Indian Art’s Uniqueness Lies in its Depth and Contemporary Relevance: Sharan Apparao

Indian Art’s Uniqueness Lies in its Depth and Contemporary Relevance: Sharan Apparao

Sharan Apparao has been associated with the visual arts for over three and a half decades, working primarily with art from India. In 1983-84, she founded the Apparao Galleries that exhibit, promote and encourage contemporary and modern Indian art. She has worked with many local artists, artisans and also curated collaborative exhibitions in London, Paris, New York and Monaco. Sharan’s work brings together ancient crafts, living artisans and contemporary artists while continuing to show pure art most times.

After a career span of over 35 years, Sharan is now working on combining her learnings in technology with her work in the field of art. She says ‘it will always be culture but my programming is going to evolve differently I think, to fit the new normal.’ In the conversation with CSP, she talks about the visual art field in India and her journey with it.

What motivated you to become an art curator and educationist?

My life in art was serendipity. I studied art and drifted into the business of art because I liked art and wanted to do something related to it. So, to start with, it was a casual love affair with art but as time went on, I became passionate and started getting more and more involved. As a person, I am enthusiastic about life and people. Art seemed to be the perfect way for me to evolve my activities and mind, so I got deeper entrenched in this field.

I did not want to be doing things by the book. For me to keep myself engaged, I had to do things differently, be different. In that sense, I am not a conventional educationist... I share and I share in such a way that it reaches others. As far as curation, I am a “put-togetherer”. I want to engage others’ minds so making that connection in curating art or art activities is a natural evolution. It has not been a formal step.

Do you have a favourite artist or artwork and why so? 

Oh favourite artist and artwork change every day. My life is dynamic and so are my tastes and moods... each is relevant at a time and place. And I am not saying this because I am diplomatic but because art touches me every day and many times a day in many ways.

Why is art education and curating important? Are there many institutions that impart learnings on these topics or is it more of an experiential journey?

No, there are very few institutions and this should change immediately.

We have so so so much in this country and it's very relevant to all ages. This has to sit well with us to make us proud of where we have come from. So, it is imperative that those of us in the field of culture connect the past with the present and package its relevance in a way that makes sense to everyone. Surely the experience makes art a greater pleasure and sits with those experiencing it in a way that is hard to forget. It’s important to engage and ignite a deep interest and passion, then only the relevance is understood isn’t it?

India is home to several art forms, styles as well as schools of thoughts, many of which date back to centuries. What is their influence on contemporary trends and can they be promoted further?

We should be doing a series of lectures on the connection between the roots of our civilization from the past and our current contemporary existence.

There are countless ways in which Indic schools of art can be promoted and be instrumental in spreading cultural awareness about the country. First, adult learning in lectures and films. Second, school-level programmes. Third, mobile teaching vans reaching out to rural regions in India. Fourth, short courses for different target groups. Fifth, living museums and treasures. Seventh, and very very important is tax breaks to those who are financially supporting museums or public programmes.

What makes Indian art unique and stand out from global contemporary styles. How can this boost India’s soft power standing? 

The level of Indian art and its depth makes it unique. They hold relevance and the ability to appeal to the sensibilities of individuals today.

Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the number of art festivals, conventions and educational forums. This has been great but can be increased in different combination and permutations. I think we should do more Festivals of India type-events, meetings etc. that will create great awareness about Indian artforms. But this should be high quality and big. We need to make these festivals travel within as well as outside of the country.

Feature image: Apparao Galleries