It all started with dough. As a child, Lekha Washington created figures using the material at home. At 18, she held her first exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The National Institute of Design graduate soon went on to do Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films, and started her own design company, Ajji - The Odd Product Company, which is known for its quirky designs. She had a few fascinating art exhibitions amidst all this. Her latest one, titled The Collective Nouns Or A Pound Of Flesh And Suchlike, will open on February 25 in Mumbai. And it is evident that Lekha has a knack for art, despite dabbling with it in the form of different professions.
While art is something she does solely for herself, acting and product designing are the avenues that let her support her art financially. “I need a collective pursuit, and I need a solitary pursuit of creativity. In an ideal world, I would love for all of it to work out,” she says.
Interestingly, it is her latest show that she considers her formal entry into the art world. “I feel like I’ve been an artist all my life. You either are an artist, or you aren’t. It’s not about people acknowledging your work. But practicing art in a rather formal manner is not something I’ve done before. This is almost like my first proper solo show,” says Washington.
The ideas for this exhibition had been “brewing for a while”. In it, Washington has put together 10 experiential artworks that are highly abstract. Her biggest piece, A Dervish Of Tornadoes, is an installation featuring spinning soft cloth; a replication of a tornado that people can stand in the middle of. The piece is also the physical manifestation of the inner conflicts one faces in day-to-day life. Another work, A Pound Of Flesh, comprises an orange that is covered with human skin. “It’s a take on the body, and how the colour of our skin changes the way we perceive things. So, something as innocuous as an orange suddenly looks vulgar and suggestive,” explains Washington.
There’s also a third ‘3D’ installation called A Couple Of. It consists of two lovers being projected on opposing pieces of soft fabric. Viewers who see the piece will be able to interact with it in different ways.
Through her works, Washington is playing with linguistics, and how language affects the way we perceive ourselves, our body and the world around us. She is quick to add that she’s using the phrases “with a sense of humour”. She quips, “I’m not taking myself too seriously.”