Artist Rithika Merchant, who gained this yr’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 reveals two figures wanting in reverse instructions. “Two selves stand in conversation. One has returned from the future with a warning of the doom that lies ahead if we do not change our ways,” says Merchant, who was just lately awarded the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize on the 2021 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Saudade gained the best marks from the jury for a lady artist out of 700 entries from Iran to Japan. “This piece evokes the bitter-sweet feeling my generation has when we think about the past and the future,” she says.

Saudade was half of an exhibition held in Mumbai earlier this yr referred to as ‘Birth of a New World’. While the exhibition was ostensibly in regards to the

apocalyptic results of local weather change, its title alluded to a compelling dialog world wide. The Birth of the New World is a 360-foot bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus positioned in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which reveals 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 a whole bunch of natives whereas amassing wealth. But there’s additionally a up to date debate on how imperialism and capitalism tie into the discourse on local weather change: that a number of wealthy folks, nations and firms are destroying the planet.

Eruptions of hearth

Merchant’s present present in Berlin focuses on feathered — or winged — girls.

She attracts on winged spirits, Peris, from Persian mythology. In the unique 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, reveals small eruptions of hearth beneath the fragile, blooming flowers. The work suggest a freedom that exists past the confines of standard views.

Merchant’s curiosity in myths started when she learn Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. “I have always been very interested in narratives, myths and received histories. I am also interested in how these different fragments are woven together to form a complete image. Most cultures use imagery to tell stories and represent ideas. I try to use these ancient means of storytelling in a more contemporary context. Myth-making brings humanity back to the centre of concern, unlike science, which places humans as part of a greater scheme. Much as science gives an accurate description of humanity, it takes away the spiritual power given to every human to understand their own destiny,” she says.

Links to the previous

Merchant’s work is full of literary allusions, up to date world occasions, worldwide mythology, feminist references, botanical drawings and folks artwork. She makes use of symbols from epics — Greek, Indian, Portuguese — in addition to folks artwork and science fiction to weave parallel narratives throughout societies to indicate hyperlinks to our collective previous.

Her pretty huge work look acquainted and unique directly. The supplies she makes use of, akin to cut-paper collages, embroidery hoops, jute string, mom of pearl buttons, and different family supplies, add to a way of familiarity. “The whole tradition of craftmaking by women is to me a very powerful thing,” she says. “Incredibly gifted girls artists akin to Leonora

Carrington and Remedios Varo used loads of these supplies and so they have been kind of brushed away as issues that simply girls have been considering; however they made these profound work that made a lot sense on this planet 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 completely 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 nearly insurmountable problem to the planet and the alternatives we have now to make to save lots of future generations. The exhibition took this dialog to its subsequent logical step after the Anthropocene: rising water ranges, space-travel, gateways to a unique time, in addition to Kalki bringing again a less complicated, extra optimistic age, ending the despairing Kali Yuga.

Merchant has seen each industrial and important 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 full of esoteric and non secular symbols, in addition to botanical photographs for Chloé’s summer time 2018 assortment. This collaboration earned her the Young Achiever of the Year on the Women of the Year 2018 Awards from Vogue.

Galerie LJ, Paris, showcased Merchant in spring 2019, first with a gaggle present after which with a solo present in December 2019. Her subsequent group exhibition will probably be held in Brussels in 2021, adopted by a solo present in Paris in 2022. “Perhaps the very first detail that caught my eye was her use of colour, then almost immediately, the narrative aspect of her works and their composition. She is a great colourist,” says Galerie LJ founder Adeline Jeudy. “Her style is figurative, narrative. We could probably call her a graphic artist, because she works with lines, outlines and compositions, on paper. She often says in interviews that she is a citizen of the world and that’s true, you can see it in her work.”



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