It was at the tender age of three that Shweta Sharma was first introduced to the endearing madness that is often associated with artists. With a mother who spent hours hunched in front of a canvas, making botanical and anatomical paintings; Shweta often just sat there, quietly observing, wondering if the things around her really grew out of her mother’s paintings. She learnt about the power of a paintbrush much before she could even put a pencil to use—something that didn’t go so well with her father. “My dad wasn’t pro-art, he always placed studies first, but once I proved him the worth and passion, he became my biggest supporter. I called art, he supported it”, she tells us.
Fast forward to 22 years later, Shweta is living the double life of many artists in the 21st century. She lends her skills to the commercial world by the day and resorts to her own artistic pursuits at night (or in free time). A Mumbai-based visual designer who goes by her social media moniker @sharmatinahi, her work is strongly rooted in European avant-garde art movements of surrealism and dadaism.
With disproportionate faces, enormous eyes unintelligently gaping at you, and an almost-psychedelic colour palette; Shweta’s artwork comes with a host of unrelated objects visually put together with a dash of unexpected humour. Reminiscent of the works of Dali, it’s a fusion of things you wouldn’t quite imagine. When asked about the inspiration behind her outlandish illustrations, we’re left both surprised and fascinated by what she has to say, “My works are a surrealistic upgrade of my dreams and thoughts. I have always been a vivid dreamer—dreams where fishes fly, doodles come to life, mythological twists take place. I would often switch between different subcultures and eras in my dreams. Sometimes I even hallucinate while reading a powerful piece or listening to a good song.”
But not everything stems from the fertile land of imagination that is Shweta’s brain. Her colour palette is inspired by a vibrant Rajasthani heritage that goes everywhere with her—which she often uses to depict stories and emotions that she comes across in the course of her daily life. For Shweta, the myriad shades of human life are enough, “I like observing people, trying to read where they are coming from, and delivering them in my illustrations with layering and detail. I make complex faces because I see them beyond features. People are so layered, a happy face can almost fool you, an angry person can surprise you with the kindest act. All faces have a story to tell.”
By extension, Shweta’s graduation project on Neo-miniature paintings with various artisans combined the intricacies of human nature, culture, and art. Triggered by a pleasant experience from her childhood, she decided to spend four months working with and observing neo-miniature artists from Jaipur who’ve been practising the form for generations.
But as she began looking closely, the unfortunate reality of traditional art forms became obvious to her, “These paintings take about a month to complete, if you are targeting an A4. There are shops selling this work for just Rs. 500, yet people are not buying it. As a result, families are giving up these skills and looking for other commercial, safe jobs for their children. And we can’t really blame them.” So Shweta did what she does best. She helped the artisans add modern elements to their work in return for edifying her with a traditional skill.
Each miniature, thereon, exuded her surrealistic imagination lending life to a dying art form.
Juggling between a full-time day job as a Creative Lead, a personal art exhibit, and her entry for this year’s Indianama takes up most of Shweta’s time. But despite being sucked into the metropolitan’s commotion, she has vowed to bring the Jaipur artisans to the forefront of India’s commercial art scene by helping exhibit their work sometime in the future.
If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you read: