The Abstract Lexicon

Artist Shilpa Nikam’s works traverse through a variety of definitions, from minimalism to nature abstracts to abstract expressionism and more, yet it is quite difficult to pin it down on any of them. To categorise Shilpa’s works would be to limit them in a box and it would be quite contradicting to the true nature of how the works come into existence in the first place. It is often understood that the idea is the trigger or the stimulus upon which an artwork commences and grows, hence the idea could anchor in something extremely figurative (object) or something non-figurative (emotion) and thereon come into its own. In the case of Shilpa’s works the initial idea could be a text she reads or a memory from her childhood and there on the journey begins.

Shilpa has a BFA and MFA from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai and has had several solos and group shows to her credit. Her work over the years has evolved in the generic ‘abstract’ lexicon and there on it has chosen a time and again to oscillate between the form and formlessness of portrayal. In her latest works, on a more autobiographical note, the works were about the journey of her family, from the idyllic coastal town of Jafrabad to Mumbai. Hailing from a business community, the ups and downs of economic relevance, the restarting of businesses from scratch after their migration to the city, and other such intimate and personal triggers have given voice to her works.

The works employ a quiet assessment of different stances of her life so far, from birth to the self-reliant artist she has become today in the city. Her understanding and interpretations of her past and her present often get relayed in the simplest of motifs which are presented in a kind of veiled way. The loss of her family fortunes with the droning of their merchant ships in a tornado in 1944 changed the course of the family’s life. Hence the leitmotif of the boat or ship dominates in the most subtle and almost invisible ways in her work. As does the terracotta griddles upon which the artist chooses to paint the stories of her childhood. Shilpa’s works bring to the viewer the essence of an emotion, too intense for verbal expression and this is aptly brought out in her recent works.

Shilpa Nikam works and lives in Mumbai.


About the Author:

A marine biologist by training, Sushma Sabnis has been pursuing her interest in painting and writing since she left her career as a scientist over a decade ago. With a few solo and group exhibitions to her credit in Mumbai and Delhi, Sushma has also been instrumental in bringing young contemporaries together for a series of curated exhibitions called Adwaita, a platform for arts created by her.  In 2012, she launched herself into full time art writing and her essays and features have appeared in noted art journals including Art & Deal and Creative Minds, Arts Illustrated. She has been a contributing editor to the online magazine CartAnArt. She also manages The Art Daily and Art Tehelka, two online platforms for art writing and her reviews on art shows, art festivals have appeared in leading news papers. She has written several catalogue essays, descriptions and forewords for noted artists and painters and also introduced through profile writings, many of the young Indian contemporary artists.