Sarasvathy TK curates Indian food in the form of hyperreal paintings.
Right from initial days, I was always inclined to achieve something different from traditional routine jobs and that could be the reason for even after having a formal educational background in computers engineering, I quit my job at a very early stage of that career. As it’s said, every story has a beginning and in my life, this magical event happened in late 2007 and early 2008, during a visit to Louvre museum in Paris and an art exhibition in Singapore, respectively. I happened to share my interest in drawing and my passion to do something different with my spouse, and started taking small steps in that direction.
Starting with sketching in the initial days, later with perfection, we together decided – why not pursue this as a profession? One day, while was searching for a tutorial on drawings, I accidentally came across a few videos of painting and that took me into the world of oil painting on canvas.
Initially, I started with painting all genres like landscapes, still life and abstract too, but soon realized that my passion was towards still life. In every journey, you will see gloomy days and for me, it was at early stages. Whomever I approached, was informed still life is not a genre which is in trend and all doors were shut for me. There were times when I had to come out of my passion to paint other genres, just to mark my presence or to get an opportunity for an exhibition. As per the famous saying ‘whatever happens, happens for good’, it didn’t work and with no recognition after numerous exhibitions, I strongly decided in 2012 to stick to my ‘still life’ genre and to go with my instinct.
Exhibiting my artwork at ‘Affordable Art Fair, Singapore’, I came across Jessica Brown’s still life realistic painting, which I fell in love with instantly and watched it humongous number of times to understand her quality and precision of work.
I have seen more than 1000+ videos on hyperrealism followed by endless hours of effort to gain confidence. This gave me an opportunity to display my initial works on realism at Art expo, New York. Followed this, I gained confidence to move swiftly forward, but once again faced rejections at various events with the feedback ‘subject is not new or I lack uniqueness’. Back to square, from 2015, I spent a year or more on identifying a unique subject and within realism painting world. This research introduced me to Tjalf Sparnasy’s mega-realistic paintings of foods like burgers, French fries etc. What fascinated me over my previous love for Jessica Brown’s painting was the grand scale of minutely crafted intricacies of textures and colours on food. Not to undermine anyone here as both the subjects are very different from each other and their details. I was eager and very inquisitive to see Indian food as hyper realistic or mega realistic painting, but couldn’t find any.
This paved the path to my current project or initiative to address hyper-realistic painting on Indian food, as I was told to come up with a unique subject to present my artwork. During my initial days of realistic still life paintings, I was arranging subjects and taking photos at home to paint them but I decided to go on a professional way to address this unique subject and started to photoshoot professionally with lot of detailed work to arrange dishes. I required a high resolution output to zoom and analyse details of every inch to transform the same effect using Oil over Linen. For me, food representation is layered and nuanced, and I would like to capture its sensuousness, tactile quality, colours and textures to form a multi-sensory experience. Perhaps, even recreate the aroma and flavour and elicit a deeper engagement beyond the visual element.
This brings me to my current world of artwork and the exact reason, I am being asked to write all this. ‘Hyper-realistic artwork on Indian food’ is my project and in this series, my first painting which I have done is “Idli, Sambar and Coconut Chutney “. It’s easier to reminisce good memories and the journey of ‘Idli Sambar and Coconut chutney’ painting echoed my childhood. Then came the toughest part as I was the first one to represent them in hyper realistic art form as there were no references. Then I got an opportunity to exhibit this painting at “Cultural Heritage show WWAC ” New Jersey and was elated with the painting being featured on their invitation too. Followed by this, I got my first museum exhibiting opportunity at “Monmouth Museum” in New Jersey.
The results were amazing, incredible and very welcoming. Everybody is inquisitive to know the name of the dish, culture and even ingredients. Then knocked the door with my 2nd painting in the series “Dosa and Sambar” which was juried into “Salmagundi” a 1871 world renowned Art gallery of New York whose members include Thomas Moran, Louis comfort Tiffany etc. Followed by this in a very short distance, “International Guild of Realism, US” honoured me with a membership along with finalist of juried exhibition status for my 3rd painting in the series, “Samosa, Tamarind Chutney and Coriander Chutney”. This was published in the April subscription of ‘American Art Collector’ April, 2020 magazine which is a dream come true. I have been following this magazine to learn and watch various great artworks and artists all these years and to see my artwork being displayed in this magazine, I cannot express in words. Taking my journey forward, my 4th painting in the series, received an Award of Merit i.e. “Garlic Naan and Coriander” painting from “American Women Artists association”. To summarise, US is an amazing world welcoming me to this part of the world along with my artwork and encouraging me at every door I knocked in the last 2.5 years
On ‘World Idli Day’ which falls on March 30th every year, I released customised US postage stamps (22 in numbers) of my painting ‘Idli Sambar and Coconut chutney’ as a tribute to all the food lovers and my dream of representing this cuisine in the form of hyperrealistic art too. This was well appreciated by art world along with coverage in ‘The Hindu Businessline’.
From an Indian perspective, very recently I debuted my work through social media presence, which is equally reaching well to all art appreciating audiences. Happy to share, that my recent videos especially my “Process of painting” video of “Dosa and Sambar” has reached 135,000 views in a very short span of 7 days of debuting my Instagram appreciating this effort and also boosting my moral and confidence in the project.
My art originates from a love of Indian cuisine that invokes emotions and memories related to the image of the food and heighten all associated sensations. American and British Pop art has been instrumental in creating a social and cultural response to food, a relook at consumerist realities and the presence of food as a motif in everyday life. Similarly, hyperrealism and megarealism present food to the viewer in a manner that amplifies the impact, and engages them with the work of art on several levels. The idea of a sensorial engagement appealed to me and I decided to adopt hyperrealism as an aesthetic tool in my art practice.
I find that paintings representing Indian food are rare, despite the fact that as a cuisine it is popular throughout the world. My paintings, therefore, form another way to create social connects and narratives around Indian food and associated histories, both personal and familiar.
Sarasvathy TK is a New Jersey-based self-taught hyperrealism artist. Born in Chennai, she completed Computer’s Engineering in Pondicherry, India and relocated to UAE. Followed by marriage, she moved to Singapore for 10 good years and then finally settled in New Jersey, USA. It’s a long trip.
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