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"Every Child is an Artist. The Problem is How to Remain an Artist once we Grow up"-Pablo Picasso.


Nilima Sheikh

November 18, 1945, New Delhi


1969-71 MFA (Painting), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
1962-65 Studied History at Delhi University, New Delhi.


2014 Every Night, Put Kashmir in Your Dreams, The Art Institute of Chicago
2010 Every Night, Put Kashmir in Your Dreams, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
2009 Drawing Trails, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
2003 The Country Without a Post Office Reading Agha Shahid Ali, Chemould Gallery, Mumbai
1999 Painted Drawings, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
1999 Images of Umrao, Nature Morte, New Delhi
1998 Galerie FIA (Foundation of Indian Artists), Amsterdam
1998 Garden for the Mother, Sakshi Gallery, Bangalore, Karnataka
1995 Song-Space, organized by Gallery Chemould, at Max Muller Bhawan, Mumbai
1993 Song, Water, Air, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
1985 Contemporary Art Gallery, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
1984 Pundole Art Gallery, Bombay
1983.85 Triveni Art Gallery, New Delhi


Diary entries from 2016, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
2015 Remembering Bhupen, Sarjan Art Gallery, Vadodara
2013 Still Life, Gallery Art Motif, New Delhi
2011 Pause a Collection, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2011 Tradition, Trauma, Transformation Representations of Women by Chitra Ganesh, Nalini Malani, Nilima Sheikh, David Winton Bell Gallery List Arts Center, Providence RI
2011 Narratives, quotes and comments, Grosvenor Gallery, London
2010-11 Lot, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2010 STPI Review Show, Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), Singapore
2010 Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2010 Modern Folk The roots of popular art of the modernist avant-garde, Aicon Gallery, New York
2009 Charting Time, Bodhi Art, Mumbai
2008 Baroda A Tale of Two Cities, (Part I), Sarjan Art Gallery, Vadodara, Gujarat
2008 Of personal narratives and journeys, Bodhi Art, Gurgaon, Haryana
2008 Horn Please Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art, Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland
2008 Mapping Memories - 1, Painted Travelogues of China and Greece, Gallery Threshold, New Delhi
2007 Mirchandani Steinruecke Gallery, Bombay
2007 Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2006 Edge of Desire Recent Art in India, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai and New Delhi
2006 Back to the Future, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
2006 The Lyrical Line, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
2005 Ritu Mausam Seasons, organized by Anant Art Gallery at Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi
2005 Angkor The Silent Centuries, organized by Bodhi Art and Gallery Threshold at Bodhi Art, New Delhi
2005 Bhupen Among Friends, organized by Gallery Chemould at Museum Gallery, Mumbai
2005 Amity of Identity Alienation, Gallerie Publishers and Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
2005 Edge of Desire Recent Art In India, Asia Society Museum, New York, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
2005 Change of address, The Guild, Mumbai
2005 Tree Basera, India International Centre, New Delhi
2004 The Margi and the Desi, organized by Gallery Espace at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi
2004 After Dark, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2004 Interlude in Srilanka, The Guild, Mumbai
2004 Edge of Desire Recent Art in India, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
2004 In Transit 2, presented by Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai at Alexander Ochs Gallery, Berlin
2003 Ways of Resisting, SAHMAT, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi
2003 Celebration of Color, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
2003 Contemporary Miniatures India Pakistan, The Fine Art Resource, Berlin
2003 Crossing Generations diVERGE, 40 years of Gallery Chemould at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai
2002 Words and Images, The Guild, Mumbai
2001 Ashta Nayika, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
2001 In conversation, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
2001 3 Contemporary Artists, Bose Pacia, New York
2001 Once Upon a Time, Chemould Gallery, Mumbai
2000 Celebration of the Human Image, organized by Gallery 42 of the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
2000 Vilas, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Mumbai
2000 Ships, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2000 A Global View of Indian Artists at Home in the World, organized by Fine Art Resource at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
1999 Theater und Kunst, The Fine Art Resource, Berlin
1998 Contemporary Indian Art, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi and AI Funoon Gallery, Kuwait
1997-98 Post-independence Indian contemporary art, organized by the Vadehra Art Gallery at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi.
1997 An overview of contemporary Indian art, The Fine Art Resource, Berlin
1997 Major Trends in Indian Art, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1997 Gift for India, organized by Sahmat in New Delhi and Mumbai
1997 Women Artists of India A Celebration of Independence, Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, California
1997 The Self and the World, organized by Gallery Espace, New Delhi at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi.
1996 Chamatkar, organized by the Center for International Modern Art (CIMA) Kolkata at Whiteleys Art Gallery, London
1996 Watercolors A Broader Spectrum-III, Chemould Gallery, Mumbai
1995 A Tree in My Life, The Village Gallery, New Delhi
1995.96 Indian Women Artists Inside Out, Middlesborough Art Gallery, Middlesborough, UK
1995 Postcards for Gandhi, organized by Sahmat in New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
1995 A Tribute, 125th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Little Theater Gallery, New Delhi
1995 Portraits, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
1994 Drawing 1994, organized by Gallery Espace, New Delhi at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi
1992-95 Works on paper, Gallery Espace, New Delhi
1992 Contemporary Indian Art, Bangladesh Shilpa Kala Akademi, Dhaka
1990 Expressions Exhibition, Women's Theater Festival, Mumbai
1989 Artists Alert, organized by Sahmat in New Delhi
1989 Timeless Art, Times of India Sesquicentenary Exhibition organized by Times of India, Mumbai
1988, 95, 99 Art for Cry, in aid of the Child Welfare Organization, Mumbai
1987-89 Through the Looking Glass, Center for Contemporary Art, New Delhi, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Sistas Gallery, Bangalore, Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi and Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal
1985 Work, Exhibition of six Indian painters, sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in Belgrade, Titograd, Istanbul, Ankara.
1982 Contemporary Indian Painting, sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in Worpswede, Hamburg, Hanover, Braunschweig, and Bremen, West Germany.
1978 New Contemporaries, organized by Marg and the Indian Art Appreciation Society in Mumbai
1977 Pictorial space, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1976.77 Exhibitions with Black Partridge Gallery, New Delhi
1975 University of Baroda Silver Jubilee Exhibition, Vadodara, Gujarat
1974 Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi
1969.72 Art Today, II and IV, Kunika Chemould Art Centre, New Delhi


