A world connect
N.S. Harsha — rooted in Mysore — is painting on a global canvas. By Team Viva
From the myriad experiences of his extensive travels across the world was born Indian artist N S Harsha’s new installation work, Nations, that connects 193 sewing machines to represent the world’s diversity.
The installation, which is on display at the Mori Museum in Japan, has connected the machines, symbolic of the member countries of the United Nations, with different coloured threads to create a vision of a world divided by flags and socio-cultural and economic lines.
“The chief curator of Mori Art Museum Mami Kataoka proposed this show about two years ago. Mami focussed on the idea of single location (Mysuru) and its relationship with the idea of nation and global realities. After working for two decades, this is a great opportunity to look back and observe the journey. While discussing the title we wanted to propose a ‘question’, so we thought ‘charming journey’ could do that,” shared the artist.
His installation piece involves 193 Usha sewing machines. While they were searching for a machine in Tokyo, they could only find 15 of them. So they had to get support from India. “For me, these beautiful machines are a metaphor for human labour. They create firm bonding between two edges. They give strength to the clothes we wear and use in our daily lives. All these characters are needed and essential for mankind in present global conditions,” Harsha said.
Many of Harsha’s works have no real centre of focus, leaving viewers to enter and leave at any point that captures their eyes. This openness also means his art refuses to be tied to a single interpretation. When asked about this, he replied, “The more you pin things down, the more the paint wants to flow around the pin. I wish none of my paintings will become just one thing — I feel they should be flying, having the liberty to speak to anyone and everyone differently… triggering all kinds of things inside them.”
Harsha’s work is very stylised and, to a certain extent, localised. Does he feel that it is received differently in different countries? He answered, “Yes, of course. I am like a cook sometimes. I love to make a dish, offer it to the people, and then anxiously wait for a reaction. I know everybody’s tongue is the same, whichever country it could be. So it’s only their balance that matters: hot and salty and all those things. While making, I’m on my own journey of painting, so I don’t think about them once, but I love the way people have to say things after.”
However, the artist insists that he does not wish to send out a message through the artwork, which he said, “celebrates the richness in communication and bonding”.
“There is no direct message in this piece. I always believe ‘art’ is not a vehicle for ‘message’ but it has the power to trigger and enrich several subtle ‘human’ qualities within us, which get hidden or muted while we live our busy everyday lives,” he said. The exhibition titled Charming Journey by the Mori Museum is a mid-career retrospective on Harsha, and features major works by the artist since 1995, while exploring themes running consistently through his practice. Giving a message for budding artists, he said, “Make inquisitiveness your best friend. And then there is no stopping you.”
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