Studio Visit Book Vol. 1

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Lisa Ray on creativity, vulnerability, and launching TheUpsideSpace

Watch & Listen to this podcast Episode.

This week on the Arts to Hearts Podcast, we have a very special guest who is reinventing the art world with her creative act. Lisa Ray is not only an actor, author, and writer, but she is also the co-founder of TheUpsideSpace (TUS), a curator-led digital art platform that spotlights artistic expressions from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. In this episode, Charuka and Lisa talk about putting yourself out there as a creative and why it’s important to create an inclusive art ecosystem.

Lisa describes herself as a creative and wanderer, someone who never stopped exploring and refused to be confined to one creative label. While many know Lisa for her amazing acting chops, Lisa considers writing as her primary mode of expression and has also published her memoir “Close to the Bone”. She has also written numerous articles for magazines in India such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.

Over the years, Lisa has not lost touch with her creative side and is constantly finding ways to connect back to it. One such example is Lisa’s latest endeavor, TheUpsideSpace, which focuses on bridging the gap between traditional and digital arts. By focusing especially on art from places like Bhutan and Laos, TUS is making sure that the art world can become more inclusive towards artistic expressions that normally do not get as much spotlight as they should. The world is filled with creative minds, and all we need to do is think outside the box to create a space where all forms of art are welcome!

Lisa is a huge proponent of reimagining and reinventing your modes of expression, and the path she has chosen as a creative is an inspiring one. She admits that TUS is ahead of the curve and that in itself should encourage anyone who also wants to bring about tangible change in the art world.

TheUpsideSpace has put together some marvelous exhibitions so far, so do check it out on their official website. In the meantime, tune in to this week’s entire episode and listen to Lisa talk about TheUpsideSpace and why she isn’t afraid of being vulnerable!

TimestampSummary
00:00.65Introduction to the Upside Space and its intention
00:30.18The Upside Space bridges traditional and digital art
01:40.64Exploring the potential of NFTs and addressing issues in the art world
03:07.53Democratisation of art and empowering individual artists
04:22.80Upside Space as a place of discourse and discovery
05:01.45Challenges in the market and the focus on art and storytelling
06:55.26Recognizing and showcasing traditional art and craftsmanship
08:00.72Exhibition recommendation: “In Search of the Devi”
09:10.41Never stop exploring as an artist and embrace creativity
09:36.93Charukaarora expresses gratitude to Lisa for sharing her journey
09:48.36Charukaarora asks Lisa if she has any links to share
09:54.36Lisa wishes Charukaarora the best
10:07.54Charukaarora mentions Upside Scale and promises to include necessary project links
10:09.50Lisa thanks Charukaarora and ends the conversation
[TRANSCRIPT]

00:00.00
charukaarora
Welcome to the podcast Lisa I’m very very excited to have you.

00:02.90
Lisa
Thank you so much charuka. Thank you Thank you for reaching out as well.

00:09.29
charukaarora
Oh This is truly a pleasure you um I am truly like like any Indian who would be listening right Now. It’s you know how the bollywood Craze We. Not only know you as someone who’s also the part of the art world but also such a big body of work of a creative. You know. Why don’t you start?? Let’s let’s go right in and would you like to introduce yourself. How would you like to introduce yourself to everyone who’s joining us right now.

00:33.70
Lisa
Oh my goodness I didn’t even think of that I mean for me I’m I’m just a creative and of course a mother um demands its own unique brand of creativity. You might say and a nomad.

00:39.31
charukaarora
I Love that? yes.

00:50.72
charukaarora
If yeah.

00:51.54
Lisa
And you know I like to I think in this phase of my life say that you know I’ve just been um I’ve been a wanderer for much of my life. But I think that love and service above all are very important for me right now.

01:00.67
charukaarora
Okay, yeah I love that and you know, ah you I duly do resonate with the idea of feeling creative and you know identifying I think we um I really want to start a little bit from the beginning since you. Have so many feathers on your cap and so many different roles even as a creative that you’ve not only played but also is from being an actor writer. Um, you know, being a model winning so many passions. How do you express your journey and look at it from where you stand right now looking back. Did you.

01:21.18
Lisa
When.

01:38.21
charukaarora
Ever feel. Ah that you’d be able to play so many roles as ah as an artist as a creative wholesome.

01:44.27
Lisa
Yeah that’s that’s an interesting question and I actually have been reflecting quite a bit um at this phase of my life on what it all means looking into the rearview mirror and you know trying to sort of discern whether there’s been a very clear path. And the best that I can say is no, there hasn’t been. Um I think a lot of my you know creative life both professionally and personally and I have to say that there is a difference between the 2 um. Have happened really serendipitously and accidentally ah but I think I have to credit probably the era that I started in with you know, infusing me with a certain um bravery sometimes recklessness. So essentially it was really the early 90 s when I was still quite 16 or 17 when I landed up in India serendipitously and of course I don’t want to get into that entire story because we’ll go off on a tangent and I have written a book of close to the bone. Um.

02:39.46
charukaarora
Okay.

02:55.94
Lisa
Ah, but you know I I never imagined myself to be a part of a particularly entertainment business because nature you might say I am more of an Introvert I am an observer of the world as I think a lot of.

03:04.21
charukaarora
Okay.

03:10.54
charukaarora
Okay, okay, okay.

03:15.81
Lisa
Have to be a lot of creatives have to be I would much prefer to stand in a corner and watch rather than be the center who not take the camera out of it early I mean I never wanted to be a part of the entertainment business.

03:22.24
charukaarora
Behind the camera rather than in front of the camera. No oh.

03:32.95
Lisa
As I said it literally happened accidentally and you know I do diff it give it obviously a lot of credit for opening a particular path um that I wouldn’t have imagined as ah as a young girl. Um. But opening up this playground of possibilities because I never wanted to be an actor but I definitely was interested in self-expression and this is again where I was talking about the you know when you talk about the creative self. There is sort of maybe the professional aspect. But there’s the personal aspect.

03:58.40
charukaarora
Um, okay yeah.

