An Interview with Textile Artist Hansika Sharma
Detail - Web of Tragedy, Hansika Sharma
Two of the main reasons I decided to start a blog was: to really ask the question — What is art? And, to document my findings. One big part of that quest has been seeking out works that reach out and grab you, seemingly, with a life of their own. And another is speaking to the daredevils that breathe in them that power.
Now, a little-known fact about my own background is that it began in clothing design. And while an easily awed temperament and a voracious appetite for getting my creative kicks (and circumstance, of course) has led me to today, I’m still driven by some of the same elements that I found compelling so many years ago — colour, texture, form, fabric, attitude, error and story.
Spotting an image of the work Web of Tragedy on Instagram some time ago, brought with it a surge of those memories and they came roaring in, in absolute technicolor. A click later I found Hansika Sharma and some of her other work and even more re-animations of what was.
Now, I have to make clear, it wasn’t the work itself that I found familiar — in fact I found it extremely original and thought provoking, but it was the creative spirit and attitude it imbued.
Fair to say, it wasn’t long before I knew I had to connect with Hansika, seek out more of her creations and of course, give her the third degree. Patient, kind and open as she was, here’s what she had to say.
M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Hansika. First off: how would you describe yourself?
H: I am a very curious person who thrives on and for beauty and art in life. Currently I am in a space where I have reached a certain level of alignment in my head, heart, soul and being; I am someone right now who is constantly in a state of prayer.
M: That’s a very interesting, almost wholistic, perspective. I’m curious, in just a couple of lines, how would you define Art?
H: Art is life. It is an act of being. I don't see art as only a painting or a poem, but for me it translates into the daily philosophy — the way you pick up your things when they fall from the table — that is art, the way you encounter beautiful things in your daily life and respond to it, is art for me. It is a state of consciousness; I feel some live in that state and some are just unaware of it.
M: One of the things that caught by attention when I first saw your work was the use of thread, embroidery, and paint, to create artworks — and more specifically working with and on canvas — which, one can easily forget, is essentially cloth. Can you tell us about your choice of media and your unique approach to it?
H: I love fabric and textiles. I feel the medium has always spoken to me; even as a child, it just felt natural to me. When I look at the surface of a fabric — the warp and weft form a code that I find easy to crack and I look beyond it just being cloth. The piercing of a needle into the fabric to create embroidery is in itself a fascinating movement; you are technically piercing the surface at a microscopic level and adding another layer to it. I find that I am writing in a language that only I and that surface can understand and I love the mystery in its interpretation.
M: What was your first show experience like — taking your art to a gallery setting, working on a show, planning/ setting it up etc. etc.?
H: Anxious, I was very anxious, but I just knew I had to do it and break the ice by putting my work out there for the public. In my first show I did everything from end-to-end, now when I look back it wasn't that great, but I am here at this stage because of that show.
M: Can you talk about your Self Portraits series of works?
H: I see all of my works as self-portraits, in a way. But that particular series was exploring my mental space, one artwork at a time. You can see my work heal slowly as I progress.
M: With Soul Codes, you work with pen and paper; can you talk to your motivations here?
H: Working on Soul Codes was when I discovered that repeating patterns and simple elements were very meditative. So, I just kept on exploring them. I found myself sitting for hours while making these intricate patterns because I was that present and focused. It just felt like a meditation.
M: What is the significance of the simple running stich in your work?
H: The running stitch is the simplest of stitches and it can easily be multiplied to create something completely dynamic. It is simple and powerful, that’s what I love about it.
M: An interesting set of posts you’ve made on social shows you warming up where you go through a process of laying down tiny marks to fill out a grid; The idea of warming up, cooling down etc. is a very “physical-exercise-related” idea that, in my view, really needs more emphasis, especially in common art education circles. Can you talk about your views on the subject and its importance?
H: So, I like to warm up on a small sheet of paper, approaching it in a very non-judgmental, unbothered, fearless act before I actually go ahead and get to my serios works. When you work out you need to follow a rhythm, warming up stretching is needed for you to do the main exercises fluidly without any cramps, and then you need to rest in shavasana to let your body cool down and relax completely, making sure the workout works. Similarly, warm ups in a small quick scale just gets that tap open to get on the main work, without any such creative blocks or obstructions or even the fear of starting something serious. It takes away all the layers of doubts. And then when you finish, you just sit and absorb what all just came out of your creative hands.
(Related Instagram Post)
M: What does your artistic process look like? How has it evolved through the years?
H: My process is fairly simple - I just get to work. I think, create and explore at the same time. I do not sketch things out either and let things evolve from there. This has been my process has been for quite some while. I like to leave room for unusual deviations, so i do not dig too deep i just work very fluidly. Having said that, I like to follow a routine - reaching the studio every day at a time and spending that many hours in the studio, even if I am not working, I just sit idle and let myself get bored and observe things from the big glass window in my studio.
M: I like the way you phrase it ‘sit idle and let myself get bored’. On that same note, how important is outcome vs process to you?
H: Process is just a little more important for me than outcome. I wouldn't say that outcome is not at all important for me, it is, because that is the destination, I want to reach so it has to be solid, but to reach there the process must be transformational, pleasurable, educational and experimental. Thus, the process, or the journey, becomes slightly more important.
M: In talking to creators, I usually shoot out a set of standard questions to most folks to collect different perspectives on the same subject — one of the most intriguing to me, which is the question, why. So, why, Hansika, do you do what you do?
H: I do what I do because at multiple periods in my life it has saved me. It is, for me personally, more than just the process of creation. It’s a conversation with something or someone that feels very present to me. I don't want to know any other way. The binding of threads, the colour Indigo, fabric itself, is almost are my shrine.
M: It's clear that your art is very personal, in fact almost spiritual, to you; I'm curious to know, how do you see works of art by other people — any specific/ favorite pieces by another artist? How do you interpret it?
H: There’s a large embroidered tapestry made out of Chikankari at the Calico Museum. Every time go there and look at it, I get so overwhelmed that it makes me cry. It’s the sheer beauty of the work and the knowledge that someone crafted it with their hands, the vision of that craftsman, who was actually an artist, unknown and living a hundred or two hundred years ago somewhere in India, making this gorgeous work that would eventually be shipped out to Britain — I don't know but it makes me feel sometimes that the pretense of being an “artist” in the current times can be frugal or even tasteless.
M: How do you define success as an artist?
H: I am currently in the process of discovering the answer to this for myself, too. Somedays, I do feel commercial success is important but most days being successful as an artist means when my works can speak and people remember it, sit in front of it and feel something — be it good or bad, but something. So, currently success to me means if, through my work, someone is able to reflect and feel an urge to come home to themselves.
M: Any advice for folks who would like to walk in your footsteps?
H: Do not compare with others. Take the time to find yourself first — come home to your own self while being extremely patient and knowing that this is a sacred process and your art will come your way — original, authentic art that will be one of a kind just like you. I promise.
Hansika Sharma is a textile artist from India, whose primary concerns are the colour indigo, the complexity of embroidered surfaces and their transformation, and is informed by the philosophy of self-reflection. Hansika has developed a connection with the colour Indigo as a colour of her soul, drawing similarities with the history of the colour that changed the world and politics in a way, as well as its own mysterious chemical nature of becoming alchemised from green to the deepest, darkest, most beautiful shades of blue.
Hansika’s work further explores and responds to her own constant personal evolution, changing philosophies, interactions with other people, as well as the complexity of human psychology and investigations into its effects on socio-political subject matters.
Follow Hansika on Instagram
All photographs shown are courtesy the artist. All work copyright the artist.
This blog post copyright 2023 Malcolm Fernandes All rights reserved