Interviews: Nibha Sikander
"In an exclusive interview, artist Nibha Sikander gives us intriguing insight into the inspiration behind her practice and how she developed it into a distinct and unconventional art form." - Editor
About the Artist: Nibha Sikander
Nibha Sikander (b.1983) has done her Bachelors in Visual Arts (2006) and Masters in Visual Arts (2008), both specialising in painting, from the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara. Since her graduation, she has been part of several group exhibitions, some of which include ALCHEMY: Explorations in Indigo, KasturbhaiLalbhai Museum, Ahmedabad (2019); Beyond Borders, curated by the CONA Foundation at the Whitworth Gallery/Museum, Manchester, England (2017-18); A New Space, Nazar Art Gallery, Vadodara (2016).
For our readers, could you tell us a bit about your background, your childhood and formal education.
I grew up in Bombay and lived there till I was 18. I spent most of my childhood holidays in Kihim and Janjira where my family has property, along the Konkan coast. Personally, these holidays had a huge impact on my life. I went on to complete my education from Maharaja Sajyajirao University in Visual arts, with a specialization in painting. I pursued both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at M.S.U, Baroda.
What inspired you to develop this unique practice recreating various species from nature and why did you choose to pursue it? What measures did you take initially to develop and refine it into the art form it is today?
Growing up in a family of nature lovers, I have surrounded by volumes of books on birds and trees. As mentioned, our frequent family visits to Kihim and Janjira exposed me to various species of birds and insects early on.
I started cutting paper over fifteen years ago and when I first started, it literally involved taking a single piece of paper and cutting it into abstract forms. Then, this developed into more stencil-like forms using coloured paper. About seven years ago, I further developed this technique of laying paper from the top and adding thicker paper in-between to add more body and make it more relief sculpture-like.
What first impression does your work create on people who see it for the first time? How do you feel about it?
People react differently to my work especially in relations to the materiality and life-like appearance of my works. Many have appreciated the extent of detailing and layering that goes into each recreated species.
The artist sector in India is currently very competitive, especially with social media being a powerful tool for artists to display their work. However, many artists do not get the recognition they deserve for a number of reasons. What would your advice be for those artists who are starting out?
While the art sector in India is very competitive, I would urge artists to keep at their practice. I would definitely encourage them to visit art galleries, get familiar with spaces and see where their work would be a good fit. Two useful tips would be to do their research and show their work or portfolios to various galleries. Another great tip could be to request curators for a portfolio review in order to get constructive feedback and a different perspective on the work.
There are different mediums available for artists today to make themselves heard. Commercial galleries, agents, curators etc. What path do you suggest? Do you also pursue commissioned work?
Initially, upon graduation when I started my practice, it was very challenging as being an artist can be a very isolating experience but luckily for me, I had my mother, who is also an artist. She understood what I was going through and it definitely helped to talk to her. For me, being affiliated with a gallery has definitely made a huge difference because I personally find it very challenging to talk about my work and promote it on my own, so the gallery definitely helps to make my work more accessible to others. At the same time, it allows me to focus more on my own creative process.
I feel commissions become an interesting space and opportunity to experiment with the medium. For example, I worked on a commission where I was asked to work with paper that was dyed in different shades of the same colour. It pushed me to work with one particular colour palette as opposed to multiple colours, which is what I am used to. So, commissions definitely challenge my usual ways of working.
Majority of people do not understand that artwork such as yours is best viewed in person. What do you think can be done to make art more accessible and more importantly understandable?
I do think art has become more accessible than it used to be due to the effects of social media, but I think one way to make it more understandable is to make it accessible to the younger generation. To introduce topics like the Art History in school and educate kids about Indian and western artists and their works, the importance of visiting Museums so they have the exposure early and a better understanding when they get older.
Plans for the future? What are you working on next?
After my first solo exhibition, Wandering Violin Mantis, I wanted to start from where I left off and continue making more species of birds, moths and insects. For a while now, I have been wanting to increase the scale of these species as well, earlier, I have tried to make them as close to the real as possible. I think changing the scale and dimension will open up new possibilities within my work. I have previously deconstructed my works and also experimented with one completely abstract work, named, The Abstract Kingfisher, where I played around with using different cutout forms and abstracted it therefore changing the form completely. I would want to experiment further with abstraction as well.
A: Nibha Sikander
For more information about Nibha Sikander's work, you can visit the TARQ website.