Meet the Others: Sheefali Asija
The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.
The Other Art Fair London exhibitor Sheefali Asija’s paintings are inspired by her conscious effort to articulate a new secular iconography. Drawing from a range of influences from global humanity to Eastern religions and the Apollo space programme, Sheefali’s artworks address the challenges we are faced with both currently and in our future.
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
I am a London based British artist born in India and have travelled extensively around the planet. I finished my Masters in Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts, London in December 2019. Prior to that, whilst living in New York, I went through the Complete Atelier Program at the Fine Arts Atelier of Union Square. I have exhibited my work in New York, Miami, LA, London, Paris and Vienna. I consider myself an artist inspired and informed by the world that science has revealed to us and that technology has provided for us. I believe that for humanity to have a prosperous future it is critical to understand how we know what we know and how we got to where we are today and that it is this knowledge that will enable us to rise to the immense challenges that we are presented with as a species.
If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?
Conditionally Optimistic, Uplifting.
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Working on my new triptych for @TheOtherArtFair. @saatchiart 'Promethean Fire: The inevitability Drive’ oil on canvas, 265X600cm (265X200 cm each) Continuing to explore #SaturnV forms and colourscapes #rocket #scifi#spacex#startrek #cern#artandarchitecture#artandscience#physics #geeks #rocketengine #rocketscience #nerds#scienceiscool#sciencerules#scienceexperiment#contemporaryart #abstractart #rocketengine #artdealer#londonart#newyorkart#space#nasa #artcollector#physicist #otherartfair #exploreouterspace #chelseamafa @chelseaual
How did you first get interested in your mediums and what draws you to them specifically?
I work in a variety of mediums (vinyl, glass, oil and canvas, aluminium and bread to name a few) which I chose for the intrinsic relevance that they had to the subject I was exploring. For example, I chose to use actual loaves of bread to complete the presentation of my work ‘Fornax Transformed’ to juxtapose the two types of ‘fuel’ that subsequently answer the energy needs of civilisation (bread to power manual labour was the energy source of the ancient world, today we are seeking generate electricity through nuclear fusion to answer the challenge of our ever expanding demand for energy. More prosaically I have used the medium of oil paint on canvas and a palette associated with the religious paintings of the renaissance as in my attempt to articulate a secular iconography through my ‘Pattern Seekers’ series.
Can you walk us through your process?
In a similar manner to the creation of Mandalas in the Eastern Religions my paintings are a form of meditation – a calligraphy of dancing lines of colour. I find myself disappearing in my sculpted scapes of colour and lines where all that exists for me in that moment is the place/point where my paint dripped brush meets the waiting canvas.
My works are a conscious effort to articulate a new secular iconography. As in religious iconography my titles are intended to do a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ where I deliberately combine layers of (often subversive) meaning with a deliberate playfulness. The titles I use form a vital dimension of that intentional iconography and have a deliberate mythological ‘resonance’ given that I frequently chose to appropriate the names of characters and places from mythology and the history of religion.
In my recent work I have drawn on the Apollo space program of the 1960s and 1970s for inspiration both from a visual and philosophical perspective. Neil Armstrong’s words spoken at 3.17 pm CST on 20th July 1969 ‘Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed’ sent a cheer that reverberated around the world and ‘For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this Earth [were] truly one’. We had left the planet that gave birth to us and travelled to another world. In my mind this was humanity’s greatest secular ‘religious’ moment and represented our greatest achievement as a species.
Has being in isolation affected your artwork practice in any way?
I believe that this global pandemic reinforces the message that I have been articulating through my work: that we as a species face numerous challenges the COVID-19 pandemic being one of many (how to prevent catastrophic climate change, how to stop the disastrous pollution of the environment, how to ensure that the march towards gender, sexual and racial equality continues and how to provide a world of equal opportunities for all children). Addressing these challenges will require global collaboration, global investment in science and technology and global changes in our behaviour and outlook towards each other and towards the environment.
On a personal level, some of my public art projects and collaborations have been delayed by the pandemic. On the flip side I have been able to devote a lot more time to my oil paintings and have created prodigious colourscapes exploring further the aesthetic qualities of Saturn V rocket engine.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
I have been extremely fortunate to have studied with some truly inspirational artists and art teachers. Sam Adoquei, a Ghanaian American artist, writer, philosopher with whom I studied for 2 years at his amazing Fine Arts Atelier of Union Square in New York who believed that you can change the world one conversation – one brush stroke – at time.
Another inspirational teacher has been Patti Ellis, the MA Fine Arts programme head whose first statement at Chelsea College of Art open day has stayed with me all the years – ‘Art is not something you do in a studio – it is the exploration of how your idea fits into the larger world of ideas’.
Shop artwork by Sheefali and other trailblazing artists at The Other Art Fair’s Online Studios.
Introducing The Other Art Fair Online Studios, a new online platform offering art lovers around the world access to over 800 Fair artists. The Online Studios will keep our community feeling inspired, engaged, and continue to spread joy through art.