It’s a story of mix and match; of amalgam and association; of camaraderie and collaboration; of design, designers and their many dynamics; of art and artistic interpretation. Together, these find space, shelter and style at Assemblage, Chennai’s new hub where design and décor dabble with art and artists.
In terms of construction, this old bungalow that found a new lease of life and welcomed its first set of visitors to an evening of wine and cheese, recently, has two distinct levels and layers. Roopa Shetty’s Asharaa Ambience is the first pit-stop. In there, a hand-picked, carefully curated collection of furniture, furnishings, accessories and architectural solutions, share space in a way that is liberating, particularly from the point of view of a shopper. “Here,” Roopa says, looking around her creation, “you can either choose to pick single pieces or assimilate them to create something trendy and explore the possibility of re-imagination and customisation with help from us.”
Asharaa Ambience, in itself, is a collaborative between Roopa (who has made a name for herself in the world of end-to-end design solutions in Chennai and other cities) and a sculptor, visual artist and architect from Iceland, Gudjon Bjarnason. “The motive behind this association is to combine visual arts with fine arts and architecture,” Roopa explains, “We don’t like or want to stick to a single line of design.” There is a wide and eclectic nature of design options that are huddled together across every nook and corner of the store. “Our interest is in creating many design narratives; in the process, to work across budgets and needs with both architects and individuals.”
Where Asharaa Ambience ends, Gallery Veda begins. A flight of stairs is the mode of transport to a white space where art occupies pride of place. Created by Preeti Garg and Antara Tulsyan, whose families cross paths, both work-wise and off it, Gallery Veda is really a product of passion. “I’ve always been curious about the arts,” Preeti begins telling us of how two years ago, she engaged with Art Chennai (an annual week-long art festival pioneered by city-based art collector, Sanjay Tulsyan to create both consciousness and commerce for modern and contemporary art), “That really piqued my interest and was also a great learning forum.”
Preeti’s decision to realise her three-year-old dream — of starting an art gallery of her own — coincided with Antara’s homecoming. A student of Fine Arts and Sculpture from Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, Antara trotted her way back to Chennai to add work experience to her academics in May this year. “It seemed like a fantastic collaboration,” Antara says, referring to how Gallery Veda took form and shape with their combined vision and experience.
Opening with a vivacious, all-women artists’ show, titled ‘Firm Ground Beneath Her Feet’, Gallery Veda’s philosophy is more than merely commercial. “We are hoping this space will become among a place to hang-out for people who live here and those who visit,” Preeti says, and Antara adds, “We want to break the myth that art galleries are intimidating.” With plans to create customised installations for institutions and organisations, the duo is also chalking out an events’ schedule where art, and those with an arts’ consciousness, will come and be. On the terrace, a library that will stock books on art and artists is slowly taking form. Almost like art itself, where process is as important as the product. Hopefully, this space will sustain, both art and interest!