Shan Re is a multi-talented contemporary Indian artist. She constantly strives to explore and expand her boundaries and horizons to understand life from the best perspective. Her canvas is the reflection of her life and philosophy. Her art is the essence of her experience, not a representation of it. Her work has captured the interest of connoisseurs across the world including London, Singapore, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Oslo.
Intuitively moving between mediums, Shan has continuously evolved, experimented and explored a wide array of subjects and genres in several group and solo shows in India and abroad. Each painting of Shan can be considered as a complete poem in itself and it appears to be a sudden capture of a fleeting moment.
Shan’s paintings are lyrical reflections of her subconscious thoughts, feelings, fantasies, hopes and memories. Her process and philosophy make her works “timeless” – independent of time and space. Shan has redefined her creative potential with her fashion partnership. She collaborated with a sustainable luxury fashion brand and created two collections of single edition bags with her signature art work which were show cased at the New York Fashion week.
Shan also organizes art and wellness workshops to create awareness about the importance of mental health. She recently published an adult colouring book called Creative Meditation with Colours.
What is your artistic background?
I’ve always been connected with art since my childhood in one way or the other. But becoming an artist is an internal journey and I have explored infinite dimensions within myself and created my own artistic vocabulary. I paint poems with intensity and passion.
My journey as professional artist started from the year 2000 after my near-death experience. One afternoon I tripped in my kitchen and fell on my face and was in coma for 6 hours. I had an internal hemorrhage of my retina…my face was disfigured. It took three weeks to heal the initial inflammation, but due to constant pain I was advised to give rest to my eyes. During that time, I diverted all my energies into painting and automatic drawing. In that transition I discovered my true potential as an artist and also went through an inner transformation which has helped me to stay calm in any situation. I was never trained in or practiced art. It is involuntary like breathing and a manifestation of my life force. I entered the art market in the year 2007 with my first major solo show in Bangalore at Alliance Francaise.
What is the integral to the work of an artist?
As a true artist I am driven by my endless passion and intoxicated by the power of creativity. I feel fortunate to be an artist and my creativity has helped me in my transition to accept my personal loss, rebuild myself from scratch and move forward in life with courage and confidence. I truly believe in my resilience. So I believe that creating art is about reaching a state of consciousness and breaking free from the constant debilitating chatter of the mind. Similar to meditation, art can help us tap into a deeper and quieter part of ourselves.
What role does artist have in the society?
Artists connect with and inspire people globally. Art is about connecting with people’s emotions. It is personal and at the same time universal. It’s also about the persona of the artist resonating with the audience. I think there is an important role for an artist especially at this time of a pandemic. It is important to empower people, so that they can see art as a way of aiding them in living through these difficult times. I believe that art is the work of transforming fear and pain into beauty. During the lockdown I have done my bit to create positivity and hope. Just before the lockdown I had designed and published an Adult Colouring Book along with a corresponding text to create awareness about the impact of colours on our mind and discover how colouring helps to relieve our stress levels. And it had a tremendous response during the pandemic. I am very happy that I was able to do this within my capacity.
What art do you most identify with?
For me art is an attempt to bypass the physical world and discover the boundless energy within the universe. It is a journey into my true authentic self and finding the rhythm of life. I work in multiple mediums like drawing, painting, installations and poetry. It is virtually impossible to separate my art from my philosophy in life. My art is mainly about repainting life in changing hues and expressing the multiple layers of life in metaphors. It is the expression of my calming, positive feelings which I want to share with my viewers; a visual oasis of natural splendour and harmony.
When I’m painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. Like a mystic, I work in an altered state of consciousness. Usually, I am work for a long stretch, until a moment arrives and the painting evolves without my conscious effort. It is a miraculous process which I would like to experience every single moment in my life. My creative energy flows from my psychic depths untouched by logical mind, so I always identify with the process of creation than the final work of art.
What themes do you pursue?
I travelled through my inner psyche to find the secrets of life and sailed through different routes to explore my creativity. I’ve explored the power of the mind, mastering inner challenges, finding inner rhythm and harmony to achieve emotional agility; an interpretation of hope and positivity.
