Rainbows and Fireflies
Updated: Jan 12
Interview with Ishika Guha.
For the first major feature of 2022 I have chosen to explore a style of painting that is increasingly capturing the imagination of art lovers in new and exciting ways: abstract expressionism. I’ve therefore asked Ishika Guha, a prominent and innovative artist in the genre, to give an insight into her creative world. Ishika’s paintings have brought great joy to many with her bold, vibrant colour combinations and distinctive compositions. They are enchantingly beautiful, conveying appreciation of so many factors that enhance her life. They also offer more than a hint of mystery.
Ishika has established a considerable presence in the contemporary art world, especially online, and it seemed high time to invite her to tell us about her creative process, sources of inspiration and her interaction within a thriving creative community. I also wanted to know more about NFTs (I’m sure I can’t be the only one who needed enlightening!). Most of all, I was eager to learn more about how Ishika seeks to develop as an artist.
Style and process
EH: When starting a painting, what comes to mind first: an experience or feeling you want to express, a choice of colour / colour combination, a desire to experiment even, or perhaps a sense of adventure?
IG: When starting a painting the first thing comes to my mind is a sense of adventure of course - how I can let it all out - whatever is stuck inside me - through my colours! I experiment a lot, always try to bring out something new, something raw, something the world hasn’t seen yet! That sense of ‘play’ really gives me the wings to fly beyond my canvases.
EH: Asking you to give away an artistic secret here, but are your abstracts completely imaginary or even random, or do you try to convey something more objective in a deconstructed / less structured / original form?
IG: My abstracts are absolutely imaginary, sometimes even random! They are my emotions, my memories, my life-stories - coming out in the form of colours!
EH: There was a spell where you seemed to be creating a new piece every night and posting it online the next morning. How do you maintain such creative energy and possibly discipline? And where do you keep so many canvases?
IG: That is a brilliant question Eddie! Yes, there was a spell where I was painting a whole lot! It was during the lockdown period last year when I had nothing else to do, but just to paint! So, I was painting so many canvases - some days even more than one! They are smaller canvases, but still my studio got quite full! I started selling them and also started uploading new works on daily basis on my Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I still do paint regularly as my paintings are my medicines at the end of the day!
EH: Re the titles, I know they are frequently allusions to other cultural works. But if I gave you a title, would you know where to start?
IG: I always paint first, titles come later! It starts like a play! The titles come from the colours, or the memories that inspired that specific painting, or maybe some poems or songs that I get the inspirations from.
The Ghosts Inside
Traditions, heritage and inspiration
EH: You once told us your name means ‘paintbrush’ (in Hindi I believe). Did this come as a surprise to you and spur you on to explore the implications, or confirm what you suspected was already deep inside?
IG: My name Ishika means painting brush in Bengali (I am originally from Bangladesh). My dad chose the name for me when I was born. He is a poet and an art lover. It is quite a coincidence that I started painting since my childhood and painting has been always there with me.
EH: Can you tell us about artistic traditions and styles in Bangladesh and how you convey / connect with them today?
IG: In Bangladesh abstract art is not as popular as the other art forms. Figurative art is a popular form there. But all artists in general do struggle to do art as a living there. Many cannot really afford to keep art as a profession.
EH: In contrast, are you keen to explore styles and experiences that are new or ground-breaking in terms of your own artistic development and cultural comfort zone?
IG: Absolutely! I am always keen to explore different art styles that are new or adventurous; I love jumping off those fences and breaking my own boundaries with new techniques and processes. I also love challenging myself to create something absolutely new whenever I can - that is part of my play!
Artistic presence and community
EH: Do you consider yourself part of a cultural movement / collective? How important is connectivity to you – with other artists, with the world around you, with history and tradition?
IG: For me, staying connected with like-minded, positive and right sort of creatives is very important. It gives me the boost to be more me and more adventurous. Also, I genuinely believe that to stay motivated you have to keep yourself surrounded by your tribe who will boost your spirit up rather than crushing them down. Moreover, having constructive discussion with my artist friends is very crucial to me for my artistic growth in general.
EH: You seem to enjoy collecting art by fellow artists as much as selling your own. What excites you most in other artists’ work?
IG: I collect art, yes! I collect artworks when I connect with the stories! I already collected from some fascinating artists and I'm really proud of my collection!
EH: Can you explain, in a nutshell, what NFTs are?
IG: Non-fungible token! The term ‘Non-fungible’ more or less means that it is absolutely unique and cannot be replaced. NFTs can be anything digital (such as drawings, photographs, music, videos etc) but a lot of the current excitement is around the digital artworks mainly.
EH: What is the difference between an NFT and a JPEG image?
IG: NFTs are not only JPEGs! With a JPEG anyone can ‘right click save’ it, but that action does not make it theirs! If any image is made into an NFT by the original photographer or the artist and then you collect it, you have the blockchain-certified authentication that you are the owner of that NFT. You will own it! Depending on the license, you can then use it commercially, and of course you can also resell it for a higher price if the demand is met.
EH: When making NFT sales, do you actually exchange physical paintings?
IG: I have not yet exchanged any physical paintings, but many artists do. I only sold the NFTs and currently looking at different NFT platforms to start adding my physical pieces alongside my NFTs that I will be listing this year.
EH: Do you have plans to exhibit in real life as well as virtually / online? Or rather, when can we look forward to seeing your art on display in a gallery or at an art fair?
IG: I am planning to join in some art exhibitions or fairs this year alongside some online exhibitions.
Falling All In You
And now for some fun:
EH: If you had to lose any colour from the palate, which would it be?
IG: Purple! Always tricky!
EH: And if you could have only one colour, same question?
EH: Are you ever hoping or expecting that someone will gaze on your art and see what you see?
IG: Yes! I always ask my viewers (if I can), the question “What did you see?”
EH: Would you rather be told that your paintings are beautiful / technically brilliant / thought-provoking / mysterious / something else altogether?
EH: Are you a good finisher, or are you forever going back and adding ‘just one more brush-stroke’?
IG: Generally, try to finish it - occasionally have to go back!
EH: You are brilliant at encouraging fellow artists. But do you ever think “that painting’s a bit weird’’ or “that’s not my kind of art” ?
IG: I believe that there is no ‘good art’ or ‘bad art’. Art is art - what works for me doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to work for you and vice versa. So yes, there are many artworks that can be not of my taste, but that’s absolutely OK; that doesn’t make the art ‘bad’- there are many who will absolutely love that specific piece of art.
EH: Do you display your own paintings on the walls at home?
IG: I have few, yes! My parents and sisters have quite a lot!
End of interview
I hope you have enjoyed our conversation on abstract art. I’m happy to know how much fulfilment Ishika experiences through her art, how much fun it brings, and how effectively she connects with fellow creatives. If you’d like to know more, Ishika maintains an energetic presence on social media and will be happy to hear from you. She regularly posts new works on Twitter and Instagram, and participates on Twitter Spaces, as well as writing a blog on her website. See below for contact details.
My thanks to Ishika for her insightful, uplifting answers, and to everyone for reading.
Text © Eddie Hewitt
Pictures © Ishika Guha
See the Connected Cultures Awards 2021
Nb - Ishika was selected as Artist of the Year in the cultural review of 2021