was a wedding, all of us were there.

Beyond the world we are in, there is harmony. I don’t use fancy things, I use paint. I want to show people that you don’t need much because it is all there within you. You just have to realize it.

Where do you hope your art takes you in the future? 

I would like to donate some of my big pieces to a school or museum where people can view them without having to own them. My manager Steve Medoff is planning an exhibition of my black light cannabis leaf paintings. Hopefully, it will be this year in Los Angeles. He also would like to exhibit my art in New York. 

 

Check Mohan Out:

If you have any inquiries about purchasing a piece contact Steve Medoff (artistenvoy@gmail.com) for more information. 

To see more of his art and keep up with Mohan follow him on Instagram or check out his website.