Four Outsiders in the Cube


Imagine four sides of a cube, representing four dimensions of looking at something. The curator Samira Sheth has brought together four artists from four corners of the world showcasing four different types of energies and presenting their own ways of looking at things.
“Contemporary visual artists Sonja Wader, Thomas Luis, Sonny Singh and Alok Johri come from places as diverse as Switzerland, Kerala, Los Angeles and Lucknow,” briefs Samira. Each of these artists has a noted individual art practice ranging from painting to ceramics to installation. What binds them however is that they all came to Goa – to live, work, create and just ‘be’ here.
“Why not Goa?” Alok Johri pondered when he was looking to relocate. And his friend’s immediate reply came as an endorsement, “Yes, only Goa, because one meets the world in Goa.” Indeed Goa has been the melting pot of diverse cultures. And it’s the best place to present art in all its forms and figures. As Samira puts it, “The Cube’s credo is, ‘expression equals fulfillment’ and as Goa brings out expression, only in Goa can there be fulfillment.”
‘Outsiders’ is a story told by these artists, each of whom presents it in their own style. Their stories find fulfillment through different modes of expression. Goa means different things to each one of them. It has shaped their aesthetic journeys in distinct ways, sparking new ideas, conversations and directions. The show celebrates the creativity and diverse perspectives of these outsiders forging their own paths of artistic self-discovery.
Swiss designer and artist Sonja Wader’s paintings are inspired by Goa’s history and heritage. Her work is made in Goa and very literally made of Goa as she explores materials made from the earth’s elements. Taking on the task of replicating the feel of old walls of abandoned homes we see throughout the State, Sonja has miraculously captured the patina, the texture and the layers of peeling old paint in these metaphorical walls in her paintings.
“The flora and fauna, the many beautiful creatures, even walls of the old houses that I can see on my daily walks through the quiet and peaceful lanes and fields of my village, Aldona, stimulate my creativity,” states Sonja who loves to work with acrylic paints, handmade papers, plant leaves, stems seeds, twigs, various natural materials in polyurethane and fibre.
With a lacquer technique of her own invention, she uses acrylic sheet as a canvas and layers it with a combination of these items to create her paintings. “My Objets d’art trouvaille are arrangements of pieces of driftwood, old rusted metal tools and other items which I collect,” she says.
Installation artist Sonny Singh, also the co-founder of ‘The Cube’, has lived and worked in Los Angeles before moving to Goa. He admits that the main purpose of his installations is to provoke dialogue; to deconstruct the notion of the ‘outsider’ which creates too many sub-groups. “Instead, if we consider all of us as human ‘insiders’ we could deal with important problems that face us as a race together instead of all being split up,” he shares.
Sonny employs visual markers like aircraft and bombs to bring home themes of divisiveness, alienation and conflict within segments that pit themselves against each other in insular groups. He places a colossal winged figure, the ‘Trojan Rath’, outside the gallery to stun viewers into dissolving the superficial segmentation of society into social, geographical, religious and other groups.
For ceramicist, sculptor and painter Thomas Luis, Goa means collaboration. His successful design studio Banana Pottery has become a hub for creative people in Goa. Thomas’s deeply elemental work includes beautiful objects and pieces laced with political irony including a series on politician puppets, seed and flower bombs, all in stoneware. Inspired by Goa’s vibrant live music scene he has modified the African Udu drum to create his own percussion instrument in clay together with some musician friends. The unique aspect of this instrument is that it has to be played by people together to create music. Giving words to his emotions, Thomas says, “The idea behind it is to bring in a sense of community and togetherness. To more music and happiness, tolerance and compassion, thank you Goa for taking me in.”
Alok Johri, a fine art photographer and visual artist who came seeking solitude and with the hope of meeting the world, in Goa, chronicles his personal journey through a series of acrylics on canvas. His visual vocabulary reflects his deep spiritual search to find resolution and peace, and live in awareness.
“My poetic images are evocative of home, nostalgia, memory, belonging and the unchanging truth that life moves on, even as some things don’t change and remain part of your nature wherever you happen to go,” Alok discloses.
Each artist comes from a different place and yet calls Goa home. Each one has an individual artistic idiom, emerging from personal experience and recognized as distinct. The curator Samira expresses the theme in her own words. “We live in times of unprecedented global mobility. People are increasingly on the move- migrating, travelling, exploring new countries and cultures. Art can transcend boundaries and spark fresh perspectives. And while this show brings up important ideas of home and belonging, what is indigenous and what is foreign, it also marks a universal truth – that no matter where we’re from or happen to live, each one of us, at some point, is an outsider somewhere.”