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PRESS | DNA | Beauty always resides in the mundane

Artist-curator-consultant Sharmistha Ray talks to DNA about all things art.

Was there an epiphany at any point, in your journey so far, as an artist?
As an artist, so much of what happens in the studio is a grand experiment. It makes you live and think differently. I’ve learned to embrace that aspect of it. Especially since I work with the language of abstraction and colour, the possibilities are infinite. I work every day to achieve something new in each new painting, so that I don’t repeat myself.

What prompted you to put together the solo show Hidden Geographies?
The ideas for the show had been gestating for a while. I was busy with my arts management career for five years, but I had wanted to come back to painting. I am a trained artist and painter, so it wasn’t a departure for me, but a continuation of ideas that I had been working on beforehand. Of course, the years in between really fueled new ideas and I was excited to manifest these in oil paint on canvas. That’s my main medium. Ranjana and Usha from Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke happened to see my work and offered me a solo show.

How long did it take to put it together?
I was working on this show from March of last year when I moved into Space 118 in Mazgaon, an artist studio run by a young art collector. I launched into it immediately as my ideas were all in place. My first works that I made in the studio as well as my last works are in the exhibition. I didn’t take any break, I just kept on working furiously throughout. However, oil paint has its own drying time, so I worked on several paintings at a time. But, once I reach the end stages of a painting, then I become consumed with just that painting. Then it’s not possible to think of anything else, but to bring that painting to its conclusion.

What do you feel about the art gallery culture in India?
The gallery culture is developing in India. There is new energy in the gallery and artist scene and much more meaningful dialogue. There’s also a sense of camaraderie between gallerists and artists, which is very positive. Each gallery has its own program and its own personality and character — that’s the way it should be.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in India at present?
The art scene is growing. We don’t need more art fairs — we have one big one, and that is enough. But we do need more organised art festivals. We also need more museums! The appreciation of art starts at infancy.

What is it from the mundane, that you take inspiration from, as an artist?
Beauty always resides in the mundane. Two people could be looking at the same landscape of the setting sun. To one person, they have seen the sun setting a thousand times, so they glance at it and it doesn’t affect them. To the other, they have also seen the setting sun a thousand times, but on that day it could be the most majestic sight in the whole world that inspires ideas about art, poetry and beauty. When the sun sets and disappears behind the horizon, they feel the loss of the day. No prizes for guessing which of the two is the artist! That said, not all artists are after beauty, but it is important to me.