The tea culture in India covers a broad spectrum of humanity in terms of people and places and artist Arpan Patel finds a unique potential in the effective imagery it offers to build his first solo exhibition around it. The young artist has worked on all images, associations and symbols that make ‘The Tea Story’ what it is.
Tea, called the Chai in common parlance in India is an essential in the lives of a diverse range of people – daily wage workers, middle class people, money barons, celebrities, industrialists, Bollywood actors and politicians, to list a few. Tea is a ritual and a habit. It is a corollary for life and relationships that are built over a cup of tea. As they say, a lot can and does happen over a cup of tea. The very essence and variety of tea is such that it evokes images that are part of a street, a home, a chai thadi (stall) as well as the high English tea served in style in a five star hotel. On a street when sold on a thadi it stands for the common man and when it is served in style, it can be a maker of high end deals between people and nations.
Arpan has tried to express Tea’s elastic and supple appeal to life by using a medium – the lacquer that is elastic in nature. He achieves a fluid quality in metal and wood through the use of lacquer. The artist has used molding and casting processes to translate the fluidity of the medium in metal and wood. The artist uses the contrast of rigid metal tea pot and the sudden fluidity in it as a strong image and a symbol for life, relationships and bonding. This very contrast makes the everyday kettle a work of art.
The concept for his first solo exhibition was subconsciously formulating in his mind during his initial days at IICD, when as a student he would stand on a ‘Chai Thadi’ and drink tea, watch the tea vendors make tea, serving and chatting all the time. His past observations have remained alive in his memory. The forms of kettles, the burnt out effect on the metal tea pot, the varied seats used during tea sessions, the friendships struck during such sessions – all have found an expression in the making of the current and the first exhibition the young artist.
Arpan has used his versatility and command of using varied materials to creative purposes. He has a liking for merging two widely different materials with a capacity to translate the quality of one material into another material – lac (natural resin) into wood and metal. His craftsmanship helps him to be an artist. His mind can grip the potential of diverse materials and the potential of diverse contexts and meanings. His artistic acumen lies in turning that potential into a creative work of art.
At still another plane, he believes in putting the art and everyday use of art together. He sees poetry in day to day things and he uses the poetic elements of simple things creatively. He seems to be saying if drinking tea is a part of every home in India why not have an artistic kettle? If we use a chair as a utility item why not introduce an artistic twist to the ordinary chair? The multiple use, the utility and art have no rigid compartments in the artist’s mind. Arpan wants to begin his journey as a creative person bridging the gap between art and design by sensitively presenting the concept through a symbolic metaphor. This metaphor also stands for a democratic and social melting pot that is India.
Arpan Patel’s sculptural furniture is inspired by the tea culture of our country. As the kettle is the most prominent tool of tea service, he has looked closely at the kettle and its interaction with table, chair and other objects that are related to tea drinking. As he puts it, ‘I have tried to convey the fluid quality of tea, its quality to build relationships, its quality to extend time and bonding by merging the kettle and the chair into one entity in my furniture sculptures.’ One can see the extended shape of the handle of the kettle, its forward movement standing as a prototype of extension of relationships and the idea of ‘reaching out to others’. This symbol finds a tangible shape in his sculptural works in the exhibition.
A graduate of Camberwell, London College of Arts, Arpan Patel was born in Jaipur, India in 1987. His Indian heritage has a lasting influence on his creativity as was apparent in the Furniture Sculpture Design in his graduation show at Camberwell. He used henna as the surface design and took inspiration from auspicious colors like red and vermillion that are used on the occasion of marriage.
His training at Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur gave him tremendous exposure to different crafts and materials. His love for design is complimented by his love for photography and fine arts. Arpan Patel’s work is guided by his desire to obliterate the demarcation between art and design. His creative inspiration comes from everyday objects and people of India. He feels that India has a multi hued cultural wealth and its past is not history yet- it is a living tradition that is rich with myths, symbols, color and poetry of its own. He finds this wealth handy to be used and interpreted in modern contexts.