People and Places in My Life, Research and Travels to India and Within North America is an art show by University of Saskatchewan professor, Satya Sharma. While the show focuses on his experiences in a small village in Delhi, other pieces show friends, family members and significant locations in Sharma’s life.
The exhibit features several of Sharma’s oil paintings, which depict people and places in a village near Dehli, India. He has studied the village for over 50 years, taking note of how it has changed and modernized over the years. Over this time he took thousands of photographs, and upon his wife’s death in 2009 he began painting the scenes he previously captured on camera. While self-taught, there is an energy and passion behind Sharma’s work that brings out the sentimental value of this exhibit and the discussion of other ways of life.
Other pieces featuring locations important to Sharma include the Northern Lights in Saskatchewan, a cliff face in New Mexico that currently serves as a bird sanctuary and the sand dunes in Africa. He also paints portraits of family members, working from photographs to help capture images properly.
Sharma’s passion for anthropology and the human condition shows in his art, as he works to capture the human condition and the cultural context of the images. The paintings contain villagers going about their lives — working in the fields, maintaining the store, women caring for their children or gossiping in the afternoon.
More importantly, it presents a way of life that has been fading with the increase of social media and fewer chances to socialize among neighbors and peers. It is a change that Sharma is critical of, saying that, “it’s like naval gazing all the time, and that has cut down on social discourse.”
He also shows concern about political and public issues within India, especially increasing rates of crime and assault. Despite these issues, however, he appreciates the unity among the many different groups in his home country and the complexity it contains.
The village depicted in the gallery show does not exist as is; it was modernized and incorporated into Dehli as the capital expanded, growing from a small farming community to a center of over 20,000 people.
Focus has shifted from farming to building rentals and shopping as the need for space increases, but there is still a core community that persists through older residents and younger generations of the original population. And most of Sharma’s work focuses on that core — the spirit of communication and community that has persisted even today.
One piece features an elderly shopkeeper, over 80 years old, who Sharma described as still biking to work every day. Another piece shows women gossiping as they watch their children, reminiscent of Sharma’s own life in a small town and poor family.
“India is a land of contrasts,” Sharma said. “You have very rich people… but you have a lot of people who are dying, who are starving… and unless you provide a balanced picture of the country, you have a five-star chauffeur in an air-conditioned car view of India.”
There is a lot to discuss in Sharma’s work, much of it from the stories and lifestyle it presents. In both the village-inspired paintings and Sharma’s more personal works, one can gain a sense of nostalgia for the things that have faded away, changed or have otherwise been lost. But with discussion and a rebuilding of what it means to be a community, perhaps some of those feelings can be regained.
Sharma occasionally hosts a radio program on CFCR 90.5 FM, playing classical music from Northern India. His next show will play on Saturday, Oct. 26. Sharma is also working on a course in Asian civilizations, which is planned for next year, and a proposal for language classes in Hindi and politics and globalization in South Asia.
People and Places in My Life, Research and Travels to India and Within North America is currently hosted in the Frances Morrison Public Library on the second floor gallery. It will be displayed until Oct. 3, 2013. Works in the gallery are available for sale, with the exception of some family portraits.