HIDDEN GEOGRAPHIES - Sharmistha Ray’s solo expostion from January 18 – February 18, 2012
Galerie Mirchandani & Steinruecke, 2 Sunny Road, 16/18 Mereweather Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001
An interview with Indian painter, art critic and curator, Sharmistha Ray: “Shifting back and forth between the U.S. and India has informed me as a person, especially related to issues of immigration, but it is only a fragment of a much larger story. That story is an abstract one, without words, and hence, abstract painting.”
How would you describe your relationship with art?
What is your preferred medium (why)?
Painting, oil on canvas. Painting has a limitless condition attached to it. I am interested in the idea of the infinite, of an expression that goes beyond conventional notions of time and space. ”The true painter of the future will be a mute poet who will write nothing but express himself, without articulation and in silence, with an immense and limitless painting,” said Yves Klein. I would agree with him.
How have you seen your work evolve (since your return to India after completing your studies in the United States)?
Tremendously. I started to feel stifled by my experience in the United States and quite instinctually, I gravitated towards India. The first few months were difficult as I had never really lived here. Now, of course, five years later, it feels like home. I didn’t paint very much for the first few years here because I was working full-time at a gallery. But I traveled and saw a lot which opened up my consciousness in ways I couldn’t have dictated. I became a much better painter for it, even though I hadn’t actually painted very much!
How can you account for your transition from figurative to non-figurative art?
It happened very naturally. I got bored with figurative art and it’s ability to go anywhere after a while. After a point, most (not all) figurative artists fall into the trap of stylization. I knew I wanted to be a painter, so I had to find a mode of expression that would keep opening up, opening up and then some more.
I am working full-time again with an international gallery, so I typically travel quite a lot for them. But when I am in Mumbai (where my studio is), I work for the gallery during the day and paint at nights. It’s a restful and calming experience, but also incredibly energizing.
How does Indian culture affect your work or your process?
I can’t paint if I am not energized by my environment. I have had my most creative spell in India in terms of ideas and the evolution of my own thought process. I owe everything to my Indian experience, but that’s not specific to the culture as such. My being here informs me. Culture exists in a social realm. I am less interested in that as an artist.
It’s a young scene here, but a lot is happening. I miss the museums in New York and in Europe, generally. Traveling allows me to soak up as many museum shows as I can. I love museums. This goes back to the difference between experience of a place and experience of a culture. India’s culture is not well documented or presented, but its raw vitality feeds me everyday.
What compelled you as an artist to move back to India and to choose Mumbai as a place to live and work?
I didn’t feel I could grow in the ways that I wanted to if I continued on in New York. I went to Kolkata initially to give myself the time and freedom to paint. Soon after, I moved to Mumbai because it was so much more vibrant, so much more happening. I also landed a job in Mumbai, at the right time. That enabled me to move here.
Do you find inspiration in your experience with both Indian and U.S. culture?
I need all cultures and travel allows me to move between cultures, people and places with ease. I really believe in a human experience. Shifting back and forth between the US and India has informed me as a person, especially related to issues of immigration, but it is only a fragment of a much larger story. That story is an abstract one, without words, and hence, abstract painting.
While I explore something more emotive and experiential through painting, I have an equal need to analyze the world through language. They are different art forms, and I see them as complementary. I wish I could write more fiction, but I don’t have time for it right now. As for my curatorial practice and consultancy work, they open me up in different ways. It’s also my bread and butter! Sometimes it’s challenging to balance all these facets, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t do it. It gives true meaning to the verb, juggle.
Sharmistha Ray (b. 1978 Kolkota) is an Indian painter, art critic and curator: sharmistharay.net