Delhi-based Sidharth is a prolific artist with characteristic traits and methods. For one, he does not believe in using ready-made paints. He makes his own colors using natural vegetable sources, minerals, clay, organic and inorganic pigments. His studio is lined with bottles in which are kept carefully collected and preserved leaves, barks, berries, herbs, pollen, stamens, iron ores and so on.
“Every painting has its own life, its own world like an individual... Colors talk to me; they appear with different forms; they bring many elements to tell a story. I search for my own colors, examine their origin, and understand the process of their production. I use age-old techniques of grinding to make my colors and traditional glues to bind them...”
An inspired artist, Sidharth does not always depend upon the paintbrush; he can draw with a blade of grass, a twig, rod or any object available in a given instant. One should not be surprised if he spontaneously dips his finger in a tea cup (from which he has been drinking his morning or evening brew) and starts making evocative drawings and sketches on shreds of paper, cloth or canvas.
Sidharth, who was born and raised in a village in Punjab, recalls his formative years in the midst of animals, birds, insects, trees and farmlands. As he grew up he became adept with different mediums, and assimilated varying styles of traditional arts and crafts. Many of his paintings have a base in classical literature, mythology, folk ballads, music and poetry. His works reflect an intense interaction with traditional knowledge and contemporary sensibility.
Sidharth has held 18 solo exhibitions and participated in over 80 group shows. In his recent works, he has presented the cow as a metaphor. “Our behaviour with the cow mirrors what we are doing to mother earth,” says the 54-year old artist. “I wanted to forge a link between fables of the cow, the socio-economic and psychic relation in folklore, in reality and the contemporary thinking and situation of cow in the society.”
Sidharth’s exhibition titled ‘The Decorated Cow’ brings out many facets of the charming and domestic animal. Besides highlighting physical and spiritual aspects, the artist also meditates on issues relating to ecology and environment; how despite all development, the human being is the main culprit in degradation.
“It is the greed which has propelled many of our actions and thoughts,” says Sidharth. “The cow is a serene and sacred animal. We adore it and even worship it, but how often have we not seen it standing amidst heaps of garbage, neglected and abandoned? How often have we not seen it as a silent witness to the self-centred actions and interests of man? It is a silent commentary of our own times.”
As preparation for the series, Sidharth extensively studied and researched the Eastern and Western literature relating to cow. The resulting body of work includes an elaborate set of paintings, sculptures and a short film.
“This series is my homage to the beautiful animal,” explains Sidharth. “I have portrayed the beauty of the cow, its physical splendour as well as its metaphysical significance... In my work, I have sought to forge a link between fables of the cow, folklore, myths and legends, and the socio-economic and psychic reality on one hand and the contemporary thinking and situation of cow in the society on the other.”
Through the motif of the cow, Sidharth seeks to highlight the virtues of human values and the need for co-existence. “It is the star in the cow’s eye that has made me realize the meaning of being an artist. It has made me look beyond art itself.”
Curated by Dr Seema Bawa, ‘The Decorated Cow’, is on at Religare Arts, New Delhi till April 13.