Rithika Merchant (India) was shortlisted for her work Saudade – a work that uses symbolism to form a personal visual vocabulary and reflect on a more primordial time, searching for answers in nature.
What initially drew you to mythology and primordial imagery as inspiration?
My interest in myths began when I read Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. The book really opened my eyes to the universality of the human experience and how it informed many myths. I have always been very interested in narratives, myths and received histories that are available to us. 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.
In the past art and stories were often a way to make sense of natural phenomena and psychological events. In modern times and for the foreseeable future, science gives us a complete explanation for most things. However, it places humans as part of a greater scheme rather than the centre of our own narrative. As much as science gives a more accurate description of humanity it takes away the spiritual power given to every human to understand their own destiny. Myth making brings humanity back to the centre of concern.
What is the significance of creating folds on the surface of your artwork?
I like to refer to the folds on my paintings as the architecture of the artwork, or the scaffolding that I build each piece on. I usually fold the paper before I begin drawing and it serves as a guide for the parts of the piece I want to draw attention to, or sections I want to colour block. I usually make the folds to go along with the composition of the art work. I also like the textured, almost quilted effect it gives the piece. After I finish the painting I fold it back up along the same creases to store it. Often, I am able to fold it into some sort of smaller geometric shape, and the paintings then turns into an object. In this way, the paper itself is part of the narrative.