Art exhibition ‘Tongue-In-Cheek’© Rashmi Pote, Srinia Chowdhury, Vishakha Jindal

These Artists Are Imagining ‘Play’ Like Never Before

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the word ‘play’ is the unbridled joy and freedom of those childhood afternoons spent outside, running around and not worrying about the future. But as we grow older, do we lose the meaning and charm behind the word?

This is exactly what curator Bavisha Variginda set out to explore while putting together Tongue-In-Cheek, an exhibition hosted by the online gallery Artflute.

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“Most often the word ‘play’ is associated with kids. But play is how we explore our world, and ourselves in a way that opens up new possibilities, ideas and solutions. And the three women artists do just that and provide us, through their works, a space for play and embark on a new perspective of imagination,” she says.

Artflute’s co-founder Padmaja Nagarur says, “The basic premise is that when we hear the word ‘play’, it’s most often associated with kids or the idea of suspension of reality, never as a deliberate choice for adults. What we wanted to do with the show was to see if we can nudge the spirit of ‘play’ into adults and nurture that feeling. The three featured artists have shown us a direction in which play can be used in different forms.”

The exhibition features the works of three artists, Vishakha Jindal, Rashmi Pote, and Srinia Chowdhury, and lets them explore “the spirit of playfulness, the charm of naivety, and the amusement of satire” through their works.

“(Bavisha) reached out to me on Instagram after seeing my work and she put forward the concept to me about how the entire show is going to be centred around the charm of naivety and playfulness in art. Being a mixed media artist, it really rang through with me and I was very happy to be a part of this. When I saw the other artists’ work, I understood how all of our works come together to embrace the spirit of what the show is about and also flow into each other,” says Pote.

Jindal claims that her art journey has been all about limitless imagination which, she feels, goes hand in hand with ‘play’. “The subject allows me, as an artist, to really dive in and explore what it’s all about and viewers can also let their imaginations run wild. It can really help you think of newer ideas and the world becomes infinite. That for me is really thrilling because I know I will never really get bored with it. Most of the time I’ve noticed that when people interact with my work, there’s a lot of imagination that flows through them. It’s important for me to let them imagine and think for themselves what that artwork means to them at that point of their life,” she says.

For Chowdhury, ‘play’ holds a different meaning altogether. Through her ceramic artworks, she explores themes and issues like the male gaze, gender politics, and prejudices. So to present such themes in a playful tone was a challenge she took on happily. “My work is oftentimes satirical and the themes revolve around social issues, but I don’t like my work to look grotesque. I’d rather send the message more subtly. My works are all bright and colourful to draw people in and slowly unfold the layers that form my art.”

Each artist’s journey has somehow culminated into them arriving at different definitions and explorations of the core theme of Tongue-In-Cheek.

For Pote, her earliest brushes with art as a kid and her background in literature and psychology led her to create art that simplifies complex emotions into bright and whimsical art. She also employs her inherent belief in sustainability in her art, by employing each and every material she comes across in the creation process to her work. This, according to her, lets her explore the limits of her imagination and helped her interpret the theme in her own way.

For Jindal, it has always been about not being restricted to a medium or form of expression in art. Her work is consciously free of all sociocultural contexts so as to encourage the viewer’s imagination and interpretation.

Chowdhury’s technical background in art has helped her subvert expectations through artwork that, at first glance, appears playful and fun but conceals layers that you can unfold as you interact with it.

In the end, Pote summarises what the exhibition is all about and why you should definitely take time out to see it. “When I look at all our works together, I see a curation which would inspire joy. If there’s somebody who is looking for that feeling, then they should definitely check out the exhibition,” she says. Jindal and Chowdhury agree with her, and the latter adds, “Joy is definitely one thing to look forward to. It’s an inspiration for a lot of curators and galleries out there to see how different mediums can be put together in a show very seamlessly.”

If you want to explore the exhibition and the artists’ interpretation of the word ‘play, you can check it out right here.