Cathartic canvas 

Artist Indu Antony uses her hair to create works that become medium of personal expression

Published: 29th May 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th May 2022 11:24 AM   |  A+A-

In her most recent exhibit, multidisciplinary artist Indu Antony used her own hair to embroider messages of latent childhood trauma. This was, but one example of the depth of personal expression evident in each of her art works.

“My work is definitely cathartic for me. I think anything to do with my own hair and the act of stitching it, is a very cathartic process. It’s about letting go of things within you and is a very calming procedure. The use of hair is extremely personal. There is, of course, a risk that people won’t buy artworks that contain another’s person hair––why would they want to put something like that in their house? But I love giving multiple meanings to my work by raising questions,” Antony says. The work was showcased at the Blueprint.12 booth at India Art Fair in Delhi.

Based in Bengaluru, Antony has had a number of solo shows across India and abroad, and has been selected for numerous awards and residencies such as the IArts Inaugural Residency at Ontario, Canada and the Public Art Grant - Cecilia’ed by FICA (Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art). She also won the Artist Book of the Year at the Hello India Art Awards, for her work Why Can’t Bras Have Buttons?

Her multidisciplinary art involves working with individuals from the fringes of society and exploring feministic stands in new ways. This is most evident in her series titled ‘Names They Called’, which consists of words commonly used to eve-tease women, stitched on paper using her hair as a metaphor for her disturbing childhood memories. Antony painstakingly collects her hair for her projects, which she then strings together with a needle and thread.

“The procedure is hard, but I’ve always admired work that slows me down. These days, the slower the process, the more I’m attracted to it. I’ve been using my hair in a lot of my work since 2018. My book that recently won an award, also contained my hair. It’s an object-based autobiography, and I strung objects I’ve been collecting, with my hair,” she explains.

‘I Brought You Up Like Gold’ is another personal assignment, which describes her relationship with her mother. The title is a saying oft repeated by her mother, implying her disappointment in Antony’s life choices. “She feels she brought me up as per the highest standards, but I didn’t fall into the categories that were expected of me,” shares Antony. In these works, she uses brass vials containing paper chits with prayers that her mother uses to express her hopes. The gold used on the cyanotypes represents the concept of the artwork, and she encases the works in jewellery boxes that were discarded by a jeweller who lost his business during the pandemic, signifying a sense of abandonment.

“When I was young and impressionable, I didn’t realise the damage my mother’s taunts did, but looking back I can see it,” she says. Fortunately, her multi-layered works allow her to address her feelings by sharing exactly who she is with the world. 

“Anything to do with my own hair and the act of stitching it, is a very cathartic process. It’s a very calming procedure.“

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