I came across Sandhya Sethu last month at the Showcase Gallery in Dubai. It was my first time returning to a gallery space since March with COVID-19 dramatically changed the way we engage with art through a shift to online portals from traditional physical spaces. Showcase represents primarily underrepresented artists. Coming across Sandhya’s work by chance was the perfect welcome back to the white walls of a gallery. Her works span across one of kind acrylic on canvas to more affordable prints. Sethu’s accessible works are complimented by her approachable personality. After apologising profusely for showing up a mere five minutes late for our zoom call, she let slip that she got engaged the night before. Her open and gregarious personality hide that she was once, in her words, a very shy girl, but her return to art and use of colour has enabled her to open up
A cursory search of her name reveals that she is a professional in branding and advertising. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she has studied in some of the most prestigious art institutions in the world. Sethu was a student of Art History and Painting first from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore and then from SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), Georgia, USA. Prior to this she grew up in Nigeria and India. Upon her return to Bangalore from SCAD, she pursued a career in advertising in Bangalore, Delhi and finally Dubai, where she currently lives.
1. Can you tell the readers a little about how your foray art?
I only started painting again in the last two years, because of the support of my boyfriend. So last year I finally quit my job. I was nervous, because I had become addicted to the regular monthly pay check that a full-time desk job offers. This is was a big leap for me. During lockdown I worked on projects with art consultants. Then one day the printer I go to for my prints told me to get them framed at Showcase Gallery, which also has a framing studio. When I went to Showcase, the former owner asked if she could exhibit my work.
2. So is ‘Tiger Hearts Club’ (the website on which she sells her prints, link added below) your branding business?
This is going to sound silly, but one day my boyfriend and I were talking about how mean kids can be on the playground. He was telling me about this group of kids who would exclude other people from their ‘club’. So the Tiger Hearts Club came about as a club for misfits, which is what I consider myself. I sells my prints on the website now, but eventually I hope to sell toys for adults. The world is really serious, and painting and drawing make me more relaxed.
3. Do you have a favourite work of yours, or a series? You have quite a few series on your website.
My favourite series is ‘Altverse’. There are big goddesses that are in the background. I like this series, because I find that I get easily distracted and constantly make up stories in my head. I like to think that there is another world that is side by side with our world, but we cannot experiencee it through our five senses. Some of the works are almost like children’s storybooks, they are representative of these stories. The goddesses are something that you cannot experience, but I like to believe that there’s something out there protecting us.
In this series I also play a lot with light and shadow. I don’t always throw the shadow from where it would naturally fall from in relation to the light source. In art school we, unquestioningly, followed these principles of shadow and light, but in this series I am questioning that.
4. Do you have a favourite artist or artwork?
That’s a terrible question to ask me. I like a lot of thing, ‘The Young Martyr’ by Paul DelaRoche is definitely one of my favourites. It is quite sad and wanting, like Ophelia (by John Everett Millais). It just made me feel. I think that anything that Maes you feel is good, whether it is a good or a bad feeling. I love a lot of everything, anything that evokes your imagination.
5. So then this probably isn’t a great question to ask you, but do you have a favourite colour?
I like every colour. I love the Jimi Hendrix song, ‘Colors as Bold as Love’, where he describes each colour as a person. People shy away from wearing or using colour, because it can be daunting to have so many colours around us. As a kid you are open to all colours, and as you grow older you become reserved. It took me a few years to start talking. I was shy and always apologising. Being bold with colour in my practice is as loud as I can be without raising my voice.
6. What’s one word that describes your practice?
You can buy Sethu’s print via her website https://tigerhearts.club
Follow her on instagram @sandhya.sethu