Nisha Sheth, an artist shuffling between Mumbai and London is someone who enjoys creating thought-provoking art on all media. Fascinated by visual activism and the philosophy of ‘art with a purpose’, Nisha gets her daily dose of inspiration from people and their stories.
“Movies, poetry, paintings are all gateways into understanding human beings. Anything that can provoke me has the power to inspire me,” says Nisha.
That being said, a lot of her work addresses body positivity, colourism, gender stereotypes, and social inequality.
“It is important to me that I create art that represents the oppressed and helps start a much-needed conversation,” she says.
She owes her endeavours in art to sudden creative outbursts and inspiration.
“If something provokes or inspires me and I have something to say, I will pick the medium best suited to express myself and will not get up until I am done.”
Essentially, she creates with the sole purpose of empowering individuals and helping them put forward their voices that would have otherwise gone unheard.
Her latest project is called ‘Kraanti’. Kraanti is her conception of visual activism, which took shape as a result of her strong views against the objectification of young girls – something which had been in the news quite often in the past few years. In order to address certain social, political and personal issues, she started interviewing the brilliant women she had been fortunate enough to know.
While working on this project, she asked the participants to prepare a brief mentioning the things they loved and hated about themselves. She used these to make certain customised illustrations, hoping that it would help them accept themselves. This was for the participants’ personal use and was kept out of the final zine, which was made as part of the project.
“It was one of the most fulfilling projects I have had the pleasure to work on. I managed to address social taboos, gender stereotypes, sexual harassment and many other issues through this initiative.”
Kraanti had more to do with people than it had to do with art.
“The pain that bled out, stained more than my skirt,” says a piece from Kraanti, which captures the experiences of three generations of women and their monthly battles against taboos associated with the menstrual cycle. It also captures the evolution of period products and the art associated with it.
“The homemade cloth pad also known as ‘katka’ has a traditional intricate pattern; the revolutionised pad pays homage to modern art whilst the tampon has a deconstructed pop art feel,” Nisha elaborates.
To better understand this evolution, she spoke to her mother and her grandmother, who had to suffer in silence like most women, during their menstruating days. Personal testimonies from such people, as well as her own insights into the issue helped her give wings to the project, which remains one of her favourite so far.
Here are some quick questions we asked her about what makes her tick:
I. An artist whose work has impacted you deeply?
In 2016, I came across Zanele Muholi’s imagery. She was my gateway into visual activism. ‘Only Half the Picture’ and ‘Brave Beauties’ are arguably the most impactful series ever created. Her work made me realise that art was a balance between aesthetics and purpose. I would describe her work as ‘layered simplicity’.
II. How would you want the government to spread awareness around issues surrounding sexual health and sex positivity?
I would like them to drastically improve the sex education imparted in our schools, and also educate the younger generations about mental health, whilst providing them with sufficient support and counselling about the same.
III. What would you say is your favourite piece of work of your own and why?
My favourite piece of work has to be the custom illustrations I made for my participants during the making of ‘Kraanti’. Even though these illustrations never saw the light of the day, the outcome fulfilled its purpose. The overwhelming response I received from the women who were kind enough to share their deepest insecurities with me, was unfathomably fulfilling. The feeling that you get once you realise your art impacted people, is addictive ; it pushes you to do even better.
IV. One track you’re currently listening to ?
Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi
V. A project you wish you were a part of and why?
‘Fashion for Peace’ by Sadhguru is a project I would have liked to be a part of. I have spent the last four years studying the fashion industry and it needs some serious cleansing. This project is a step in the right direction; it will put the Indian textile industry in the forefront whilst eliminating irresponsible fabrics.
VII. Your greatest vice?
I am overly critical about my work. This scope of improvement keeps me from publishing my work as it often seems incomplete.
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