For Artist Ruchi Bakshi Sharma, The Medium Doesn’t Matter As Long As The Art Is A Pure Expression Of Herself
It’s difficult to categorize an artist like Ruchi Bakshi Sharma; she is a storyteller, a voyeur, a creator of alternate worlds through her films, toys and sculptures. Uninhibited in expression and unrestricted by media, she frequently combines video, film, optical art and animation with the more traditional materials to create, as she says, ‘a world of light, fun & pure beings and breathes life into them’.
Dig a bit deeper and you find an artist deeply connected with herself. According to Ruchi, her work represents her fringe theories about the mysterious workings of the world. She is but an observer looking at things in large scape. Her work emanates from her day dreams and nocturnal dreams, from her desire to create an alternate world, a rabbit hole to jump into. “It’s the most legit way I can continue to play” she says.
How Did It All Begin
Often events or circumstances from our childhood have a deep influence in shaping our lives. One of Ruchi’s early childhood memories is of being completely lost in her father’s stories. Another image that has stayed with her is a painting by her mother, of a vividly painted deer, one of the few pretty things in a middleclass home. She recalls, “Both my parents were creative, but had very few creative outlets. I remember working together on my school projects, which they helped with so much excitement. Art to them was about the pure joy of expressing themselves, no matter what the outlet is.” This philosophy has stayed with her and shines through in her work.
Early Career, Awards and Achievements
Formal training at NID led her to a career in design, which she did for many years before branching off as an independent artist. Her journey has been remarkable. She has directed films for numerous brands. She won the coveted Auteur Award in the Calcutta Film festival in 2000. Her short films have been screened at the Kyoto International Film Festival in Japan, Digital Talkies at Osians in New Delhi, Dhaka International Film festival, LA International Children’s Film Festival, and St. Johns International Film Festival in Canada. Her broadcast Idents have won multiple design awards at Singapore and New York. But like they say, life had more in store for her.
Finally, On Her Own Path
Ruchi says, “Usually an idea or a concept simmers in me for some time till its bursts out". When she realized that her purest, best work was never going to come from a ‘brief’, she decided to quit a system she felt did not have the greater good of everyone at its heart and started to create art that she believed could shape a new world. Her pillars of support and inspiration throughout the whole process were her close-knit group of friends and fellow artists who form an artist collective called Airdrome Collective, of which her husband, Indian Ocean lyricist and filmmaker, Sanjeev Sharma and she are a part. At that point, many of them were also going through similar struggles. “Of course I understand that’s the way that world works, but I felt you could also exit the system and try to build your own”, she says.
Varied Media & Play and Motion
One of the most striking things about her is the versatility and ease with which she works with different mediums. “The medium isn’t important. I never know what I am going to use”, she says. She credits her training at NID, which made her comfortable with thinking in versatile media.
Her art creatively combines varied media and lends itself naturally to interactivity, playfulness and movement. ‘Play and Motion’ is a dominant theme in her work. Her work includes lenticulars; paper assemblages inside shadow boxes; video; optical and animating toys; kaleidoscopes out of recycled materials; jointed paper puppets for beginner story tellers; illustrated puzzles and handmade zines. She has been a part of collective shows at Ruchika Art Gallery, Goa, The Viewing Room & Art Loft, Mumbai, and Artist Collectives - Art Stack and AIR drome.
Ask her where she draws her inspirations from and her list is as versatile as her art itself. She is inspired by narratives and texts from ancient India; Indian crafts and local music; architecture; textile artists and furniture designers. Among the people whose work she looks up to she mentions, experimental film makers Sidney Paterson & Maya Deren, Dutch stop motion artist Jan Svankmajer, surrealist painters Hieronymous Bosch & Leonara Carrington, filmmakers Terry Gilliam Guilermo Del Toro and Jean Pierre Jeunetare.
Art – A Social Practice
For Ruchi, learning and sharing remain a big part of her process. She has taken numerous storytelling workshops - creating optical toys with underprivileged children at Manorama Paathshala, Shadow box & Movable Puppet Making at the BhauDaji Lad Museum and Zine workshops at IIT Mumbai. She has taught Design Fundamentals and Expressionistic Film Language courses at Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Parsons ISDI Mumbai and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. She says, “I really hope to communicate my sense of the world by blending my studio practice along with a more participatory social practice.”
Forever seeking ‘pure expression’ and learning from things around her, Ruchi wants to go back to the powerful way of drawing she had before the formal training after observing the way kids drew in her workshops.
Ruchi’s most recent project is sculptural work; mixing wood, videos, drawings and projections. One of her works; ‘The Cabinet Man Aquarium Head’ was shown at a group show at Bangalore’s Galleryske in October. Last month, she created work during a residency in Sri Lanka that is travelling to Vienna for a show. She was recently commissioned by Amnesty International to create an installation to raise awareness for Lakhs of undertrials languishing in the jails of our country. This was unveiled at the Tech Fest in Bangalore recently.
In Conclusion – Food For Thought For The Budding Artist
To Ruchi, everybody is an artist, from her parents, to her 3 year old kid, to the children she teaches. She says, “We are all an image of god, everybody is an artist. We all have the same force in us. Ultimately creativity is about believing in your own thoughts shamelessly and saying this is me".