2001 Conversations with Tradition, with Shahzia Sikander at Asia Society, New York


2013 Sahmat Art and Collective Activism in India since 1989, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago
2012 The Calendar Project Iconography in the 20th Century, part of the CINEMA CITY Research Art & Documentary Practices Project presented by the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA ), Mumbai
2012 Art for Humanity, Coomaraswamy Hall, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
2012 To let the world into the narrative and beyond contemporary Indian art, as part of Art Chennai, Edition II at Lalit Kala Regional Centre, Chennai
2011 Ethos V Indian Art through the Lens of History (1900 to 1980), Indigo Blue Art, Singapore
2011 Fabular Bodies New Narratives in the Art of the Miniature, presented by Harmony Art Foundation at Coomaraswamy Hall, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
2011 Watermark II, Galerie Mirchandani Steinruecke, Mumbai
2011 Roots in the Air, Branches Below Modern and Contemporary Art from India, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose
2011 Time Unfolded, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi
2010 Place.Time.Play India-China Contemporary Art, West Heavens Exhibition Project, presented by Shanghai International Cultural Association, Institute of Visual Culture (China Academy of Art) at the Conference Hall of Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai
2010 Roots, 25th Anniversary Exhibition of Sakshi Art Gallery, Mumbai at The Park, Chennai
2009 ARCOmadrid, Spain presented by curator Bose Krishnamachari for Panoroma India
2008-09 India Moderna, organized by the Institut Valencia dArt Modern (IVAM) and Casa Asia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture of Valencia, Spain
2008-09 Expanding Horizons Contemporary Indian Art, traveling exhibition presented by Bodhi Art at Ravinder Natya Mandir, P.L.Despande Kala Academy Art Gallery, Mumbai, Sant Dyaneshwar Natya Sankul Art Gallery, Amravati, Platinum Jubilee Hall, Nagpur, Tapadia Natya Mandir Sports Hall, Aurangabad, Hirachand Nemchand Vachanalays, Solapur, Acharya Vidyanand Sanskrutik Bhavan, Kolhapur, PGSR Sabhagriha, SNDT, Pune, Sarvajanik Vachanalaya Hall, Nasik
2007 Tiger by the Tail, Brandeis University, Waltham Boston
1996 Second Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
1995 Dispossession, Africus, First Johannesburg Biennial, South Africa
1986 Third Asian Biennale, Dhaka



Nilima Sheikh describes herself as part of the third generation of artists who have engaged with Indian traditions. To be specific, there was the generation of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, and Benode Behari Mukherjee, followed by one of her students, K G Subramanyan, from whom she sought inspiration.


