Anjolie Ela Menon

Interviews with Thought Leaders Dated:  April 9, 2014
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Padma Shree Awardee Mrs. Anjolie Ela Menon

Anjolie Ela Menon, a contemporary Indian artist and Padma Shree Winner opens up to ZingyHomes in a casual chat where she shares her opinion on art, modern interior design and more with a stimulating message for all budding interior designers and architects in India and the world. Whether you are an architect or a designer, an art connoisseur or a fan, this is an interesting read that you shouldn't miss out! 

What inspires your style of design and paintings?

I have been inspired at various times by many people, places and events. I have been painting for 58 years so there are so many influences that have shaped me both as an artist and as a person. The list is long and often contradictory – first my amazing family, so many of whom have been great achievers and then the impact that literature, music, books and films have left on me. Shall I list them randomly?  

My father, my guru Sushil Mukherji and my lifelong friend Maqbool Fida Husain, Pupul Jayakar, Edgar Kauffman, Nisha Patel, KG Subramanyam, the Dagar Brothers, Semangudi, Bhimsen Joshi, Elizabeth Barrett Browning , Frida Kahlo, Proust, Dali, Romanesque sculpture, Vivekandana, Bach, Modigliani, Henry Miller, Pudovkin, Ingmar, Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Rublev,  Bosch, Camus, Ayn Rand, Corbusier, DK Pattamal, Gaugin, , Shergil, Swamy Ranganathananda, Konark, Chartres, Ajanta  and the Kumbh Mela have affected me profoundly and inspired me at differently times of my life. Inspiration in itself is a surprise that awaits one on a daily basis. Sometimes inspiration eludes, at other times it hits one like a hammer.

How are interior designers getting inspired by the art? How is the game of intermingling of artists and interior designing changing in India?

Many interior designers have the totally mistaken notion that paintings on the wall are mere additions or embellishments to their basic design. In fact it should be the other way round i.e. that a good collection of art should be at the heart of an interior and in fact set the tone for it. Whereas a client will spend millions on a fancy interior and very little on a major work of art. This is a common flaw in both public and domestic design. The interior is bound to be changed with the passage of time and the evolving taste of the client, but a good work of art is a lasting asset. I have seen mansions (in America) where they have spent 20000 dollars on a sumptuous bathroom but on the vast living room walls are cheap posters picked up from the Kerbside!

What about art for corporate spaces or Public Art? 

It is difficult to define art for public spaces such as airports hotels lobbies, offices etc. Though I cannot say what attributes such art should include, I can define the genre by its negatives!  Generally speaking nothing grotesque, nothing gloomy, nothing angry, nothing religious, nothing erotic, and nothing visceral, nothing that is pretty, pretty.  I think this would be a good thumb rule for designers which would probably leave them with a lot of good abstract art, pop and colour-field. A great collection of folk and tribal art is also an option, as are black and white etchings, drawings and paintings.

Have you been approached for home designing projects?

I never do home designing but have done several works for public places such as Kolkata Metro, Mumbai and Delhi airports, Taj , ITC and   Hyatt Hotels, etc. I am in the process of working on a project for the second phase of the new Mumbai airport.

Any message for budding artists and Interior designers?

My philosophy of a good home interior is almost the opposite of the current practice. White walls, really comfortable furniture not necessarily matching, in style or colour, overflowing book shelves, an accumulation of artifacts and photographs and memorabilia which reflect the character, tastes and history of the  inhabitants. In other words “character”. A characterless interior is like a railway station. While we were viewing the preliminary architecture designs for the new ‘Bombay airport some years ago, the eminent designer Rajiv Sethi  remarked ‘If someone landed in this proposed airport by helicopter they would not know which country this is, leave alone which city”. So it is imperative that good design should embrace the crucial elements of location, history and culture. It cannot exist without context; it must resist the “Macdonaldization” of the world. Designers must not take the easy way out by plastering the walls with cheap reproductions. It is better to persuade the client to buy a significant piece of art or sculpture. Less is often more, rather than a fit-the-budget excess! 

I detest the current practice of uniformly placing remote ceiling spots which I find gives a cold and unfriendly feeling to a room. I am in favour of individual lighting for specific spaces such as table lamps, uplighters, bedside lights, bathroom lights that light up your face rather than the bathroom, hanging lights and most importantly, the lighting for paintings should be located approximately four feet away from the painting with a laser spot light focused to the center of the art work, rather than a light fixed above the painting that only illuminates the top of the painting. I am also not in favour of false ceilings for homes. Designers should try to keep the design minimal and avoid flourishes and ornamentation that will soon become dated. 


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