Painting with passion

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 4.04.10

I meet a lot of people who look askance at the new wave of Contemporary Art and would rather have pretty paintings which resonate in their living spaces. My take on this has been that art is not about only paintings but the entire gamut of expression from sculpture, installations and photograph to video art. This week I want to focus on an artist who is more in the original genre of painting and creates stunning pieces with a background and experience that actually makes you calmer when you view his work.

It’s interesting to meet Sidharth, who was born in a Sikh family and later in life, moved away from the worldly pleasures of life to join a monastery and become a monk. In the monastery he was named Sidharth — the name he still bears today. But after some time in the monastery he left and using all his accumulated learning started painting.

(Above)The Poster Cow; most of artist Sidharth's (inset) works have bright background colours

Sidharth is an artist with a difference in the Contemporary Art landscape of artists in the country. I have always been amazed by his connect with nature and the meticulous research that goes into every work. In the era of computer- generated art and studio assistants, Sidharth stands out as he does not even use commercially available colours. The other thing that he uses a lot is thin gold foil. That gold work is clearly visible on the canvas. In each of the canvases he usually narrates a story using the images.

The skills that he learnt at the Namgyal Monastery help him derive his colours and shades from Mother Nature. He uses natural pigments, vegetable dyes and his intrinsic knowledge of the topography to make his own colours in various hues. Always, very curious to learn and imbibe more, I have in my association of many years with him seen him use and implement the best techniques from Chinese, Japanese and now Russian schools of art.

He also makes his own handmade paper and thanks to his use of natural colours, you find a rarely seen luminosity in his works. The other thing which is very noticeable in his works is that most of the background colours are very bright, which is a result of the natural pigments and dyes that he uses. Crucially, the people shown in his work have faces without a predominant nose. That’s because Sidharth believes that the nose represents ego in our world. He tries to paint people when they are devoid of ego or rather to depict them in a utopian world where there is no ego!

His link with Mother Nature was an influence at his latest solo show at Religare Art Gallery in New Delhi. The connect is clearly visible in his series of paintings on the “Cow” — worshipped as a mother figure in India. He focuses on the worshipped Kamadhenu to the cow in the industrialised urban environment today, eating all the garbage and then producing milk which has pollutants causing disease.

His canvases tell a complete story that focuses on the worshipped Kamadhenu and a satirical comparison to a woman who is running her house with all products derived from milk. The ritual dismembering of the sacrifice is evoked in the dehumanisation of the perception of the cow reduced to its parts as against the various deities residing in Kamadhenu. He calls this work Laughing Cow, and it is his satirical take on the evolution and journey of a cow from ancient times to the urbanised modern world.

Sidharth is an expensive artist and although he did sell at Sotheby’s once, he generally doesn’t feature on auction circuits and the recession actually did not hit him much. He has a stream of steady collectors and fans — actress Dimple Kapadia being one of his biggest admirers.

The smaller canvas works are around Rs 2.4 lakh and larger sizes which are 4ft by 5ft can fetch up to Rs 10 lakh to Rs 12 lakh, although there are smaller works starting from Rs 70,000.The prices are steep. But the originality of his paintings and the sheer radiance emanating from what are clearly works of love painted with passion makes him an artist well worth considering for one’s collection.