Multidisciplinary artist speaks about the importance of conversation and our histories
C/O Bhavika Sharma
This article marks the beginning of the Artist Talks series. The pandemic has resulted in the closure of many galleries and limited the opportunities for artists to showcase their work. However, Hamilton artists have been far from idle this past year, continuing to create and exploring new experiences.
Bhavika Sharma is an emerging multidisciplinary artist and is currently the artist in residence at Hamilton Artists Inc.
They recently completed their undergraduate degree in architecture and visual arts at the University of Toronto. Sharma points to their time as an undergraduate student as a pivotal point for their art practice, as they gained more experience through studio courses and were also able to experiment with different mediums.
“When I was younger, like in high school I did [advanced placement] art and I did a lot of oil painting and stuff. But I feel like as I went to university, I think also it really was a lot of the professors I met who encouraged me to work in these mediums. Learning how to use video editing software and stuff that interested me and incorporating sewing and fabric, it really opened up a lot of opportunities. It was like, “Oh, yeah, this is what art can be. It can be like a whole range of things. And it can be just a drawing or a painting,”” said Sharma.
Regardless of what medium they are working with, whether it be textiles or video installations, there are two key elements at the core of all their work: conversation and space. Sharma hopes their art encourages and holds space for conversation, with particular concerns surrounding the spaces we live in.
“[It’s about] getting people to think about [these spaces] differently or thinking about how we consume these spaces. And maybe we can change our ways of thinking about these places . . . I think just for people to think more about the way we learn about places or interact with the spaces that surround us,” explained Sharma.
Sharma begins all of their projects by doing thorough and thoughtful research about the history of space they’re exploring in their art. These histories are a crucial component to both key elements of their work. These histories — particularly the non-dominant histories Sharma works to shed light on — are important aspects of the spaces they’re exploring and important topics of conversations.
“I also want people to understand personal narratives deserve a space within these conversations. Shared experiences, non-dominant histories, they are something that we need to actively look for and actively try to find. We shouldn’t just take what is there as the [only] history,” added Sharma.
In January 2020, Sharma had an installation piece at Christie Pits Park in Toronto, which included soft sofa-like sculptures. Sharma wanted to explore the narratives that converged in the park and after compiling their research about the more traditional historical narratives. Sharma invited community members to join them in conversation about the space.
“I hosted an event and I had people come over and we sat on these soft sculptures. I brought people tea and people just talked and shared. I read my research to start the space, but then I opened it up and we talked. People just talked about like “Oh, I used to play ping pong here with my boyfriend.” Just people saying small things and memories that they have associated with the space and building on to the history of a space,” explained Sharma.
The pandemic has forced Sharma to rethink their art. Their current work at the Inc. has given them the opportunity to explore new ways to bring their work into the virtual environment.
Currently, Sharma is working on a project surrounding the Grand River, which is close to Hamilton and their hometown of Brantford, focusing on its connection to Indigenous communities and histories.
Looking to the future, Sharma noted that they are still an emerging artist and plan to continue exploring and experimenting with different mediums.
Sharma also offered some encouraging words for students interested in pursuing an art practice of their own.
“I would say just start making, I feel like it’s the hardest thing to do. I think that for me, at least, I plan a lot and then it takes me a lot to make it but making can be thinking. You can think about your work while you make it. So just really just starting it and making it and also taking things that you’re interested in outside of maybe art and bring that into it. Like if you have a nice interest, incorporate it into your artwork. Why not? People will want to learn about it or want to hear about it. If you like going on Wikipedia wormholes or like research wormholes like me, incorporate it into your art,” said Sharma.