The Miniature Maharani

Discovering wonderful wonderful Shirin Sahba was a happenstance! It was a boring afternoon of Internet browsing that shook the slumber out of my senses as I soaked in her work and fell in love! There was an immediate connect with her unique style. Shirin’s work to me, is a fitting ode to creativity and celebrates a creative artist’s ability to define one’s own style and form. Colours or words, whatever your canvas may be, take a page out of her book and go carve your niche!

Presenting the artist and her work:

Tell us a little about how your unique style has evolved?

My style has evolved a good deal over the years. I began as a figurative painter, then became completely abstract and now I have found a happy medium between the two, in which the abstract and the realistic can dwell in harmony. When you gaze at my painting from afar, they seem so simple, so minimalist. But as you come closer you see that it is complex, elaborate and detailed.

To me your work spells magnetism, mystery, movement and multiplicity… your take on them?

Those are all very powerful descriptions. I can only hope that my work conveys these concepts to the viewers. For me they are about adventure, the joys and sadness of life, and the idea that the journey is more important than the destination. I also enjoy painting people in the miniature to depict how small we are in the large scheme of things, yet entirely precious and significant. These little characters are all world citizens, like I am.

What is the inspiration behind your work?

My inspiration comes from multiple sources; to name just a few: my past, traveling, old films, ancient and modern art and design, miniature art, writers…the list goes on and on! I often find inspiration in the every day as well, as there is so much beauty to be found here and there. Sometimes the inspiration could even come from a beautiful ancient jewelery or ceramic I see in a museum. I’m constantly brewing new plans for new work!

Tell us about your India connection? The maharani and the princess look to be inspired by India? Are they?

Yes! They are very Indian inspired. I was born in New Delhi to an architect father and a designer mother. My father, with my mother by his side, designed and project managed the Lotus Temple in Delhi (, so I grew up in the middle of the sights and sounds of India. I went back last year to visit my brother and have a deep love for India. I have always considered myself profoundly connected to that rich land. I constantly look to Indian miniatures too for inspiration!

Do tell us a little about your travels and how they have made their impression on your work?

By the time I was 16 I had visited more than 25 countries, so traveling has been my entire life, and it still hasn’t stopped! My frame of reference is often out of a window of a car, train or airplane, so my paintings almost look like what I see out of this frame. I feel happiest when I am roaming the planet, exploring and meeting new people. As you can tell by my work, some of these colourful personalities I meet, end up being depicted in my paintings as characters constantly on the move, like I am.

How would you describe Shirin Sahba’s work?

I would describe my paintings as modern miniatures, telling the story of diverse characters, often in solitude, moving through varied landscapes constantly in motion, seeking adventure and interacting with the environment around them.

Who are the other artists who inspire you? Anyone in India?

The list of artists who inspire me is constantly changing, right now I am looking to a lot of artists and designers from the 50’s and 60’s like: Miroslav Sasek, Paul Rand, Olle Eksell, Jean-Jacques Sempe. Also some older work like: The Imperial Mughal Manuscripts from the time of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. I have also of late been looking at a good deal of Gond art from India.

What are your India plans? A show here?

I have no immediate plans for doing a show in India as I have been focusing most of my energy on developing my work, but who knows what the future holds! I definitely hope to come back for visits soon.

(Shirin lives in Beijing at present with her husband who works for the UNICEF. For more on the artist and more samples of her work, please visit and

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