Art for the soul

Viveek Sharma
His face is familiar, thanks to his acting stint in Bollywood. But what Viveek Sharma is really known for are the faces he creates on canvas. Right from being a sketch artist for the police force to becoming an artist par excellence, Viveek has carved a niche for himself in the art world.

His latest exhibition ‘Silence, Please!’ portrays silence and stillness with Mumbai’s noise as the backdrop. And he shows this through portraits of India’s Sadhus, referred to as ‘the silent ones’ in ancient Vedic verses. Here, Viveek speaks about the exhibition and his work at large.   

Your recent works are absolutely spellbinding. Congratulations! It’s a very interesting portrayal of finding silence in the chaos. But although there is a definite meditative quality to the paintings, there is also a glimpse of angst and a disturbing attribute that is palpable in the facial expressions of a few portraits. Was this feature a deliberate attempt? If yes, what was your thought process behind it and what was it that you wanted to convey?
I find my inspiration in human subjects, everyday life… It’s complexities and emotions. So yes, the intensity in the portrayal of my subjects is intentional. Human beings are multidimensional and I try to represent the fullness of an image. Layer by layer, I wish to capture emotion, thought, wisdom, concealment, revelation, desire, faith, hope and surrender. The combination of technique and elements provides the atmosphere for each painting and draws one into the subject.

George Bernard Shaw said, "You use a glass mirror to reflect your face…You use work of Art to see your Soul." My work is an attempt to connect with these extremes of human emotions and touch the soul.

Viveek's painting from 'Silence, Please!'
You are described as ‘a painter of metaphors’. On the other hand, art has forever been a medium that’s endorsed individual interpretation. How important is it for you as an artist that your interpretation is understood by the viewer?
Yes, I am known for my metaphorical representations which were more obvious and noticeable in past canvases… I feel that this body of work has moved more towards Mysticism only because the subject matter is ‘The Silent One’. The Silent Ones are seeking unity with the universe and desire to transcend the material and physical world surrounding them. I still use them as a metaphor for every individual who is seeking that peace of quiet, that temporary respite from the endless noise that we have become immune to in our urban environment. So the Metaphor is not apparent, but still exists.

Like I said earlier, my inspiration comes from the observation of human interaction. I am drawn to the living and the art in living, social realities and philosophies the seemingly opposing forces of past and present, urban and rural, spiritual and physical, modern and traditional. I wish to tell simple stories that the viewer can connect with. They can relate to and find meaning in the representation on the canvas. I wish for the viewer to feel… feel their own connect with the work. Individual interpretation is just that... identification with the subject matter on a personal level.

What’s a subject that’s closest to your heart and is yet to find its way on your canvas?   
I have always been influenced by strong artists who have the integrity to retain their individualism and experiment with techniques and subjects.

It follows from here that other than the undeniable M.F.H, I am a big fan of Salvador Dali. I have always wanted to work on a body inspired by him based in surrealism…will I make the switch once again? Only time will tell.

Could you elaborate on your intent of using light and sound in your ongoing exhibition? Is this the first time you are bringing together mediums that appeal to different senses? Or has this been a regular feature in all your exhibits?
My work inherently has a focus point of light that captures the attention of the viewer and draws them in. As the light disperses through the painting, it guides them along through the canvas. This is characteristic of the series as a whole and of my work.

This is the first time I am using light and sound in my exhibit. When ideation was in process, I had a strong desire to create and experience of the senses… I wanted to challenge myself to explore the possibilities of interaction with the canvas. I wanted the viewer to experience the inspiration behind this body of work. Take them through my experience with my Noise Pollution and our subconscious addiction to it in our urban environment, and then direct them towards the importance of consciously extracting oneself physically, mentally and emotionally to find our inner peace and quiet. Even if it is for just ten minutes, I wanted to transport them away from the daily routine.

By guiding the eyes and ears, the visitor senses a new proximity with subject.

As someone with such an extensive body of work and as someone who still practises old school techniques, what are your observations on the contemporary art scene? How has art evolved? What are the current trends in art that excite you?
The contemporary art scene in India is bursting with talent... there are known and unknown talents that are creative and skilled. With the age of information technology and globalization, the art world is getting closer. This helps in knowledge sharing.

Art has moved from the traditional canvases and cloth to fashion, photography, film and theatre, advertising, d├ęcor and even food. The possibilities are limitless. Today, people perceive art differently. There is more acceptance, interest and an exchange of knowledge.
Installation art is a current trend that never fails to grab my attention.

Your professional career as an artist mentions a fascinating detail – your work with the police force. Could you share that experience with us? What was the work all about, how did you get into it and how did that contribute to your journey as an artist?
It all started as a way to earn some pocket money while studying in Sir J.J. School of Art. Working with the police force was an exciting and challenging time. I would get called out at unearthly hours to crime scenes so as to work on the suspect sketches from witness accounts. The tension and energy would be high and fuel the adrenaline. Working with the Mumbai Police strengthened my skills in sketching which profoundly impacts the foundation of any piece of work. My professors at Sir J.J. School of Art instilled in me a strong belief in the basics of art. Although this period of my life was difficult, it has helped my work and created some lasting friendships.

You also had a short stint with acting in Hindi films. How did that happen? Are you still pursuing it?
I used to go to Prithvi Theatre to sketch portraits when I was a struggling artist. Mr Anurag Kashyap came by one day and told me that someday he would use me in his films. I never did take him seriously, but one fine day he approached me with the opportunity to work in No Smoking with seven character roles. During this time, while the film was in the making, Mr Shaad Ali approached Anurag Kashyap with the need for a set of twins to appear in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Then there was Ashoka with Santosh Sivan who wanted Vineet to call me in as his twin brother. For me this was a 70mm canvas.

From being a connoisseur’s or so to say collector’s medium, art is fast becoming the investor’s medium with the spotlight on art auctions. How do you view this whole emergence of art investment? Do you think that’s the future? If yes, do you see it as a positive step, in the right direction?
In the traditional sense of an investment, there are numerous factors to consider before one opts to create an art portfolio. Like any other investment, art can only perform this function once the basic needs and wants of an individual have been met. The traditional sense art as an investment, would apply if one is intuitive enough to invest the right time and if one is able to foresee growth of the artist.

I believe that there is another side to art as an investment... an investment in culture and history, people and ideas, knowledge and passion.


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