Back to square one

Nov 05, 2018, 08:36 IST | Dalreen Ramos

An 80-year-old Art Deco home in Colaba will play host to 10 international artists as part of a creative fellowship

Back to square one
Squareworks Laboratory is a unique fellowship program where a domestic space is transformed into a creative one. Pics/Suresh Karkera

We don't remember the last time we entered a home and were greeted in the kitchen. And we'll admit, we haven't thought very highly of the idea. But when on a sunny Monday morning, we walk into an 80-year-old apartment that seems to have grown only younger with age, we know we've changed our mind. Artist Vishwa Shroff ushers us into the space where we meet architect Katsushi Goto, with whom she shares the apartment, as well as London-based curator Charlie Levine, who leave their laptops behind to chat with us. As we're seated in the open kitchen, light enters through the window as if swelling up an already wide space. It is easy to see then, that Shroff and Goto's home has been transformed into a larger collaborative environment — giving way for SquareWorks Laboratory (SqW:Lab), a three-month creative fellowship to take shape.

What's in a name?
We ask Goto. And he comes up with an answer with multiple meanings for the architecture and urban design practice. "The English use the term 'square' to indicate a public space. And people have faith in them. Although this isn't one, the work that we do revolves around this. 'Works' also stands for a studio that is always working," he explains. The roots of collaboration between Shroff, Levine and Goto go back to 2011 when they met in the UK, where Levine ran a gallery in Birmingham. "There was us as well as Rosanna van Mierlo, an art writer and Tash Kahn, a painter. And we then invited a plus one to be a part of the fellowship to form a group of 10," Levine says.

Artists gather by the open kitchen
Artists gather by the open kitchen

A layered approach
The inaugural fellows hail from six countries — India, Japan, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, United States, and Brazil. The three-month course begins with workshops being conducted for the first 10 days. Levine tells us that the objective is to familiarise themselves with each other's practices. "We'll then proceed to do a series of collaborative play projects. For instance, Vishwa and I love postal art, so we're going to do a series of postcards. And over the next three months we hope to have exhibitions of some of the output, and see how much our work has changed," she says — her words in stark contrast to the public perception of an artist working in isolation.

Katsushi Goto and Vishwa Shroff
Katsushi Goto and Vishwa Shroff

The Mumbai connect
One of the fellows is noted city artist Sameer Kulavoor, who came on board after the team scouted through fourteen studios in Mumbai. "He gave us a guided tour, which for a curator is a very special thing. Coming from London, there's a lot of grey art happening, but in India, there is something about the sunshine. That's a change of perspective," Levine shares, with Kulavoor adding that as a Mumbaikar, the initiative is a starting point even for him. "I have never been a part of something like this in 35 years. And you somewhat become desensitised towards your city, so for me this was an opportunity to know better. We recently did a walk with Alisha Sadikot around Mazgaon where I'm based and I learnt things I didn't know about."

(From left) Charlie Levine, Sameer Kulavoor, and Katsushi Goto
(From left) Charlie Levine, Sameer Kulavoor, and Katsushi Goto

Organic twist
The only evidence of time passing through our conversation with the four artists, is when the door opens again, and the other six fellows enter in quick succession. Some are yet to recover from a jet lag but it's still hard to miss the camaraderie in the kitchen. Levine recalls the first day. "The kitchen is the heart of any home and what's amazing is that on the first day we all naturally just started to surround it and started conversing." Taps are left running, the cups are out, and its perhaps time for coffee and for creative inspiration to strike.

LOG ON TO sqwlab.com (for further inquiry about the exhibition)

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