Interview with Emerging Artist Sarupa Sidaarth
We had the opportunity to interview upcoming emerging artist Sarupa Sidaarth about her current body of work, Suspension, which will be on display as part of Atelier’s spring Emerging Artist Series.
Sometimes monochromatic and sometimes varied , Sarupa’s paintings are a beautiful exploration of color. Richly textural, incorporating metallic pigments, circular brushwork and unassuming objects, the pieces demonstrate the artist’s mastery of her trade.
Beyond their formal success, the works have an significant underlying purpose; to examine our perceptions of race, color and identity. It is this combination of visually powerful works and a clear conceptual idea that makes Suspension such an effective body of work.
Your exposure to European museums and galleries influenced your art at an early age. Was there any particular artist or school that convinced you to practice art?
Rembrandt did it for me. On close observation, the abstraction in his paintings was unbelievable. And of course, the spontaneity and boldness in his brushwork are timeless. ‘A woman bathing in a Stream’ and the self-portraits have always been my favorites. Tiepolo’s oil sketches are brilliant too.
What has been your favorite or most memorable encounter with art?
There have been quite a few but Olafur Elaisson at the SFMOMA comes to mind immediately. It was a unique and magical experience. I am sure a lot of people could relate to and still remember that exhibit.
How would you describe your artistic process?
I am obsessed with faces and I stare at people to paint them in my head. In this series, images from the Internet and photographs of friends are manipulated to represent an idea. Circular and metallic elements construct and embellish the painting. The process is transformative in a physical and spiritual sense.
Is there any specific school or artistic philosophy that you most identify with?
Art movements exist in public spaces and in historical context. The old masters, impressionists and abstract expressionists were fascinating until my mind opened to other ways of looking at art. Postmodernism is interesting but ultimately it’s about perception and personal experience. I look at things from a broader perspective because [everything] connects in some way.
You’ve used your art to examine global issues. What particular issues have you looked at and how have they manifested in your work?
Any type of discrimination is disturbing. My paintings represent a social, political or economic issue that undergoes a transformation through artistic process. In ‘Metrosexual is the New Pink’ gender stereotypes get deconstructed and in ‘Americanus’ a red-faced Malaysian blurs racial bias based on color.
In some of your most recent work, you have included semi-submerged, plastic eyes. Could you describe the purpose of including these eyes and why you feel they enhance the work?
Plastic eyes are such curious little objects loaded with meaning. I use them as a metaphor for both confrontation and communication. This dichotomy is essential to my work. On one level the canvas comes to life and has a serious conversation with the viewer. Simultaneously, it’s humorous and ironic because you are being watched by an invasion of little plastic eyes. It’s a dialogue that makes us look at ourselves.
You mention using your art to “transform contemporary power structures.” How do you achieve this in your work?
There is an unfair hierarchy and unequal distribution of wealth in the world today. Clearly it is not working; unrest and agony have become a way of life. An increasing number of people are spreading awareness that the system needs to change through peaceful resolutions. I strongly believe in compassion and I am part of that movement. Through mark making and the power of the ornament my work aspires to ameliorate the human condition.
You received your B.F.A. from Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, India, and an M.F.A. from the Academy of Art University in the United States. What was it like to practice art in two very different cultural and, I assume, artistic environments?
In Mumbai I studied with the same group for four years and it was closely knit. In the United States the experience was entirely different because of the education system; it’s fiercely competitive. In India apart from the academic environment, art students are generally encouraged to steer clear of traditional practices. I was surprised to discover that traditional art is valued differently here.
Lastly, what type of direction do you see your art taking in the near future?
I play and experiment to find a language that seems less borrowed. Each body of work derives from its predecessors and encompasses something new. People, places and circumstances affect the content of my work. I have no idea where it will go.
Artist reception Sarupa Sidaarth: Thursday, May 3 from 5pm-8pm @ Atelier