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“Sidharth past present futures”

Ms. Shailja Vohora

Sidharth’s work is remarkably contemporary, yet inspired by centuries-old traditions. The use of natural dyes and colours are key to his art. His forms are derived from traditional sculpture and are very Indian in their essence.

He instinctively takes from the past, but refreshes his imagery with his own experiences and feelings. Sidharth is one of India’s most influential contemporary artists with an invaluable knowledge of producing traditional pigments as well as modern paints.

He is known for his use of vibrant natural colours, which he produces himself from various vegetable and mineral pigments. Sidharth uses pure natural mineral pigments, which can be found in soft stone or in clay. They are ground, washed and dried to make a powder pigment. He also produces vegetable dyes from extracts of roots, stems, barks, leaves, fruits, nuts and shoots of different plants, trees and shrubs. In total he has discovered over 150 dyes in the last ten years, and can create over 600 different hues and shades by mixing them with each other or with water. To fix the paint he uses an overcoat of linseed oil and paints it over with egg tempera, which is later glazed with a melamine coating.

In Sidharth’s own words: “Every painting has its own life, its own world like an individual, colours talk to me and they appear with different forms, they bring other elements to tell a story which then evolves into a painting! Colours have their own characteristics, landscapes and culture. One understands their history and symbols better when one knows their origins and source. Colours have a psychological impact on every individual in a different manner according to their geographical situation of culture and nature. Every individual is free to interpret a painting the way that painting talks to them.” 

This is his first London show where he explores some familiar and some new territories. The five elements or ‘Panch-Tatvas’ are the inspiration,a thread that links the paintings on show with each other and with the artist’s intense and diverse experiences. 

The Buddhas reappear as they have for several years in his work, but this time there is a more detailed almost Klimt-like rendering. ‘Whisper of the Storm’ represents the air element. The falling autumn leaves blow across the painting and giving it movement while the figure of the standing Buddha is reminiscent of the early Gupta period sculptures with its broad shoulders, half-closed lotus eyes. The meditative stillness of the Buddha juxtaposed against the detailed calligraphy of the background reflects the clutter of our modern world.

The smouldering embers of the ‘American Buddha’ brings together many elements of his previous works in a vibrant and exciting image. The blues and greys reflect the steel of modernity, with its complex multi- layered filigree of the elements. The bright, fiery banners, jewel-like flags and trumpets express the excitement of the city and amongst it all, the Buddha stands serene and calm, blessing us with his hands raised in the ‘Abhay Mudra’ gesture.

His hopscotch series and abstract hills come together beautifully in the image of ‘Ananda’ (Eternal Bliss). The young girl with her arms outstretched feeding the doves, emerges from a landscape of hills, totally encompasses the element of the earth. The magnificent deep shades of reds, yellow ochres and greens echo the vibrant Indian landscape. 

‘Gagan mein Thaal – the Cosmic Dance’ with its graceful movement evokes the power and the playfulness of Shiva. The planets being juggled in space seem to represent the constant change of human emotions and the ebbing and flowing of life. His vibrant blues and greens of earlier works have now acquired a soothing note.

‘On the Ocean of Time’ is a complex work and marks the beginning of a new period in the artist’s repertoire. He derives his inspiration from traditional Indian miniature painting, but shapes it in a form that is uniquely his. His narrative exists on several planes in this particular work. The viewer is invited to journey with the travellers into a magical, mystical world, which exists within and without. Time seems to stand still and yet it is in constant flow like the ocean, which can appear still on the surface, but is brimming with life. The multiple layers of the image represent the pools of time formed when a pebble is flung into water. His love affair with turquoise, ultramarine and indigo of his earlier works are combined with warm earth tones to create a totally new experience that bring together all the five elements in a harmonious composition. 

With Sidharth past, present and future coexist. He experiments with forms, images and textures old and new to tell his story, which is often closely linked to classical Indian literature, folk ballads, mythology, music and poetry. 

His journey into mysticism began from early childhood. Zen, Sufism, Osho, Guru Granth Sahib, Tibetan Buddhism are the many facets of religious thought that have influenced him.

There is a very strong spiritual core, which is part of the fabric of his being and is reflected in all his paintings. 

His work is sophisticated, yet intense …a rare cross-cultural success. Each painting has a very personal, spiritual experience for the viewer, which the artist hopes will lead you to your universal understanding of human culture.

Born Again: Artist Sidharth