My subconscious mind which is the source of all stored up feelings, perceptions, complexes, believes and desires which are outside my conscious awareness unroll themselves in the form of strong and powerful metaphors and symbols.
My creative process is characterized by flashes of insight that arise from unconscious reservoirs of my mind and brain. Automatism has become an incredibly powerful and vital force in my process.
What is your favourite artwork?
I have created many series in different mediums and I like each one for a different reason. Drawing is a magical process and line is a rich metaphor for me. Automatic drawing is like ‘yoga’ for me. It is the key to becoming centred, whole and flexible. Regular yoga practice loosens the body and relaxes the mind and spirit. Drawing does the same for me. It is both relaxing, freeing and a direct way to the centre of the self and helps me make all my creative work from the centre. I believe that this process helps me in my evolution as an artist in a natural way, true to myself.
In my abstract series ‘Poetry in Gold’, I’ve tried to explore various philosophical connotations of colours. Colour is my vital force and a symbolic language through which I communicate with my viewer. Colour provokes a psychic vibration in me.
Colour in my paintings is not just a visual sensation; I’m painting life in changing hues. I believe that Colour is a dance between our brain and the world. I create my own personal colours of bliss with a strong statement of positivity and hope. Colours evoke a sense of peace and help me revitalize my stream of my consciousnesses. So I like the richness of texture and the healing power of colour in my work.
Describe a real life situation that inspired you?
A couple of years ago, opening a storage box of my late husband had triggered memories and inspired me to create a series of art works. This box had a collection of old poems and unfinished journals from my past. Memories are always special to me. Some are blurred, some are buried deep inside me, some are faded but they can never be erased. In this series I used old letters, poems, pages of an unfinished manuscript to create installations. I exhibited these text-based art installations at my solo show called
‘Exhumed Memories’ in 2019. Here I have explored a new visual language using materials with which I have a deep emotional attachment. These are memories recreated as works of art. A master piece out of my life. They are visual expressions of treasured moments which reverberate in my mind. Listening to the quiet voice within me I travelled through the unknown depths and infinite dimensions within myself. Out of 30 works my favourite installation is an artwork using a tree trunk and mirrors. Around the tree trunk I have wrapped hand written text which I have treasured.This installation is titled ‘Distortions of Retained Memories’.
For me it is a communication with the non-physical. It is totally a different dimension. I believe that a Tree Trunk is a metaphor for spiritual growth. It is renewed from inside out. Tree trunks and mirrors are usually portals between physical and non-physical. Mirrors can capture supernatural entities. They have magical powers, including the power to foretell the future and were considered to be devices of the divine. Through scrying you can receive messages from the non-physical world. This is based on my perception and experience.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I run Art Therapy sessions and help individuals in self-regulation, rehabilitation and emotional well-being. I help them use art as a tool to process their emotions and practice mindfulness.
Art is the sole purpose of my existence.
Art is my life force and vital nourishment to my body, mind and spirit.
Creativity is the flow of my life.
My creative inspiration comes from the core of my inner silence.
For me creating art is a form of deep meditation.
A constant communication with my inner self.
A dance with the force of creation.
Art is a therapy for me and helps me stay active and stay still at the same time.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
Life is all about choices. Change is the only constant thing in life. I train my mind to connect with my inner wisdom. My path was never a straight line. It was a spiral… since I flow like water embracing all the changes and challenges in life I can make my own way, seeping through any obstacle. I treat life as a work of art and try to find an expression to it. All my emotions escape into pure colour. I would like to quote one of my relevant verses here…
‘Moment and flow
Change with time
Fear is the pebble
that ripples your rhythm
Courage is the Colour
That brings you to life…
Be a mystic… to discover the truth…
Invest energy in the instinctive mind…
And find your own inner rhythm.’
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
According to many viewers they can feel the healing energy and tranquillity that my work embodies. They are curious to experience the echo of this silent language. Other viewers have told me that they are powerfully drawn to my unique colour palette. Colours invoke emotions in an immediate way, much like music.
