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The Man Behind The Art Shares What Makes A ‘Desi Canvas’

Posted by Rana Ashish Singh in Art, Culture-Vulture
May 16, 2017

Aakshat Sinha holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Moscow, Russia. After a decade of corporate experience in Russia and India, he decided to find himself and discovered his passion for creativity. He has since then acquired a diploma in fine arts, exhibited his own paintings and installations extensively since 2009. His solo show, “Those Golden Years”, was showcased at the AIFACS art gallery (2013), and at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, New Delhi. His installations were displayed at the House of Artists in Moscow for the Silk Rad Cultural Forum exhibition in 2015. He has curated a number of art shows in the last 3 years, exhibiting at places like the AIFACS art gallery and Lalit Kala Akademi. His show, “Pratimimb-Reflections”, at Lalit Kala Akademi, in 2016, included artists from the USA, UK, Australia, Russia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.

His recent show, “Textured Conscience”, was held at the AIFACS in December, 2016, after which he travelled to Hotel Grand Maple, Jaipur, in January, 2017, for a show which included works by artists from Russia, USA, UK, Nepal and India. He has been involved with street art, 3D chalk painting, and has been writing poems and short stories. He has also published graphic novels and is part of the collaboration, “Ulta Soch”, which has released illustrated books in different languages. This post is an attempt by the author and the curator to ensure that his art reaches out to people. The purpose of telling the story behind the artist is to make readers understand the journeys artists undertake for their art.

The Drifting Canvas” is not a new idea in art circles but “Desi Canvas” is; or rather, the combination of both is a new concept. This is an interview with Aakshat Sinha, the curator of “Desi Canvas”.

Ashish (A): Can you explain the idea behind the process of “Desi Canvas”?

Aakshat Sinha (AS): When I was posed with the objective of curating a show on Indian contemporary art, I proposed to do eight shows, each, a week long, rather than one for the entire period of ‘The Drifting Canvas’. Once this was decided, I put together a few ideas for these shows. The first challenge was the logistics of sourcing the works, which prompted the choice of Delhi/NCR based artists. Then came the challenge of presenting an eclectic mix of art forms, styles, subjects and the position of the artists with respect to their acceptance and visibility. The artists came first, then the selection of their artworks, and simultaneously, the themes started to form.

A: How did you decide the themes for “Desi Canvas”?

AS: The themes for the shows came either with the nature of the artists or of the artworks selected. In some cases, the themes came first, while in the case of others, it was a common thread that I had to run through.

A: Acknowledging the fact that there are many Indian contemporary artists, why did you select the works of these artists and what challenges did you have to face in the process?

AS: There were a few artists that I knew. I was sure I wanted to include them. I reached out to a few of them. Not everyone was accepting, while some were happy to participate. The evolution of the artist list was very organic but planned as well. The challenge was to frame the artists in the themes and to present their works in the best possible fashion. Logistics of curating eight shows is a big challenge. It involves planning and executing the receipt and return of the works. The artists were all very forthcoming and helpful. The challenges have exclusively been about the mobility and display of the actual works.

Aakshat Sinha, the curator of “Desi Canvas”.

A: Coming from an engineering background, you moved to a newer area of arts and now you are working as a curator. Tell me a little about your journey.

AS: I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Moscow, Russia, way back in 1998. My experiences at my university (Russian People’s Friendship University), where students from more than 140 countries were studying, helped me become the individual I am today. It made me receptive to variations in understanding and made me have an approach towards life that acknowledges the regional and cultural diversity of individuals. I returned to India in 2000, after having worked in a managerial capacity at trading firms in Moscow, but I did not work as per my profession, as I always wanted to seek out roles and jobs that kept me connected to people. In 2006, while heading a successful HR recruitment firm, I was starting to burn out and started questioning my reasons for working. I quit and decided to make the most of the single life that I had. After dabbling in writing for a couple of years, I decided to follow up on my childhood talent. I started painting. Completing a one-year full-time diploma in fine arts in 2009, I embarked on my creative journey that I am currently pursuing. Many exhibitions, camps and finally after two solo shows, I got hooked into conceptualising and putting together theme based shows. I get to experiment and learn with each attempt. And the excitement of new challenges and the possibility of getting to learn more keeps me going. Also, it helps me get close to the artists I revere, understand their art, and their processes, from an insider’s perspective. Collaborating with artists from diverse fields and backgrounds (upcoming or established) also keeps me creatively busy.

A: Who are your favourite artists among the ones displayed at “Desi Canvas”?

AS: All the 41 artists are my favourites. I’d love to work with them again, for sure, and we would probably create something that requires longer association.

A: Any work you like in particular among the ones displayed here?

AS: It is difficult to make a pick for the simple reason that I myself am yet to see all the works on display. It would be biased to pick any favourites just yet. Maybe at the end of all the eight shows, I’d be in a better and more informed position to comment on this.