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Dance and art unite

what brings Hyderabad-based artist Sisir Sahana and danseuse Smitha Madhav close is their common interest in art and a film, called "Prithvi"


It was nice to discover that you were once my student SISIR SAHANA

PHOTO: G. MURALI

COMMON GROUND Smitha Madhav and Sisir Sahana muse over glass painting and Bharatanatyam

He is the painter and she the muse - albeit in the film, Prithvi, that he made. In real life she is a Bharatanatyam dancer who also sings and he a contemporary painter who has given glass a painting-like feel despite the dimensional aspect.

Alka Raghuvanshi captures a moment with Hyderabad-based artist Sisir Sahana and danseuse Smitha Madhav to explore life after the film and they both continue to explore their individual chosen forms.

Smitha: The purity of colours and forms in your work comes through in the present series where you have used the Barbie doll as a metaphor. But then glass is where you are at mostly, isn't it?

Sisir: Even though glass takes away most of my time, I do travel from one media to the other. Like when I work on canvas, the challenge is to explore the minimalism of the form. Yes, my obsession with textures is there, but I don't want it to get in the way of my canvas! I want to keep the textural values intact.

Smitha: How about glass? Doesn't this interplay of textures come through more in it?

Sisir: In glass the technical aspect is great. Then exhibiting it too has its limitations. In my latest series I opted to have more opacity in my glass for I want to minimise the technical aspects like having to light up my work with backlights etc. The transparency where light plays around the sculpture interests me and not end up with making glass look like bronze. Instead, it should flow like clay. It is a sophisticated glossy medium but since it doesn't have a history in India, it is easier to come away from it. And yet, since we don't have a tradition, it has that much openness to experiment and to create anew an entire vocabulary for it.

Smitha: In your case, do your regional roots ground you or set you free in your artistic experience?

Sisir: I think I am searching for more freedom. In the film Prithvi, that I made, where you played my muse, I wanted to explore the destruction of an artist who was completely caught up in my artistic web of family, art. Since I was the one who thought out the film, I knew where I was coming from. But how about you?

Smitha: Since it was completely different from the `tai-um-tatta' regime, it was a totally special experience. It explored an aspect where I broke away from the format and yet was performing the sacred form. Needless to say, there are limitations. When you are performing solo, you take the final decision on stage, but here it is the director's prerogative.

Sisir: Considering I designed your costumes and decorated the image wherein you were not Smitha the dancer but travel through the film like part of my painting in a classical format! Besides, I didn't want to destroy the vocabulary of my painting by having a backdrop etc.

Smitha: I think the aesthetics of the film are co-related where one pick ups ingredients from other art forms. And yet there was something very austere about the film - I think it was the lack of hyperbole and the fact that the protagonist was an anti-hero.

Sisir: In a way it was like painting my own canvas. For visuals shouldn't be dependent on the dialogues. It took a lot of courage for me to do it! But I was consumed by the desire to explore the influences in the artist's mind. But I say, it was nice to discover that you were once my student!

Smitha: I couldn't paint to save my life - still can't! Even you couldn't hone my art! Music says it for me and dance derives from music. When we talk of traditional art, jewellery and costumes, that content has been derived from traditional sculpture. And that is why it can't be perceived in isolation. It is an individual's quest to take from one art form to enrich the other.

Sisir: Where do you think you are at?

Smitha: I think I am at the stage where I am exploring the sacred in the process of going towards the secular.

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