Stand back far enough and you stop seeing your reflection in the large glass panels that encompass the Curve theatre. Instead you become enveloped in the gargantuan artwork that is Sanskriti Graffiti. One wonders what all this means beyond pattern, and to that end I like to imagine that this installation is a fragment of an elaborate multi-dimensional map showing the inner workings of artist G Sian’s mind.
“The Sanskrit poets said, ‘There are no new stories to tell – only new ways to tell them. It’s about revisiting and being audacious and being courageous and being forward-thinking,” G explains.
Like a provocation to movement, the work demands that you follow it around the building, darting back and forth as you see areas that you missed. As the eye focuses on the clean, static lines on the animated glass you can feel the tension between perception and perspective. The field of view shifts erratically as you process the pellucid fullness of the theatre, flicking between the linearity of the installation and the void behind it.
Follow the lines and they take you beyond the comprehensible architecture of the physical world into a place that is purer, yet as chaotic as it is ordered; stand too close and the space feels animated. Every area of the arts in which G has endeavoured including cinema, painting, theatre, design, linguistics, classics, and a love of good strong coffee coalesce to form a cognisance of the complexity and fragility of our humanity.
G describes the beginning of his journey as an artist, which began after an epiphany at the tender age of four, when he realised he was an artist.
“The whole of my life I’ve worked in relation to that four year-old, and I’m fortunate enough that everything I have done has been creative in one way or another. There’s a clear line that’s drawn between where I am now and me as a four-year old.”
And yet, this installation is not the leitmotif of G Sian’s work. Instead it is one note in a repertoire of creative engagements. Sanskriti Graffiti is an ephemeral point on this journey starting at age of four, when G Sian visualises the breadth of his understanding of the world.
“It was never about becoming an artist, it was about working as a vehicle for art, with art as my DNA.”
The installation is a deep exhalation of cultural matter from another dimension that asks to be considered, not just glanced at. It means so much both with and without words and yet could be misunderstood and ignored by some who see it as ‘foreign’.
It is quite telling that the work sits on the outside of Curve, as in many ways this type of art is the outsider – a kind of alien being that visits the city to abduct our senses even if only briefly and perversely, it seems we are left without any memory of it.
The scale of the piece makes one consider the work required for such an undertaking. Its epic proportions have been meticulously planned for weeks, months and years. As G says, “[planned] in diminutive pocket books – and some drawings have been stored waiting to be exposed for nearly 20 years”.
To finally see the work take shape at such a magnitude feels otherworldly and edifying. If we want to see change in Leicester’s cultural landscape we need to embrace these types of exuberant maverick shenanigans and boldness of ambition, something Fiona Allen addressed in her keynote speech at TEDx Leicester in 2015. As Allen put it: “We need to get much better at shouting about what we are good at and be realistic about what needs to improve.”
G concurs: ‘A sense of courage needs to settle. A city should take risks. We’ve done diversity – I advocate an era of audacity.’
Sanskriti Graffiti adorns the outside of Curve Theatre’s windows. It was commissioned as part of the larger ‘An Indian Summer’ Event taking place across the city