In culture and the creative industries, one typically encounters two kinds of creators. Some are more vocal and visible yet they create little, and then there are some artists who create incessantly, often stunning work but shy away from being in limelight. Sanam Bakshi belongs to the second strata.
Born to a self-made industrialist Sanam has studied real-estate development at the prestigious Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania. She resides in a mansion that rests upon the most beautifully landscaped and expansive greens in the heart of New Delhi. Yet she is an elusive artist. She recalls having spent much of her childhood secluded on her terrace so she could enjoy painting and receive private tutoring in drawing and clay modeling.
Having recognised her passion for art at an early age, Sanam has worked across a huge range of disciplines, from drawing and painting, to stained-glass art, metal sculptures, tapestry, marble façades, woodcuts, and furniture. She has created an impressive body of work that adorns prominent and ultra-luxurious spaces in the metropolis of India- Delhi’s National Capital Region. To make ourselves amply clear- some of the most influential personalities of bureaucracy, jurisprudence, entertainment and the corporate world consider these spaces “home”.
Sanam’s unique positioning of having studied real estate development at an Ivy League university while belonging to an influential background has enabled her to develop artistically inspiring modern urban spaces, both residential and commercial for many years now. When asked about her ambitions, the one word that springs to mind is panoramic. She envisions developing cities and townships that boast unique architectural buildings while working with experts on functionality and merging her own artistic sensibilities into such developments- similar to how Gaudi did in Barcelona and Aurobindo did with Auroville. One glance at her art and one knows she is set to achieve just that.
With the advent of digital print and technology, artists are slowly paving their way into designing our phone cases and covers, wall art prints, etc. But artists like Sanam are proving on a daily that this doesn’t break the connection between a true artist and traditional art. Even though her techniques are traditional, her compositions are distinguishably unique. Some consider standing before her larger-than-life pieces a spiritual experience- be it the bursts of light and colour exploding through her stained-glass art pieces which are reminiscent of ancient church windows (albeit ultra-modern in theme) or the organic forms reflected in her steel and brass sculptures; the geometry, symmetry and meditative serenity emanating from the marble-clad walls of an underground tunnel of her designing or the carefully preserved naivety of hand in her paintings.
Sanam has glorified the re-emergence of the stained-glass art tradition despite the tedious work and intricate attention to detail that it demands. Stained glass, having been produced for thousands of years beginning with the Ancient Romans and Egyptians, is one of the most refined art forms. In Gujarat, it can be traced back to the beginning of the 18th century and its prominent revival in India can be attributed to passionate artists like Sanam. Sanam’s process involves delving into the compositional mysteries of shape and color for months on end until she finds exactly what she is looking for.
When asked about her inspiration, Sanam says with a spark in her eyes, “Gustav Klimt for the beauty of his figures. Pablo Picasso for his colour palette and mastery in depicting forms. Paul Gauguin for his childlike hand. Basquiat for his rebellion and Banksy for his anonymity. Henri Matisse for his respect for simplicity; his use of patterns and Rothko for his courage with minimalism. And Egon Schiele for his gnarly style (of depicting the human body; especially the female form).”
When one first meets Sanam, her personality reflects the myriad hues of the glass she so beautifully crafts. Her undeniably charming beauty and her artistic genius leave an indelible impression on one’s mind. What sets her apart from a regular artist is her message to protect all innocence and nature. By choice, she has adopted a vegan lifestyle and this is occasionally infused in her art. In fact, Sanam has come to be known amongst the art community for her unwavering compassion and she believes her work is a peaceful and powerful invitation to the world to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
An uncompromising commitment to contributing revolutionary ethics– sounds like the very definition of an artist.