Interview with Vidha Saumya By Vibha Rani
I was introduced to Vidha Saumya through her mother, the multitalented artist Vibha Rani. . Primarily a ‘drawer’, Saumya received a Diploma in Visual Communication Design from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore and a BFA from Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai. In 2007-2008 she completed an Independent Study Program at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan.
Here is Vidha on her life and the art:
RS: How would you describe yourself as an artist?
VS: I like to call myself a drawer. I draw. Documenting a space by observing, photographing, making notes, recording sounds, collecting objects and conversations form the basis of my artistic practice. As a response to the wide range of stimuli I receive and gather, I draw. I have a keen sensitivity to paper – the fragile receptive quality of the paper and the tools I draw with are selected carefully.
RS: When did you know that your life calling was to be an artist?
VS: My mother knew it before me and she ensured that I received all the required training, participation and practice that were required for me to pursue my goal of being an artist. She went out of all possible ways, curiously looking around to find something that could give me the right footing and platform for my talent, if you will.
However, the realisation of my life calling came to me in 2009. It is then it dawned on me that all my learning, at all levels and in all forms had led to this and I was determined to follow it through.
Hence, my talent is trained, honed and worked towards. What is perhaps natural are intuition and the ability to empathise.
RS: Coming from a very creative family, with well- known film journalist for a father and a respected dramatist for a mother, and now married to another artist Ali Akbar Mehta, what kind of family conversation happens around a meal?
VS: We enjoy conversations. Around the table conversations are embedded with humour, discoveries, information and laughter along with food discussions, recipes and recounting great meals. Sometimes we talk about work too.
RS: Artists are known to draw their inspiration from outside and inside of themselves. Where does your inspiration come from?
VS: Looking at great works of art inspires me. The fact that I am working every day to be able to achieve a similar space motivates me. When I wake up every morning the prospect of what I can do in the day ahead of me inspires me. I feel an urge to create and accomplish something every day. When I go to sleep it is the excitement of the next day that makes me dream. I am easily inspired. It could be encountering a daily wage worker to watching a chef prepare a meal to discovering a seed that has just sprouted in my garden to achievements and failures of other people. The knowledge that each day is independent gives me the energy to put in my best into each day.
RS: A few years back, you were in Lahore for a few months , learning and teaching at Beaconhouse National University. How is the art scene in Pakistan different or similar to the one in India?
VS: Pakistani artists have more conditions working against them. The fact that they continue with such fierce fire in their belly is inspiring and that is what distinguishes them from Indian artists. Barring a few, most Indian artists often slump into a comfort zone. It is difficult to be constantly charged up in a country where the surface seems to be so stable. Having studied in art institutes in both India and Pakistan, I have come to the conclusion that our art schools definitely have a long way to go to be at par with the art institutions in Pakistan. I am glad that I had the opportunity to be tutored by outstanding teachers and senior artists both in India and Pakistan..
RS: You also took residency in Northamptonshire. How did it evolve you as an artist?
VS: It made me realize the importance of research and development of research tools, and attentive curiosity. It made me realize how imperative it is to ask questions, interact locally and read.
RS: ‘Love Charades’, your first solo exhibition is about masquerade and charades, pretences and about big women.. Why pretend? To whom? For Whom?
VS: The drawings in my solo exhibition ‘Love Charades’ were exploring an observation. My massive- shaped women laugh, flirt, mount each other, hold the moon, scream, fly, freeze into a limbo. While the elaborate masquerade performed by these wild women protagonists is flagrantly on display and their gaze is often directed at the viewer, we draw a blank when we wonder who they perform for. Perhaps they perform only for themselves – their anchorage being each other’s embrace. I am not critical of pretence. It is naïve to be ignorant or in denial of it. The drawings critique the idea of show, pretence, interpersonal proximity and social norms.
RS: How difficult or easy is it to be an artist as compared to doing any normal 9 to 5 job?
VS: Nothing is easy. For me it is as ‘normal’ to be an artist as it would be normal for someone to take up a 9 to 5 job. It is the inspiration and satisfaction to do that job that is important and therefore easy at times and difficult to get by sometimes. I am a 24/7 artist and the times when I cannot spare time to spend with family and friends, makes me wish I had a ‘regular 9 to 5 job. But that wish is not something I want to come true. Developing a rigorous routine and staying disciplined is difficult to achieve.
RS: Federico Fellini said All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. How much of you is in your art? Where do you draw the line if you do?
VS: My entire mind is in my work. I’m attracted to individuals and communities and I keenly observe their relationship within a given space, city, country and institution, the culture they prescribe and belong to, and their interpersonal behaviour. It is always a spontaneous decision combined with the larger intent of my position and placement in an environment that makes me select singular or multiple projects that I execute over a period of time
RS: Describe your relationship with Chinese rice paper and Cello Gripper pen.
VS: Chinese rice paper has been part of my growing up. When my father came back from China he brought with him many Chinese paintings and scrolls. In 2009, I found this paper at a stationery shop and in the same year made my first drawing on this paper. Cello Gripper was my favourite pen during my Junior college years. When I draw with this pen I feel it is an extension of the process of writing. Over the last 6 years, I have developed a unique vocabulary with this pen-paper partnership. I have explored possibilities in rendering with this pen. There is a long way to go before I exhaust what is possible in this combination.
RS: You have an upcoming show in September. Tell us more about it?
VS: The upcoming exhibition will see seven large drawings and a series of tiny sculptures. The drawings have shifted focus from large women to androgynous bodies and explore the idea of feminine in the man and a chiselled non-sexual body of the woman. Sensuousness is not confined to established relationships but you see them evolving and getting formed in the new compositions. Close physical proximity of complete strangers forms the undercurrent of this series.
RS: What do you do to strengthen your mind and body for the art? Is there any special ritual that you perform before you start?
VS: I can’t think at all on an empty stomach. I eat so that my mind and body are comfortable and have the strength to beat the banality and mundaneness of life. Once that is done, one can create, accomplish and look forward to another such day.
RS: Are artists born with the art in their DNA or they can be cultivated with practice and patience?
VS: Practice and patience help us imagine and achieve the impossible. I have certainly learnt it.
Thank you Vidha for the interesting interview. We look forward to the September show and many other more to come.