04:08.80
charukaarora
Yeah, right.

04:10.97
Lisa
Professionally fortunately or unfortunately people still associate me with being in front of the camera but on a personal level I’ve been writing for a long time I always imagined you a writer I started collecting contemporary indian art when I was seventeen years old in Mumbai.

04:16.40
charukaarora
Yes, yes.

04:28.52
charukaarora
Wonderful and that it’s in the 90 s.

04:30.60
Lisa
You know so I was fortunate enough to that was in the 90 s I was fortunate enough to attend Harsh Goenka’s art camps back in the day in Mumbai and I was able to pick up. You know some incredible masters at you know you might say bargain though I didn’t.

04:38.41
charukaarora
Wow.

04:48.63
charukaarora
You are the point.

04:49.14
Lisa
I wasn’t I wasn’t yeah I wasn’t you know, picking it up with a marketplace mindset I was picking up art that resonated with me and that um.

04:56.46
charukaarora
Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.

05:05.29
Lisa
Told a story that also marked a particular period of my life so you might say that I have been a collector of art an inform collector of Indian art for a long long long. Um, and I’ve always been art adjacent. No matter where we’ve lived and you.

05:11.73
charukaarora
Yeah, yes, yes I do know that. And.

05:24.70
Lisa
since since I left Mumbai in you know around 2002 I’ve lived all over Europe and I lived in the states and then we came back to Mumbai and we’ve been in Asia my family and I ah, we’ve lived in Hong Kong Singapore now Dubai um, back to Mumbai Mumbai is always going to be. Heart center of my life india is home. Ah, but you know also I think that Dubai is a very exciting ah merging center both arts and culture right now.

05:45.20
charukaarora
Ah, okay, okay, oh yeah.

05:55.71
charukaarora
Space to be in. Yeah yeah, yeah, and technology. Yeah.

06:03.59
Lisa
Um, really happy to be based and technology. Yeah many different possibilities I see it as kind of the bridge to the future. But there also is a bridge to India from Dubai so very very happy. Yeah.

06:18.16
charukaarora
That yeah I it still feels like pretty close to home for sure. Yeah I want to ask you something you know? um you said like how 90 s you are.

06:21.64
Lisa
Was also very conveniently located from you know, point of view as well.

06:34.77
charukaarora
Crediting 90 s as a big part in your own life and what it played and how it set it out for you. But let’s let’s but let’s talk in context to the art that you said and how you started collecting art and being interested in the art so young, um can you give me a little context and maybe I’m just trying to look in here if there is something.

06:45.66
Lisa
Um.

06:53.64
charukaarora
Um, how what brought you into the arts um and collecting and particularly also interested you in in um indian art. Did you have an in enlightenment at home growing up where you felt like and you had an influence or being in Bombay or there was something else that you were you know. What was what was this um stem that brought you in this part of the world when you were young enough.

07:19.22
Lisa
I Think well I mean partially upbringing I definitely have to credit me bringing my parents or particularly my father surrounded me with art. He’s benalli. Um I you know I grew up.

07:21.20
charukaarora
Okay.

07:27.47
charukaarora
Oh really.

07:33.31
Lisa
Ah, with literature with um, independent films. We never watched Mainstream films. They were banned for and ah classical music and you know all the cliches you might say but.

07:50.33
charukaarora
Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.

07:50.95
Lisa
Was always drawn towards art. It’s simply who I was and I don’t think necessarily that I have a skill in expressing myself as a visual I don’t I don’t think that I do though I do like watercolors I like playing with watercolors.

08:01.94
charukaarora
I was about to ask that.

08:09.90
charukaarora
You do that.

08:10.55
Lisa
Um, but it it. Ah yeah, and to be honest, it doesn’t interest me ah for sure I think that writing is my um yeah is my mode of expression primarily aside from other things of course acting etc.

08:14.86
charukaarora
Okay. More of your expressive fear. Yeah.

08:29.92
Lisa
But I have a great appreciation I have a greater appreciation for the visual arts I think you could say because I don’t I don’t have any skills and um I do think that you know it was a time of also great personal exploration when I came to Bombay I was young and um.

08:44.89
charukaarora
Um, yeah.

08:49.26
Lisa
Was an exciting time to be honest, the 90 s was a time when so many of the industries that we take for granted today in India whether it’s fashion or advertising even bodywood including art. The foundation was being set. It was still a very informal place. It was a handful of galleries.

09:05.81
charukaarora
Um, yeah.

09:09.10
Lisa
But it was also very convivial. It was very family-like um, but a couple of friends who were all so very interested in art and we would make ah you know make a point of doing the rounds of the galleries. You know every E and you get to know gallerists and you get to meet artists and.

09:11.64
charukaarora
Yeah.

09:20.84
charukaarora
Yeah.

09:27.91
Lisa
To be honest, that was what fascinated me I was not interested in meeting businessmen or business that was never in my wheelhouse it it held no appeal to me personally. So I think it was It was a wonderful period too of exploration during that time.

09:31.91
charukaarora
Yeah.

09:41.74
charukaarora
Okay.

09:47.94
Lisa
And in fact, at one point I had a friend and we decided that we were going to curate an art exhibition. Oh I don’t remember we registered a company called art ages at other um, a wonderful exhibition and it was water.

09:52.10
charukaarora
Oh.

10:01.21
charukaarora
Oh Wow when was this.

10:05.27
Lisa
Probably 9095 or 1996 and I still have some of the clippings from it and um, it was really wonderful. But imagine that you know in those days you had to send invites either through the mail or personally hand-delivered or else fax them.

10:07.90
charukaarora
Okay, wow.

10:19.55
charukaarora
Yeah.

10:24.53
Lisa
So we spent 4 oxing people with you know, growing kind of affection and desperation. You know love to see you there tomorrow etc. Of course we had a wonderful turnout and it was a wonderful experience. But again I felt that.

10:34.00
charukaarora
Yeah.