The artist, initially trained in Western-style oil painting, has spent almost all of her student and professional life in Baroda. Nilima Sheikh was born in 1945 in New Delhi. She studied history at the University of Delhi (1962-65) and painting at the College of Fine Arts, Baroda. (MA Bella, 1971). She has taught painting at the College between 1977 and 1981. According to her, Baroda, in the 60s, was certainly identified with modernism. There was an attempt to remove the dead material that had accumulated around the old Santiniketan experiment. At the same time, many of the influential teachers recognized the value of history and the reinvention of tradition.


She explains that Baroda saw himself as quite distinct from the progressive painters of Bombay. After all, K.G. Subramanyan was very active in Baroda during my student days, as a teacher, ideologue, and artist. He was as interested in exploring Indian craft traditions as he was in oil painting. And all his concerns revolved around overcoming these dichotomies. He was a great inspiration to me. Nilima Sheikh claims a lineage born of pre-independence Indian nationalism, fostered in the climate of progressive internationalism of the 1940s and 1950s. Sheikh turned her attention to miniature painting midway through her career. Therefore, her relationship with premodern painting has been oriented more toward its visual forms than its technical aspects.


In addition to exhibiting her work in India and internationally, the artist has lectured on Indian art at many venues in India and internationally. Conversations with traditions Nilima Sheikh and Shahzia Sikander presented paintings by the two artists from the different religious and aesthetic cultures of India and Pakistan, as part of the inaugural celebration of the new Asia Society Museum in New York in 2001-2002, it was one of their shows memorable. She presented around 30 individual works by each artist, including works from her early encounters with miniature painting, as well as recent works that suggest the changing nature of such relationships. Additionally, the artists created specially commissioned collaborative work.


Art critic Randi Hoffman, who mentioned Sheikh's work, is more painterly and elegant. Her symbols are simpler and deeper, and her theme is more emotional. The twenty-plus years that she has been painting show the apparent ease and level of accomplishment in her work. He later quoted her as saying that for me working on an intimate scale on paper was a very liberating experience. I could talk about things that would seem incongruous on a framed canvas on a wall. I still feel that there are new paths left unexplored (in this medium) and that there is still a lot to do.


Her new body of works on Kashmir centered on the poetry of Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, formed the core of her recent series titled The Country Without A Post Office-Reading Agha Shahid Ali. As the painter tells it, I had planned a larger and more ambitious shot, wanting to read and consult various accounts of historical and contemporary Kashmir to try to put together settings to rework my rather confused or at least mixed feelings about Kashmir.


He (Agha Shahid Ali) seemed to have said almost everything I had thought to say and more! I found his poetry incredibly moving and also extremely visual, which allowed me to try to illustrate the text, something he had been trying to do for a while. Although I have often tried to illustrate passages from the poems per se, I have often gone back and forth between connected images that arise from passages from other poems. Therefore, there is often a repetition of the motif and a certain degree of blurring. The vertical paintings also come from sources other than Agha Shahid Ali, a retelling of Jahangir's memoirs here and there, or a few lines from a Chinese story, or Midnight's Children become inspiring as a leitmotif.


In 1984, he painted a series of 12 small tempera paintings titled When Champa Grew which told the true story of a young married woman who was tortured and burned by her in-laws. The first panels show a happy young woman playing on a swing and riding a bicycle. Her marriage ceremony is then shown, along with a flock of birds symbolizing her departure from her parents' house. She is then depicted naked and crying while she works in the kitchen, perhaps after being beaten. The final panels of her depict her funeral pyre and women crying in mourning.


Through traditional idioms, she portrayed the grim reality and violence of contemporary life. The painter said that it seemed inevitable that she would paint her story. She wanted to paint the dowry deaths before Champa's death (she is not the girl's real name) because they confronted us daily in the newspapers. But I struggled to find a way that could contain the angst without reducing it to a cliche.


I chose serial pages and folio photographs to turn them over and read them laterally. To delineate the event in time and space, I tried a one-third and two-thirds subdivision of some of the paintings as a way to expand the pictorial space. I painted a whiting plaster on Sanganer handmade valid paper with paint tempered with gum Arabic or whiting dissolved in glue-sized mediums traditionally used in Rajasthani and Pahari paper paintings.


Once the painting was completed, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh helped her find songs from the Gujarati oral tradition that could function as texts with serially painted images. For the artist, it was ironic and gratifying to find traditional verses closely related to her paintings. The last of her 12 works was the image of her that prompted her to paint the set. The women express their pain by beating their breasts and singing their pain together.


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