How Abstract Artist Sahaya Sharma Kapur Blends Art & Psychology
Art resonates with countless themes and emotions surrounding life and Delhi-based artist Sahaya Sharma Kapur does just that. This young artist, who has some successful solo art shows and accolades to her name, is now gearing to launch her first-ever online show amidst the pandemic. Sahaya, who believes “online is a new reality”, touches upon themes around psychology, faith and nostalgia.
In a conversation with SheThePeople, Sahaya Sharma Kapur lets us into her artistic world, throws light on how the pandemic is affecting and shaping her work, why we must understand the blend between old and new, and leaves some tips for budding artists.
What inspired your entry into the world of art? What inclines you into turning everyday things and experiences into objects of art?
It’s something that played out so organically for me that I didn’t need to think it twice. I can’t particularly recall the transition or the decisions, to be honest. Studying art in college seemed like the first obvious thing to do and then pursuing it thereafter as a career seemed like the second obvious thing to do. I just went with the flow.
Your thoughts, fascinations and musings stay with you, you live with them and they live with you so when you’re creating, they’re bound to find a way into your work.
I like the idea of an essence being frozen in the painting for eternity.
The most intriguing part about abstract art is that each person views it differently, with several perceptions – blurred or vivid. How did you find your calling in this genre?
In July 2013, I was at art school in Singapore. My studio tutorial with this professor called Maznah Sheriff was going on and after reviewing my body of work, she looked at me and said, “You know in each work, I’m not noticing the form so much as I’m noticing your strong use of colour. Have you explored abstract art?”And, that was it. The rest is history.
How did you come around to resonate with faith in the ‘Structures of Faith’ series?
In November 2018, a feeling of nostalgia rang loud within me when my family and I visited a restaurant called 1135 AD on the rooftop of Jaipur’s Amer Fort. The smoky smell of the tandoor, candles in shamdaanas, timely whiffs of the uplifting tuberose amidst live Sufi music froze time and transported us back to the 16th Century. Everything felt grand, comforting, safe, royal and loyal. There was an immediate need to capture this moment in a more objective sense through mixed media paintings.
On returning to Delhi, I came across a Kodak album from the ’90s, which contained pictures from a trip my parents took with their friends in 1992 to Jageshwar Temples in Uttarakhand. My mother was six months pregnant with me at the time, and you could say that the combination of the divine experience we had at Amer Fort and the images I chanced upon in the Kodak album with me in my mother’s womb made me feel like I was rooted, grounded, whole and calm. I felt I belonged after an experience I shared with my family. I scanned the pictures, photoshopped the existing sky and land from them and transported them to another dimension with the help of enamel, oil, acrylic and spray paint.
Also, the very aesthetic and being of old forts, ruins, temples carry an aura of ancient wisdom. It’s like they’ve stood the test of time and have an innate sense of knowing.
Your shows, ‘Hues and Clues’ and ‘Shambhala’ explored themes of nostalgia, spirituality and psychology. How do you manage to blend psychology and art?
From 2014 to 2020, my entire creative process has been inspired by the workings of my mind and life. In 2017, I felt very drawn to a couple of visual themes such as florals, marine life and the cosmos. They all interjected at some points in the different works. I was exploring nostalgia and time by pressing flowers and leaves between books and pasting them into different works.
I believe, people will start to get in touch with their emotions a lot more and begin to care about the earth more deeply. Shambhala was a very informative show with various series and subseries, laden with esoteric concepts. I guess you can say that I seek for the viewer to achieve a sort of liberation through knowledge about the mystical and energy-driven world of Shambhala.
I’m a strong believer of the fact that this decade is going to see the consciousness of the planets and its people rise.
The Huji Cam app is creating a new rage among photo-loving millennials. What made you bring together new-age technology with the essence of old memories in the Huji Cam series?
In the ’90s when we took photographs on holidays, we had to wait almost a week to get the prints. Sometimes the photos had random light effects on them caused by light leaks. The Huji Cam app does exactly that. The series of 16 made with acrylic and acrylic pour on canvas are inspired by these random light effects.
