Artist Rithika Merchant, who received this 12 months’s Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize, dabbles in myths, nostalgia and apocalyptic local weather change
Saudade is the Portuguese phrase for ‘bitter-sweet’. It represents a deep nostalgia or melancholic eager for one thing or somebody absent. Barcelona and Mumbai-based artist Rithika Merchant’s work Saudade exhibits two figures trying in reverse instructions. “Two selves stand in dialog. One has returned from the future with a warning of the doom that lies forward if we don’t change our methods,” says Merchant, who was lately awarded the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize at the 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Saudade received the highest marks from the jury for a girl artist out of 700 entries from Iran to Japan. “This piece evokes the bitter-sweet feeling my era has once we take into consideration the previous and the future,” she says.
Saudade was half of an exhibition held in Mumbai earlier this 12 months known as ‘Birth of a New World’. While the exhibition was ostensibly about the
apocalyptic results of local weather change, its identify alluded to a compelling dialog round the world. The Birth of the New World is a 360-foot bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus positioned in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which exhibits the explorer and his three ships traversing the Atlantic Ocean. Statues like this have been flashpoints in debates on imperialists who tortured, killed and enslaved lots of of natives whereas amassing wealth. But there’s additionally a recent debate on how imperialism and capitalism tie into the discourse on local weather change: that just a few wealthy folks, nations and firms are destroying the planet.
Eruptions of fireplace
Merchant’s present present in Berlin focuses on feathered — or winged — girls.
She attracts on winged spirits, Peris, from Persian mythology. In the authentic myths, Peris have been thought to be fallen angels who have been denied entry into Paradise till they’d repented. But Merchant’s winged girls are proven leaping joyfully as they escape from a scene that seems idyllic at first look however on nearer look, exhibits small eruptions of fireplace beneath the delicate, blooming flowers. The work indicate a freedom that exists past the confines of typical views.
Merchant’s curiosity in myths started when she learn Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. “I’ve at all times been very excited by narratives, myths and acquired histories. I’m additionally excited by how these totally different fragments are woven collectively to kind an entire picture. Most cultures use imagery to inform tales and characterize concepts. I attempt to use these historic means of storytelling in a extra modern context. Myth-making brings humanity again to the centre of concern, not like science, which locations people as half of a higher scheme. Much as science offers an correct description of humanity, it takes away the religious energy given to each human to know their very own future,” she says.
Links to the previous
Merchant’s work is stuffed with literary allusions, modern world occasions, worldwide mythology, feminist references, botanical drawings and people art. She makes use of symbols from epics — Greek, Indian, Portuguese — in addition to people art and science fiction to weave parallel narratives throughout societies to point out hyperlinks to our collective previous.
Her pretty huge work look acquainted and unique directly. The supplies she makes use of, comparable to cut-paper collages, embroidery hoops, jute string, mom of pearl buttons, and different family supplies, add to a way of familiarity. “The entire custom of craftmaking by girls is to me a really highly effective factor,” she says. “Incredibly gifted girls artists comparable to Leonora
Carrington and Remedios Varo used loads of these supplies they usually have been kind of brushed away as issues that simply girls have been excited by; however they made these profound work that made a lot sense in the world then and now. There’s one thing highly effective in reusing scraps to make one thing new. So I make my collages from scrap items I discover round my studio, beating them, placing them collectively, and making this fully new factor.”
Citizen of the world
‘Birth of a New World’, for instance, used 27 work to inform a narrative about this level in historical past when local weather change heralds an virtually insurmountable problem to the planet and the decisions now we have to make to avoid wasting future generations. The exhibition took this dialog to its subsequent logical step after the Anthropocene: rising water ranges, space-travel, gateways to a distinct time, in addition to Kalki bringing again an easier, extra optimistic age, ending the despairing Kali Yuga.
Merchant has seen each industrial and demanding success since 2016 when French designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi noticed her work on Instagram and invited her to design for the well-known Paris model Chloé. Merchant produced work stuffed with esoteric and religious symbols, in addition to botanical photos for Chloé’s summer season 2018 assortment. This collaboration earned her the Young Achiever of the Year at the Women of the Year 2018 Awards from Vogue.
Galerie LJ, Paris, showcased Merchant in spring 2019, first with a bunch present after which with a solo present in December 2019. Her subsequent group exhibition can be held in Brussels in 2021, adopted by a solo present in Paris in 2022. “Perhaps the very first element that caught my eye was her use of color, then virtually instantly, the narrative facet of her works and their composition. She is a superb colourist,” says Galerie LJ founder Adeline Jeudy. “Her fashion is figurative, narrative. We might in all probability name her a graphic artist, as a result of she works with traces, outlines and compositions, on paper. She usually says in interviews that she is a citizen of the world and that’s true, you’ll be able to see it in her work.”
The author is the writer of the fantasy collection Weapons of Kalki, and an professional on South Asian art and tradition.