Suva: The artist with the “ink of fire”

by , under Enrique Tessieri

It was only a heartbeat from the New Year when I met Suva at his Kallio apartment in Helsinki. His room is cozy and full of his instruments and artwork. After moving to Finland in 2007, he reached an important phase: Migri (Finnish Immigration Service), which makes or breaks migrants, granted him a long-awaited permanent resident permit.

“I now have a “P” permit,” he said. “It was on 27 December that I learned about it. I was hoping to get it in November, but it turned out to be a late Christmas present. The wait and the process of getting the [permanent residence] permit were stressful.”

Suva likes philosophy, but he considers himself an artist above all. If you try to get a feel for the man, his room, his home, they manifest themselves roaring silence that leads you to a human characterized by humility and a strong desire for independence.

“I don’t follow any philosophers but my thought process is philosophic, which I make it work through actions,” he added, “and the form evolves as tactile and audible; and sometimes I make art edible. But I don’t like editing ]my works] but just present as they are or as I am! But rough but with depth.”

Suva said that he has always admired underdogs and people who are weaker and treated unjustly by society.

“All I try to do with my art is to express myself, which is not so easy in this fucked up society,” he continued. My heroes are the weakest and most vulnerable members of society who dare to say, ‘stop it!'”

Suva said that as an art teacher in India, he would give special help to those students that were the weakest.

A native of Meghalaya, Shillong in the North-Eastern part of India, Suva’s estrangement from his culture began with his left hand. “In India, left-handed people are seen as disrespectful,” he said. “When I was a child, they attempted to make me right-handed by tying my left hand, [a practice like that is commonly known as tiger parenting], so that,I would get used to using my right hand and the memory as such is very distinct, that I recall.…It didn’t work,” he added.

Suva completed his MA degree in Visual Arts from Delhi College of Arts affiliated to Delhi University, India, specializing in Sculpture (2004). He received his MA degree in Live Arts and Performance Studies from Uniarts, Theater Academy (2015). 

Photo by Hussein Kazmenian.

One of Suva’s prized possessions is his instruments, made from scratch. Since 2008, when he started to live in Finland he has made a total of 22 instruments.

“For me, when I do a work of art [like an instrument and pyrography] and when I see the material, I see the form,” he continued. “I do not do sketches.”

I don’t like the excessive amount of influence of text in today’s art circles with reference to dead Western philosophers. I call this section of people “academonic inter-textual species”, a form of artistocracy. We have a saying in India: You must cut hot iron with a hot iron.” Therefore In my works I also use text as a visual element but with logic and thoughts that are mine and not borrowed from some pages of  such thoughts.’

For example, the instrument he calls synthesis carries such a name for philosophical reasons. The Indians have their version of Hagel’s dialectic, where thesis and antithesis give birth to synthesis. After that, the thought process begins again: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Suva playing the synthesis instrument. Photo: Suva

Pyrography is Suva’s way to express many questionable issues and calls it “ink of fire”. “I do pyrographies whenever I have the time and mood,” he continued.

“Currently I am working five days a week, eight hours a day, so…I get tired when coming home, but I manage to get some energy to continue creating work whether it is from visual or performative in semblance.” Suva works today as kitchen assistant. He has had various jobs from paper delivery to cleaning. “The only way, in my opinion, to find work [in Finland] is through somebody you know,” he said. “Getting a job is very difficult and there is a huge amount of nepotism in the artistic field.”

Some of Suva’s 22 instruments.

Suva has a small but dedicated number of followers on YouTube and has posted 243 recordings.

Being Other in Finland

Suva is adamant about his independence. It was one of the reasons why he left India for Finland.

“I hate to kiss ass in order to move up the career ladder,” he admitted. “There’s too much of that going on, and it imprisons you as an artist and human being.”

Suva admits that the most challenging things about living in Finland are the weather and obstinate people; there are many things culturally and behaviorally as well, he added. “People focus too much on their egos, for instance they glorify personal space and mix it with privacy; ” he added. “In India, it is all about self-esteem; also in Finland young people approach towards that by acquiring freedom but they have no idea about responsibility.”

With a permanent residence permit and some security, Suva wants to study Swedish. He said Swedish culture and people are a little more open than Finnish speakers.

“Depending on how much time I have, my next step is to learn Swedish and apply for citizenship,” he said. “My goal is to work as a sound artist in Finland and explore other parts of Europe.”

Suva said he had a discussion with a woman from a European background who claims that racism does not exist but discrimination does.

“I kind of understand what she meant since we are all part of the human race,” he said. “She coming from that part of the Western globe, does not understand racism in the same way as I because she is white. Nationalism is another name for fascism. In India as well such a dictum and climate of hatred has been escalating with the rise of the recent regime who uses similar rhetoric.”

 “When you leave a country, you leave behind many of the things and those are memories,” concluded Suva. “I passed that phase a long time ago.”

A home for me is wherever I feel comfortable, where my instruments and artwork are near me.