2022 Venice Biennale’s Youngest Artist, Niyamat Mehta, Takes Us Through Her Art Journey

Niyamat Mehta

Delhi-based sculptor Niyamat Mehta may be in her early ‘20s, yet her work reflects a nuance usually seen in seasoned artists. Already hailed as a ‘potential artistic power’ by legendary British sculptor Grenville Davey, Mehta lends a fresh flair to classical sculpture. After exhibiting at Kensington Town Hall in London, Artesfera di Valmadrera in Rome and Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Mehta became the youngest artist to display at the Palazzo Albrizzi at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

However, it was her first solo exhibit, ‘Meraki’, at Delhi’s cultural hotspot Bikaner House in August 2023 that turned out to be a game changer. “Meraki was a turning point in my life. It was challenging to put together the show in a short span of eight months. But the experience was truly fulfilling. Since the show I am inundated with commissions either through my website or social media,” Mehta shares.

Mr. Sinatra in hydro resin

The repertoire of 27 bronze and hydro resin sculptures that the young artist showcased featured classical and surrealist themes, with a few heavily inspired by popular culture. While each of her artworks exhibited finesse, some sculptures like Atman and Amor Fati stole the show. Atman was inspired by the Hindu mythological hero Uchchaihshravas, the horse of Indra, while the Amor Fati series featured Alessandro Del Taglia, an art model from Florence, as the central character.

“Alessandro’s lithe frame and bittersweet expression convey Nietzsche’s notion of Amor Fati, encouraging the embrace of both joy and sorrow as essential threads of the human experience,” explains Mehta. Her work is influenced by great masters from Salvador Dalí, Leonora Carrington and Man Ray to Leonardo da Vinci and M.F. Husain.

Niyamat Mehta at her private studio, Atelier Della Firenze in New Delhi

Mehta’s artistic abilities were honed at an early age under the tutelage of Master Sculptor Jason Arkles in Florence, Italy. The intensive five-week course was Mehta’s first brush with figurative sculpting — a technique that she liberally incorporates in her work today. “Arkles is the only American sculptor living in Europe who has his artworks up publicly, outside cathedrals, cemeteries and museums. I trained with him for a few weeks and was completely blown away. It was a lot of information to absorb at the time, but I am happy it gave me so much to think about. It was after this course that I knew I wanted to return to Florence,” recalls Mehta.

Later, she was accepted into the Florence Academy of Art, where she received training in classical or academic sculpture. During these four years, her love for Florence and the Italian culture grew multifold — she felt right at home. It also motivated her to work in a studio in Florence’s Piazza Gavinana with a close friend, Octavio Palomo, also a sculptor. It is here that the duo conducted masterclasses, created sculptures and showcased their artwork.

Amor Fati: an edition of three sculptures
in bronze and hydro resin

Her next stop was London, where she explored the commercial world of art. “I was getting to know the business of art while also refreshing my art history. Around this time, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to also teach figurative sculpture and portraiture at London Fine Art Studios in Battersea. The institute also provided me with a 600 square feet studio on site — a personal space where I would sculpt,” mentions Mehta.

But Mehta knew she wanted to return to India. After tasting success with Meraki, the young sculptor’s homecoming has found a new purpose. Today, Mehta operates from her private studio, Atelier Della Firenze, in New Delhi, where she creates her artwork, runs masterclasses and conducts viewings by appointment. “The studio is definitely my happy space! I spend at least six days a week here, depending on the workload. Anyone is eligible to sign up for my masterclasses; it’s the interest and the willingness to learn that matter to me,” she says.

Atman: in bronze (left) and hydro resin (right)

Currently, Mehta is busy working on two commissioned sculptures, which will be a part of private collections in Geneva and London. Both commissions are similar in nature — one depicts a couple holding the moon above their heads, while the other is of a man holding the moon. “It resonates with my style. I am certainly influenced by romanticism — when I look back at my notes, I realise I studied everything during my training,” she concludes.

Photographs: Prateek Swadesh and Mehul Arora

Read the full story on ELLE India’s new issue, or download your digital copy via Magzter. 

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