Written by Yvonne McGahren
Video by Bijan HosseiniDubai
We all know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but artist Amrita Sethi believes a word can be worth a thousand pictures.
Sethi, 40, left a successful career in finance three years ago to concentrate on her passion for art. Based in Dubai, she soon made a name for herself by creating a multimedia art form that she calls “Voice Note Art” — basing her artworks on speech.
She starts each piece by recording herself speaking a word or phrase and producing a computer-generated image of its soundwave, with the unique pattern of peaks and troughs representing the vibrations of her voice.
Sethi then takes that abstract shape and draws over the individual lines to create a picture inspired by the meaning of that word or phrase. For example, for her first Voice Note Art piece, from 2019, she recorded herself saying the word “Dubai” and then painted over the soundwave to show the skyscrapers and landmarks of Dubai’s cityscape.
Amrita Sethi is making NFT voice art
The following year, she created her second Dubai piece. “Other skylines I’ve painted have not changed as rapidly as the Dubai cityscape. I really wanted to show the progression alongside recognition of Dubai’s heritage,” she said.
The idea of making artworks from soundwaves isn’t new. Many companies sell personalized prints of the soundwaves of customers’ voices, while others produce canvases of the soundwaves of popular songs. But Sethi’s artistic interpretation of a waveform is all her own.
As well as painting cities and landmarks, she paints significant moments from people’s lives, based on a name or sentiment.
“I want to be capturing … human consciousness and the emotion that comes from hearing a word or phrase and then presenting it more abstractly,” Sethi said.
Sethi enhances the emotional aspect of her pieces by attaching a QR code (a machine-readable barcode) to the artwork, which enables the viewer to listen to an audio file of the spoken word on their phone or tablet.
What the NFT?
Recently, Sethi has used technology to make an even bigger jump from the physical to the digital world by embracing non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
These digital tokens translate digital works of art (and other collectables) into items that can be bought with cryptocurrencies on the blockchain — a public digital ledger that keeps a record of transactions that can’t be changed. No two NFTs are the same, creating scarcity among artworks that could otherwise be duplicated, and they come with a certificate of authenticity.
Although they have been around for a while, NFTs made headlines in March, when the first virtual NFT artwork to be sold at a major auction house went for $69 million during an online auction.
Sethi’s latest NFT artwork, titled “WTNFT?” (What The NFT?) recently sold for $102,000. It’s a piece that encapsulates the progression of NFTs from a fringe internet phenomenon into the mainstream. The QR code generates an animated version of the artwork, moving around each detail and creating a journey through the evolution of the NFT space and the cryptocurrency world in the process.
“WTNFT?!” by Amrita Sethi.
Credit: Amrita Sethi
“I chose the medium of NFTs and blockchain because my artwork, my Voice Note Art style, is very dynamic,” she said. “So being able to go into the NFT or digital space, I’m able to use technology as a tool to express myself.”
Sethi believes the NFT space can be beneficial in broadening people’s understanding of the digital market.
“NFTs can also be a way for people to start to learn more about the crypto and blockchain space,” she said, “especially for people who may feel they missed the boat on when it all started.”
While some experts predict that the current popularity of NFTs will be a short-lived bubble, Sethi believes it has the potential to revolutionize art.
“We’re going to be seeing a whole new wave of artforms that we were never able to realize before,” she said.