With people locked in there might be a new wave of attention to art, says Sujata Bajaj

Indian artists overseas hopeful of an art market revival post Covid-19

Culture

June 18, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

sujata bajaj

Sujata Bajaj is an Indian born international contemporary artist

Having lived and worked in Paris for over 30 years, Sujata Bajaj is one of the leading names in the list of Indian artists overseas. Though her base is Paris, Bajaj has been regularly visiting and working in the Middle East, notably Dubai, UK and the United States and of course India. Her ancestral inheritance is reflected in all her works. For her creations she uses diverse mediums such as etching, wood-cut, sculpture, murals, cold ceramic, fibre-glass, metal, and acrylics on canvas. Media India Group spoke to Bajaj about the impact of Coronavirus on her art and how are Indian artists overseas dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

How has your work been impacted by Covid-19?

Being an artist, I am quite used to working in isolation for long periods of time – so the aspect of ‘working from home’ definitely is not something I had to adjust to! My routine has never really included office hours and strict deadlines and all my work has always been through calls, so again, not something new!

That being said, psychologically, it has been tough as there are many uncertainties, so much negative news of tragedy sweeping countries across the globe. You’re bound to get impacted. Artists are sensitive people in general and we get affected by a lot of things. Usually, I travel a lot and this of course has also changed the nomadic aspect of my lifestyle.

Have you been able to do any exhibitions this year?

There was going to be a large show at a museum in France last month but unfortunately due to current events, it had to be cancelled. But we remain positive and hope that things will recuperate in full swing shortly, planning a couple of exciting things I look forward to revealing when the time comes! Thankfully, right before the pandemic took on serious proportions, I had a great solo exhibition which took place at the Alliance Française in Dubai. It was a success on multiple fronts and was opened by Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE cabinet minister of Tolerance. It went on from January until March and was a wonderful way to kick off the year with a lot of positivity.

How has the market for Indian art overseas been affected by Covid-19?

Art is naturally one of the fields that get first impacted when such things happen – as we are of course not providing first necessity goods and services. In times of crisis, no one is prioritising buying art – it is the very last item one would seek to purchase, since people are more focused on securing more basic comforts and needs. Obviously my approach is different as a creative individual, I actually seek more connections with art in difficult times than in regular times. But then again, I am an artist.

sujata bajaj painting

Sujata Bajaj- ‘Lumiere de vie’ Acrylic on canvas 100×100 (2013)

Have buyers from any part of the world shown interest in your work in the last three months?

Unexpectedly so, I did have some sales during this period yes, though of course, it is not the easiest time. But, the thing I enjoyed most was having some of my collectors call me up throughout this lockdown telling me how much positivity they were able to feel through my works present in their homes. They said the paintings became like a friendly presence in times of loneliness, others felt their Ganeshas were looking over them, protecting them, and all sorts of touching anecdotes. It was a happy feeling that in these strange times, a painting could bring so much to people.

I think due to people spending so much time indoors, there might be a new wave of attention to art – it will take time, but once everyone is back on their feet, perhaps there will be an added importance to the how people keep the spaces they live in.

How has the pandemic impacted your creativity? Have you depicted anything about the pandemic in your recent creations?

It has allowed for a lot of quiet time and mental space to think and explore in different ways. Like I said earlier, usually I am on a flight every few weeks, so just remaining put in one home for the last 11 weeks has been a new experience altogether. It has certainly allowed for a greater peace of mind.

Although there have not been many in-person interactions with art-lovers, I have been able to make the most of this time by participating in multiple live sessions on social media, Q and A’s, given online classes to groups of 400 students in schools and interviews with other creative persons. There has been an exciting boost in online presence and interaction! So I suppose there’s a whole virtual world that had opened up and which I am still learning a lot about.

I have not depicted anything about the pandemic in my recent work because I tend to steer clear of figurative representations of people, objects or sceneries. My work reveals emotion and energy, in this perhaps, yes, the feeling of hope that I am trying to hold on to, is spilling onto the canvas through my strokes and colours.

When do you see a revival of the market and return to normalcy? 

I think it will definitely take some time – first countries, governments, corporations – all have to return to a state of normalcy. Then progressively, people will go back to their jobs, their routines, their interests. Only then will the art market see a rise in interest. That being said in certain pockets of course sales go one – every artist has a set of loyal collectors, I don’t see this being reduced. Another point is that artists often work on their own clock, so I have no doubt that regardless of market, creative people will keep making and creating at their usual rhythm.

Have you made any masks? Are the masks up for sale or have you made them to donate?

I just made one for fun as requested by one of my gallerists in Mumbai (Gallery Art & Soul) for a series of artist masks they were doing on Instagram. It’s like inhaling and exhaling colours, made for a great visual. But in my eyes I suppose I can say it represents appropriating a mundane object we all paid little attention to until now – and in fact is now a unifying item which people across the world are using. It’s almost become one of the symbols we will probably attach to Covid-19 and the time we are all living through. I only made one, but even if I make more it wouldn’t be up for sale, I would probably donate them to a cause of interest.

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