Sapna Sharma blends traditional Rajasthani motifs with collography and drypoint techniques

Sapna Sharma, whose exhibition of prints opened in Chaitanya Contemporary Connoisseur last week, carries a piece of her native Rajasthan with her. Although she lives in Delhi, her work draws heavily from the ‘devra' or ‘kahwad' which is the space for deities in Rajasthani homes and the ‘kitschy' colours that define it.

The motif and symbolism rich ‘devra' inspire her, Sapna says. Growing up in Udaipur and ‘looking over the shoulders' of a brother creating many a ‘devra' left a lasting impression on her.

Every symbolism-laden devra provides her with the equipment to create her art, the body of which is a composite of printmaking techniques. On show are techniques such as collography, drypoint and etching. An exhibition of prints is a rare occurrence and a ‘guided tour' by the artist a treat.

Basics of print-making

Sitting in the gallery, like the teacher that she is, she takes one through the basics of print-making.

Collography functions on the same principle as block printing, she says. “I make a block and print.”

When Sapna embarks on an explanation that is more than a line the process involves more steps. For her brand of collography she uses layers of cardboard on which she etches the motif and then prints it on paper.

Collography is just one of the techniques that she uses the other is drypoint, which involves etching on a metal plate with a sharp pointed needle, in her case a diamond tipped needle. Ink is applied and prints made using a machine.

Since she teaches girls Sapna says she is very receptive to the changes that the girls undergo. Especially her drypoint print of a schoolgirl is striking. She has managed to capture that expression of adolescent uncertainty on a metal sheet and on to paper. Some of the drypoint prints and etchings speak of a sense of being alone and of the weight of expectation. These prints in varying dimensions speak of different things.

In some of the prints she introduces shards of manuscripts on the paper before making the print, to give more of a dated or antiquated feel to the work.

She explains the way it was done, she talks about her printmaking techniques with such feeling that it is easy to assume that she is more of a technique person. A suggestion she quickly refutes, “not at all. I am involved in the whole process and that is why I speak with such feeling about the process too.”

The dominant motif for the collographs is the circle or the sun, “which is such an important part of the culture in Rajasthan. He is the source of energy and everything else derives power from the sun.”

Therefore there are discs in ochre, old blue, mustard etc. which resemble metals that have aged.

Love for antiques

There is a reason for that too, “I love antiques and their preservation. This is why I have a post-graduate degree in conservation and restoration of works of art.” The discs have ‘engravings' some inspired by motifs in ‘devras' and even tantric symbols.

Making a print cannot be as spontaneous as taking brush to canvas and the letting go. “You have to have clarity of thought and ideas before you get down to work. If you put one wrong line on the plate it will show on the print, you need confidence for the image to come through, which comes with experience.”

The exhibition concludes on January 27.

Keywords: Collography