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Nicola Tarshito’s love affair with India continues to inform his artistic practice

In the course of visits to the country, the Italian artist has collaborated with traditional art practitioners, specialising in 21 folk forms

'The Vase and the Forest', Tarshito with Putli Ganju, tribe of Ganju, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Photo: courtesy Gallery Threshold

Nicola Strippoli first came to India from Italy in the 1980s after graduating from the Faculty of Architecture in Florence, with a thesis in street theatre. Like many others from the West, who came to the country in that period in search of enlightenment, he too headed to India on a spiritual quest. He ended up meeting a teacher, who taught him the use of meditation as a method of investigation and design, and also gave him the name Tarshito, meaning thirst for inner knowledge.

In the course of his travels, he came across different folk traditions and sought to collaborate with its practitioners. Over time he has worked with 21 different traditional forms, and his engagement with four of these can be seen in Gallery Threshold’s ongoing showcase, India: Mirror of the Self, as part of the digital showcase, TAP 4x: India. He has worked with artists specialising in Meena paintings from Rajasthan, the Jharkhand’s Sohrai form of visual arts, Rogan embroidery from Gujarat, Nagaland tribal weaves, and more. “I look for artists and artisans who feel an intimate relationship between my artistic intuition and their own traditions, not only in artistic terms but also in terms of celebrating life as a precious gift from God. I actively look for timeless, priceless knowledge which I put into my work, which evokes this sense of rituality,” mentions Tarshito in the artist note.

Tunty Chauhan of Gallery Threshold had been planning a show around his works in a bigger space such as the India International Centre or the Bikaner House. However, the ongoing covid-19 pandemic put those plans on hold. “He is an artist who gets involved with art at a metaphysical level,” she says.

Tarshito calls his collaborations “creative sharing” with the “sisters and brothers of the world” and the traditional art forms that they practice. “In these traditions lie the secrets to life and love. The symbols that they use form part of a universal language,” he says in a phone interview. Through his practice, he likes to present a world without borders. “In a time like this, we need openness. And art can be a beautiful way to create this,” he adds.

One of his signature motifs is the vase—big, small or huge—, which form part of his paper, cloth and sculptural works. “These are an eloquent manifestation of his poetics: the work of Tarshito expresses itself in the act of welcoming and filling, to the point of overflowing,” mentions the curatorial note. “The vase is a universal symbol of acceptance and resilience, which is why I am drawn to it,” says Tarshito.

India: Mirror of the Self can be viewed as part of Tap 4x till 28 February

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