My paintings are inspired from the environment that I live in. As an artist I am extremely sensitive to my surroundings and that deeply affects my work. The past few years I have been immersed in a very complex urban city that reflects the culture of a nation, of an urban India.
India is a country wrought with social and economic disparity, and this is very visible in our growing cities, particularly in Mumbai, where I live. People in suits dominate the nation, rising in power and wealth, while the rest of the country is crippled in poverty and filth.
We are currently living in what one may call an “Urban age” and is comparable somewhat to the medieval ages in terms of how our cities are built today. In medieval times, kings and queens lived in fortresses and castles that boasted of their glory and were made to be entirely self-sufficient. They were made for the first-class citizens, leaving out the rest of the population that comprised of the 2nd and 3rd tier citizens. These castles and fortresses are similar to the residential towers being built today, glitz, shiny and rich, walling out the garbage and the poor people living in slums that surround it. My painting – “ Fortress of Solitude” is based on this concept and is a part of a series I am currently working on.
My work represents the contemporary society we live in today in a very tongue and cheek manner, mocking the idea of an alpha male and what that means in the 21st century. I have used popular iconography of the ‘superman’ in a few of my works, with the man in a suit and a cape for this very reason, challenging the notion of what this symbol might represent in today’s society.
Much of the imagery in my paintings comes from photographs and videos taken in the city, with drawings of organic forms that represent putrefying piles of waste, dotting the landscape instead of rolling hills, contrasted with geometric shapes and lines that represent glitzy skyscrapers. This dichotomy between filth and glitz is apparent in many of my works.
I draw inspiration from maps in several of my works, and was initially fascinated with them when I came across images of satirical maps printed in Europe during the World War, that addressed political issues with humor. The painting, ‘21st - century Superman’ was based loosely on this concept. My penchant for mapping things is perhaps born out of a need to find some order in the chaos that surrounds me; or perhaps it is born out of an inherent desire for finding patterns my work. There is an element of design in my work that has been a part my subconscious, having grown up around a printing factory for fabrics and is the reason why I am constantly searching for shapes and forms in everything I draw and paint.
Some of my recent paintings have been created on vintage Indian stamp paper that is reminiscent of a decaying fragile heritage and is contrasted with imagery of the growing face of a new urban India. Using my cultural history and combining that with contemporary imagery that I am current exposed to, is integral to my work.
Working with mixed media, my paintings tend to have several layers to them, as I mix complex imagery and text to weave a narrative. I enjoy the aspect of writing in my work, as if I am noting my thoughts on the painting itself or using found text, some of which is legible or just there for visual imagery, leaving it up to the viewer’s imagination to make out what’s there and what isn’t.
- SAREENA KHEMKA
2004 - 2007 BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.A
2002 - 2004 BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati Univ. Santiniketan, India
July 2006 SUMMER PAINTING & DRAWING STUDIO International School of Painting, Drawing & Sculpture, Umbria, Italy
2001 - 2002 PAINTING & DRAWING STUDIO Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, India
SEPTEMBER 2013, UNITED ART FAR (Group Show) Curated by Peter Nagy, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi
JULY 2012, ALLEGORIES (Group Show) Art Konsult, New Delhi, India
FEB 2012, “The Human Spill”, KALA GHODA FESTIVAL (Sculptural installation) Kala Ghoda, Mumbai
APRIL 2010, SAARC ART SHOW, (Group Show) Centennial park and Assembly Hall, Thimpu, Bhutan
JULY 2009, OF FAMILIAR PLACES & INTIMATE SPACES (Solo Show) Chemould Art Gallery, Calcutta, India
MAY 2007, UNDERGRADUATE EXHIBITION (Group Show) G2 Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.A
DEC 2006, CITIES APART (Solo Show) Genesis Art Gallery, Calcutta, India
JULY 2006, STUDENT SHOW (Group Show) International School of Drawing, Painting & Sculpture, Italy
NOV - DEC 2013, Space 118, Mumbai
MARCH – MAY 2010, JAN 2011-12, Space 118, Mumbai
APRIL 2010, SAARC ART CAMP, Tarayana Art Center, Thimpu, Bhutan
JULY 2012 “Social Sensitivities on a colorful palette,” Shweta Sharma, The Sunday Gaurdian
JULY 2012 “Eloquent Tales,” Dr. Seema Bawa,The Asian Age
APRIL 2010, “Many mediums, one message,” Kuenga Tender,Kuensel Newspaper, Bhutan.
DEC2006, “Tale of Two Cities,” Mathuresh Paul,The Statesman, Calcutta, India.