A debate whether art should only reflect beauty has been ongoing, many viewers largely expect elements of beauty in a work of art, exactly like in a film, which becomes a mode of escape from the harsh realities of life. To such viewers, creations by Shampa Sircar Das are just the right answer.
Amid the rush and urban chaos at a Saket mall, one unexpectedly experiences relaxation, serenity and calm, reflecting straight though the artworks of Shampa mounted at Chawla Art Gallery, inside the mall.
This solo show Antardhwani, meaning inner voice, is a smooth escape into a wonderland, fairy-tale space brightened up with colourful nature habitating fearless birds and animals, clean vast blue sky, calmly flowing river and meditative human presence. It’s a trip into a seemingly fantastical world while it is real, and with a powerful message – nature as the only recourse to a peaceful life.
Shampa’s acrylic on canvases have several themes though, running through a common thread—fusion of flora and fauna with human being, indefinitely. Her Vriksha for instance, is deep red, a human form with countless flowers and miniature trees, birds and sky as its headgear, lotus in the feet and poetic serenity in her meditative gaze. Her Matsya, the symbol of fertility, fearlessness and cycle of life is predominating blue. A close scrutiny reveals wonders of life beneath water. Prakriti, Purush and Lakshmi are material, maternal, paternal and divine energy respectively, a Mayura is a turquoise splendor, Krishna’s omnipresence notwithstanding. All are intrinsic part of a magical mix of nature, human and divine. Lotus, elephants, fish, snail like clouds, icons of Buddhist beliefs, hansas, swan, deer fluttering birds, trees and bloomed flowers with unique shades is a recurring element, not only in this work but also in her earlier works.
The 48-year-old artist from Bengal explains, “My early training in art has been folk tales and stories told by my aunts and grandma, the cultural diversity, the (Durga) idol making process by artisans, music, local festivals. Later my trips to divine locations like Leh, Ladakh, Spiti, Lahul, eastern and southern India widened my horizon. As a child I never thought I would be an artist. But when I grew up I realized my real language was art.”
Shampa’s creations look simple but immensely meditative in nature, they imbibe Indian philosophy, ethos, aesthetics and culture. She has artists like Paul Clee, Kandinsky, Indian masters like AG Subramaniam, J Swaminathan, Anupam Sood etc to thank for it. So, her earlier shows Shoonya, Pratidhwani – about voices reflecting in emptiness, Dhyan was a result of her visits to monasteries and were highly reflective in nature, Confluence of consciousness, tapestries of journey were metaphysical, Devi was about largely bold women who took a stand.
This show has three new additions, circular canvases with predominantly grey shades, her fiber sculptures – head and swans, and her human face which earlier had a drooped gaze in meditation, now observe with eyes wide open.
“This came after I travelled to eastern and southern India where women are worshipped as deities, and then I read an article about a group of girls who refused to marry in lieu of dowry. It was a bold step, Nirbhaya case that jolted the nation, all influenced me, and it gave rise to a feeling that we cannot stay away from the realities around us. One has to observe with eyes and minds wide open.”
Shampa has come a long way. Her creations largely attract connoisseurs who look mystery and yet simplicity in a work of art. There had been times when art promoters and buyers would negotiate like in a vegetable market, demeaning the artist. She says, “As a woman artist I felt highly demoralized often. Art does not form an essential component in Indian education system yet”, brings such situation to artists.
Shampa’s discipline and struggle have finally bore fruits. Her creations are one you would want to live with.
This show is a collateral event with four-day India Art Fair beginning January 31 in New Delhi.