10:42.80
Lisa
That I mean you know running a physical gallery takes a lot of Stamina and a very particular ah skill set. Um, and I mentioned before and I’m not exaggerating when I said that I’m an introvert so I would rather.

10:47.13
charukaarora
Um, yeah, absolutely yes.

10:58.10
charukaarora
Yeah.

11:02.00
Lisa
Spend time with artists one on one rather than net with collectors. That’s who I am and therefore you know as much as I had or hung onto the stream of you know one day I’ll open my own physical gallery I realized.

11:03.92
charukaarora
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

11:16.34
charukaarora
Yeah, yeah, you did have that to.

11:20.70
Lisa
Where I’m sitting today. There’s no appeal for a physical gallery but great deal of compelling evidence pointing to opening a digital platform celebrating arts from these regions and so that’s what I am doing.

11:32.31
charukaarora
Yes, yes, amazing tell me something who was the first artist that really like you know that you drooled over and was like you know the artist crush that we often have and this was not the time of social media now.

11:51.25
Lisa
I know I miss those dates I Miss days really.

11:51.92
charukaarora
It’s become so fast and furious that every second we like it’s like you know I’ve started asking this question on the podcast Now what is the last ah person you artist that you loved on social media. It’s so hard that people don’t remember.

12:06.67
Lisa
Yes I know we’re all saturated and it’s really unfortunate and you know I mean I’m glad that you bring this up I’ve been making a very very conscious decision to turn off both my social media and my devices because I’m working on a book as well and in order to find that I mean as a.

12:26.12
charukaarora
That’s all is absolutely.

12:26.28
Lisa
Tremendous amount of discipline and focus. It’s just too easy to turn on your phone and start scrolling. Um, and also the way that we encounter the world and experience the world is so vastly different you know, um. And I also feel I think I saw a meme that was quite funny and you know somebody had posted I think a photograph of themselves they were you know back in the 70 s when they were a child and they were you know riding the tricycle and they said I fell off my tricycle in 1978 and.

12:44.56
charukaarora
Okay.

12:52.99
charukaarora
Okay.

13:00.67
Lisa
Because there was no social media to report it I’m reporting it now and it will probablyly. It was obviously a big at current State bears of influences the way that we’re expected to lead our lives and mutually report each and every small little detail which.

13:08.23
charukaarora
Oh good.

13:14.52
charukaarora
Oh yeah, yeah.

13:20.10
Lisa
I’m sure you know years from now. There will be some sort of repercussions in our psyche that I imagine when the but anyways going back to your question. Um, off of my rant. Ah I think jo gin chow 3 is an artist.

13:24.20
charukaarora
Absolutely I think it’s still it’s it’s happening. We can see it even now. Yes.

13:37.55
charukaarora
Okay.

13:39.72
Lisa
Whose work I was very drawn to both the simplicity of his line work and the strength of his line work and I was naturally I think fascinated by this idea of what you can convey through line drawings.

13:54.96
charukaarora
Line joins.

13:57.37
Lisa
And I have to admit that I’m very partial to the bengal school of artists to the artists who can and ni ka then to you know some of the artists that you know that chronicled a lot of the difficult times that West Bengal went through whether it was the you know. Imposed famine um, etc and I felt really the power of art again to make a very strong statement in the world to move somebody. You know in a moment when you encounter it. Um.

14:17.72
charukaarora
Yeah.

14:26.56
charukaarora
Yeah.

14:31.82
Lisa
So yeah, those are those are the first artists that I was drawn towards and I did buy a wonderful joke in that I have today suhas Roy you know I enjoyed a lot of the other artists as well. Um, like say a Manchi Bawa I enjoy seeing his works.

14:38.32
charukaarora
Togging amazing.

14:46.61
charukaarora
Yeah.

14:50.28
Lisa
But somehow I didn’t feel that those were works that I wanted to live with so those are 2 very separate experiences. Go you know one is to approach a work in a gallery setting and really appreciate it and absorb it and another are the question as a collector is.

14:53.39
charukaarora
Red wizer.

15:09.91
Lisa
What can you imagine seeing with on a daily basis and living a single day and those are often dramatically different works in my experience.

15:15.24
charukaarora
Yeah that’s so nice. You tell me something um now from so many let’s okay, let’s take a hold and first talk about you from. Being in the boleybid um in the entertainment world and then um, you know being a writer. How has what was that shift like and then we’ll talk about upside space and how has technology and you know all of that come into play but let’s also talk about your journey as a writer and.

15:44.40
Lisa
Um.

15:51.31
charukaarora
However, I also want to ask you something specifically when you know when you’re a creative person. There’s so many ways and I feel personally within my own self because I have so many creative avenues when like you know I run a business which is in the arts I have an artist myself I design books publish books all throughout the day look at so many artists works.

16:05.30
Lisa
Midnight.

16:11.20
charukaarora
And I feel like every aspect has some some just a different way of expression. Some has you know some feels a lot more natural and some feels like a scale I’m acquiring over the time but it’s also always exciting the way that you know we express ourselves in always new ways. Um, can you.

16:14.24
Lisa
Is it.

16:28.44
Lisa
Walls.

16:30.58
charukaarora
Talk a little bit about how writing has happened for you and what has that meant for you all these years.

16:36.22
Lisa
Well writing didn’t happen recently writing I’ve always been writing so then the question is um, do you define yourself as a writer if you writing since the age of probably 10 but you never publish your work or are you only a writer if you become a published writer.

16:41.40
charukaarora
Okay. Writer.

16:53.19
charukaarora
Um, yeah publish strike yeah and write.

16:56.14
Lisa
And with a debate that you know I’m sure would very heated very quickly and you know this applies to any sort of creative endeavor. Are you a painter if you or yourself or only if you display them in a gallery right? and that the upsides.

17:05.50
charukaarora
Yeah.

17:10.57
charukaarora
Yeah, if you come from an art school when is the first time you got.

17:14.66
Lisa
But I mean I’ve been writing always and I finally had the opportunity to publish on the basis of after I was diagnosed with cancer because suddenly I had publishers approach me to tell my story and even though I would have.

