Sacha Jafri is a man on a mission. This British-born, Dubai-based artist’s dream is to bring ‘love and empathy’ back to the realm of art and to the world at large. And his ambition extends well beyond earthly boundaries, as evidenced by his remarkable feat in December when one of his heart-shaped artworks (made of lunar-resilient alloy and depicting a reconnected humanity, with a couple holding hands within a flourishing new world) was sent to the moon—it was a first.
Sacha has a knack for grand gestures, which has earned him the title ofan artist of ‘many firsts.’ An exponent of “magical realism in art,” the 46-year-old boasts an enviable portfolio, having been commissioned to make portraits of such notable figures as King Charles, Sachin Tendulkar, David Beckham and Virat Kohli. His collectors and collaborators include Bill Gates, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Will Smith, Warren Buffet, Lionel Messi and Leonardo DiCaprio. What’s more, during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 he found ample time to paint what has come to be known as ‘The World’s Largest Art Canvas.’ Sacha’s gargantuan original floor canvas, which spanned over 17,000 square feet, set a Guinness Record. The final painting—fashioned out of the salvageable sections from this huge piece—was titled The Journey of Humanity and was later auctioned for $62m. In 2022, the father of two broke further new ground by unveiling his art on the Burj Al-Arab helipad, making it a first-of-its-kind exhibition in the UAE.
Soulful Connection With Art
When Sacha greets HELLO! at his swanky gallery-cum-studio in the industrial chic neighbourhood of Al Quoz (a hop-skip from Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s art mecca), one of the first things we ask him is about his mountain of achievements and accomplishments. “To break records—well that’s never the plan when I set out on a new project,” smiles the 46-year-old, dressed stylishly in a T-shirt, jeans and a paint-splattered hat.
He has a gentle demeanour and frequently frames his sentences in spiritual terms as he shares insights into his creative process. “I don’t paint because I want to. I paint because I have to,” quips the man who dreams in colour.
His paintings are like energy fields and the mysterious forces of inspiration, he insists, can hit anytime. “Human beings are over-complicated and art is over-complicated as well. We are full of questionable intentions but we don’t realise that our thoughts, integrity and energies make us who we are. I believe if you focus on living a life of grace, with love, humility and kindness and if you are willing to purify your intentions, then every now and then you will borrow a moment from the universe and something magical will happen. It will spill out of you,” he declares, adding, “Vibrations are incredibly important and powerful. As an artist, I enter a deep meditative state every time I work on a canvas and when inspiration strikes, the energy seems to literally burst from the surface.”
His work, he reminds us, is a reflection of his soul and he hopes that it will also have a similar effect on the viewers. Sacha’s art is a vibrant symphony of colours and to achieve its evocative effects he often creates his own signature shades and tints.
He says, “My paintings have completely new textures and that’s why when you look at my work there are colours in it that you feel you haven’t seen before.” Comparing himself to a conductor in an orchestra, he adds, “Colours must blend seamlessly and harmoniously. Remember that there’s a fine line between sound and noise. If one guy is out of tune the whole thing could be a potential mess.”
Ask him for his take on abstract expressionism and whether he considers himself as its exponent and Sacha replies firmly, “At first glance, my work may look like abstraction but when you look deeply there’s a narrative and everyone who sees it will pick up a different
narrative. It’s not like an abstract expressionist painter who’s on a mad colour binge nor like a surrealist who’s tapping into the unconscious mind. Rather than using logic and intellect, my work is more lyrical and has a strong connection to human emotions and intuitive stimulation.”
In addition to being an artist, Sacha takes pride in and thrives on his identity as a philanthropist. In partnership with high-profile celebrities the world over, he has helped raise millions of dollars towards charitable causes.
Sacha’s first love, however, is cricket. No wonder, he enjoyed painting odes to Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli—the latter portrait celebrating a decade of Kohli’s IPL journey was auctioned off at a charity dinner organised by the Virat Kohli Foundation in 2017 (the painting was later purchased for a whopping $4.5m at a charity ball in London).
On The Call Of Cricket And Defining Success
Sacha was born and brought up in England but traces his ancestry to India through his father’s side of the family who lived for a time in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh until the Partition drove them to Pakistan. “In some ways, I have remained close to India thanks to my charitable work with underprivileged Indian children (his painting Spirit of India pays homage to the resilience to slum kids) and of course, cricket. I made friends with the boys—Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rahul Dravid,” smiles Jafri, whose modernist painting chronicling the history of the Ashes series hangs at the iconic Lord’s cricket ground in London.
“It’s nice to have that cricket connection back through my art. Sometimes, I do miss the idea of being a cricketer, especially when I am watching a Test match I am like, ‘Come on, guys. Just give me the ball’,” laughs the Eton and Oxford University graduate, who, at the age of 22, bid farewell to his cricket dreams and fully embraced his commitment to art.
Over the decades, Sacha has proved himself to be a successful artist who leads a jet-setting lifestyle and hob-nobs with some of the biggest personalities in the world (not to mention the fact that the value of his paintings continue to soar). Yet, he claims he’s not interested in either fame or commercial rewards and finds his work to be still his greatest passion. “I measure success differently now,” he admits, in a moment of quiet introspection. “We are always trying to chase success, happiness and wealth which is ironic because I think human beings are on this planet only to find love. Everything else is a distraction. That’s what we are here for and we are all searching for love without even realising it.”
Sacha is a father of two young daughters (Talia is 13 and Indi is eight) and few things in the world give him more joy than fatherhood. “Indi has been coming to my studio and painting alongside me since she was nine months old. The thing that she enjoys the most is getting all the colours and the paints and bringing them over to me. She’s like an assistant and that’s really fun,” he says, adding, “Talia is more sporty but what is important is that they both love art.
Photos: Pyong Sumaria
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s January 2024 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!