Out & About
The Taj and its plinth cityscapes
Close-up: Taj plinth art
The replica Taj Mahal that launched the India Now season lies moored on the Thames. Built in the capital and decorated by Indian creative talent, its plinth also pays tribute to London and Mumbai, as artist Suchi Chidambaram explains...
"As an Indian-born painter, living and working in London, I find inspiration in cities and their people.
The launch of India Now meant I could use the plinth to show side by side the two places closest to my heart - India and London.
I used impressionistic strokes of oil colour, and chose river views of the Thames near Battersea Power Station and further along, the Millennium Wheel, Westminster and Big Ben - all recognisable elements of a city vibrant with colour and spirit.
When it came to representing an Indian city, I had no doubt that Mumbai (Bombay) would be the most appropriate. Its similarities with London become more striking each time I look - the buildings, the boom and the buzz!
I set off each day to work from a studio in Battersea. The four panels making up the sides of the plinth were 25 metres in length apparently, and had to be ready in three weeks.
In theory it seemed fine. But it was only when I physically saw the large MDF boards lined up against the wall that I realised the scale of the project and what would be involved.
And so, the studio became my home for the next three weeks. I worked out it was the coffee and the dark chocolate that gave me energy. My music also kept me inspired if I began to flag, and my last resort was a straw mat from India that became my new bed in case I needed a rest.
Soon the empty panels were becoming cityscapes and were filling up the studio - and my excitement began to mount.
But with three days left to go, I ran into a hitch. I wasn't sure what to do with the fourth panel and what it was going to show.
By this stage there were enough buildings and river views. But something important was still missing - it was the people of course!
And so, the presence of Londoners and Mumbaikars, a power that makes both these cities so great, evolved to fill my last and final panel.
The Taj's journey along the Thames marked the opening of three months of celebrations - an opportunity for everyone to enjoy Indian food, fashion, art, film and music.
My suggestion would be to absorb as much as you can. But to get a flavour of what India is all about in a day, try the Regent Street festival (on 2 September) and designer Manish Arora's fashion works at the V&A (on 7 September).
His use of colour and detail are very appealing to me as a painter - and above all they're fun and a fitting finale for the India Now season."
Suchi Chidambaram is also exhibiting at Clarion Contemporary Art, 387 King Street, Hammersmith W6.
last updated: 25/07/07