New Delhi based Sarah Kaushik’s work spans a wide variety of mediums. She started off as a craft product designer, and then evolved her skills into being a scenographer, graphic designer, light designer, and collage artist. At A&F, we are specifically captivated by her collage art which integrates various vintage imagery into contemporary settings. We speak to Sarah about her career and about collage art in particular. Edited excerpts:
You started off as a craft product designer and have worked in different disciplines ever since. What’s been the biggest highlight or the best part about your career so far?
The multi-disciplinary nature of my work is the best part about the directions I have chosen. Venturing into new spaces in the creative field has allowed me to become a part of very challenging projects where I got to work with professionals from multiple backgrounds such as contemporary and traditional artists and craftspeople, architects, curators, landscape designers, scenographers, lighting designers, graphic designers and others. The highlight of all of this was to see these collaborations take shape in a tangible form.
Could you tell us a bit about your role and experiences at Mandala where you worked as a light designer?
I was associated with Mandala for a year where I worked on conceptual ideas of how light can interact with public spaces for an upcoming township. Here I explored ways of dramatising spaces after dark, encouraging people to linger within the community spaces, making them feel safe and secure, and adding elements that would increase their interaction with the urbanscape. I observed the specific character of each space in the township (plaza, children’s park, herbal garden, pool areas), developing it into its unique identity.
The multi-disciplinary nature of my work is the best part about the directions I have chosen.
When did you get into collage making? What were some of the inspirations that moved you towards this particular art form?
My practice as a scenographer allows me to constantly indulge in narratives and story-telling – the basis to every thematic exercise. I began working with digital montages in the beginning of 2015, applying the same knowledge of building narratives, only in a two-dimensional space creating provocative juxtapositions in single yet powerful frames.
I extensively use vintage imagery from India and beyond to create scenarios of the current times. The vintage finds are like chancing upon a rare gem in a forest – beautiful and priceless, holding stories within themselves, frozen in time and space. The colour tones of vintage images, the slight blurry-ness and grains add texture and depth to an otherwise two-dimensional graphic. The characters in my work take on lives of their own and I follow them, chancing upon varied topographies allowing diversity of meanings.
The vintage finds are like chancing upon a rare gem in a forest – beautiful and priceless, holding stories within themselves, frozen in time and space.
Could you pick up a specific artwork from your work featured on Art&Found and tell us about it in detail?
The artwork titled ‘Eyes’ came from my personal experiences. Sometimes there are eyes watching me from everywhere. These eyes are scrutinising every part of my body, and I encounter them everywhere I go. I feel free, yet I am trapped. The only escape being the four-walled room where I can lock myself in and feel safe and free from the eyes.
It almost feels like a part of an unknown ritual or a cult perhaps, where the eyes instinctively get transfixed on a woman as soon as she is out of her comfort zone – her home. She feels like she is being judged, observed, ogled at wherever she goes, at any time of the day or night. These eyes decide what a woman should wear or how she should to behave in a country which is supposedly free. The artwork was created to express that fear and discomfort which engulfs me.
Who are the collage artists around the world that you admire?
I am greatly inspired by the works of Hannah Höch, a German Dada artist, best known for her work of the Weimar period, and also one of the originators of photomontage. I also love Ellen Gallagher’s fabulous layered work. Eugenia Loli’s fantasy collages are also great visual delight and fun.
Words by Payal Khandelwal