Are you ready for a collection of surreal, dream like, saturated artworks, brimming over with fantastical elements, wild animals and fauvist accents…. You’re in for a treat! Today’s feature is the glorious Rithika Pandey @CHASHMISHKAHIKI
Pandey’s work provoke such a reaction in me: the contrast and the surrealism of these domestic spaces she has created are so exciting, so inviting and playful, and yet so utterly bizarre!
She describes her work as: “Archetypes, Artifice and the Subconcious.”
“I don’t like to approach paintings with the knowledge that ‘okay this is a painting that I’m creating’ but rather as a theatre maker or urban planner who has more abstract objects and spaces to play around with and embody.”
In our feature live now on She Curates, we discuss Japanese Curse Words, Tom Waits, solo exhibitions, favourite artists and more!
Rithika, let's start at the beginning! What was your earliest memory surrounding artwork and when did you know this would be your career?
I loved drawing as a kid while watching cartoons. My love for colouring even drove me to eat bits of my crayons! However, it took me a long time to realise that art was the one of the things where I could completely concentrate without any self-judgements and I could try pursuing it as a career option (although I can’t guarantee it promises sustainability). Zadie smith defined this tendency accurately for me “.... I write because.. well, the best I can say for it is it’s a psychological quirk of mine developed in response to whatever personal failings I have.”
And, for those just discovering your work now: Please Describe your work in three words:
Archetypes, Artifice and the Subconcious.
Rithika, Could you select a piece of work and tell me about it?
‘But the model of my body in the model of my brain has different ideas of the future.’ is one my most loved and enjoyable paintings. The approach to it was very clear from start to finish and I don’t recall ever having the peculiar, discomforting feeling of uncertainty while making it. I came across an article on New Scientist discussing the structure of consciousness where it talked about how our brains build a model of itself to comprehend things. That sentence had made me so dizzy that I watched myself spiral down the rabbit hole of confusion. But after much thought I could grab hold of this concept and decided to work on this theory through an artistic medium which thus led to a tongue-in-cheek, absurd visual narrative where the subject is aiming the catapult at herself. Her body suit is symbolic as I imagine it to be in perpetual motion of ‘colour shift’ that corresponds to her internal mental activity and how it manifests in her seemingly deadpan and absurd behaviour –which is only a methodology employed by her to understand her conscious self.
Out of interest if you weren’t an artist, what can you see yourself having done?
Definitely an archaeologist or Egyptologist.
See that's so interesting! I never would have guessed that. Rithika, Can you tell me a bit about your artistic process?
-My process is always driven by some or the other kind of research and ingrown sensitivity to certain contemporary and historical/mythological narratives. Often times, journalistic photographs or Renaissance imagery portraying body’s relationships with events, spaces, objects and other bodies are interesting reference points to develop paintings that act as speculative tools.
I don’t like to approach paintings with the knowledge that ‘okay this is a painting that I’m creating’ but rather as a theatre maker or urban planner who has more abstract objects and spaces to play around with and embody.
I always try to ‘step into’ the space as well as into the characters and then look and move around.
I think it’s easier to imagine a watering can inside that empties itself out on a growing plant that is basically the work of art you make. I know when a work is done when it feels as though the can has been emptied out and the plant is satiated enough to not need hydration anymore.
And tell me about your studio?
My studio is a semi-mess I would say. There are lots of curious things lying around. Lots of objects sourced from different places are strewn across the floor which I re-use in different spatial arrangements to get an idea of what I’m working with and the possibility of extending its inherent context. It gives a lot of inspiration for my paintings and writings too. There’s always a collection of found images and old magazines which for me has a strangely delicious appeal. I love having an archive of images starring people who are strangers from deep parts of history. That helps me open up new doors of meaning and speculation to create works of art and text. On the table are various concoctions of colours stored neatly in plastic/paper cups. It makes me feel like I work in a laboratory of poetic ideas!
I think my best works have developed in all sorts of places with or without a studio space, but I make sure that certain necessities are always at hand to help me with ideas and projects, such as journals my Dr Seuss book of ‘Oh The Thinks You Can Think’, Photoshop, Spotify and a bucket full of wooden shapes.
Do you listen to music then?
I honestly don’t think I could live without my Spotify playlist!
Me neither! And what's your average working day?
Average working day involves the important ritual of making breakfast. Every breakfast requires the morning playlist and a good spot to eat silently. After that I like to do some research on subjects I’m interested in to inform my practice and approach to creating better and more multiform works. It’s always about playing around the space, throwing ideas in the air and watching them float and bloom in their own time and space which makes things interesting than usual for me. Walks are instrumental, gathering sunlight and appreciating trees, flowers and birds is healing which should be done on a daily basis!
What is the one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m proficient in saying Japanese curse words.
Can you tell me a bit about the themes that run through your work? The most prominent to me is the feeling of domesticity.
I appreciate the idea of domesticity being a space of comfort and the familiar. But it also forms a
space where our deeply reserved ideas manifest into objective archetypes and inexplicable climates
and events that cut through the sense of security it evokes. The idea of ‘home’ and its domesticity
being a container of histories, anxieties, subconscious projections and hopes can make way for the
sublime or mystical to enter and heal what may be broken or wounded. This for me serves are the
foundation of my practice.
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time, what would the meal be and who would it be with?
Sushi with Tom Waits.
i know that there are so many things... but What do you believe needs to change in the art world, and needs to change now?
There has to be a sustainable system in the creative economy of the arts industry where all artists
get the pay they deserve. There have to be fresher and more immediate ways of arts distribution
and engagement where accessibility is not limited to or concerned with only the privileged. This
why a holistic arts pedagogy is important too.
We’re approaching towards an era of another magnificent cultural renaissance and artists of all
kinds deserve respect and the confidence that what they do will not fail them economically in
leading a life of good health, inclusivity and wellness.
I love that. And what are you currently working on?
At the moment I working with a friend who’s developing a lovely virtual space where lots of my
works and some fun 3D archetypes will come together in a solo show. We’ll be revealing more
information regarding that soon!
Who are your favourite current practicing female artists?
-Toyin Ojih Odutolah