Mumbai-based artist Sajid Wajid Shaikh talks art and spiritual practice

STIR looks at contemporary artist Sajid Wajid Shaikh’s creative practice thriving during the global pandemic.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Jun 16, 2020

Sajid Wajid Shaikh is an artist who, unlike many others, has a faithful following across India, holding the attention of ardent art lovers and otherwise, both the young and the senior, in the palm of his hand. Shaikh is the kind of artist who epitomises the new world of art - experimental, accessible and with little regard for boundaries of genre or media. The first time I spoke to him was perhaps six months ago but his busy schedule at the time simply did not allow for it and eventually our plans to create a story together melted into nothingness. If this global lockdown has blessed me with anything at all, it is the ability to reignite conversations with artists who are otherwise consistently immersed in their creative process.

Shaikh’s series uses an amalgamation of daily objects contextualised in a wider conceptual space. In his ‘Untitled’ series (on the right), Shaikh often uses eggs to create intriguing imagery | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
Shaikh’s series uses an amalgamation of daily objects contextualised in a wider conceptual space. In his ‘Untitled’ series (on the right), Shaikh often uses eggs to create intriguing imagery Image Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

While Shaikh is an artist with many things on his plate, I would be hard pressed to label him 'restless'. His approach to the recent epidemic is nothing short of spiritual. While in conversation with him about his regular uploads on Instagram, a series which he has been creating and sharing on a daily basis since lockdown began, he says, "I just started it in order to get myself to do something every day. I wanted to see if I could create something new every day. It's a practice by itself. I sit down in front of these daily objects and create spontaneously. Sometimes I have an idea beforehand, sometimes I don't. Sometimes the piece works and sometimes it doesn't". When I saw Shaikh's initial posts, I felt a profound sense of awe. With the most commonplace items, from magnets to ice cubes, eggs and feathers, he manages to build the inspiring and meaningful visuals. Shaikh leaves the posts entirely open to interpretation, adding no text at all to the videos and images except Untitled. With the viewer left completely unguided, it is a fascinating journey from seeing into feeling and finally understanding.

01 min watch The series ‘Untitled’ comprises a mix of videos and images, where the artist uses the medium itself as a material | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
The series Untitled comprises a mix of videos and images, where the artist uses the medium itself as a material Video Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

In over 60 posts he has made during the course of this creative automatism, while most of them are directly translated, he enhances the surreal aspects of some of his works with careful video editing and a deliberate inclusion of mirrors. Using Instagram too is a conscious decision the artist navigates with every artwork he shares as part of this series. When asked about his studied use of the camera itself as a material, he responds, "Of course! In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the frame and camera of Instagram itself is a material”. The spiritual nature of Sajid Wajid Shaikh’s approach to this series extends beyond his artistic practice and spills into every facet of his life too. He is guided by his intuitive nature and his persistence toward living in the moment. As someone who is a keen observer of human nature, I ask how he cultivates and nurtures his intuition, to which he responds saying, “It’s all about awareness and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. I practice being fully present in the moment”.

01 mins watch Shaikh’s series has been part of an everyday practice during lockdown | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
Shaikh’s series has been part of an everyday practice during lockdown Video Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

“With this series, I don’t know where it is going. It’s a wind that I caught and is taking me on. It’s like being a feather and the wind is just blowing me along in its draught,” says Shaikh when I ask him about the ongoing series, staying true to his uninhibited nature. “When the play becomes work, I know it’s time for the project to end. When I do it for the sake of some other brand or thing, then the process becomes formulaic,” adds the artist.

01 mins watch The series ‘Untitled’ plays with visual and auditory senses | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
The series ‘Untitled’ plays with visual and auditory senses Video Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

Said Wajid Shaikh first entered the creative industry at the extreme commercial end of the spectrum - advertising. He worked as a graphic designer and art director before he began working as an independent illustrator. His artistic practice blossomed from that and is now his primary focus. Shaikh, like many upcoming artists, knows that being resourceful is a crucial skill for survival. His company Forty-Six and Two, a design studio, is his approach to balancing the fiscal struggles of being an independent artist. “It’s another trip altogether, it’s another journey, it’s another way to look at things but if I had a choice, I would definitely want to shut the studio and go completely wild with my art. It’s almost like juggling,” he says. “At some point you just want to hold on to that one ball and stare at it,” he concludes.

Shaikh’s artworks using eggs, which he shows is a commonplace object with wide scope as a material | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
Shaikh’s artworks using eggs, which he shows is a commonplace object with wide scope as a material Image Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

The Mumbai-based artist is a delight to listen to. His eloquence in conversation and transcendent approach to both life and work is both fascinating and hilarious: “As a freelancer, you are like a crocodile. You just sit down in one corner with your mouth open waiting for a fish to come and when it comes you just snap”.

01 min watch The series has grown over the past weeks and includes over 80 artworks in the form of videos and images | Sajid Wajid Shaikh | STIRworld
The series has grown over the past weeks and includes over 80 artworks in the form of videos and images Video Credit: Courtesy of Sajid Wajid Shaikh

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