17:17.80
charukaarora
Ok.

17:24.94
charukaarora
Yes.

17:33.96
Lisa
Preferred to start perhaps with fiction I realized that I was going to leverage this opportunity. Finally um, get my words out there and actually before that I’ve I’ve written numerous articles. Ah.

17:37.31
charukaarora
Um, yeah, okay.

17:44.40
charukaarora
Okay, yes, 9 here.

17:50.27
Lisa
Quite a few magazines in India whether it’s vogue or l or harper or I’ve had a call them in Dna but the interesting thing is that people again tend to dismiss it. They tend to only fixate on this one version of yourself.

18:03.66
charukaarora
Right.

18:09.42
charukaarora
Yeah, and I think the version they want to place you in.

18:10.23
Lisa
And I think creativity is creativity and you know I think as a creative you don’t want to necessarily label yourself. It’s world. Yeah, it’s a world that insists on labeling you I mean as as an example I’ve written.

18:19.17
charukaarora
She boxed into 1

18:28.10
Lisa
Every single word in my book labored over sentences spent. You know if I didn’t sleep for an entire year because I you know I was putting the finishing touches and yet after my book came out and quite a few people that actually even reached out to close friends at my husband and said did she actually write this.

18:34.88
charukaarora
Wow.

18:46.93
charukaarora
Gone.

18:47.83
Lisa
I mean come on and a ghost writer and you know on 1 hand are you doing this for validation. Well you know it was a big deal for me because it’s also a book. That’s so personal and it’s about back my own narrative because for so much life other people were telling me who I was.

18:53.50
charukaarora
Now.

18:59.40
charukaarora
Yes, yeah, yes.

19:06.39
Lisa
And now an artist I’m telling you who I am and so you know that that would sometimes cut that would that would sometimes but then you know again I make this you know I have to drop my expectations of people as well understand me I have to meet them where they are.

19:12.69
charukaarora
Right.

19:19.26
charukaarora
Right.

19:24.73
Lisa
And um, so you know for me the creative process is simply creative process. It was very natural I didn’t think that there was any there was no transition. Um, there was nothing conscious. No no because I can also be acting and I can be writing and I can be.

19:32.82
charukaarora
Okay, it feet.

19:42.28
Lisa
You know, working on a lot of other very deeply private creative endeavor.

19:46.86
charukaarora
But tell me something when you you know as an artist when we um I remember I’ve shared about this on the past podcast a couple of times when I lost my mom in Covid Um I can feel no I it I feel so comfortable even now just.

19:57.15
Lisa
I’m so sorry.

20:04.56
charukaarora
Um, when I after my mom when I started I can feel like I’m 2 different versions of that is that I am today the one that ah that was before and the one that was that I am now specifically in the first year I did a first I did a solo show and that was here in our great self and I did an entire series of body of work.

20:09.18
Lisa
With it.

20:24.41
charukaarora
Which was just on unheard at anniversary which also is very close to my birthday and you know it’s just it’s it’s It’s a very hard month always and I still remember like you know I I Never I had never felt um this fear. Um, this sense of um. Because when we know when yeah, we’re going to put ourselves out there. There will be judgment and no matter how much I say I may not careed about here. There is going to be some kind of Impact. There’s going to be some kind of emotion that will be induced and since this emotion was so personal and personal. It.

20:50.31
Lisa
Um.

21:02.40
charukaarora
I Decided to put myself out there. It was nobody else’s choice. But also I knew what I was putting out. There was very vulnerable and very personal and I didn’t care for someone else’s opinion. But I Also knew that every every pin will hurt me or opinion or if it whatever way I’m just trying to ask you where when you were. Writing the book and when you published it just wasn’t any any any work. It was a very vulnerable part of who you are the journey that you’ve been and there are also a lot of painful moments and moments that you know sometimes still will Hurt. It does not matter how and when.

21:27.58
Lisa
Here.

21:34.70
Lisa
Um, part is.

21:40.50
charukaarora
How is you know how does because I think I don’t know I I don’t know how acting works but I’m I’m assuming and please correct me if I’m wrong that you know the level of vulnerability specifically a painful moment of your own life when you project that and put it out in the world that. May feel a lot more. You know you feel like you’re putting your ah yourself out in the word for judgment.

22:05.81
Lisa
Um, I think that you know the the way that I’ve approached acting was always very deeply personal and personalizing certain you know private pains and bringing that into the work that I was doing and the work that I’m most proud of.

22:11.87
charukaarora
Are.

22:22.27
Lisa
Are the films that nobody in India has seen like what like the world mean etc I did a lot of independent films and I enjoy the process. It was very cathartic even um so I’m familiar with the process of vulnerability be vulnerable as an actor. There’s no other way around it.

22:26.38
charukaarora
Um, yeah.

22:29.36
charukaarora
You.

22:36.44
charukaarora
Yeah. How care.

22:41.65
Lisa
You can’t call yourself an otherwise so acting unfortunately I think has become very twisted in India you know it’s it’s tied in with celebrity dumb which is not acting that’s a very different thing. That’s the business or of but um, you have to be vulnerable and you have to.

22:47.83
charukaarora
Yeah.

22:55.30
charukaarora
Yeah.

23:01.48
Lisa
Put a lot of yourself out there. So that’s not it’s it’s not familiar. It’s not unfamiliar to me. We remember that I’m also ah one of the first indian personalities to talk openly about cancer. So I’m very foolish in that area it it doesn’t bother me. Um i.

23:08.57
charukaarora
Unfamili to you.

23:14.94
charukaarora
Cancer. Yeah.

23:21.11
Lisa
In fact, feel more suffocated and was combobulated by Hypocrisy or having to conceal anything ah nature is just to live very openly as openly as possible.

23:25.14
charukaarora
If you don’t.

23:32.72
charukaarora
Yeah.

23:38.70
Lisa
Particularly when it comes to my personal story when it comes to my family That’s a different story. Obviously I feel more protective there and it’s not my place to you know to share our family’s personal moments. But personally I have nothing to hide I have no problem with.