Art ignites the flame of the purest and opens the heart to beauty, mystery and hope. My abstract paintings are visual manifestation of my emotions recollected in tranquility. They are metaphorical. I give a lot of thought to the titles of my artworks. A title captures the essence of the picture. The meaning of a title is interwoven throughout the piece of art. It may provide insight about my artistic inspiration and intention.
What food, drink, song inspires you?
I lead a healthy life so I prefer simple Saatvik food. I also enjoy the occasional glass of wine and gin. I generally love any genre of music which is soothing.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counter it?
If Art is your life you will never be alone or feel lonely…I think being alone is a state of being; loneliness is a state of mind. I absolutely enjoy my own company. Solitude is bliss for me… an empty canvas is my valued friend and a trusted companion. I never feel lonely even if I can’t go out. These past 8 to 9 months I’ve been mostly living in isolation. I have transformed this period of isolation, uncertainty and unpredictability into powerful and meaningful narratives with my own artistic vision and vocabulary. I believe in an extraordinary voice within me. It speaks to me in stillness, in the language of symbols, metaphors, visions, through intuition and synchronicity. By embracing active stillness, I can pay attention to my inner voice, underneath the noise.
What do you dislike about your work?
As a true artist I see all life as an abundant opportunity to discover, realise and express inner peace, empowerment and contentment. So there is nothing that I dislike in my work.
What do you like about your work?
I like the fire inside me and the colour in my works. To me colours are like a magical powder that could be mixed with each other to create a spell.
‘Deep inside me
there is a roaring fire…
a fire beyond measure
I reinvented myself to discover
the world of my dreams…
walking through every unpaved path…
embracing every challenge
with an insatiable quest to create magic…
I entered a dimension beyond the
physical perception listening to the
silent symphony, trusting my own instinct…
making every moment Eternal.’
Should art be funded?
Yes. Art should be funded. A true artist is driven by endless passion and a great amount of talent. Funds can help explore one’s full potential with a free mind.
What role does art funding have?
Basically, funding helps artists develop new, experimental or challenging work. Funding provides the space for artists to take risks and make the leaps that challenge us to think differently – which is exactly what great art should do.
What is your dream project?
Well, I would like to keep it as a secret until it is done.
Dream high to fly high
Is what the bird tells me…
It inspires me in transition
to adapt and step into a new
phase with hope, freedom and
strength… tells me life is full of
opportunities and there are
Name three artists you would like to be compared to?
I think seeing things in comparison is not true perception. If I want to perceive life in it’s true dimension, I should not compare and make conclusions that this is high or low. So I never compare any aspect of my life with anyone else’s.
I enjoy difficult pursuits that challenge me to excel and refuse to settle for being anything less than the best! Art is where we make meaning beyond language and I respect all the achievers in the creative world.
Favourite or most inspirational place?
Nature invokes all my senses and tells me to remain open to the unknown. I love to embrace the beauty and splendour of nature’s colourful canvas. I always take a healing walk to renew and refresh myself. I enjoy the glory of the autumn leaf, a spring flower. Being with nature I’m aware of infinite cycles of life. I feel that nature is the place where miracles happen all the time.
Which is the best piece of advice you have been given?
‘Remember you are not born
to be a princess to live a
fairy tale life, you are
born to be a warrior fighting to
stay strong and to inspire the world.
Embracing the fire empowers you
to transform your life.’
Professionally what is your goal?
I keep reinventing myself all the time. I’d like to keep working and creating art until my last breath.
Life is a journey and I believe that purpose and passion are essential for creating our best possible life. If we embrace life as it is, rather than how we wish it to be, with an unclouded mind we can turn everything into an opportunity. Perspective is the most powerful thing in life and it empowers us if we develop a positive outlook. Life is all about taking risks, but having a positive approach helps us in every situation. I always strive to become the best version of myself pursuing my ultimate potential. I continue to support many NGOs to raise funds through charity shows and auctions. I have a deep understanding and sympathy towards the under privileged. If the cause is worthy, I am always there to support it. It gives me immense satisfaction. I feel good about helping someone in a small way. I would like to expand my association with various organisations in the future.