Born in 1941, legendary Indian printmaker Shyam Sharma imbibed the vibrancy of Indian tradition from the colorful devotionalism of his birthplace Govardhan, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. This place is famous as the birthplace of the Supreme God of Indian devotionalism, Bhakti the Lord Krishna. Thus Shyam Sharma’s childhood vision was steeped in the pristine symbols and imagery of human and divine love. This appears in his work where one can find the Krishnite concept karma as the supreme principle which has inspired his 5 decades-long artistic journey and a personality exuding extraordinary humbleness.
Shyam Sharma got his first experience in the art of printmaking from the printing press of his father, during his childhood. Impressions of words and colors on the printed page made him aware of the mesmerizing medium of printing as a form of expression. Later he joined Lucknow Art College to get an education in fine art. During this period he produced fine woodcut prints. From there he went on to innovate in other forms of printmaking. After completing his education he joined Patna University as Assistant Professor of Art. He stayed there until his retirement in 1999. He traveled extensively and has a comprehensive understanding of graphic art in other cultures especially in China and Japan.
In Shyam Sharma’s work one can recognize a few important characteristics. First, throughout his long artistic career his work displays a tendency for constant innovation. Thus he innovates in different forms of woodcut prints, in clay blocks and in mixed media. Shyam Sharma says that he always favors low use of a machine based technique. His work shows composite images in one frame in which prints of different forms, like cobwebs of woodprints, symbols of Indian religious and secular life, birds and animals are all depicted to express meaning and meaninglessness; sound and silence of our own life and the world around us. His colors are mostly earth colors or the primary colors which also show his main concern is not with what is bright and immediate but with what is quaint and permanent. Through his work one can enter the soul of Indian life, characterized by the metaphysical tension of human incompleteness and a constant search for one’s true purpose and yearning for final liberation. Shyam Sharma in conversation accepts that being an artist he will always feel that painful yearning to complete himself. He finds this path to completeness, in his work.