23:40.40
charukaarora
Yeah.

23:55.15
Lisa
Sharing pain and vulnerability and I believe that pain is an essential part of life and as an artist if you’re scared of pain. You can’t produce good art. So um, it was cathartic and I really welcomed being able to share who I was because I was very very. Weary and tired of being labeled as this glamour figure which I’m not I’m simply not you know and it happens until today I’m 51 years old and people still talk about the will that I did when I was 17 or 18 and it sounds.

24:30.33
charukaarora
And god.

24:32.41
Lisa
But it’s actually very irritating because obviously that’s who I am and but it’s no longer who I am regardless so it’s like um I was thinking of you know, sort of a way of explaining it or like um.

24:38.23
charukaarora
Um, that’s just one part of you pin? Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.

24:49.55
charukaarora
Okay.

24:51.53
Lisa
Or um, like something that you’ve done in in high school I had thought of something actually and now I’ve completely forgotten it. But you know suppose you you you in your high school ah played jazz or something you know? ah.

25:09.44
charukaarora
Okay, yeah.

25:11.52
Lisa
Your threat something like that. But today you are someone very different. You’re a Ceo um, you know you wouldn’t necessarily be identified as a jazz musician you might want to but people.

25:19.87
charukaarora
Um, yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

25:29.35
Lisa
Necessarily pin that onto you for so long and the fact matter is I’ve moved so far from who I was when I was younger and even when I was younger I was not who people thought that I was also living you know after cancer.

25:31.21
charukaarora
Right. Yeah, yeah, that’s it for side I think.

25:48.58
Lisa
Survival becomes a creative act. Everything becomes a creative and to be honest before that my life was a creative act. It was almost like performance art because there were very few others who were doing what I was doing you know, imagine as a young girl coming to India in the early ninety s when India was what.

25:50.50
charukaarora
Absolutely absolutely.

26:04.33
charukaarora
Yes, today. Absolutely.

26:06.72
Lisa
What it is today. It was not easy. Every single day was a creative act of survival I had to learn on my feet and that’s I said it’s a form of performance art that I’m also very proud of and that you know probably someone who was born you know in 2000

26:16.24
charukaarora
Yeah.

26:27.15
Lisa
May not understand what it was like um to adapt to those times in India but you know it’s a form of creativity creativity cannot be necessarily labeled or boxed. that’s what I that’s like

26:29.20
charukaarora
Um.

26:37.91
charukaarora
Absolutely And I think I truly and I truly relate to the idea that you know I feel like more than my desire I don’t know if that if it connects or even makes sense re specifically again after like you said when you go through a certain. Um, trauma I take experience so you know something that really moves you agree. Profound Grief Let’s say um I figured that my desire to be an artist versus my my desire to live a creative life like you know I really have this this very strong. In my gut like you know I I really have and must live a creative life more and beyond anything else I Want to be so it’s just not the profession. The career. What I put out but everything you know how I wake up, you know how the yoga I do the dance I pick you know it’s just.

27:21.15
Lisa
Um, yeah.

27:34.26
charukaarora
Everyday life because when I go I want to be I don’t want to be remembered I also you know I see ah here you know where so many conversations that happen today where we are continually speaking about impact you know changing the world where every all of that it does make sense and I do connect. But at the end of the day at at least I think it’s changed me over the years where I feel like you know if I go away when I look back for me a happy heart or a content would be did I live a creative life or not because that.

28:03.40
Lisa
Well that you well because that’s transcending the ego on some level right? It’s the ego that is going to so think about legacy and fame and you know things like that and true creativity is should not um, be. Beholden to the ego I think and by the way I remember the metaphor the the metaphor I was thinking of the day and this goes back to the 90 s though. So only 90 s kids at this. So. It’s like it’s sort of like looking at George Michael and his rear and the art became and.

28:23.86
charukaarora
Um, yeah, you did go ahead. Okay.

28:35.16
charukaarora
Okay.

28:40.80
Lisa
Always associating him with whamm wake me up before you go you know with the big hair and he was wearing shorts but you know I mean that would be doing such a desurface to the artistity later and.

28:47.46
charukaarora
Ah, yeah.

28:51.67
charukaarora
This was right.

28:56.79
Lisa
I mean I don’t put myself at all in the same category as George Mark Michael because I I do think he became ah again like a brilliant artist. Ah but you know the experience would be the same and it’s just as for I feel that I have contributed and said a lot more. But then you see I mean.

29:06.61
charukaarora
Um, yeah, absolutely.

29:16.51
Lisa
I Think the world you have to separate it out as an artist. There’s the aspect of popularity and pandering to the gallery which is what lyia is about and then art is simply about I feel you know being compelled.

29:19.23
charukaarora
Right? Yes, yeah.

29:34.85
Lisa
To express something regardless of whether somebody’s accepting it or not or going to see it or not these are again 2 opposing forces. They don’t always intersect and you know that’s why probably a lot of the things that I’ve done later on in life are not going to be.

29:37.45
charukaarora
Going to see it. Yeah, yeah, absolutely is absolutely.

29:53.30
Lisa
Seen on a mass level and that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s that I don’t necessarily want to be called the offering girl for the rest of my life and.

29:54.18
charukaarora
Yeah.

30:02.81
charukaarora
Yeah, but you know you know like you said this is another common myth and I think a lot of ah something that artists do struggle with a lot. Um, you know the downside and the upside of being.

00:00.65
charukaarora
Okay, yeah, we’ve spoken about your journey being a writer. Ah, but now what you’re doing is even more exciting. You know in the world of art and you know the platform that you’re ah building and called the upside space. Can you talk a little bit about.

00:08.20
Lisa
For her.

00:19.42
charukaarora
What brought you here. What is your intention. What’s really happening. It’s It’s really interesting to see I Really love to you know, learn more about it.

