Director and art connoisseur Monica Jain of Art Centrix Space presents an art show “Peppery Soliloquies” curated by Georgina Maddox. “Peppery Soliloquies” calls upon these magical, aphrodisiacal powers Spices that evoke a mélange of historical narratives, emotions, tastes, rituals, associations and aromas. The intention behind Peppery Soliloquies is to uncover and investigate the notions and texture of spice through the artworks, while enjoying the serendipitous coming together of these multiple perspectives in a visual medium that usually gives rise to new readings and intuitive interpretations.
The exhibition will feature works of nine artists including sculpturist Arunkumar H G, Karol Antao,Vasundhara Tewari Broota, Lavanya Mani, Kishore Chakraborty,Chetan Mevada, Khanjan Dalal, Meghna Patpatia and Vishwanath Kuttum. It has been estimated through the fields of archaeology, geology and science that the estimated watermark for humankind began to use spices as far back as 50,000 B.C. In different nations across the world spices have come into usage in different ways ranging from the everyday acts of cooking to the mythological and magical qualities of the spice. In a contemporary context where our bio-diversity is under risk it is important to revisit the history and the stories behind various spices, in a contemporary context because of the hidden cloak that is drawn around its production. Where much of the growing and farming of spices is dictated by the commercial undercurrent that affects the biodiversity of our planet. The monoculture that tends to become prevalent because of commerce.
“We have encouraged our artists to explore in contemporary times and trace out the voice of the following aspects our peppery soliloquies employing Art, references Literature, Ancient scripts, history and documents and of course contemporary times, where we examine the influence of species upon the following various aspects of life, from the everyday to the historical, from its aroma and flavour in food to its Ayurvedic usage, from the aphrodisiacal to the mythological, from religious aspects, its medicinal usage. During the Pandemic our artists have turned inwards and created works especially for the show that look at this aspect of the spice trail along the spice trail of India and East Asia,” says Georgina Maddox.
“Peppery stories, grandmas’ recipes, aromas, whiffs of spices. The all too familiar took on a new importance during the pandemic. While eating out was always flavourful, it’s the fragrance of home that became more fulfilling and enticing even as the aromas of distant lands became a distant memory. Art is always connected to life, what we see, observe and feel. Artists remain very connected to the earth, to feelings, thoughts, influences, life, situations, and society and their work reflects their sensitivity to these. This exhibition while incorporating diverse thoughts of the same concept also reflects how works can be more individualistic due to the pandemic. I think the aroma emanating from each work is even more powerful through memory and experience, through missing and savouring. Thus this show relives home and travels equally.” says Ms. Monica Jain, Curatorial Director of Art Centrix Space.
About the works:
Arunkumar H G who has worked on with papier-mâché sculptures of the Star Anise spice that is native to southern China and Vietnam and then came to India with Mughal cuisine, where it is called the chakri phool looks not just at the history of the Colonial around spices but also the contemporary issues around its production because of the commercial undercurrent that dictates and monopolies the biodiversity of our planet.
Karl Antao revisits the erotic nature of spices, where two recumbent flower pots morph into seed like structures and then pods of a flowering garlic plant. He has always found garlic as an interesting spice-root, because it is an aphrodisiac and it has medical properties. “I related it to the gift or space that mother nature offers the act of multiplying, reproducing which may bear fruits or not from the fusing of pollens, but sets a stage of happiness and consent with respect,” says the artist.
Vasundhara Tewari Broota approaches her recurring ‘acrobat’, figure with a new narrative. Here she creates a yogic figure performing the Nataraja Yogic Posture to create a narrative of a multitasking human who balances the fragmented worlds of home and society, who stabilities the spaces of interiority and exteriority, who takes that center-stage and yet is accommodating and understanding. In this work, the dual versions of ‘self’ and ‘other’, places a foot in the real world and another in that world which is spiritual. “I began playing on the idea of spices, herbs and the Ayurvedic healing rituals, to bring new ideas of gentleness to the work, by covering the figure in rose petals, indicating fragrance, beauty and a refreshing rose-tinted flavour,” says Tewari-Broota.
Khanjan Dalal’s work aims to examine the culture of cumin cultivation and lives of farmers in the district of Banaskantha –Gujarat. This district alone contributes to 25-30% of total cultivation of cumin in India. “As a work in progress I shall be adding more stories over the period of 1 or 2 years. The viewer(s) are encouraged to put their hands inside the sculpture to take out one postcard containing a pictured story, which becomes a takeaway part of the sculpture.
Lavanya Mani, who is known to work with traditional Indian craft and textile techniques of kalamkari, embroidery, tie and dye, appliqué, batik etc. in conjunction with painting on cloth. Whilst re-envisioning the histories of colonial power dynamics and trade in her unique textile language, she powerfully creates a new narrative with the cloth as the storyteller. Often questioning the ideas of the ‘Orient’, she has re-contextualised Victorian travellers stories through her lens of discovering dye-making. Mani points out that the infrastructure built around the spice trade and other Colonial forms of exchange, straddled myth, science, natural history, traditional craft as well as art to draw attention to the complex systemic dynamics and interconnections that comprise a living planet.
Kishore Chakraborty explores the flavour of spice through the colour red. “A disillusioned Marxist and a typical Bengali I have enough masala (spice) in my life, where politics is an inhabitable legacy that we inherent by birth which ensnares our very existence and marks its presence through each quantum of thoughts,” says the artist.
Chetan Mevada’s works Market and Vyapara reference the cycle of growth, sale and consumption of the spices like Kastoori Methi, (Fenugreek Leaves), Pudhina (Mint), Bay Leaf and other spice crops are indicated in hidden repetitive and geometric patterns as they appear half peeping out of the earth. “All the forms collaborate in my work of art and create interest and dialogue with the viewer. On a metaphoric level, the abstractions of buildings, plants and human body’s forms indicate the structure and patterns of the crops,” says the artist.
Meghna Patpatia’s painted drawings have their roots in a phenomenon called transverse orientation where all beings are drawn to light, drawing a parallel to the epoch of the Anthropocene in which we live today where consumerism is like a moth to a flame. The natural forms and creatures she renders repeatedly in these drawings are silent witnesses to the changing environs as nature is consumed by the flame of development.