Artist Mario D’Souza’s new collection ‘Home away from home’ is an ode to tropical flora

Indigo blue pepper vines line the walls painted white, cashew fruits, betel nuts, water apples and mango bushes with clusters of leaves, again all in indigo, while this tropical Eden created by artist Mario D’Souza features blue flowers bloom.

As artist in residence at the Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum (AFT) from November 2 to November 20, as part of his project ‘Home Away from Home’, the 35 paintings are a tribute to the flora of the region.

Red pleated valances, red curtains, yellow walls and colorful pieces of fabric draped over banana fiber welcome visitors to the exhibition. Hand painting has pride of place on the yellow colored wall.

Artist Mario D’Souza working on his collection Home Away From Home | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mario says: “This is not just an exhibition of my paintings. It is a larger installation where I make the space a part of the exhibition; A sensory space where past, present and future are intertwined. The hand is what helps me to transfer what I see and imbibe on the canvas. Home is probably the iconography of the show. If we did not have that, there could be neither knowledge nor its transmission.

Mario, 49, living in Paris, France for the last 22 years, says that he does not miss fruits like mango, cashew or banana. “All I remember is the vegetation, the leaves, the greenery and people of my childhood. They are my influences in my artistic journey,” he says.

Mesmerized by the trees, fruits and flowers he saw around him, he painted them on canvases of different sizes. “My favorite color is ochre, but for the first time, I have used only blue and white in all my works displayed here,” he says.

color blue

His decision to use indigo was based on the special relationship between indigo and India. Mario explains, “Indigo is woven into the history of India. It was this color that forced colonial farmers to grow indigo, and it was one of the main exports from India. And it was again Indigo that led Gandhi’s first Satyagraha in Champaran in 1917. That is why all the paintings in this collection are indigo on white.

Works by artist Mario D'Souza on display at AFT

Works by artist Mario D’Souza on display at AFT Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Some images of leaves, flowers, vines and branches spill over the frame of the work, seeming to grow out of the rectangular shape in which the works are enclosed. Pointing out that tropical landscapes are not the same as manicured gardens, he says he wanted his paintings to capture the abundance of tropical growth.

A graduate of Chitrakala Parishad, Bengaluru, Mario left for France on scholarship after post graduation in Fine Arts from MS University, Vadodara. Mario has been living in France since 2001 and visits India every year.

He said, ‘What I could not do when I was here, I am doing now abroad. I can now see the country from afar and it gives it a beautiful different perspective. I straddle two places. Home is one place, ‘away’ is another place and ‘home’ is another place. But it all ultimately adds up to one home, the place where my heart is,” claims Mario.

Artist Mario D'Souza's work in Indigo and White

Artist Mario D’Souza’s work in Indigo and White | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

He continues: “Am I the tortoise, who is taking his home with him? I don’t know But I know I am at home in France and India.

clinical experience

For Mario, this exhibition is also the result of the time he spent in his flat during the lockdown caused by the pandemic when he yearned to move outside. “Drawing is therapeutic for me. I am a nine to five artist. My day doesn’t go by if I don’t make at least four paintings. At five o’clock, I go for a two-hour walk and during those two hours what I see And experienced, that inspires my work.”

According to Mario, his emotions – happiness, sadness, loneliness, love – are invested in each of his works.

Mario is participating in the Kochi Biennale, which begins on December 12. He is planning to showcase country food for the biennale. “My collection will reflect the fusion of food found in and around Mattancherry and Fort Kochi. Apart from this, I also want to make drumsticks, mango flowers and kitchen utensils that our grandmothers used.

The artist sees each of his exhibitions as an opportunity to celebrate and invites the public to share in that celebration.

The exhibit will be on AFT until January 15.