00:30.18
Lisa
And sure well the upside space First of all is a curated digital art platform and we are definitely bridging between traditional arts and ah digital arts. Um including ts we focus. Only on art from southeast Asia South Asia and the Middle East I’m the co-founder of the platform I other co-founder aishhahan is based not poor and she’s the one who actually brought the concept to me. Um, as I mentioned before I’ve always been art adjacent i’ve.

00:48.94
charukaarora
Yeah, yes, Aishha can yes Okay, yes.

01:07.54
Lisa
Always you know wherever I’ve lived in Hong Kong I used to go to art basil here in Dubai art dubai I love going to all the art fairs in India so it’s always been a passion and I wasn’t sure in the beginning ah to be.

01:18.51
charukaarora
Okay.

01:22.55
Lisa
With my husband who convinced me he said First of all as a creative you have to be open minded. You don’t think like everyone else even though this is the new frontier and we’re talking about nftts um, and again a growing digital movement when it comes to the traditional arts.

01:24.39
charukaarora
Okay.

01:35.62
charukaarora
Yes, right.

01:40.64
Lisa
Um, look right for through your research and be open see if there are actual um, you know legacy problems within the art world that might be addressed by um, by this new technology and it was very true because he’s. Over the years grumble about a few issues within traditional art world and many are familiar with whether it’s keeping the lack of access to artists. Ah by collectors. Um, you know, kind of the whiff of elitism, etc, etc.

02:00.28
charukaarora
Yeah, and right.

02:08.73
charukaarora
Um, absolutely.

02:16.77
Lisa
So This definitely represents a kind of great democratisation of art but at the same time can be a great enabler for each individual artist to be able to you know generate an income on their own. To take control of their own narrative in the same way that I wrote my book because it was really important for me to take control of my narrative. So you’re telling your own story and even for us storytelling is very very important. That’s why we chose to partner with renowned curators and curators obviously can.

02:44.20
charukaarora
Absolute.

02:48.38
Lisa
Perform many different forms. Not only traditional art curators. So we have some traditional art curators that are a main thing you know, um, a curator can be anyone with a point of view to be honest, a musician designer um yourself as well Charuka you know, um I’d be really in.

02:51.15
charukaarora
And and.

02:56.97
charukaarora
Absolutely.

03:03.23
charukaarora
Yes.

03:07.53
Lisa
In singing what somebody brings to the table in terms of group of curation plus with this digital movement. We um have a possibility of improving access to art movements like in places like Bhutan or Laos or place.

03:09.24
charukaarora
Absolutely.

03:23.28
charukaarora
Yeah, um.

03:25.52
Lisa
Where you know collectors would not traditionally look or they don’t necessarily have the access to so we’re very proud. Did I invite people onto the platform. You know at no obligation but I like seeing our platform as a place of discourse and Discovery and we’ve been getting.

03:28.51
charukaarora
Absolutely.

03:41.63
charukaarora
Um, yes.

03:45.14
Lisa
Wonderful feedback. We were actually at art Dubai one year ago today we’ve um we participated in Mumbai gallery weekend we were at art fair and you know the response has been wonderful and overwhelming now having said that I will be very frank.

03:50.47
charukaarora
Yes I saw that.

04:03.48
Lisa
As a co-founder and say that in general the market has been slow and I a little bit ahead of the curve and
and we’re very happy about that But Cleek I take the commercial aspect out of it.

04:07.38
charukaarora
Yeah, um, yeah.

04:19.39
charukaarora
Out of it.

04:22.80
Lisa
Come for the upside space to be dazzled by the art and the stories that we’re sharing and ultimately that’s what is seeing a movement even in India where there’s a lot of archiving going on also a traditional art where you have math right? You know out of Bangalore. That’s also going still.

04:26.47
charukaarora
I Love that.

04:32.74
charukaarora
Right? right? yes.

04:42.52
Lisa
Um, and you know we need to do that in order to be able to attract a new a new demographic and to also sustain our practices and be able to present them and archive them for future generations if this often makes it much easier to be able to collect the art.

04:53.28
charukaarora
Yeah, yeah.

05:01.45
Lisa
And in some cases what we do is We include the physical piece for free when you purchase the digital piece of art. So it’s been a huge deep learning curve I’ve really enjoyed every aspect of it I take I’m I’m the creative side of it in terms of you know from set side.

05:12.50
charukaarora
Okay, what what does your day to day role look like.

05:21.57
Lisa
Um, percent get involved with you know the yeah commercial side or the tech side. That’s my cofounder Aisha and you know we’ve been used to work with an incredible curatorial lead Natasha Jaing who has yeah.

05:24.34
charukaarora
Um, yeah, okay Natasha this yeah she does wonderful work.

05:37.63
Lisa
Knowledge in India and you know a lot of integrity and a very similar point of view and we also have rafi out of Singapore um, so huge learning curve as I said and I really enjoyed conceptualizing and putting together the upside space and again as I said it’s been.

05:41.66
charukaarora
Yeah.

05:51.60
charukaarora
I love 9

05:56.24
Lisa
I Guess one in my heart’s desire to be able to put together gallery and it just so happens that this gallery is a digital gallery.

05:59.82
charukaarora
Yeah, you know what’s exciting I think you’ve rightly said it at the time that you you know where you’re sitting right? Now. It’s just crystallizing like you said in the 90 s where the fashion and the entertainment that was crystallizing I think we’re sitting in a point where we’re all anticipating how this is going to. Turn out the whole digital world and what’s even more exciting I feel like India being in the southeastation belt I think is even more exciting at you know where we are because you know see the craftsmanship of India and the work that we see in Bhutan you know the entire belt. Is getting the welldeserd recognition that you know that should have for all these years. But if you see it’s not only in the southeast Asia but we’re going global and very much global where people truly understand and admire the heritage that we have and I just when I look at these projects and I feel like.

06:41.39
Lisa
And.

06:55.26
charukaarora
You know it’s just not the contemporary art. But also how the contemporary art can bring the heritage back and take it forward and making sure that we’re carrying our culture and putting the right eyes on it and also making sure. Yeah.

07:00.56
Lisa
And.

