One artist is using her unique talent to portray her own take on life and how to make sense of it. ‘Coffee with Y’ sits down with artist Radhika Hamlai to learn more.
Who are we and where do we belong?
Questions such as these form the crux of our existence but can become all-consuming.
While many resort to soul-searching, one woman is using her art as a repository for rumination.
Radhika Hamlai, who hails from Ahmedabad, India and is now Omani, is displaying her works in an exhibition called ‘Human, Form, and Colour’.
It is to be held at the National Museum in Muttrah – and she will use it to showcase her own take on life.
Her Abstract Expressionist works reflect both a creative mind and an uninhibited approach to her art.
Radhika says: “This [art] comes as a form of self-expression. My pieces are all related to human connections but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it only connects with me.
“I’d say that it connects with my whole surroundings and the people around me.”
Blasts of colour and calming hues pervade the room as we study the five neatly displayed forms of art.
While many of these form the staple behind her artworks, there’s one unique factor that sets this exhibition apart from others she has displayed in Oman (around 40) before: her work is presented on woven rugs and textiles.
Stitched to perfection and adapted from her own paintings, there’s an aura of surrealism; and one work, titled ‘Reincarnation’, is already gaining traction on social media.
However, the artist says adapting her works to textiles isn’t new to her.
She says: “My father came from a textile industry in Ahmedabad (in India) – the ‘city of handlooms’. So, I always had a fascination for textiles. Even the clothes I wear are done in cotton, and everything is becoming more organic.
“But, this love for fabrics was hidden in me for a while until I began taking it up in 2011 when I was working with a friend on ceramics. At the venue we toured, we’d come across artisans who were creating pieces of rugs – and I was intrigued.
“I thought of giving it a shot and soon found myself converting a few select art pieces into hand-woven textile rugs. This was entirely done by the weavers but it’s a process I had to work with them entirely.
“Honestly, it took me back to my roots and all the work is done in Ahmedabad.”
Characterised by chaotic brush-strokes and an impression of spontaneity, Radhika’s works strike a chord with visitors.
However, her output is anything but spontaneous, and each work takes anywhere between four to six months to complete. Any piece starts with her conceptualising a topic in her head and sketching it out on a piece of paper.
“I feel that art has become a part of me. Whenever I travel, I try to connect with the surroundings and once I am back I write it down. Whatever you see around you is an inspiration,” Radhika says.
“After preparing a sketch, I paint it on a canvas with acrylic and tempera, which is a very slow process but is known to be quite traditional and effective in replicating colours.
“Moreover, it helps me keep in touch with the conventional side of things.”
‘Reincarnation’ took her two years to complete but that’s only the start of the process, because coming after that is the weaving process.
The weaving itself is done using ancient tools such as the shuttle and bobbin, which are then worked with using needles of different sizes.
“Everything you see here is done conventionally by these master weavers who have decades of experience. But even then, it takes time as at every point you risk matching the painting and keeping the colours in check.
“Each loom can change the colour greatly so after every point you must put the thread behind, tie a knot, and start with another loom.”
Colours interlayered between each other give ‘Reincarnation’ a very bold footprint.
As Radhika reveals, each colour has its own meaning.
“The red for instance in the circle shows the blood in your system but it’s not depicting blood per se. The green, for instance, in the two sides of your brain but here it can be related to sky and land too. The silver colour is the circle of life.
“‘Reincarnation’ follows the life of a human being. It goes behind the basis of life formation – how two humans come together and become three. And that’s how the world started.
“I believe that reincarnation is something that happens between two humans or two souls. It is something related to our personal self. We are born every day and we die every day.
“For example, when you sleep you are losing yourself but are still connected with your dreams. That process is very difficult to happen but it does. Then there are days when you are connected or disconnected with yourself.
“It is like a circle that goes back and forth.”