We had the privilege of jumping into the creatively whimsical mind of none other than Sujay Sanan, the artist behind the new 5 Rand coin.

While this creator has gained fame for his majestically detailed nature artwork, he will now have a piece of his art in almost every home and wallet in South Africa. Having grown up in the Himalayas and now living in sunny Cape Town, Sujay has found endless inspiration from the world around him. Intricate cut-outs, images within images, and details are hidden within every stroke. It is hard to put into words the passion that seeps through this artist’s work, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

We got to sit down and chat with Sujay about his work, his art, and his latest achievements, as well as what is to come next. Let’s see what Sujay Swadi Sanan had to say

You posted your first piece of art on Instagram in 2018, how do you feel your art has evolved since then?

I started working full time as an artist in 2014. Had my first solo show in 2016. I only came to think of social media as a place to share my art in 2017-18. Which is when I first posted. As an artist I’d like to say I’ve become better at actualising a vision.

What is your biggest artistic inspiration?

Nature has always been my biggest source of inspiration.

What does your artwork aim to say?

Art is open for interpretation. I see something in my minds eye. I use my skill and tools to express this vision. People see different things in it. And that’s the cool part about being an artist. If I could write about my vision I wouldn’t need to draw or paint it.

What are some of your favorite pieces of art that you have created? Is there one in particular that resonates with you are an artist the most?

It really is hard to have a favourite. Almost like picking the favourite note in a song, because I feel the works are part of a journey and an end to themselves. But yeah “otter spotting” from “A Place I Know”, “Whales of the Cape” from “Ultramarine” and “Feral Leaf” from “Wild Things” felt like good manifestations of a vision.

How has moving to South Africa influenced the art you create? And what impact has your Himachal history had on your art?

I truly began my artistic journey here. And have been here ever since. So every moment of my life is influenced by this land. My history shapes memories. So a lot of works come from that reservoir. I haven’t shared those works yet. So you’ll have to wait and see.

You do a lot of intricate drawings within drawings and cut-out art, but how would you describe your style? What is your preferred medium?

I wouldn’t describe my style, one needs an external point of view to do that, I’m too involved in what I am doing to have that. I’ve explored a lot of mediums since I began. Paper has been a constant. So I’d say I really enjoy working on or with paper.

You seem to have taken a great liking to sea life, is there a reason for this?

I find the ocean very enigmatic. Life began in the oceans. Some mammals returned to the ocean. And we continued our evolutionary trajectory on land. The ocean is full of “what ifs” and that sort of thing is so good for dreaming.

How long have you been working on your art for the new R5 coin, and how did you go about getting the opportunity? If you had to apply or were scouted, what was the process?

I began working on this in late 2019. I was invited by SA Mint (subsidiary of SARB) to participate in the process. It was a fairly long process of creating drawings specifically for engraving.

Did you immediately know what you wanted to create for the coin or did you go through a few options? How involved were you in the overall minting process?

This was a collaborative process with SA Mint. I did go through options. I think I presented 2 or 3. And then refined one. I was not very involved in the minting. Most of that happened over the pandemic. I did have discussions with the engraver online though.

How does it make you feel being immortalized as such a big part of South Africa and its financial industry?

It’s a pretty big honour. But also a quiet accomplishment. Out of the 50 million or so people that will use the currency every day barely a fraction will know about all the people who worked hard to produce these unique works of a country’s visual language.

Do you have any other projects or collaborations coming up that you are excited about?

Yeah I do. But I’m very good at keeping secrets.

What other hobbies or activities are you passionate about outside of creating art?

I am a rock climber. I enjoy the disciplines for sport climbing and bouldering very much.

What advice do you have for upcoming artists who want to make an impact in the world or improve their skills?

I have more to learn than I have to teach. I couldn’t tell people who are on their own unique journey what to do really.

Where can our readers learn from and about you?

As with most things today the Internet is a great place to start. I have a website and I am quite accessible via email. I post on social media about projects and works when I am ready.

Check out Sujay Swadi Sanan on his-
Website: https://sujaysanan.com/ 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sujaysanan/