Through her unique, mixed-media piece of art, Nicole Faut reveals inherent contradictions in Mohandas Gandhi’s teachings: nonviolence cannot exist without violence, whereas ideas inherited from Europeans can be repurposed to fight colonialism.

The idea for the project arose when Faut was assigned a research paper for an interdisciplinary studies class entitled “The Life and Legacy of Gandhi.” As she delved further into her topic, Faut determined that her ideas would be best expressed visually. Her piece features three types of water-based paint and glossy magazine paper. Faut incorporated multimedia to represent the complex—and often contradictory— nature of Gandhi’s life, using contrasting colors and architectural scenery to display these contradictions. In the foreground, the piece includes a vivid image of Gandhi with hues of deep reds, fiery oranges, and yellows. In the background, the piece depicts Indian architecture with shades of blue.

Portrait of Gandhi by Nicole Faut

Portrait of Gandhi by Nicole Faut

Investigating further into Gandhi’s life, Faut found that Gandhi inflicted severe internal violence upon himself during his work. He starved himself, performed intense physical labor, wore little clothing, and exposed himself to other harsh conditions. Faut argues through her artwork that this internal struggle was inherently a violent act, and that violence cannot be separated from nonviolence. To add depth and complexity to her painting, she used strips of paper from a National Geographic magazine: Hues of warm colors combined with the strips of paper comprise Gandhi’s image. Faut chose images of a whale slaughter, a fire burning down a house, and other negative images to further represent Gandhi’s inner violence. Although Gandhi aimed to eliminate violence, Faut argues that it is impossible to do so, titling her work, “The Concurrence of (Non)violence,” to reflect this paradoxical inseparability.

In Faut’s piece, the blue background colors greatly contrast with the ferocity of the central image. Architecture, comprised of water-based paints and paper with images of oceans, trees, fish, and other calming hues, serves as a background to Gandhi’s likeness. Faut chose these colors and images to portray Gandhi not as a “champion of the poor from humble beginnings,” but as a more privileged, Anglicized man relative to his peers. He was raised in a well-off household and attended college to become a lawyer. Blue, for instance, represents the top tier of the caste system. Some evidence also suggests that Gandhi was raised in a traditional English fashion, lending some credence to the hypothesis that Gandhi’s idea of nonviolence may have its origins in the European philosophies of Plato and Kant.

Through her artwork, Faut hopes to enlighten others to the truths of Gandhi’s life. Her multimedia piece reveals the ironies associated with this figure: hardship and pain coexist alongside and inevitably clash with a nonviolence doctrine. Although Gandhi is credited as one of the founders of the nonviolence movement, his life shows that violent is always present.