07:08.78
Lisa
And and reagining and at the same time reimagining and reinventing your modes of expression. Um, that’s been very satisfying. We had a wonderful um exhibition called in search of the davy for do but and it is.

07:11.44
charukaarora
Right? Exactly right.

07:20.43
charukaarora
Yeah, oh Wow I Love that idea I saw one of the work on the website. Actually I did.

07:26.18
Lisa
Please see a it with but yeah, please see that particular exhibition. 1 of my personal favorites curated by Shre Moi um Butachera who’s actually um, you know she runs an incredible Pr and marketing firm.

07:38.43
charukaarora
Hacks.

07:43.70
Lisa
But has also been a collector for many years has exquisite taste and she found you know a lot of traditional um artists whether it’s batha chitra whether it’s also um, the um, ah. The ones sorry I can’t remember it’s just escaping me the name but you know all these traditional modes of expression and you see please see what what we’ve managed to create in that exhibition.

08:00.72
charukaarora
In credicial crafts. Yeah callkari. Yeah no I I highly recommend and we’ll make sure that we’re adding it all the links are being added in the show notes of the lay of the website so you make sure you do do. Go to upside upside space so that you can check the exhibits. Okay, any last parting worth lisar you want to share with us before we wind this up because a a lot of inspiring artists are young girls also mature girlss. But also I think um, they I think. You know what’s unique about the middle age where a lot of our listeners come from. Let’s say 20 late 20 s to early 30 s and forty s where I think you, you’ve shed the layer that you were you know when you’re young enough. There’s a lot of validation. We’re looking for um and you know but also in the middle. You’re still confused. Do you? You know that the voice you had before isn’t the true voice and you’re starting to rediscover who you are but you still have a long way to go. So do you have any of your wise words to share with us before we wind it.

09:10.41
Lisa
I I think you put it beautifully to be honest I’m I’m somewhat allergic to you know, sort of these aphors maybe because on social media. We keep seeing these 1 or two lineers. Oh that’s amazing.

09:19.62
charukaarora
Yeah, too many rises.

09:26.35
Lisa
I Honestly don’t keep exploring never stop exploring and by that I mean the world and who you are. There’s no expiry date for exploring as an artist and as a human being and everybody is creative I don’t care what you to earn your money. But again I think that living day-to-day is a creative act.

09:36.93
charukaarora
Yes.

09:46.26
Lisa
And embrace that and be proud of that and never stop exploring.

09:48.36
charukaarora
Amazing. Thank you so much Lisa thank you so much. It is truly an honor to talk to you. Thank you so much for so vulnerable sharing your journey. Thank you so much. Any last do you want to add any links for us for people to redirect where can they find you.

09:54.36
Lisa
Well um, know that I been all best to you as well.

10:07.54
charukaarora
Upside Scale We’ll make sure we link ah all the projects where duly needed. Thank you I Just need one moment for me. Why I just in one moment.

10:09.50
Lisa
Yeah, yeah, thank you! Thanks so much have a great. Okay.


About the Guest(s):

Lisa is an actor, writer and the co-founder of The Upside Space, a curated digital art platform that bridges the gap between traditional and digital arts. With a passion for art and storytelling, Lisa aims to democratize art and provide artists from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East with a platform to showcase their work. She brings her creative expertise to the platform and is dedicated to creating a space for discourse and discovery.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, host Charuka Arora interviews Lisa, co-founder of TheUpsideSpace, a curated digital art platform. Lisa shares her journey as a writer and how she became involved in the art world. She discusses the concept behind TheUpsideSpace and its mission to bridge the gap between traditional and digital arts. Lisa explains how the platform focuses on art from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East, and how it aims to democratize art and provide artists with a platform to generate income and take control of their own narrative. She also highlights the importance of storytelling and the role of curators in the digital art movement. Lisa shares her experiences participating in art fairs and exhibitions and the positive feedback they have received. She acknowledges the challenges of the market but emphasizes the importance of the art and stories shared on TheUpsideSpace.

Key Takeaways:

  • TheUpsideSpace is a curated digital art platform bridging the gap between traditional and digital arts.
  • The platform focuses on art from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
  • TheUpsideSpace aims to democratize art and provide artists with a platform to generate income and take control of their own narrative.
  • Curators play a crucial role in the digital art movement, bringing their unique perspectives and expertise to the platform.
  • The platform seeks to improve access to art movements in lesser-known regions and attract a new demographic of collectors.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Living day-to-day is a creative act. Embrace that and be proud of that and never stop exploring.” – Lisa
  • “TheUpsideSpace is a place of discourse and discovery, where art and stories are shared.” – Lisa
  • “Digital art can be a great enabler for artists to generate income and take control of their own narrative.” – Lisa
  • “The digital art movement represents a great democratisation of art.” – Lisa
  • “We need to improve access to art movements in places where collectors traditionally wouldn’t look.” – Lisa

Charuka Arora is the founder of the Arts to Hearts Project and Host of the Arts to Hearts Podcast. She is also an acclaimed Indian artist known for her contemporary embellished paintings. Her unique blend of gouache, collage, embroidery, painting, and drawing explores the intersection of art, culture, heritage, and womanhood. Through her work, she tells stories of female strength and encapsulates them in pieces that can be treasured for generations.

 Arts to Hearts Project Gallery + Studio

Charuka’s work draws inspiration from Hindu mythology, recognizing women as vessels of Shakti, the cosmic energy. She beautifully portrays powerful goddesses like Durga Maa riding a tiger or lion, symbolizing their unlimited power to protect virtue and combat evil.

Through her art, Charuka invites us into the world of women, showcasing their beauty, strength, and resilience. Her creations not only exhibit exceptional talent but also serve as an inspiration and a symbol of hope for those challenging societal norms.

About Arts to Hearts Project Gallery + Studio

Arts to Hearts Podcast is a show delving into the lives and passions of renowned artists. From running creative businesses and studio art practices to cultivating a successful mindset, Charuka Arora engages in heartfelt conversations with her guests. Experience your personal happy hour with your favorite artists, right in your studio.

