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Paving the path

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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People Artist Tilly Gifford cycled from London to Karnataka to make a statement about global warming and also to exhibit her works

A LEARNING PROCESS Tilly: ‘If you stop flying, it's one of the biggest steps you can take as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint' Photo: MURALI KUMAR K.
A LEARNING PROCESS Tilly: ‘If you stop flying, it's one of the biggest steps you can take as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint' Photo: MURALI KUMAR K.

S ocial and environmental consciousness is what motivated this Scottish youngster, Tilly Gifford, to cycle thousands of kilometres over five months from London to Karnataka.

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, Tilly wants to comment on society using art. At the same time, she's also delving into the much-debated effects of climate change and exploring farming as a key component. “If I were born 20 years ago, I would have been happy exploring art, but since we live in times of climate change, I can't just look the other way,” says Tilly. She's here in India to exhibit her paintings — a commentary on increasing consumerism in India and also to explore the effects of climate change in Indian agriculture by engaging with farmers and learning farming techniques. According to her, the aviation industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

“If you stop flying, it's one of the biggest steps you can take as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint,” she says. Tilly began exploring the issue of climate change when she was a student. “In 2006, I began to realise discrepancies — the media was talking about global warming and at the same time promoting supermarkets, planes and cars. I began working on these issues and generating community dialogue to learn about farming techniques. I think food autonomy plays a big part in building a sustainable future.”

Tilly herself comes from a village in France, where her family is involved in jam making. She attributes part of her stamina in cycling to working in a farm when she was a student.

“We began cycling from a street parallel to the Heathrow airport. I passed through countries like France, Germany, Turkey, Iran and reached Dubai. I could not get a visa through Pakistan, so I had to come through Iran. In Dubai, I was denied permission to travel on a cargo boat to India. I tried negotiating for three weeks, but it didn't work. It would have been a different story had I not been a woman.”

But it wasn't just about the feat. “Flying is so impersonal. All you do is to sit in a metal box. But for me it was a beautiful experience because I was able to meet and interact with people and landscapes. I cycled through forests, mountains, deserts, and the sea side. I found that all these landscapes melted into each other, all these cultures were attached seamlessly, and that people's struggles were all linked up. It was an energising experience for me and it nourished my beliefs.”

Her energy is reflected in the art work that she's exhibiting at Bangalore's Renaissance gallery. Her paintings depict the packaging of some popular products, as a commentary on the growing consumerism in India. Instead of depicting the packaging as such, she has worked on real portraits.

“I have used dirty colours as a counter against the glossy packaging. There are irregularities in the real portraits, which I think add to the excitement. I've also used them to exhibit some technique also. I like to make my art contemporary and modern. I usually don't use colours in my work, but I find India so visually stimulating that colours make their way into my work.”

This is Tilly's first exhibition in India (she has exhibited her works in Scotland and London). “I hope my paintings open up dialogue with the Bangalore public about the industrialisation of our lifestyles and the cascade of human stories caught up in this dizzyingly speedy process.”

During her stay in India, she plans to visit rural Karnataka to learn about Indian farming techniques, traditional craft and sculpture.

“I hope India learns from the mistakes of the West, and that in turn the West learns from many of the age-old sustainable ways of living here in India. This is the time, more than ever, for mutual learning and cross-fertilizing.”

Tilly's works will be on view until October 30 at Renaissance Gallerie, off Cunningham Road. Call 22202232 for more details.

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

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