I’m preoccupied with the idea of the old and new overlapping to form a new narrative.
You’re immersing your artwork with ‘psychological nuances and your desire to heal the world.’ How does pranic healing influence your creative process?
Pranic Healing gives me immense inner strength and connects me to the divine. I practice various meditations by Master Choa Kok Sui especially the Meditation on Twin Hearts before starting each studio session. Pranic healing is about the science of energy and so are my paintings. Colour is energy and being an abstractionist who deals with colour, for me, it is all about understanding various colours through their vibrations and frequencies and grasping their tone, hue, movement, contrast and physiological effects on the human body.
Pranic healing has also taught me the art of silencing.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
There are many. I’ll name a few who are inspiring me for the latest body of work. From the Indian artists, I am currently seeking a lot of inspiration and understanding on the spiritual impact of colour from the Neo Tantric painters like Sohan Qadri, G R Santosh, Biren De and Mahirwan Mamtani. I also find intense inspiration and solace with the works of Rithika Merchant, Aditya Pande and Anjolie Ela Menon. Internationally, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso are my all-time favourites.
Which project or piece of art is closest to your heart?
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve made it yet. However, from the new collection, I really do like this painting called OPAL because I am absolutely gobsmacked by the phenomena of Opalescence (play of colour) in precious opals.
What is your creative process like? What are your primary concerns while curating a show?
What you consume, you produce. I feel a lot of what I create or have been creating comes from a deep well of images within. They are like flashes that just appear. While curating a show, the paintings need to come together – visually and conceptually. Even if there are a bunch of series within the show, I find a way of tying them together. Earlier, I flowed with a lot of spontaneity and went for a post-translation of a work rather than a preconceived notion of it.
Now I let the fascination with a phenomenon, thought, object or place brew like fine wine.
What’s next in line with respect to upcoming projects?
I had a solo exhibition planned for August 2020. It’s been delayed because of the lockdown, so now I’m thinking of launching the show online. I have mixed feelings about it but after speaking with a bunch of people, I think that online is the new offline.
Online is a new reality and it’s better to embrace it than resist it. I am also exploring video as a medium to express the essence and the fascinations for the themes that I have been painting around.
Your patrons include some top-notch corporate houses as well. Where else do you wish that your work be embellished?
I will rest in peace when my work reaches The Tate Modern, The MOMA, Whitney and Guggenheim. I think when I visited New York out of college, I felt that organised chaotic energy of New York– the place where abstract expressionism was born in the 1940s.
My ambitious collaboration list, for now, looks something like this – a Hermes window display, a clothing line with Sabyasachi, a bag line with Kipling and a watch line with Swatch. Apart from collaborations, I aspire to become a household name down the line.
What is your advice to those who are on their way to explore unconventional paths? What would you like to advise aspiring artists?
There is enough uncertainty in this field or any alternative field. So, it’s best you are filled with certainty and have a unique voice of expression, drive and hustle. If it’s not inherently there, cultivate it.
Reflect, read, travel, visit shows and don’t get disheartened if you are not getting a break. Be like a stubborn mule. First, they will ignore you, then they can’t avoid you.
Stay true to your inner voice of expression.
How are you getting on with the lockdown amidst the pandemic? What would you advise those who are feeling downhearted in these times?
I was talking to my artist friend the other day and he was like “the charm of our daily artistic quarantine has been washed away because the whole world is living and experiencing what we do on a daily basis.” While one half of COVID-19 has been massively traumatic with people losing jobs, homes and basic needs, the other half has been a wakeup call for humanity from the earth; to unearth one’s inner self and to allow and appreciate the blooming flora and fauna.
If you are feeling down and out, try to connect with nature in whatever way you can. My advice would be to try to have a daily routine. There is actually so much to do. The best part is that people are offering their skills and sessions for free on the internet. Imagine in 1920 during the Spanish flu, they had no Zoom or Internet. We really can’t complain, so stay positive and know that this too shall pass.