The Weekend Artist
May 9, 2017 75-year-old artist Manik Wandrekar

The journey within

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Seventy-five-year-old Manik Wandrekar has been designing furniture since 1970. But in her own words, her true artistic journey “within” began only about three years ago when she lost her husband – a professor and an educationist who supported her in her artistic endeavour. Wandrekar recently unveiled her latest collection of furniture installations, which, according to her is a result of the rediscovery of her artistic instincts. It is this rediscovery that makes this septuagenarian’s story more engaging than even the tales her own artworks

Dalli inspired lips sofa
Salvador Dali inspired lips sofa

Tell us more about this collection…

My husband late professor Wandrekar was an educationist. When I started designing in the ’70s, he never expected any commercial outcome, b from designing furniture but always supported me in whatever I did. He was my mentor, guru and inspiration. His death in 2014, brought an emptiness in my life. I was lost and felt as if my whole identity had vanished. I did not know what to do. I wanted to design and create artworks just as I did earlier, but then my creative instincts seemed to have disappeared. At that point, I decided to challenge my thought process. Sitting in my house, I asked myself a question. And the question was: Can art and emotions be a one’s companions and can they substitute for the company of a human being, a loved one? My this exhibition is in answer to that question. And the answer is yes. Art and emotions can indeed be your companions. Earlier, I designed for others. Now I design for myself.

So how does this emotional rediscovery reflect in your works now?

I am an emotional person. Quite unlike a human companion’s touch; art in the form of paintings or music cannot be touched. It can be felt, but not experienced with a touch. I wanted tobreak this barrier between a human being and art. I wanted people to feel my art by touching it, by sitting on it, by hugging it. And I feel I have succeeded in breaking that wall between art and human being. Take for instance my artwork on today’s emotions. After a hectic day, husband and wife come home and want to sit together. But they have different interests and one wants to watch TV while the other wants to work on a computer or read a book. As a result, they end up sitting in different rooms away from each other. To ensure they get to do different things by sitting together, I made a sofa in which two seats can face in different directions. It helps them sit together and do whatever they individually want to do. One of my pillows is the size of an actual human being. You can literally hug it like a person and sleep with it. An installation by the name Thaki- named after a now-obsolete village doll, tells the importance of family values and togetherness.

There are some works on the environment too…

I am a nature lover and one of my works is a sofa called encroachment. The first victims of development are trees. So the encroachment sofa has the depiction of buildings encroaching from one side and shows a forest on the backside. And to narrate the outcome of all this and the future of where all this is going to take us, I have installed a pipe on which an Oxygen mask is hanging. That is our future. Then there is a table made of a tree trunk with Hindu god idol depicted. On the other side of the trunk is a small plant. It conveys a message that change is the only constant. It conveys how even the ‘god’ idol on the trunk will cease to exist when the tree dies but then the plant is what shows that there is hope and a new beginning.

 

Triangle chair
                  Triangle chair

 

You have also designed the office of Dubai’s business tycoon Abdul Wahab Galadari…

Those days there was not so much advertising or social media. Word of mouth was the only source of publicity and my artworks succeeded to speak for themselves. So much so that Parmeshwar Godrej (first lady of one of India’s biggest business empires) was one of my first clients. In the ’80s we went to Dubai. Galadari was in the process of setting up a prestigious hotel and was looking for a designer for his office. Proposals were invited from across the globe. In fact, some of Europe’s leading interior designers were vying for the project. But Galadari had a special inclination towards Indian culture. He liked my works and I designed his entire office in the hotel. My passion introduced me to such fascinating people from all walks of life. In fact, I wanted this latest collection to be inaugurated by Parmeshwar. But then, she passed away leaving behind the chair I designed in her memory: Parmeshwar chair, which is also a part of this exhibition.

Triangle chair
           Frida chair
How she does it: In her own words

Artist is very individualistic. He has his thoughts. He has a medium, a culture. Accordingly installation of the art takes place. My thoughts became more intense after my husband’s death.I wanted to really prove that yes, one can, besides human companionship, have your emotions and art as a companion (sic). My ideas would not translate into reality without my craftsmen. I have a workshop in Mumbai and my artists have been with me for decades. I make sketches on paper and pass on the concept and dimensions to my artists. They give their suggestions and then work on the final product. I use recycled material such as tyres, foam pieces. The carpenters do the cushioning work and help me create a finished product. It is a tough job and requires a lot of energy. But then, I am just 75!

 

75-year-old artist Manik Wandrekar
75-year-old artist Manik Wandrekar

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