A Fantastical Flight 

Through Art

Iris C F Gomes

Anushya Sharma is one of those artists who become completely inseparable from their work. It seems as though her spirit infuses every painting with a signature of her self. She hails from Guwahati, Assam, and was an assistant director in films in Mumbai before the call of art proved too strong to ignore. Her first collection, called Miss A Takes a Holiday, was a success and prodded her to continue in this line.

Fool Fantasy, her most recent exhibition of paintings, shown at the Art Chamber, Calangute, takes us on a journey of life, discovery of self and the trials in the process. A certain amount of angst is married with a sense of this peeling away of layers of questions. This says much for the value of the journey being greater than the final result.

The series of painting begins with the subconscious motivation to make a change. ‘The fool is basically this very youthful, optimistic spirit about discovering the world, exploring new places, new experiences; not necessarily aware of what kind of challenges may lie ahead, but not cynical. There is no cynicism in the fool,’ says Anushya, explaining the concept of the Fool. The Hermit depicts a time of introspection when the realisation of being trapped in a stalemate dawns on one and a soul searching ensues. The next painting Piya was inspired by a friend who was bending over a cup and the effect is ethereal. This was just before Anushya left for England to study art. Youthful enthusiasm for novel ideas is captured here. Indeed the artist and her writer friend were only in their early twenties, and Anushya had recently had her first exhibition; so the future was laden with potential.

The Gift is a beautiful and poignant portrayal of a daughter’s relationship with her father. The generic image of a little girl on her father’s shoulders evokes a scene at the Notting Hill Carnival. The little girl holds her gift, a wand, in her hands and ponders the possibilities of the gift. Anushya believes that in retrospect it is the projection of her own relationship with her father and the fact that he was paying for her education.

The next painting, Promises, is a sunset in Assam when Anushya had come back home after her training in classical art from the London Atelier for Representational Art. It marks a moment of a sense of empowerment as she was now equipped with the tools to express all the ideas whirling around in her mind. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is named after minor characters in Hamlet who were used by Tom Stoppard to play his title protagonists in a play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is an existentialist tragicomedy that sees these two characters, who are completely clueless as to the happenings around them and a keeping waiting for some direction, until they are put to death. ‘In a nutshell, it defines all of the last century…this very existential mode. You think of Virginia Woolf, you think of TS Eliot…like Waiting for Godot, it’s very existential. It’s like, we are here. We don’t know why. We don’t know where we have to go. Always waiting for inspiration, a phone call, waiting for someone to say something or do something,’ says Anushya. Clad in modern garb, the two street musicians in the painting wait patiently with their drums and djembes for the cue to begin playing.

Next, is a portrait of her father, seemingly caught up in some inner turmoil. Here is the artist’s empathy that offers the ability to imagine the state of another. Whether this is true or not, the artist’s own emotions are also embroiled in this interpretation and therefore it is partially a reflection of her.

Some of the paintings had previously been part of House up the Ladder, an exhibition held at Mahim in a heritage loft apartment. It had an otherworldly aura in the manner it was set up: there were burnt cards, there were rooms playing various genres of music from different periods of time and scores of wine bottles with candles burning. Anushya says, ‘It was meant to create an alter reality kind of space.’ It was when the ideas of all these young artistes were in their early stages, which Anushya shows in the portrait of the friend who owned the loft apartment.

Anushya talks about the effect of time, the artist’s own evolution, experiences gathered and current events on a personal level as well as pertaining to the world at large, on a painting that may have started out being inspired by particular subject. She admits that some of her paintings have altered over the period she has been painting them and only if the viewer fine tunes into the vibrations let off by it, can he or she see something more than just the original idea presented.

She recalls, when she painted Phoenix, named after the cat that posed for her, she was grappling with the fast paced movement of the city of Mumbai. To the newly trained artist, the economic persuasion of that movement was insignificant and she was trying to slow down and concentrate on her painting. The balance has returned but her state of mind was eternally captured in Phoenix.

Anushya has exhibited a live installation at Kala Ghoda called Pink Dream, which represented young hope, young love, emerging springtime and all things fresh and young. Dressed in an outfit with buds and unfurling petals, the young woman went around distributing strawberries.

Critique from some art students enthused her to revert to the spontaneity she possessed before her education in fine arts. They told her that though her work had become refined, ‘it was still struggling within the academic bracket,’ says Anushya. The training that students of classical art undergo requires in depth study of the human anatomy, and is extremely demanding in terms of precision. She says, ‘It was a little unnerving because then you start questioning why you are painting in the first place. Is it just to represent all you see outside your world or is it something more? So then I told myself I wasn’t going to think so much. I’m not going to be daunted by reality that I have to capture every little detail as I see it.’ This resulted in the painting made up of four panels, which when put together become Indian Gypsy. The woman portrayed in the painting was a natural response of her creative juices. There was absolutely no planning involved. There is an air like quality to the gypsy while Anushya as an individual needed to move away from dwelling in her world of ideas and ground herself in reality.

Anushya has been working for Vaderas, interior designers in Delhi, providing them with paintings for some time now. She created a painting for them that shows two inanimate objects, a cup and a chair in dialogue, unlike her other works. The congealed blood on the ground reflects everyday life. She says, ‘The chair lands on terra firma here.’ It symbolises the stability she has found in her professional life. Anushya's paintings take us along her journey of learning and help us in a way to identify our own challenges and seek to surmount them.