This June Settle Stories are joined by award-winning visual artist Shanthamani Muddaiah. Shanthamani is joining us all the way from India for our Life in our Hands project.
The project focuses on people living in and around Settle and the stories they have to tell. Shanthamani will be interviewing various members of the community, particularly people who use their hands for their work, and casting their hands for a final exhibition.
Shanthamani has never visited Yorkshire before so we’re so excited to welcome her here! I caught up with her before she makes the journey over.
How did your life as an artist begin?
Although I came into art accidentally, like any other girl child in India, I was interested in craft. Once in art school, I realized that it will give me the freedom and ability to become independent in our society where women’s role is defined by the family and society.
What materials do you like to use?
I have always been a person who wanted to work with the material, hands on. I was working with paper and paper pulp in the early years as an artist. Apart from traditional paper pulp technique, I learned papermaking in Glasgow under the guidance of Ms. Jacki Parry with Charles Wallace fellowship. Working with many fibers and materials in my 25 years of art career I have realized how important it is to work with natural fibers. Like any natural element, despite being caught in the cyclical of life and death, they have been sustaining humans and their idea of development for millions of years.
During the workshop, I will be using paper cast juxtaposed with video and text.
What inspires you most creatively?
Art making is a process and a space of facing oneself; it’s a way of learning and understanding myself and the surrounding. It lends itself to a young girl from one of the smallest towns in a remote part of the world to connect and reconnect with the larger world and give a space to opinionate her perspective through art. This is truly empowering.
Have you visited Yorkshire or Settle before?
I have not visited Settle or Yorkshire before, But I am truly looking forward to understanding its landscape and people.
We know you’ve created work along the banks of the Ganges in India, and now you’re coming to rural Yorkshire. How much do you feel the place affects the art that’s made?
Every location, its people, and its culture are spaces of learning. They are the stores of past and each individual offers new insight into how they live with the given environment and how their everyday cultural practice is evolved. Such an understanding of different cultures is the only way one can broaden one’s horizons and find common grounds to come together.
Where did the initial ideas for this project come from?
During my Journey on Ganga river, I figured out a way of making people sit down to talk and have a true exchange. The camera has the power to dominate and make people more conscious. Sitting down to cast their hand was a great opportunity to create an intimate space where they can talk and the camera became a third entity to witness this interaction. We are not just recording the people’s history; we take the impression and the gestures of the hands of those who have worked many years shaping the land and its history.
What do you hope to achieve through this project?
History is not only made of popular events but also shaped by an individual’s life experiences. This project is about to bring forth such stories and put them together. Using art as a platform to bring communities together will be the main goal of this project.
What aspect of this project do you think will be most interesting to local people?
I will be meeting people to cast their hands while they share local stories of Settle and bring all those stories together in a video format. There are opportunities for younger groups within the communities to collaborate, join me in listening to elderly people from their communities and to be part of the recording team. And during the exhibition, I will be happy to involve as many young people as possible to put the show together.
The exhibition space will be a space of history, collaboration, and celebration.
If you’re based in or around Settle, over 55 and work with your hands then please get in touch! Either drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a ring on 01729 822292. Every story is interesting. We’re keen to hear from everyone.
Take a look at one of Shanthamani’s biggest most creative pieces so far: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/backbone/XAFh6l7x9DUNqg