No matter which city he visits in the world, artist Thomas Henriot often finds himself being the centre of attention. As has been the tradition for three years, Henriot selects a location that catches his fancy, arrives with a backpack filled with oddly-sized papers, places them on the floor and replicates the landscape in front of him. What ensues is hours of frenzied painting. "There have been times when I’ve painted for 10 hours straight. I’ve always liked to sit on the floor and paint. It’s like meditation," he says, adding that staring doesn’t bother him.
Thomas Henriot (below) paints the skyline of Mumbai on Japanese rice paper scrolls
Interestingly, the papers that he carries with him are no ordinary sheets. They are Japanese rice paper scrolls, 45 cms wide and sometimes up to 25 metres long. "The paper is so impressionable that the ink seeps into it, becoming a part of it." Henriot’s collection of paintings are part of his two-year project culled from his residency in Mumbai, Havana, Tokyo and Mauritius. Titled Colours of Summer, it’s currently on display at Nine Fish Gallery.
The 36-year-old’s paintings have been inspired by Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas’ work Colour of Summer. "He was persecuted for his homosexuality and imprisoned for his writings, but that still did not stop him from writing. I found that inspiring. I chose places that Arenas had loved, and lived like Brazil and Cuba, where Arenas had spent most of his life."
Henriot first came across Chinese ink and Japanese rice paper scrolls while he was studying at the Regional Fine Arts Institute, Besancon, France. "During an internship in China, I learnt how to use the paper and ink from local artists, since then I’ve been glued to the technique," he says. Since his graduation in 2003, Henriot has been travelling around the world working in urban spaces. His work offers a glimpse into architectural specimens, right from a church in Cuba and arches of a Gothic building in Havana to the colonial facades of Mumbai.
While he loves Mumbai’s architecture, he finds the city a tad ‘aggressive’. "A couple of times I’ve been stopped from painting on the street, which has never happened elsewhere in India or any other country," says Henriot, who will be in the city for a week before flying to Varanasi. "I share a deep bond with Varanasi. I’ve never faced any difficulty painting on the streets there. That place has a vibe, which you won’t find elsewhere, which is why I keep going back."
WHERE: The Colour of Summer, Nine Fish Art Gallery, The New Great Eastern Mills, 25-29 Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla
WHEN: Till May 19, 10.30 AM to 7.30 PM