When 25-year-old artist, Bhagyashree Suthar grew bored of painting 2D with gouache (a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance), she decided to turn to methods used by artists during the Renaissance.
Her debut solo exhibition, which opened in the Mumbai-based Akara art gallery, features stunning paintings and sculptures made with beeswax.
In her exhibition, Fractal Futures, one notices the way the paintings have height and depth; they are three-dimensional. The paintings depict futuristic architecture and feature intersecting bridges, geometric patterns, which appear like optical illusions. Bhagyashree is of the opinion that beeswax is the most innovative art material for the utopian, geometric and fantastical world that is represented in the paintings.
The shiny and smooth finish given by the wax also lends a sense of modernity to her art pieces.
According to Bhagyashree, by “incising the surface with a variety of tools and making designs by removing or adding any forms of wax,” she is able to experiment fully with some of her pieces that represent “futuristic architecture.” She adds that apart from using beeswax to carve an infinite variety of shapes, she can also add different colours to the material.
When asked where she derives her inspiration for this project from, she says, “Imagining the city of the future has long been a source of fascination for me. I adored Zaha Hadid, the late British architect, and the ductility of almost a melting existence that exists in her architecture. This is where I drew my initial inspiration from – the exquisite yet distinct character of her architecture. Nature has also inspired me with phenomena like Fibonacci (the mathematical relationships in the spiral growth patterns of plants) to create new approaches, as it has an infinity of forms that can be studied by means of regulated geometry.”
Bhagyashree buys beeswax, which is used in the production of food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, from Jodhpur, her hometown.
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It takes her around 20-25 days to produce a single wax painting. She starts by painting the background on the canvas with gouache colours. Then she prepares kite paper by soaking it in water to moisten it. Following this, she pastes the kite paper on the canvas layer-by layer, almost 20 times. She peels off some the layers until she gets the desired affect. Once the layer of kite paper sheets is dry, molten beeswax is poured over the canvas.
After this, the top layer of the painting is prepared by carving architectural designs, adding shapes and pouring different layers of coloured wax over it.
It takes two to three months to produce a wax sculpture. First, an iron-mesh armature of the desired shape is covered with plaster of Paris bandages. Once it dries, beeswax is applied over the sculpture and Bhagyashree incises the surface with a variety of tools and makes designs by removing or adding wax.
But Bhagyashree is quick to add that working with beeswax comes with its own set of challenges, “For instance, getting the right consistency is tough as heating it for a long time may burn the wax and result in change of colour. Also, working with beeswax at high temperatures causes bruises and burns, sometimes.”
This Fine Arts graduate from the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) in Baroda says she wants her sculptures to be life-sized and more interactive in the future.
“I have to explore much more regarding my work in terms of visual techniques. I want to start producing art on a larger scale as I want my viewers to feel that they are also a part of my work. I need to look at different ways of using beeswax in my work and want to build massive structures out of it,” she concludes.
For more information visit the gallery’s Facebook page. Here are the details of the exhibition –
When: Until Wednesday, November 30. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 6.30 pm; Sunday and Monday, closed.
Where: Akara Art, 4/5, Churchill Chambers, 32 Mereweather Road, Colaba, Mumbai. Tel: 022 2202 5550.