Of Epiphanies, Detachments & Heritage: How Artist Sahaya Sharma's Art Creates Its Own Destiny

Sahaya Sharma spoke with SheThePeople to share the inspiration around her first album, the atma-nirbharta behind it, and why honouring Indian textiles and heritage is primary to her.

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Sahaya Sharmaa

Delhi-based Sahaya Sharma isn't the one to tie herself down to one career aspect. For her, living life up to its full potential (and hers) is the cornerstone of purposeful living, and that emotes in her artwork. In 2020, when I wrote about her paintings, I labelled her as an abstract artist; she is much more than that today. As an artist, she is now extending her limits to music, and what makes her stand out is her nuanced tribute to Indian culture and textiles, an inspiration she derives from her grandma's life. 


Sahaya Sharma spoke with SheThePeople to share the inspiration around her first album, the atma-nirbharta behind it, and why honouring Indian textiles and heritage is primary to her. She also addresses an integral question - Do qualifying pressures matter to her as an artist? 

Excerpts from the interview

Like art, was music a part of your growing-up years too? 

Yes, music was a huge part of me growing up. I’ve been sensitive to it for as long as I can remember. My mother recalls that there is a song called  Higher Ground by UB40’ that my parents used to play when my mother was pregnant with me. When I came out of the womb and was not even a year old, I would move my arms and legs fanatically to only that song. When they’d change the song, I would stop, when they played it again, I would start again. This shows how a foetus can respond to sound and create a connection with it long before they are out in the world. My teen years were really about finding my own style in music via cassettes and CDs from Music World. I would share a lot of music with my peers and make ‘songs to download’ lists for the holidays.

Was venturing into music a culmination of your ideas over the years or was it something that you planned per the “right time”? 

There reached a point in my painting journey in the middle of 2022 when I was saturated, jaded and over/underwhelmed. Painting is about visuals. It's not about words. Even though I find deep solace and peace in colour, I often felt my own emotions and honest feelings being blended and hidden in the hues and layers, therefore, I began expressing myself through music! In 2023, I visited an old friend’s (Adam Malvi) music studio in Bombay. Our music sensibilities are aligned. I played the three songs I had written and he said we could work with them and suggested we start the next day. He and I finished the first song in about three months by July 2023, and I sat with it for almost a year. I released my first single ‘FedEx FedUp’ in March 2024 when it just felt like the ‘right time’ to share my expression with the world.


Tell me about the origin of THE METEORITE EP. What is the inspiration behind it? 

Fights. (*laughs*). I was fighting a lot with family members in 2022. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 10, it says that the root cause of anger and fear is attachment. You can say that the album was born from a series of attachments. They are directly and completely an alchemization and metamorphosis of pain in the moment. A meteorite is an extraterrestrial rock that hits Earth from out of space. I used it as a metaphor for ‘news’ that comes out of the blue and hits your foundation or reality as you have known it. In many ways, the Meteorite EP is a sonic autobiography of an artist’s journey that freezes a time in her life when she is rebuilding herself for a new reality. 

I’m intrigued by the title of your third song IM ON MY OWN. Tell me more about it.  

It's 96 bpm (beats per minute) and is set on the E Minor scale. It was written after a fight with my Dadi. Her way of being inspires me a lot but certain aspects of her make me really angry too. I admire her sense of style, her practical outlook in life and her devotion to God, all of which shaped her into a sorted and strong human being. The lyrics go like “I keep meeting myself, again and again. Round and Round, I’m just spinning now..” This was an epiphany I had. We have to keep meeting parts of ourselves again and again till we are ready to see and accept ourselves or change them if need be. 

You’ve chosen to represent a specific Indian textile with every album art. Your love for Indian textiles is visible in your work. How did this appreciation imbibe within you? 


My Dadi. Her home, which is the location for my music video, is like a museum of exquisite tapestries, Pichwais, Tanjores, upholstery, sculptures and masters of the art. It has influenced every part of my visual cortex as a child and now as an artist. Her collection and the warmth of her tasteful curation can make things ‘glow’ and have imbibed within me a deep deep appreciation of Indian textiles and culture. 

Sahaya Sharma Artist_ 1

The three songs are “an expression of feeling sadness to the point of calmness.” Could you elucidate this? 

The biggest lesson that attachment teaches you or leaves you with is acceptance. I love the stages of the grief cycle by Kubler-Ross that I remember as ‘DABDA’ - Denial > Anger > Bargaining > Depression > Acceptance. It can be ABDDA or DDABA or many more permutations and combinations! In other words, the journey to healing is cyclic and erratic, never linear. But once you get a hold of acceptance and practice it, it is guaranteed to leave you with a feeling of fading sadness to the point of calmness. There is a Japanese concept called ‘Mono no aware’ that translates the inevitability of change and the tranquillity of transience— often all these things at once.

A German painter and sculptor Georg Baselitz said in an interview that “all good art comes from misery, never from anything positive.” What's your take on this?

When I was younger, if someone told me that great art comes from pain, I would have probably just stared at them weirdly like they didn’t know where to party or had no friends. However, over time, what I have seen is that if you are too comfortable in life - emotionally, mentally, physically, financially or spiritually, there is no desire to create. Desire is needed for creation.  