Through candid discussions, Charuka and her guests reveal the joys and challenges of a vibrant creative life, both within and beyond our studios. Get ready to be inspired and uplifted as you tune in.

Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray is a cross cultural pioneering creative; an award-winning actor, accomplished author and writer, philanthropist, art collector and aficionado, international keynote speaker, and co-founder of TheUpsideSpace

In parallel to her career in the creative arts, Lisa has nurtured a passion for contemporary artistic expression in India and across Asia. In the roles of both patron and enthusiast, she has cultivated a relationship with the visual arts realm over a span of three decades. Shortly after relocating to the UAE, Lisa began engaging with the philosophy underpinning Web3, understanding how decentralisation returns autonomy to artists and the promise it holds for artists, curators, and collectors. Currently based in Dubai, she is working on her next book while focusing on building TheUpsideSpace into an inclusive art ecosystem that combines tech with contemporary cultural heritage to break barriers associated with the traditional art ecosystem.

Before she was an actor, Lisa was a collector of Indian art. Being a 17-year-old in Mumbai during the 90s is something that played a huge role in Lisa’s creative journey. She calls that time a “wonderful period of exploration”.

Looking at her professional life, one would think that Lisa loves the spotlight, but surprisingly, she is someone who likes to observe the world from a corner. While she has always been interested in self-expression, it was the world of art that truly dazzled her. As she mentions, art has always been a passion of Lisa’s. Whether she lived in Hong Kong, Dubai, or India, she made sure to attend art fairs and keep in touch with the art world. Lisa always wanted to put together a gallery, but according to her, running a physical gallery takes a particular skill set and stamina. However, things worked out perfectly for her when she was able to open her own online gallery, TheUpsideSpace.

Publishing her memoir

Writing is not something that happened for Lisa recently, as she has been writing since the age of 10. Do you still call yourself a writer if you have never published your work? This is a debate that Lisa thinks applies to every creative endeavor. Will someone be considered a painter only when they display their work in a gallery?! So, Lisa didn’t really have to transition from her role of being an actor to a writer, because, to her, writing comes naturally. There was nothing conscious about it, as for her, “the creative process is simply creative process”.

Lisa would have preferred to start with fiction, but it was her cancer diagnosis that led publishers to approach her for her story. A lot of Lisa’s time and labor went into her book, on which she spent a year as she made the finishing touches. Once the book came out, Lisa was glad to have taken control of her own story.   

For so much of my life other people were telling me who I was, and now as an artist I’m telling you who I am.

Lisa Ray – Arts to Hearts podcast s04e010

Showing vulnerability as an artist

The job of an actor is to put themselves fully out there, and Lisa has done justice to that role. The way she approached acting has always been deeply personal, and she was never hesitant to be vulnerable in front of the camera.

I’m familiar with the process of vulnerability. Be vulnerable as an actor, there’s no other way around it.

Lisa Ray – Arts to Hearts podcast s04e010

It is not just in her reel life that Lisa has been vulnerable, but also in her real life. Lisa was one of the first Indian personalities to talk about cancer because all she wanted to do was to live openly. For her, sharing herself and speaking her truth felt cathartic as she felt weary and tired of being labeled as this glamorous figure, which she is not!

I believe that pain is an essential part of life, and as an artist if you’re scared of pain, you can’t produce good art.

Lisa Ray – Arts to Hearts podcast s04e010

Co-founding TheUpsideSpace

As someone who enjoyed art, Lisa was not unaware of the cracks that exist in the art world. It is no secret that artists can sometimes find it hard to get their work across to the right people or reach the right audience. Many artists also feel that there is a touch of elitism where not everyone can find a place at the table, and that troubled Lisa. It was her husband who made her realize that she could do something if she put her mind to it.

As a creative, all Lisa had to do was be open-minded and do some research. Change does not happen in our comfort zone, and if you want to break barriers, you need to think outside of the box. That is what Lisa did when she identified the legacy problems within the art world and felt that there was a need for change. Now, it was time to introduce something a little different than the traditional way.

Another major problem that many artists have faced is the idea of managing their careers in a way that also puts food on their table. Whether it is the general perception of society or the ability to be able to navigate their way through the art world, artists desperately need a platform that treats them fairly. Lisa calls her venture a kind of ‘democratization of art’. She wants to enable artists (regardless of their background) to be able to generate income on their own and to take control of their narrative. Once given the chance and the opportunity, artists are very much capable of telling their own stories in the best possible way and that’s why, TUS also makes sure to partner up with renowned curators who can bring about that positive change.

Lisa’s advice for artists

For aspiring artists who are confused about their creative journey, Lisa has some wise words to share. She takes a leaf out of her own book and says that the best way to approach life is by exploring the world that you are in.

Never stop exploring.

Lisa Ray – Arts to Hearts podcast s04e010

Coming from someone who wears multiple hats, it’s safe to say that Lisa’s words hit the nail on the head. Despite making it as an actor, she went on to publish her own book and then entered the art world to bring about tangible change. For Lisa, living day-to-day is a creative act, and she has proved that with the life she is leading. It is only by moving forward and exploring as an artist that we can hope to achieve something truly magnificent!

If you find yourself fascinated by Lisa’s venture and what TUS does, you’re not wrong. Even for Lisa, starting an online gallery proved to be a huge learning curve. With TheUpsideSpace, Lisa and her team want to improve access to art movements in places like Bhutan and Laos where normally art collectors would not look. Just because a place seems out of sight and hard to access, doesn’t mean that it does not have potential. Lisa wants to uncover that potential and make sure that no one is left out of the conversation. While TUS has found patrons and collectors, Lisa admits that they are ahead of the curve and have to do a lot of explaining every now and then.

Recently, TheUpsideSpace had an exhibition ‘In Search of the Devi’, which Lisa calls one of her personal favorites. Curated by Srimoyi Bhattacharya, it is definitely something you don’t want to miss. You can also check out all the other exhibitions on the official website of TheUpsideSpace.

To read up more about Arts to Hearts Podcast and its episodes, click here.


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