Rithika Merchant was born in Bombay, India. She later traveled around the world taking residency in places such as Romania, Portugal and the United States. Rithika earned a BFA in fine arts from the prestigious institution, Parsons New School for Design in New York City. She works predominately in gouache and ink on paper without preliminary sketches allowing her intuitive nature to guide her work visually. Rithika’s work often features anthromorphic figures discharging organic matter such as plant and animal life. From a distance, one may come to assume that the stems of the plant life used in her illustrations represent the human nervous system. This is one of many intentional and thoughtful concepts brought to us by Rithika’s delicate and genuine artistry. When asked about her ongoing commentary on nature and man and her need to infuse geometric tile-inspired shapes into her pieces, Rithika had this to say:
I am late in getting to know your work. Thankfully because of Stephen Romano, I was able to view your new series “Luna Tabulatorum” which is currently exhibited at his gallery thru October 25, 2015. I have also enjoyed much of your work via your website and press releases. The thoughtfulness you put into your pieces is wonderful. One thing I noticed in much of your art work is the symbiotic relationship between man and nature. In your “Magical Thinking” series, you explore the effects of nature on humanity. In much of your art, one may even see nature dominate man. What are your thoughts on the idea of man’s attempted tight grasp on nature today…possibly even trying to dominate nature’s need to persevere? My work expresses and recognizes the power in the symbiotic relationship that humans have with nature. Nature imagery and symbolism can be found in almost all cultures and hence nature is one of the most unifying threads in the fabric of humanity. I feel that we should try to loosen the grasp on nature and try harder to understand and live harmoniously with it.
When delving deeper into your body of art, I felt as though your work had visual influences from ancient cultures such as the Assyrians and the Egyptians. I read that some of your past work has even been inspired by Portuguese culture’s hand painted murals called ‘Azulejos.’ Your work, however, embodies its own very unique visual language of symbolism and iconography. What is it that attracts you to these particular cultures and their way of thinking? Do you feel you are celebrating this way of thought or are you merely adopting this form of communication? I am very interested in narratives, myths and received histories that are available to us. I am also interested in how different fragments come together to from a complete image. The cultures you have mentioned both use imagery to tell stories and represent ideas. Being inspired by this, I feel I am both celebrating and using elements from these ancient means of storytelling.
What I like about your work is that it feels “otherworldly” possibly “interdimensional”. The geometric creases you have created on the paper of some of your newer pieces are fascinating. Can you tell me more about the concept behind this technique and its representation? While living in Lisbon, I discovered and was very inspired by the “Azulejos” and wanted to incorporate elements of this tradition of storytelling into my work. Working with paper “tiles” also allowed me to make large scale work in a very small studio space. This evolved into experimentation with folding paper, where I discovered I could use the creases as a framing tool, allowing me to bring attention to certain parts of the composition.
I usually fold the paper before I begin drawing and then after I finish the painting I fold it back up along the same creases to store it. Often, I am able to fold it into some sort of smaller geometric shape, and the paintings then turns into an object. In this way, the paper itself is part of the narrative. I like to imagine that one day in the future someone might come across these folded drawings in a book or in a drawer somewhere and when they unfolded it, there would be this strange and otherworldly drawing, with creatures and clues from another time.
Rithika has exhibited throughout the globe including solo shows in India, Portugal, and Germany. In addition, she has partaken in group exhibitions at Galeria Espai in Barcelona, Spain and at Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Rithika now resides in Barcelona, Spain and is working towards a solo show in Madrid, Spain in 2016 at Combustion Espontanea Gallery. If you would like to view more of Rithika’s work, visit her website or you may email her directly at email@example.com.