Talking Spaces showcases 28 artistes in biggest Chennai showcase post lockdown
Varsha Menon, daughter of celebrated artist Thejomaye Menon, curates a first-of-its-kind exhibition that marries art to design at Forum Art Gallery
It’s not very often that an art collection is curated by an artist and when that artist turns out to be a designer and the showcase being curated also celebrates design — you know you’re in for a treat! That’s if you’re art and design inclined.
Chennai has always been known as an artsy city, but the art scene has been on the decline for quite some time now. With showcases and exhibitions, few and far between, it becomes a one-off event on the social calendar and most people prefer to party the night away instead. The COVID lockdown has only furthered this lack of interest.
Varsha Menon, who curates this upcoming exhibition in Chennai, however, feels otherwise. “What you’ve pointed out is true, but I also believe that this lack of interest is changing slowly. Youngsters are very aware of the importance of art and good design and are able to appreciate the value of good art and well-designed spaces. This was also one of the main reasons I sought to do this show. I want people of all ages to be able to walk in and admire and appreciate the creative arts that this city has to offer. In Talking Spaces, revered artists have been paired up with young designers — this has been intentionally done to appeal to a wider crowd and a younger crowd. As such, the show has a little bit of everything and something for everyone.”
Talking Spaces is a design show which resourcefully seeks to integrate the raw honesty of art with the receptivity of design. Showcasing the works of 14 artists and 14 designers from Chennai, this careful collaboration between artists and designers draws on the blurry lines that separate the two diverse but related fields.
“Art and design have always had an age-old comparison and numerous debates have been had on which holds greater regard. I believe that great design is, first and foremost, art. Design has to follow function for it to be practical and useable in a spatial context. Art doesn’t. But art has the liberty to transcend the limitations of function — to engage the intellectual. It has the freedom to be so honest that it makes the viewer stop and reflect. This is the approach I take in all things I design as well. As I have grown up surrounded by art due to my mother Thejomaye Menon being an artist, it has influenced me deeply. I have always strived to find the balance between the two and truly believe that art and design go hand in hand. I have put together creations from two different fields — the fine and the applied arts — to work together on a common platform, in an attempt to challenge each other creatively and to think outside the box. What you will see exhibited in Talking Spaces is a showcase of this unique and interesting collaboration,” shares Varsha.
So how did she choose her artists/designers? “Well, one of the major perks of having an artist mother is that you share a personal relationship with some of the most talented and revered artists in our city. I have had the privilege of knowing all of them personally as I grew up watching and admiring their works. For my debut show, I wanted to showcase works of the artists I knew personally. Most of the designers participating in the show are friends, classmates, and peers. All of them are young designers of the city — people whose works I also follow closely and admire. So, I would say Talking Spaces is, in essence, a conversation or a dialogue between old friends and new,” explains the talented curator.
The exhibition will clearly be the first of its kind. Bringing together two diverse disciplines and curating them together will be an experience that any true art aficionado can look forward to.
“It is truly created with the intention of bringing something unique to the city for people to experience; to understand how creative minds work differently, not only in their own fields but also together, and to witness the beauty that can be created by supporting and collaborating with each other,” concludes Varsha.
The artists being showcased are Asma Menon, AV Ilango, Benitha Perciyal, Biswajit Balasubramanian, Gita Hudson, Hemalatha, Jacob Jebaraj, Kavitha Prasad, Manisha Raju, Thota Tharini, Raju Durshettiwar, Shailesh BO, Shalini Biswajit, and Thejomaye Menon. The designers being featured are Gowri Adappa and Nikhith Ashok from A Design Co. (ADC), Aishwarya Manivannan, Bhogar Studio, Drawing Hands Studio, Faisal Manzur Design Studio, Geeta Sriprakash, LAB x Neon Attic, Shreya Krishnan Design Office, Shruti Biswajit, Studio Context + Kattada Co, Studio Reve, Sunita Yogesh Studio, Uttara + Hari and VM Design Works.
On February 26 & 27, 10.30 pm at Forum Art Gallery, 57, 5th Street, Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, Chennai
My works are usually in earth tones leaning towards crimson. For this exhibition, combining visual artists with architects, the overall concept became challenging and interesting. My inspiration comes from all elements of nature, from the crimson sky to the glowing orange flames from lamps. The motifs and the hues which take shape on my canvases are through reminiscences of the past and present. I do not paint a story but the colours themselves form the story.
The painting is a part of my ‘Symphony’ series. As the name suggests, it is highly influenced by music: rhythm and movement, the many notes and instruments. It is a result of a thoughtful and attentive process, and features spontaneously applied paint, the colours of which are inspired by the seasons.
I am fascinated by the form on the space. I go with them on a voyage of discovery to understand their complexity and simplicity. Finally, I see things existing in the purest of forms. Space and form are interwoven, merged into one another until the original form becomes intangible, imperceptible, sublime…
I desire to bring sculptures into reality as objects which express our dreams, aspirations and which are a part of ourselves. I draw my inspiration from concepts found in nature, birds, and various elements in Hindu mythology. It’s my zeal to bring out a historical significance in each piece and to contextualize ideas from classical narratives within the framework of my personal experience and understanding. It is for the beholder to judge whether I have indeed created a body of work which is both impressive in its presentation and significant in the message that I seek to convey.
My work of art is the reflection of a mind through form and colours and tries to achieve new dimensions to my painting on par with my mental attitude. My paintings are a paradigm for my emotions and intuitions to interplay and interact through the iconic form of the human body. The versatility of the human form finds expression in ‘Yogic feats and Acrobat moves,’ offering balance of spirit and body.
My installation is comprised of two lotus abstracts created in stained glass, which are self-contained within two sister teak wood frames. The two sister frames may be arranged in two different dynamic physical configurations, each configuration resulting in a different flow of the lotus imagery. The imagery seeks to reinterpret Kavitha Prasad’s lotus abstracts through layering and transparency, which are intrinsic to the glass medium.
An Indian Bull is a symbol of brute strength and indomitable spirit. Solid country wood dominates this piece of furniture. The raw demeanour of the wood is left imperfect intentionally to re-create the charred seat of the bull. The bull’s prominence lies in its menacing horns and they dangerously curve to become the armrest. The carved teak wood legs are shaped to represent the greatest asset of this wildling in a bullfight. The raging bull rests its base in black stained wood. The backrest is brought forth in country wood in its natural tone, supported by a base of mild steel inspired from the bull’s hump. All the elements used were retained in their natural texture to embody the bull’s tough exterior.
Pairing pristine native stone and wood with local hand skill, dva is a sculptural form made out of a single block of stone from the Palar river banks. Inspired from yoni and lingam symbolism unique to ancient Indian iconography, this piece represents androgyny in our existence and the life force (light) born from the union of Shiva (being) and Shakti (energy). Hand sculpted by temple artisans in Mahabalipuram, the stone yoni and the Indian walnut wood lingam reconcile the former’s unyielding, creative feminine energy with the latter’s steadfast masculine energy. This contemporary symmetrical structure celebrates form, challenging materiality, and embracing the raw natural textures of these primordial elements. Dva embodies the power of the union, the tenacity of individual energies, and the vitality of balance between male and female sensibilities.