The butterfly effect

Wednesday, 9 October 2013 - 12:27pm IST | Agency: DNA
Interested in the artistic intersection of human and butterfly behaviour, Sharwari Tilloo's installations bravely delve into the discomfort and shame Indian women face in a largely patriarchal society. Her pieces portray the strong, yet vulnerable, state of women using the motif of the beautiful and delicate butterfly. After Hours caught up with the installation artist who is in the city to showcase her latest artwork - Metamorphosed.

We are guessing this is the first time you are showing your work in Bangalore. So, can you tell us a bit about yourself in terms of your work? When did you begin your career?
I started working with clay when I was 10 and by the time I was 18, I knew I wanted to pursue ceramics professionally. I trained under Bal Wad and Nirmala Patwardhan in Pune and Angad Vohra in Auroville. While studying fine arts in Singapore, I injured my hand because of overwork and had to undergo two reconstructive surgeries, which made it difficult for me work with clay. The accident led me to take a hiatus from art for about six years. During which time I worked in education.

Are you someone who believes that art is not just about beauty?  That it is also an effective medium to make a social statement?

Art has changed dramatically over the centuries. Originally, art was purely about beauty or religion, most often mimicking nature. Art itself has gone through a sea of change since then, as has our society. It begs the very fundamental question of what is art really. I personally think it no more just about beauty because art is no more just about representing nature. Yes, it is a powerful medium to make a social statement. Given the visceral nature of art, I believe it has the ability to make hard hitting commentaries on difficult social issues. Take for example Aiwaiwai’s art.

Metamorphosed has an interesting concept, and butterflies are an interesting motif...
Metamorphosed started off as a personal journey. I was going back to art after many years and it only seemed fitting to work with the concept of the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

Papier mâché  seems to be your favorite material. Why? Does it allow you to be versatile? How long does it take you to create a papier mâché installation? Is it labor intensive too?

A few years back, I was introduced to papier mâché by a friend, thinking it would give me a chance to get back to art without hurting my hand. Papier mâché is very similar constitutionally to clay, and yet easier on my hand. People think of handicrafts when one says papier mâché but I want to change that perception by using it to create contemporary studio art. I apply ceramic techniques to creating large installation pieces with it. It surprises me that more studio artists are not using this wonderful medium to create contemporary art. It is very labor intensive. One piece takes anything between one to three months to complete.

Are butterflies leitmotifs you use in your works? What does a butterfly embody to you?  How long did it take for you to work on this series?
It is the first time I am working with butterflies. I have been working on this series for the last three years. Butterflies are very complex creatures, and often, their complexity is overlooked because of their beauty. This series is steeped in research. Through my research of butterflies, I found many parallels between human and butterfly behavior, thus drawing analogies that could speak about different topics. They are extremely strong, resilient creatures, and very sophisticated in their anatomy.

Installation art has this quality to inspire but also astound people. What do you love most about this medium?

As a viewer, I love exactly that — that it can inspire me, astound me, awe me and just evoke multitudinous emotions. As an artist, I love the freedom it gives me to explore space and concepts. I feel one has no boundaries while working on an installation and that gives the power to really open up my mind and challenge me. Technically, again, I love the challenge it provides me — how am I going to create a stable and strong piece? How will I install it? It really makes the grey cells work and that, I really love.

If your works could speak, what would you wish they conveyed to the audience?
I don’t want to dictate what the audience should see in my art. If my work evokes some emotions, any emotions, then to me my work is successful.

Be at Chitrakala Parishath, from October 12-20, 10am-6pm

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