There is a reverential pall of silence at the Nature Morte art gallery, Delhi, — akin to what one experiences at a chapel. The silence can be attributed to the artwork on display, which are biblical in their origin. “There is No Forgetting from the Lips of the People”, a solo show by artist Benitha Perciyal is a testimony of the faith that inspires her work.
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Be it a glass-encased creation of the crucification of Jesus Christ titled Why God Won’t Go Away; a wooden installation of a human form with hands folded in the posture of prayer, or a recreation of Michelangelo’s Last Supper. “For me, my faith is a part of my entire living process, part of my everyday routine. For the past three-four years, my creative process has gone through a sea change. That inspiration to create something new comes from my faith,” says Perciyal.
Perciyal,who hails from the temple town of Thiruvannamalai, came to Chennai to study at the Government college of Arts and Crafts. She completed her Masters degree from there and worked at the studio of Lalit Kala Akademi, until she set up her own studio in George Town, Chennai. Over the years, Perciyal had worked with the transformation of human form and nature as central themes. But this solo show is a reflection of the transformation that she experienced as an artist. The transformation was helmed by her stint at the Kochi Biennale in 2014. “What really inspired me were these churches that I saw when we went sight seeing. They all left an indelible mark on me. Kochi, as a city, is also very important to me as a Christian because that’s where St Thomas arrived,” says Perciyal.
This is the first solo exhibition by the Chennai-based artist in Delhi. The exhibition showcases 13 pieces, out of which 10 were part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, and three were specially created for this exhibition. She even testifies with the materials she uses in her work — frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, bark powder, and cedar; most of them are used to make incense. “All my materials are very organic and natural. Even the wood that I worked with is about 300 years old. It was a part of the port of Visakhapatnam,” says Perciyal. She spent countless hours in antique shops too.
Perciyal combined all the materials and made them into a malleable dough-like substance. Then, they were cast into moulds. It took about four months for the cast to set. “Given that I work with these organic materials, they react differently. It’s all very surprising for me as well, as I cannot predict the colour or texture that would come out once the cast is broken,” says Perciyal. There is also a marked absence of metal. Instead of hooks and screws, she has used a wooden interlocking technique.
Perciyal’s next project is wooden books.“I am making books with wood from old wooden doors, which came from Burma. The idea is to have enough books to shape a library,” she says.
The exhibition is at Nature Morte till March 25, from 10 am to 6 pm