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Artist Nilima Sheikh Talks About The New Medium She Has Found To Display Her Artwork

  • IWB Post
  •  January 11, 2019

Baroda-based 72-year-old Nilima Sheikh is known for engaging with traditional Indian art practices and challenging the existing modernist norms. This versatile artist became the first to be confirmed for displaying her artwork at this year’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale which began in December 2018.

Sheikh has inspired several generations over her 50-year career as a painter and her body of work evokes mystical imaginary landscapes that address feminine experiences. Beyond India, she turns to visual references from Kashmir, Turkey, Iran, and even pre-Renaissance Italian painting to create introspective works that question the meaning of the turbulent political landscape around her.

Sheikh’s strength lies in the portrayal of the grimness of contemporary life, like oppressive patriarchy and silent suffering of women.

Her show of installation, Terrain: Carrying Across, Leaving Behind, comprising casein tempera paintings, was unveiled at Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road after its debut at Documenta 14, a month before she was selected to exhibit her artwork at the Biennale. The spatial poetics of her work in this installation relates to shamiana, the traditional South Asian tented pavilions where people assemble for ceremonies, theater, memorial events, and political gatherings. The fragile paper architecture brings to mind the temporary shelters that offer rest to pilgrims and posits multiple languages of movement and distance of people crossing Asia and Europe.

Apart from folklore, the installation also represents stories sourced from many other recent events such as the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula. In August 2018, Terrain: Carrying Across, Leaving Behind was exhibited at the Bikaner House in New Delhi.

However, after over a five-decade-long career, Sheikh is not content with her demonstrated range of painting and stenciling and she has found a new medium to display her work. Talking about this medium where she features her current muse- the nurse from Kerala, she says, “After the summer, into the monsoon, I started working on the wooden panels which will make up my work in Kochi. The work is different from the way my hand has practiced over the last several years on paper, silk, and canvas. This was adjunct to my choice of subject and format and certainly has been a process of discovery.”

Sheikh has been invited by the noted curator-gallerist Tson-Zung Chang to put up a show at Hong Kong’s Hanart Gallery this year.

H/T: Elle

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