In a world of break-neck technological advancements where the role of artificial intelligence is being heavily debated, especially in creative arts, occasionally, there are strokes of genius that leave you spellbound. It has nothing to do with the AI-generated portraits ‘trend’ on social media in the recent past. We are talking about true creativity that uses the best of AI and combines it with the human mind’s creative genius. This is the fine balance that Jayesh Sachdev maintains as he releases his AI-based art on Instagram week after week.
Sachdev, an original Punekar who today shuttles between New York and his hometown, is the founder and creative director of the award-winning art-based fashion label, The Quirk Box. The core philosophy of his design house has always been rooted in art and making art accessible. This, according to him, is best achieved via fashion and wearable pieces. “I do not make clothes, but I see people who wear my apparel as walking art galleries,” he says.
“Art and fashion are both a form of self-expression but use different mediums. I am primarily an artist, and The Quirk Box is an art label. The artwork we create goes on fabric instead of canvas. This fabric is tailored to a garment but is rooted in its art and not its fashion. We don’t sell fashion, but art through the medium of fashion,” he adds. The label has been present at Lakmé Fashion Week for seven seasons where Sachdev showcased seasonless fashion that was aimed at becoming the perfect marriage of art and fashion. “Season-based fashion is a very international concept. India, in general, does not have four full seasons. We’re also a largely warm habitat most part of the year,” he says of the fashion seasons.
Art and AI
Jayesh Sachdev came back in the spotlight in a big way, late last year, with his bridal couture artwork, created using AI, featuring Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Soon after, there was Spiderman’s Bollywood avatar followed by bridal Daffy Duck. The kitsch and curiosity garnered chuckles and eyeballs but it were the Astronaut Brides in his AI art series that manifested the true potential of man-machine creativity. In one of his artwork posts, Sachdev wrote: “Using Artificial Intelligence to take this Fashion thing to a whole new spectrum.”
When we reached out to him to ask about his AI-based work, it was his ‘why not’ attitude that left an impact: “Quirk Box is an art-based label, so the amalgamation of AI as art and fashion seemed plausible and playful.” He has always maintained that art, like everything in life, goes through evolution. “Cameras came in when only oil painting existed. Artists too will evolve and adapt and will eventually become mainstream. Today, smartphones and digital software have all aided design and art,” was his pragmatic response.
On the discourse on the ethics of AI-generated art, Sachdev has a very crystal stance: “The ethical question is not about it being AI-generated but about the ethical sourcing of images that are used to create these generated images.” The need for regulation on the database of images, which are ethically sourced, and artists’ consent is a non-negotiable for him and something that needs to be addressed urgently. He also acknowledges, “At this point, this is a hugely grey area with no sufficient understanding of what the source files are, thereby making everything created as original.”
A fantastic hybrid world of bridal cats
Similarly, Jayesh Sachdev’s Quirk Cats have also become internet sensations. The first in the series was the Billis of Balochistan, who garnered their own fandom with more than 730K likes on the original post. The creative has been shared, reposted and spread across the world to a bevy of exclamations and emojis. Other billis (cats) in his series included Billis of Bilaspur, denim-clad divas from Delhi, Cats of Catalonia and Prince of Purrrrsia. The most recent is Quirk Cats on the red carpet of the Met Gala.
One of our biggest questions to Sachdev was about his fascination with fictional characters and the animal kingdom. “I have always worked with hybrids as an artist. My work over the decade has often been interspersed with characters, hybrids, and animals, and how I can expand the horizon. As an artist, my entire existence revolves around imagination, fantasy and fiction,” he explains. AI is the experiment through which Sachdev has broadened the possibilities of creating what you can imagine and beyond. “The amalgamation of concepts and visuals that technology has permitted is exciting and, in many ways, has opened a whole new world of visual language,” he adds.
It didn’t stop just at the Bridal Couture Cats, Sachdev has also experimented with other felines, canines, chimpanzees as well as Stormtroopers from the Star Wars series and Mario Brothers video games. He’s expanding into the realm of using real-world icons and giving them a vibrant and dramatic desi touch such as Lionel Messi, Queen Elizabeth II, Michael Jackson and Albert Einstein.
If we broaden our horizons of fashion, felines have always been an inspiration to some of the biggest designers. Animal prints have always been dominated by leopard and tiger prints. Earlier this year, Schiaparelli’s Spring 2023 show saw a faux taxidermy leopard on Shalom Harlow’s chest and a lion on Kylie Jenner and Irina Shayk’s dresses. Sachdev “was strongly struck by” the designs. And the Met Gala 2023 saw Doja Cat and Jared Leto, literally, dress as cats—an homage to German designer Karl Lagerfeld and his cat Choupette.
“The animal kingdom is fascinating and creatively stimulates ideas that make for good design,” Sachdev observes, adding that as long as animals are not harmed, representation of animals is not cruelty. “Fur, leather or animal-sourced materials that are unethical cannot be encouraged, however,” he adds.
Apart from Sachdev’s passion for fantasy, the one commonality in all of Sachdev’s recent works is the celebration of maximalism that India showcases in the quintessential big fat Indian wedding. Sachdev’s use of pop-culture references with incredible detailing and not to mention intelligently tapping into the power of AI power, does keep you waiting for what is next, up his sleeve. In the meantime, if you want to purchase any of his artwork, Sachdev says, “Prints of all my works are available in A3. One can message The Quirk Box Instagram handle and someone from the team will walk them through.”