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Tarini Sethi

Tarini Sethi

Meet artist and curator from New Delhi, Tarini Sethi.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a fine artist and curator based in New Delhi, India. I call myself a “drawer” but not many people understand what that means so conversations usually end with them thinking about furniture. I have lived in Delhi most my life and went on to study fine art at Pratt Institute in New York where I really started to understand the power of art as language. My work is based on the human body but in a twisted anthropomorphic way. My mind is always a jumble of extreme fears and imagined creatures and my work is very much about our minds and the places they take us to.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I live in New Delhi, the capital of India It is the epicenter of politics, food, art, music, and culture and it is a complete jumble of chaos and activity. I’ve lived here all my life and so I think I’ll always have mixed emotions about it. I have my childhood print shop where I’ve been getting prints done since I was in school, the kebab place near my house which used to be a drive-in and the family would go eat smelly delicious kebabs in the car listening to music, the Chinese hole in the wall restaurant that only has five tables and gives you weekend buffets that aren’t on the menu (and that I’ve been told doesn’t taste like Chinese food at all ), the book shop that is always on perpetual discount, the bar where the doorman who has a moustache for days have happy hours till they close.

It’s these sticky-sweet places and memories that make me cling to Delhi and also crave unfamiliar territory and experiences all the time. Its made me what I am today, and also made me such a restless person, who loves her city but always wants to get out of it the first chance she can.

 

My work is based on the human body but in a twisted anthropomorphic way. My mind is always a jumble of extreme fears and imagined creatures and my work is very much about our minds and the places they take us to.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Since I’m an artist, the art market in Delhi would be the worst thing about the city because it’s very cliquey, and revolves a lot around money and power, giving the younger (broker) (and more talented) artists a small chance to shine.

The best thing would definitely be the variety of food.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Busy

resourceful

support

 

How did you start your career in art?

Like a lot of artists, I’ve been drawing faces with mountains and suns since I was a kid but my career really started after coming back from New York. Being in New York and seeing people with limited resources hustling and curating shows and just DOING and moving all the time was inspiring. I came back to Delhi and was in a lull for a while because my work did not suit the market here at all. I was told by so many people that they wouldn’t want to put my work up on their bedroom walls because it had too much nudity and absurdity and that I should change my subject matter to please the Indian market. I took this criticism and decided to make my work even more absurd and with many (many, many) more nudes and also started curating my own shows. That’s where it all began.

 

I was told by so many people that they wouldn’t want to put my work up on their bedroom walls because it had too much nudity and absurdity and that I should change my subject matter to please the Indian market. I took this criticism and decided to make my work even more absurd and with many (many, many) more nudes and also started curating my own shows. That’s where it all began.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Definitely! I’m lucky enough to have been raised by extremely creative parents and in a very easy-going family. My work is hung all over my living room walls and covers my dad’s office walls as well. I think my parents always knew I was an anomaly, obsessed with bodies and the idea of sex from an early age. So it’s commonplace in our house now that my mom comes to me with ideas about my next piece and gives me valuable criticism about the third boob in that one drawing.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I’m working on creating work with new mediums that stand the test of time especially stone, glass, and metal. My dream has always been to convert my drawings into spaces that people can actually walk in to and experience in every way. Making a utopia into real life is something I’ve been working on for quite a while. I’m working on a space where you can interact with the drawings like you are entering my mind, to touch, to feel, and to smell every part of this world.

 

My dream has always been to convert my drawings into spaces that people can actually walk in to and experience in every way.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Wangechu Mutu and Swoon are at the top of the list.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

I have grown up in a more female dominant family where any sign of patriarchy was squashed. All the women in my life are strong, independent and wild and have paved their own paths in their professional careers. My grandmother from my mother’s side is someone I have grown up with and lived with my whole life and her story and history have been so inspiring for all of us that we try our best to live up to it.

 

All the women in my life are strong, independent and wild and have paved their own paths in their professional careers.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

So many!  Mithu Sen was the first female artist that I wanted to be like when I was younger. Her work is a form of free association and she talks a lot about sexuality and femininity in an odd and obscure way. She deals with the bizarre and the extraordinary and that’s what sets her apart from my other female contemporaries. Her success in the Indian art scene has pushed me to keep doing what I do.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

It’s challenging being a female in India, and being a female in the art industry is even harder. It is, like many other spaces, predominantly a ‘boys club”. Not many people like taking direction from women and a lot of times wait for a male supervisor to appear before they start work. Also, being a female artist is a huge responsibility as we need to always find a balance between creating what we want and also being the voice of so many women who don’t have one.

 

We all need some kind of looking after, so look for support, talk to people who you admire, talk to people you work with.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

We all need some kind of looking after, so look for support, talk to people who you admire, talk to people you work with. If you have a role model don’t be afraid to walk up to her and ask her questions. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It’s the only one you’ve got.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Tarini Sethi

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