First time in New Delhi as part of urban street art festival St+art Delhi 2019, Polish artist NeSpoon talks about her love for laces and the mandala pattern to connect people across continents.
NeSpoon loves the walls in a city. First time in New Delhi, she is in love with the tall and wide walls of Lodhi Colony. The Polish practitioner of street art has already done a mural and an installation in the south Delhi residential district, which has a rich history and heritage. “It is fun to make murals, get dirty in the paint and talk to people,” says the Warsaw-based artist, who goes by her adopted name. “The walls are beautiful in Delhi.”
One of several artists from India and abroad taking part in the urban art festival, St+art Delhi 2019, NeSpoon uses lace in her artworks. “Laces are about harmony,” says the artist, who switched to street art 10 years ago fascinated by its power to connect people. “Laces are like snowflakes or flowers or sea creatures. They are like nature,” she adds. “I do positive art. My art is about good emotions. I don’t want to shock people,” she says.
Magic with mandala
Arriving for the St+art Delhi festival, one of NeSpoon’s first stops was a visit to a group of women doing embroidery works. “I showed them my designs with laces and they showed me theirs,” she says. “Laces have the same patterns everywhere in the world.” At St+art’s art exhibition F(r)iction in nearby Jor Bagh, NeSpoon weaved magic with laces in mandala-like patterns, leaving visitors awestruck.
“It is a work that breaks away from tradition and convention,” says Noida-based artist Chandrakesh Bihari Lal, a master’s in visual communication from IIT-Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre. NeSpoon, meanwhile, sees her work as a symbol of beauty. “These patterns are visual symbols of beauty,” NeSpoon says about her lace-filled installation simply titled Delhi. In fact, all of her installations and murals are named after the city of her work.
The mandala pattern, a symbol of unity and harmony in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, lies deep in NeSpoon’s works. “At the end, all cultures are connected. We are all one,” she says about her work that is aimed at connecting people across the world. In Delhi, the artist conducted a workshop, Insha-e-Noor, a women’s livelihood initiative under the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Nizamuddin. The 20 women who attended the workshop learned NeSpoon’s technique with lace, while together they created new designs and “played with patterns”.
The calm nature of the women attending the workshop impressed the artist whose mural in Lodhi Colony is courtesy of the European Union—the installation at a space called Kona in Jor Bagh is supported by the Polish Institute in New Delhi under the Embassy of Poland. “Usually, women ask a lot of questions, but in India, it seems to be different,” she says. But once the women started to work, it was a different story altogether. “They were loud and talkative,” beams NeSpoon.
Art and activism
An activist for water conservation in her country, NeSpoon is always seeking new forms in her work. A self-taught artist, she began her career as a painter who did canvases, but shifted to street art while hitting on the idea to use ceramic works in street art. Eight years ago, on her first visit to India, she made a ceramic installation at Palolem in south Goa. After hearing about public art initiatives in Lodhi Colony from her friends last year, NeSpoon was ready to return to India.
“The projects at St+art India festival are challenging and inspire artists to come and contribute,” says Giulia Ambrogi, co-founder and curator of the festival, which is organised by St+art India Foundation that works on art projects in public spaces. “NeSpoon’s works are always interactions with nature… These works are not just made by a woman, but made by hand. Despite ours being a digital world, she values the work of the hand,” says Ambrogi.
NeSpoon, who participated in a three-month residency for street artists at Urban Nation museum in Berlin last year, is driven by thoughts in her work. At the residency, she made use of her thoughts in a special project. “I sat on the street everyday, thinking about what is going on in the world,” she says, referring to her work in the German capital. “And I started to burn porcelain… 40-50 kg everyday,” she adds. She turned the burnt porcelain into one flower petal everyday in a “materialisation of my thoughts”. NeSpoon says she will continue making one petal from porcelain and her thoughts every three months until 2042 when a whopping 1,500 porcelain petals will be exhibited.
Launched in 2014, St+art India Foundation’s urban art festival this year has 20 murals in Lodhi Colony along with artworks reflecting on the relationship between art, nature and technology, and connecting people in Lodhi Colony and surrounding areas through art.
(Faizal Khan is a freelancer)