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27 Feb 2021, 06:48 HRS IST
  • PTI
    • Features
  • Not all dull and grey: Artists push boundaries with cement
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  • Trisha Mukherjee
  • W

    hen Mexican artist Cynthia Mijares Rodriguez first visited Jaipur, she was blown away by the intricacies of the 'jaali', a perforated stone or latticed screen historically used as a purdah for women.

    But, the feminist in her refused to accept the regressive idea and the artist decided to give the architectural form a contemporary twist in the form of a chic clutch – "the only bit of a woman that needs to be hidden", she says.

    And, that is not all. Cynthia has made the clutch out of cement.

    How she transformed the dull, grey, coarse raw material that is dumped in sacks at construction sites to build skyscrapers into a fashionable clutch, she refuses to reveal the recipe.

    But her collection at the Craft Beton gallery at the ongoing Serendipity Arts Festival here speaks volumes for the potential cement has as a medium of art.

    From table lamps and book shelves to wine racks and comfortable stools, the artist has cemented her imagination in a never-seen-before manner.

    She is joined by another Mexican artist – Alan Saga and two Indian artists – Iti Tyagi and Somesh Singh, who have redefined the functionality of cement beyond mind's eye.

    Somesh, who has pushed all boundaries of creativity, with a laptop bag that folds and functions like any other rubber or a leather bag, says the objective was to break the prevailing notion that cement is not beautiful.

    "People think cement is rough, hard and brittle. They think it will break if it is used for any purpose other than construction. That is what we wanted to change."

    He says he wanted to make cement attractive.

    "My philosophy of design is if it is not serving a purpose, then it is not a design. Design is a function of art and absolute functionality," he adds.

    His works include a fruit basket – made out of cement with a wooden finish, a snail lamp with a shell that appears to be plastic, a bar stool and several others.

    One thing that runs common is all objects d'art is that they defy the conventional properties associated with cement – its heavy weight, ruggedness, and rigidity.

    Speaking of fluidity, Iti's centre-table is one of the finest examples of how cement is capable of falling like a drape. With a pair of leather boots visible from just beneath the hemline, it simply stands out in the lot.

    "Cement expresses my personality. It looks

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