Artist Parvathi Nayar was recently in Singapore for At the Heart of the Question, a digital exhibition of her works in conjunction with the Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) play Guards at the Taj. Previously a Singapore- based journalist and well-known fixture in the local arts scene, Nayar returned to India some years ago to pursue her art full-time.
Parvathi Nayar, Artist
Venue: Singapore Repertory Theatre
Tell us about your beautiful dress?
It is a sort of “bespoke” dress. I remember that I loved how the dress felt – like wearing a multi-petalled flower! Separately, I really liked this deep blush colour in the other Alecca Carrano clothes on display. But they didn’t have the dress in the deep blush shade, only white. Seeing my disappointment, the boutique offered to get it made in this shade to my size by the designer if I didn’t mind waiting a bit – I didn’t mind, and they did!
And that great necklace and bangles?
I paired my dress with some heavy silver jewellery: a very Indian-looking neckpiece, earrings and bangles. A soupçon of ethnicity. I do wear quite a lot of silver jewellery – especially rings. Incidentally, this necklace is another special piece and an old one, as it was a birthday gift given to me by my mother while I lived in Singapore.
Is this how you’d typically dress for an art opening?
I am guilty of wearing a lot of de rigueur black at art openings, but to be honest, it really is because I do love black – and white – and not because it is hip and arty! Recently, I have been wearing more colour and even saris which are just so classy. I enjoy wearing simple colour blocks, as this allows me to pair my clothes with some fun jewellery.
And of course, welcome back to Singapore! What have you been up to these days?
I’ve spent almost 10 years away from Singapore now. In that time, I did exhibit at a collateral show of the Singapore Biennale with FOST Gallery but other than that, haven’t had a chance to share much of my new work or all the great projects I have been involved with.
So when SRT asked whether I’d be interested in doing a digital exhibition it seemed like a great idea and yet another challenge – I’d never done anything like this before. It represented an opportunity to share the trajectories of my work, and also to show installation work that would have been pretty difficult to transport here otherwise.
This presentation features largescale projections of several of my installations and also a more detailed look at them via a multiscreen format.
Tell us a bit more about the art that’s being projected here:
This installation Wave, was an unusual project in Chennai that brought together contemporary aesthetics, refuse collection, and people across all walks of life to make art. It was made of trash and supported by Alliance Francaise Madras along with Gallery Veda:
My art explores philosophies of space and such investigations have resulted in the creation of powerful artworks around the themes of water and the environment. Earlier this year I installed a giant floor drawing or kolam titled Invite/Refuse made of trash personally collected with a group of volunteers from the rivers of Chennai:
The follow up (work) was Wave, recreating the famous Hokusai print, this time using household trash collected from people in Chennai:
Wave became a community project involving many. It is perhaps the first time something quite like this had been attempted in Chennai. The call to donate “trash for art” found an answering note in many organisations in Chennai.
My aim in creating Wave was multi-fold, but some important focus points are these: first, to talk about the environmental crisis in which we find ourselves today; secondly, to use contemporary art as a carrier of such ideas to the people of Chennai; and thirdly, for the people of Chennai to be involved in an art project.
What are the differences between practising as an artist in India and in Singapore?
I’ve enjoyed making art in Singapore and am enjoying making art in India!
Singapore was in many ways a cosmopolitan place to make art and to grow as an artist. As I grew, Singapore grew and changed.
The changes on returning to India as seen in my art? Some of it is obvious and some subtle. For example, maps and mapping became an important part of my work as the geographies of where I was located were suddenly brought into sharp focus with the move. I had to let that wash over me in many ways and then allow it to find expression in my art. The other obvious but yet ‘particular’ impact was (from) the sounds and sights of the streets in India. The explosion of multiple fragmented bits of information that come at you from different parts all at once — this too has found certain play in a small body of my work.
Would you ever move back to Singapore?
I would love to if the opportunity presented itself!
Thanks for the chat, Parvathi!
If you liked her style, she’s also a founding member of an art collective called The Hashtag#Collective, which recently collaborated with fashion designer Neesha Amrish to create an installation for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018. Called GenderFluid, the work ‘came alive’ with a fashion art show by transgender performers.