This is not the first time that New York-based artist Louise Despont is visiting India. The last time she was here in 2009, she stayed on for nine months on a Fulbright grant for a residency in Delhi, and travelled to Rajasthan and Kerala.
But this trip is special, for personal and professional reasons - recently, Despont got married in Nagaur (two hours away from Jodhpur) and is now gearing up to showcase her works in Mumbai in her first solo exhibition here, titled Long Distance Gardening.
“This is the first time that I’m exhibiting my work in India, and I’m very excited. The exhibition has 10 drawings based on abstract constellations with detailed pattern work. Through the drawings, created on paper with coloured pencils, graphite and gold leafs, I’m trying to convey the story of a couple,” explains the 29-year-old, who gave finishing touches to her artworks in Auroville, Puducherry.
Draw inspiration from India
Despont is a self-proclaimed lover of all things Indian and most of her works, which are abstract and geometric drawings, are to a significant extent inspired by Indian elements, owing mainly to her travels around the country.
“I love to come back because India is rich in history, culture and textiles. The language, the poetry and even the spiritual rituals are so fascinating. It’s why my work depicts elements of traditional Indian arts, miniature paintings and several textiles I came across, and the multiple temples and shrines I’ve visited,” she shares, adding that after scouring India, she turned more spiritual, hence, her mystical drawings explore the relationship between material and spiritual planes and she finds the process of drawing akin to meditation.
Account book appeal
Another interesting facet of Despont’s work is that all her drawings are created on antique ledger book pages, a practice she started with nine years ago. She has even worked on 100-year-old paper. “When I first saw that paper, nine years ago, I fell in love with it. The history, stains, text, marking and structure of the ledger books, helped me create symmetry in my works.
Over time, I also studied how to cut this paper from the books. I’ve been collecting these for a while now, and since friends and family are aware that I use them, they lend me the same, too. Also I have collected some from old bookstores and antique fairs.
I got a few in India because there is a large population still uses ledger books for accounts. I found a few in Rajasthan,” she explains, divulging that she intends to head for a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash along with her French-Canadian husband Jeremi Poulin, post the exhibition.