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Michelle Poonawalla exhibits at Tao Art Gallery as a part of Textures and Layers
- 17th Dec 2020
The festive month of December promises some hustle in the art community as the Tao Art Gallery, a well-recognized brand in the Mumbai art space has come up with its first post-Covid physical exhibition Textures and Layers, opening on the 16 December in Mumbai.
Curated by Sanjana Shah and Sapna Kar, the exhibition celebrates the gallery’s return to physical shows presenting works that carry a strong presence and explore what it means to physically engage with the artwork.
The exhibition witnesses Michelle Poonwalla’s first exhibition in India this year alongside work by five leading artists including Revati Sharma Singh, Kisalay Vora, Jaideep Mehrotra, Kalpana Shah and Shruti Jhaveri.
Tao’s exhibition has finally rejoiced the moment for an artist to step out of the virtual world into a physical one, share and involve all the viewers with their imagination and experiences they have experienced over a few months of isolation.
Understanding how this exhibition could be a special one, here is a brief conversation with the extremely talented artist Michelle Poonawalla herself, who lives and works between London, UK, and Pune, India. Poonawalla’s works explore universal, socially engaged topics that resonate with a diverse range of audiences, creating powerful memories and moving experiences.
The pandemic has seen a lot of digital art. How do you think a physically engaging artwork event will rekindle the good old spirit of witnessing art?
Physically witnessing an event or an art piece can never be replaced, an experience needs to be felt, the paintings, the textures, space all need to be felt. Even the scales of the room/art piece is important to create the experience. A digital show, of course, is the next best thing.
Every pandemic, be it 1920’s Spanish flu or 1950’s influenza has inspired art, literature, fashion and has given rise to the incredible 1930s and roaring 1960s. How do you see you and your art being inspired?
Art is driven by experiences, what is happening around and what ignites the artist’s senses. Lockdown was a challenging experience for everyone but it also gave me time to reflect and focus on my painting including new work such as a bold impasto painting called Indian Summer. The work was inspired by the vibrant colours of the Gulmohar trees with their striking orange-red flowers - which I could see around me in my garden - and which I hope inspire positivity in everyone.
I’ve also produced work more directly addressing issues and challenges we face as a society, many of which have been exacerbated by Covid. These include a series of short films which explore scarce water resources and climate change.
Art is like a conversation – it can be simple for some yet complicated for many. What would you like your current series of art to converse about?
The work I am showing at Tao explores our return to physical exhibitions. They are very sculptural works that expand beyond the canvas and into the viewer's space. I hope the work encourages the viewer to engage with them, to look at them in different angles, different lights, explore the shadows they create as light reflects off them.
The works also show my butterfly motif which for me reflects both beauty and transience as the ephemeral creature metamorphosizes. I hope people can reflect on the beauty of the works but also recognise our need to protect the precious beauty of things around us like nature.
Your art portrays movement. Can we throw some light on your thought process behind amalgamation of art and sculpting?
I don’t perceive a major difference between painting and sculpting. For me, art is meant to be beautiful and the sculptural elements and movement in my paintings reflect this. It allows me to create new shapes that don’t just sit in the frame but come out into the viewer's space and create shadows and plays of light.
This is shown most prominently in my digital art which blends the two. Digital art has allowed me to create huge immersive installations where the viewer completely emerges in the visual image. Technology gives an artist the freedom to explore endless possibilities; it allows a greater feeling. I also think digital art speaks the language of the younger generation and it keeps their interest in art growing.
In this exhibition, Poonawalla’s works include Blue Wave, inspired by the city of Mumbai,
What if you fly! and Mystical Flight which both feature Pooawalla’s signature butterfly
motif - an ephemeral creature that is the result of a metamorphosis - representing both beauty and freedom. Desert Rose which also features butterflies representing the inherent beauty in nature's patterns as the artist allowed them to fall naturally on the work before affixing each one where they landed; and Golden Flutter whose gold plated butterflies are a nod to the artist's recent collaboration with Italian design house Inkiostro Bianco. Alongside these Poonawalla is exhibiting Colours of Life from a new series of abstract paintings produced during the lockdown. The work depicts the artist's garden as a vision of positivity and vibrancy as we look to the future in these difficult times.