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July 22, 2017

Artist Sitaram Swain On Being A Compulsive Questioner

Text by Zaral Shah

“I don’t believe in creating my own style”

A Sir JJ School of Arts alumnus, he tackles social issues with the help of unassuming domestic objects. Pots, pans, and the traditional kulo (used for sifting grains) become charged with commentary in the hands of Sitaram Swain.

“I don’t believe in creating my own style. I believe it doesn’t need to be made consciously, but rather it is someone’s limitation or instinct which is later recognised,” says the Puri-based artist.

Sitaram’s work consists mainly of illustrations and installations. “Working with diverse media is always a challenge. It gives me a chance to think differently and improves my artistic vision with every new project,” he explains.

Largely influenced by Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray, Francisco Goya, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter, Sitaram delves into themes of society, culture, people, and architecture. His piece There Was Sky Before is a response to unchecked urbanisation. Using stacks of bricks and acrylic paint he speaks about excessive construction and has explained how ‘this mammoth structure when compared to the puny bricks disrupts the view to the sublime beauty of the sky’. The work won him the Glenfiddich Emerging Artist of the Year Award 2017. Another work, Winnowing, has rice grains glued onto a series of kulos, and speaks about the political and economic divides that exist between Indian states.

While constantly diversifying, the 28-year-old has never restricted himself to a comfort zone. Gearing up to represent India as one of eight artists at the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence (AiR) programme in Scotland, he says, “I’m particularly excited about this award as I am getting a chance to work with artists from around the world while at the Glenfiddich distillery for three months. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Owing to its different geographical situation, climate, society and lifestyle, I hope the place will inspire me to do something new.”

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