Giving back to Fort Kochi with abstracts and ceramics

The UK-based ceramicist Helena has worked with clay and used plastic bottles in her three-dimensional art installations.

Published: 13th February 2019 02:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2019 02:27 AM   |  A+A-

Gail Sagman in front of her painting

By Express News Service

KOCHI: Thousands of tourists have been pouring into Fort Kochi for a few months. Of these, only a few of them are first-time visitors. For the rest, it is that umpteenth chance to relive the experience of the island they have come to love since their first visit. Many among them have the incessant desire to give something back to the place. However, only a few like Gail Sagman and Helena Giras ever get the chance to execute this desire. 

Their exhibition ‘Now: A Response to Kochi’ was opened to the public on February 11 at Rossitta Wood Castle in Fort Kochi. 

The UK-based ceramicist Helena has worked with clay and used plastic bottles in her three-dimensional art installations. “My work focuses on the concept of redesigning,” she says. Corroborating this, she has created chandeliers and lampshades using used plastic bottles. Along with these are her installations, ‘Thousand Years vs. Three Hours’ and ‘Redesign’. 

“For the former, I used clay. It has been over 1,000 years since the use of clay began. And it took me only three hours to finish. Hence, the name. It focuses on how plastic, an important part of our life, is destroying the ecosystem,” says Helena. 

In ‘Redesign’, seven cubist pots are aligned on a surface. On each pot is a letter in Malayalam. “Together, it reads ‘redesign’ in Malayalam. I have read news stories about people in India using a lot of their resources to tackle the plastic problem in the country. Through this installation, I have tried to educate people on the 6Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, redesign and remanufacture,” she says. 

It was in 1982 that the artist, who has her origins in the Czech Republic, first came to India. “At the time, though the roads were littered, it was bio-degradable garbage on the side of the roads,” she says. Last year, when she came to Fort Kochi again, things looked different. “This time, plastic is the menace,” she says. That was the start of her project. 

Having lived in the UK for 40 years, Helena has taught a course in ceramics for 30 years at the London Art Institute and Westminster College in London.

For Scottish artist Gail Sagman, Kochi gives her a good perspective and a good approach to abstract paintings. “I know abstract is something of a dry topic. However, one thing that affects my responses is the place I am in. It is my impetus. Every time I go to a place, I get a new approach to the work I do. And Kochi is my favourite place as I have been coming here since the late 1970s,” she says. 

While she brought a few of her works from the UK, Gail’s Kerala work features a few scrap items she found on the streets of Fort Kochi. “I call my works two-and-half dimensional ones,” she says.

The process of creating the paintings include laying the canvas on the ground and creating a stencil effect from objects. “This forms a visual rhythm to the mood or feeling I’m setting,” says Gail. She also intends to put up some artworks which transcend the rectangular frame of pictures.  The exhibition at Fort Kochi will conclude on February 23. 


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