An artist lives on the brink of chaos, constantly converting chaos to order and order to chaos. It is our manual. We are transmuting the chaos into creation Yes, I agree. Great art is born from pain and longing alone. This is not a cliché. I say this from lived experience.  

Sahaya, as an artist, do you often go searching for the “big idea”? What’s your approach while curating an idea in your head and then beginning a new project? 

I feel the ‘big idea’ comes in when you have figured out who you are and what you stand for. When your inner landscape is very clear and astute, the ideas are larger than life and possible because there is no second-guessing yourself. As someone who is not coloured by trends or ‘what in’, I  need my ideas to be profoundly relevant and true to my own journey.  

I think I look at signs and synchronicities in the universe for my new ideas. They mostly come in the form of visions, flashes, dreams, meditations, and conversations and are backed by research. 

How has your family left an impact on you?

I’ve been brought up in a fairly liberal and free-spirited household. At a time when my classmates in school in Delhi from 1996 to 2004 were taking holidays abroad, I grew up in eclectic and earthy holiday homes, jungle safaris and treks around India. I would get irritated during road-tripping in the backseat as I wanted to be in Disneyland, not in Dalhousie. But when I look back, the early exposure my parents gave me in terms of travel, music, art, storytelling, and the outdoors in India has definitely shaped my being as an artist. I feel India’s colours and the reserve of my subconscious landscape memories of India are plenty.

My parents are simple human beings who are not coloured by status, class and money even though they came from enough. They looked for the ‘goodness in people’ and were generous with their hospitality and time. I think the best decision we collectively made as a family was me leaving my Delhi school to go to a boarding school. I grew up amidst a collective consciousness of 600 girls. I have experienced sisterhood and women empowerment at a grassroots level in my own way. I am grateful for the education and exposure they provided my sister and me with. 

I last spoke to you about your work during the pandemic and lockdown. Cut to four years later, how have you evolved as an artist and an individual post the pandemic experience and learnings? 

When I look back at the pandemic, a part of me wants to scratch it out because time slowed down and made one feel that life is always going to be this small. At some level, I lost my drive and desire to create after 2021. Then, a part of me wants to worship the pandemic because it gave me a heavy-duty dose of realisation that changed my art and its composition. I understand the value of ‘slow living’ and luxury - both materially and spiritually.

I feel my bookshelves and phone books are blessed with esoteric knowledge and mediums that people spend lifetimes seeking. I am often told that my vacation interests are strange or ahead of my time. I would pick visiting a Chaar Dhaam or a UNESCO ancient temple site over having a glass of alcohol by the beach. 

The ocean can get you naturally ‘high’ with all the salt in the air. I use the ocean or nature as a guiding force and channel all that prana and wisdom into expression. I have also learnt to stop wasting time to be ‘seen’ by people who can barely see themselves. In other words, I have begun to own my reality and role as a creator and seek to live my most authentic life.

I recently watched the late British visual artist Phyllida  Barlow’s interview and her commentary on art and its destination stuck in my head, long after I watched it. She said, “There are plenty of artists who don’t have exhibitions. There’s plenty of art that’s never seen and I think I’m intrigued by that - making work that does not have its destination; has its loneliness and sadness about it. And many artists endure that for their entire lives, and it’s heroic. There’s a lot that is not entirely spoken about or recognised, which is the unseen and the unknown and the creative act which is a deeply private experience. There is this great, powerful desire to just create something. And does that all get eroded away? I hope not.” What do you think about your own art and its destination? Do you have qualifying pressures? 

In 2018, one of my friends asked me at my show, if I thought I was successful and what success meant to me. I looked at him so sure and said, “I’m on the path for sure but I will consider myself fully successful when my art is exhibited and collected by the MoMA, Tate Modern and the Guggenheim and by important institutions like KNMA, NMACC, Devi Art Foundation and I collaborate with big fashion houses and brands close to my personal style."

I want my work to be in bespoke and exclusive art collections of old families and dynamic collectors in India and across the globe who know their art and don’t buy art just for the sake of names and status.

For ten years, I have built a somewhat loyal patronage and I feel any artist whose works need to be revered and respected beyond being seen as an ‘asset’ needs to have a handful of loyalists who set the precedent and pride in actually owning a work by you. I feel they will not sell my work into the secondary art market (the auction houses ) and so on. This means that the work has emotional value for them and the generations to follow. 

I’ve been very clear about my intention to make art from day one. I want it to make people feel seen, safe and special and I want it to be seen for sure. However, to go to the next level, the emotionality involved in the destination needs to lessen so that the work can energetically reach more people. As artists, we can, sometimes, get clingy and sentimental about our work. I feel a certain level of detachment needs to be practised when the work is over so it can go and find its new life. In my opinion, every artwork has its own destiny, and if it’s not selling, its time has not come yet and/or it is asking for something more of you!  

What are the three things you wish you knew as a 20-year-old? 

Yes - 1) Every day you are closer to your death date. 2) The world will really test you. Count your blessings. 3) Balance Your Life!  

Women artists textiles Abstract artist Sahaya Sharma