by Sukanya GargDec 28, 2019
Thai-Indian contemporary artist Amonwan Mirpuri recently put up an exhibition - Dear Women - at Method Art Space, Mumbai, India. Her work was a call for compassion, bringing attention to the trauma and pain women often go through, undergoing feelings of blame, guilt, and alienation till their very essence is often forgotten or lost. However, pain is inevitably inseparable from healing and Mirpuri beautifully expressed this metamorphosis of pain through the art of kintsugi.
Here, STIR speaks to the artist to know what inspired her to put up this exhibition which is dedicated to women.
Sukanya Garg (SG): What inspired you to work on this theme?
Amonwan Mirpuri (AM): Trauma, pain, and healing is such a normal part of experiencing life. Creation, maintenance, destruction. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Pain is a universal language. I feel it is something we can all connect to and it is not just about the trauma but the healing process and how these traumas can be seen as something that can help us arrive closer to ourselves.
The exhibition also invites people to inquire and change the way the narrative is being presented in regard to women's rights. Talking heals and knowledge is power, but I feel it is also important to be aware of the space you are speaking from because it perpetuates what it is that you are conveying. Hence, it is important for us to be aware of the space we are interacting from. This puts the focus, the power, and the responsibility back into our own hands and into ourselves. You can't heal when there is blame. Healing requires being accountable for our own journey because we can't choose what happens to us, but we can choose what we want to do with it.
SG: What kind of interactions with women have provided the artistic inspiration for the works exhibited?
AM: My conversations with women revealed how often women are disregarded for their innate nature. I have sat down and spoken to women and, more so unintentionally, the subject of harassment, trauma, or issues would come up in the most organic way. My friends would be talking to me about the things they have been dealing with or going through. For instance, I'll see friends posting questions up on Instagram about how to deal with attracting the wrong attention and being able to be themselves in their totality. As women, we are learning how to manage ourselves or femininity in order to accommodate other people who might take it the wrong way or take advantage of it. But instead of setting the example of embracing our own femininity and standing by it, we are saying let us dim our light so you can feel better; so we can be respected for not being too feminine in a corporate world, let us portray ourselves the way society wants us to so we are validated and accepted. I think the real work here is to accept and love all parts of ourselves first. I feel that when you operate from a place of truth and authenticity, openness and vulnerability, love flows and you inspire other people to do the same, both men and women.
SG: Could you talk about each of the four walls of disruption, acceptance, healing and life (reintegration)?
AM: The Wall of Disruption represents the first stage of trauma women go through after an abusive experience has been inflicted on them. Women feel a lot of blame towards themselves and their perpetrator. They go as far as shaming themselves. On top of having to deal with the shame within themselves, most times they have to deal with the shame society imposes on them as well. They are blamed for the assault, slut shamed, and sexually objectified. Women fall into a state of confusion, hatred, feelings of isolation, never being able to heal from this. It is a lot of tug and war. This is where my choice of abstract art is used to represent the inner conflict. Scratches and noisy lines of charcoal represent the rage and anger within, with the surrounding negative space signifying the isolation. Sculptures of chipped faces represent domestic violence and the feeling of losing oneself, or pieces of oneself after an abusive experience has happened. As women, we hold so much strength and endure massive amounts of pain with our monthly cycles and giving birth, but at the same time, we are incredibly vulnerable, soft, and emotional. That is where my use of plaster comes in. In mass usage, plaster holds strength and it is robust, but at the same time it is tremendously delicate - a perfect representation of women.
The Wall of Acceptance revolves around self-reflection, reflection on the abuse, and the conscious act of moving into a new space using your trauma as a stepping stone for growth. The abstract art portrays a much calmer and a more peaceful expression signifying that with acceptance, comes peace.
The Wall of Healing displays a series of artworks decked with authentic quartz, which holds healing properties, sprouting from the cracks of the sculpture’s faces signifying that healing happens from within. This wall is inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi - signifying the beauty in imperfection.
The last stage of healing is the Wall of Life. I chose to use flowers in this stage because I feel that women are the perfect embodiment of Mother Nature. We give life, nurture, nourish and remain resilient. The act of selflessness comes naturally to us in the process of giving birth and carrying life. Our energy to create and generate resembles that of Mother Earth. It also signifies a return to the self, a reminder to women to be the version of themselves before the societal conditioning, to bloom as they are. It is a state of raw authenticity where we are most open and vulnerable. In this state, love flows for both men and women, as even men hold feminine energy although it hasn't been cultivated much in them. Only in a space of love and truth can true healing occur. The work is a reminder to stay soft, patient and forgiving like Mother Earth has been with us because you cannot rush healing.
Together, while these stages have been portrayed as four phases of trauma, they repeat indefinitely for the evolution of our individual and collective human consciousness.
SG: What kind of reactions did you encounter from visitors?
AM: People were really receptive to the exhibition, especially women. I think it is because we can relate to the abuse and the harassment that permeates society. Several women cried while I was giving the walkthrough. To be able to witness the impact it had on people who came to the show was beyond what I had imagined. More than an exhibition, the art show created a safe space where people opened up about their traumas and healing journeys. Art itself was the medium that bridged our stories, allowing me and them to take something home. Some people left the exhibition feeling lighter than when they came in. To be able to connect in such an intimate way with people I have never met with before and feel so close to them because we shared similar experiences, went through similar traumas, and found strengths in ourselves the same way feels almost like an accomplishment to me.
SG: What is STIRing next?
AM: I hope to take Dear Women to different countries as I believe this is an important conversation to have.
Dear Women was on display at Method Art Space, Mumbai, from January 9 - February 2, 2020.