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Nilima Sheikh. The Sunday Guardian.

Sheikh will be on the Harvard campus for two weeks in April 2023

The Mittal Institute is delighted to announce the selection of Nilima Sheikh as the inaugural Distinguished Artist Fellow. Sheikh, a renowned painter based in Baroda, India, will be in residence at the Institute on the Harvard campus from April 17 – 28, 2023. On April 22, she will deliver the prestigious Norma Jean Calderwood Lecture at the Harvard Art Museums. The Mittal Institute will also host two other public talks: on April 25 and April 27. 

“We are deeply honored to have Nilima join us at Harvard this spring,” said Mittal Institute Faculty Director Tarun Khanna. “The new Distinguished Artist Fellowship builds on our longstanding Arts Program, which has been expanding opportunities for exchange between South Asian artists and Harvard for nearly a decade. This is an exciting new addition for us.” 

The DAF program, which invites a senior visual artist from South Asia to the Harvard campus, is designed to bring forth critical issues relevant to South Asia through the lens of art and design. Sheikh was selected by a committee composed of Harvard faculty and contemporary South Asian art experts. 

The artist will have the opportunity to spend two weeks engaging with Harvard faculty, students, and the Mittal Institute’s broader community, and will share her work through a public lecture at the Harvard Art Museums on April 22, entitled, “Lyrical Colors, Flowing Stories: Conversations on paintings with the artist Nilima Sheikh.”

Jinah Kim, George P. Bickford Professor of Indian and South Asian Art in the Department of History of Art & Architecture and Mittal Institute Steering Committee Member, has been instrumental in envisioning the DAF Program and has long advised the Visiting Artist Program at the Mittal Institute, which hosts two mid-career artists from South Asian on the Harvard campus each semester. The expansion of the Arts Program to include a leading artist from the region, she says, will deepen the campus community’s connection to South Asian art.

Having Nilima on campus provides a rare opportunity to be in conversation with a leading artist whose long career inspires us to contemplate on the significance of art in the conflict stricken world.

“I am beyond thrilled that we will host Nilima Sheikh as the inaugural distinguished artist fellow at the Mittal Institute. She is one of South Asia’s most prominent artists whose paintings deal with some of the most pressing issues in the region through her brilliant visual language of color and form. Having Nilima on campus provides a rare opportunity to be in conversation with a leading artist whose long career inspires us to contemplate on the significance of art in the conflict-stricken world.”

Sheikh, who describes her art as focused on displacement, longing, loss, violence, the perception of tradition and ideas of femininity, says she is looking forward to her time at Harvard. “I am excited at the idea of being part of a legendary campus of academia and culture, from where I hope to soak in the ambience, by osmosis yes, but also by listening, learning and sharing,” says the artist. “I am interested in sharing my own work in the hope it generates curiosity and discussion.”

A full schedule of events for the artist’s residency will be available soon.  

“Beyond Loss” Panel 4 detail, Nilima Sheikh

About the Artist

Nilima Sheikh’s work focuses on longing, loss, roots, displacement, violence, the perception of tradition and ideas of femininity. Her paintings using tempera on handmade paper or canvas as well as the formats and modes of installation she employs are influenced by East Asian, Persian, Central Asian, pre-Renaissance European and North Indian schools of tempera painting;. She devises her forms of telling by adapting traditional forms like manuscript paintings, scrolls, Pichhvais (ritual backdrops),  folding or enclosing screens and altarpieces  Her visual and textual layering, often marked by a subtle mix of lore and history, offer a depth of narration and glimpses of multiple worlds, and a commitment to feminist realities

Nilima was born to doctor parents in 1945 in Delhi. She joined the Faculty of Fine Arts at the MS University of Baroda in 1965, after graduating from Delhi University in History. Studying painting at Baroda under the mentorship of KG Subramanyan introduced her to the linguistics of varied art-making processes.

She started exhibiting professionally in 1969.  Her recent solo exhibitions include Lines of Flight: Nilima Sheikh Archive, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; Terrain: Carrying Across Leaving Behind at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, 2017 and Gallery Espace at Bikaner House, New Delhi, 2018; Each night put Kashmir in your dreams at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago in 2014. Recent group participations include Thinking Historically in the Present, Sharjah Biennial 15, Sharjah, 2023; Woman is as Woman does, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, 2022, Minyatur 2.0: Miniature in Contemporary Art, Pera Muzesi, Istanbul, 2020; Seismic Movements: Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka, 2020, Kochi Muziris Biennale, Kochi, 2018; Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel, 2017; An Atlas of Mirrors, Singapore Biennale, Singapore, 2016; Diary Entries, Gallery Espace, New Delhi, 2015; Landscape of Thinking Slow: Contemporary Art from China & India, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea; Place-Time-Play, Contemporary Art from West Heavens to Middle Kingdom in Shanghai in 2010 and India moderna, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern at Valencia in 2008.

Nilima has collaborated with artists and craftspeople from Srinagar and Vadodara on a large multimedia mural project Conjoining Lands, 50’X 180’, for Terminal 2, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. She has created the scenography and painted sets, banners and backdrops for the theatre collective Vivadi, between 1993 and 2000. She has written on art in books, journals and catalogue essays since 1971 and also illustrated books for children.

The Mittal Institute’s Arts Program bridges South Asia’s artistic world with the intellectual and creative resources of Harvard University. This Distinguished Artist Fellowship program is funded by the generous contribution of Dipti Mathur, Chair of the Mittal Institute’s Arts Council.