Denise Wyllie’s Secret Gardens Exhibition – Interview With Curator Divya Mittal

The quintessential English garden makes its way to India by way of London-based painter-printmaker Denise Wyllie. Her work refashions the globally-held representation of British landscapes and, certainly, caught the eye of curator Divya Mittal who brings an exhibition of Denise’s canvases and handmade silkscreen prints to the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on November 6.

Denise Wyllie

Curator Divya Mittal is proud to present this cross-cultural show, with its focus on gardens of healing and nature’s power to suffuse wellbeing and creativity. We interview her about all aspects of this November show.

Could you tell us a little about your background as a curator and arts event organiser?

I have worked in various capacities with international art fairs, galleries, cultural institutes, also production and broadcasting companies across London and India. I studied fine art at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art, London. Interestingly, prior to that I was trained in one of the ancient Indian classical dance forms, Odissi. Being an artist myself, I am keenly attuned to various aspects around exhibitions and hence becoming a curator was a natural progression.

What attracted you to the work of Denise Wyllie and inspired you to present this exhibition?

It was an organic interaction with Denise that evolved into an exhibition. I was invited to her studio in North Finchley, where I experienced an array of works, from her earlier years to the present day. I saw varied subject matter and her experimentation with materials. I found myself particularly drawn to a series of prints.

Amongst many things, her work captures movement, energy and light play. Denise’s underlying response to the world – conscious and subconscious moments of life – are reflected in her expressive depictions of nature. It is a pleasure to showcase her work for a different audience who can feel the joy and celebration it brings.

How do you feel Indian attendees will connect with the way she captures English gardens?

Across cultures we see different styles of gardens that evolved over time. They are considered an expression of beauty – through art, nature, individual aesthetics, cultural philosophy and are also symbols of national pride. In India, gardens have been developed across civilisations and empires during Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Mughal, Rajput and British periods of rule.

In the 19th century, Indian and European architectural and garden styles came together. For it was in 1868, that the Maharaja of Jaipur, India commissioned a public garden of over 76 acres using English designers Frederick de Fabeck and Sir Swinton Jacob. This garden is still in use and is an example of how fusion has influenced public gardens and shows the development in many parts of India. For your interest, the Grand Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi showcases the best of different gardening traditions from around the World.

In india, we have a great history of coexisting with nature and the elements play a central role. Traditionally, our temples were built near water and mountains, depending on the region. Dwellings would organically form near or in some cases around them. There is also a keen sense of awareness and belief about the healing and life sustaining properties of various trees and medicinal plants and also some plants and trees are an intrinsic part of worship. I feel the Indian audience will appreciate and, hopefully, be intrigued by Denise Wyllie’s depictions of nature.

What type of art currently dominates the Indian art market and exhibitions? 

In recent years, we have seen a tremendous growth in new age media art forms, young collectors, alternative art spaces and artist collectives. Along with government-sponsored spaces and private art galleries, we have several art establishments which can be hired by artists. A good place to absorb all this is at the auctions in Delhi and Mumbai. The array of art and artifacts are not limited to Masters and showcase a growing awareness for contemporary and traditional art as well.

Who are you favourite artists and what types of work do you prefer?

Many areas of art fascinate me. I am inspired by the works of Zarina Hashmi, Louise Bourgeois, Emily Jacir, Jean-René, Martha Rosler and Tai Shani. The language of art is interconnected: arriving at a conversation both within and outside of the self. Each artwork offers a unique personal experience, so for me it is difficult to pick one kind of work over the other. Having said that, the works which bring forth sensitivity to a subject are those I most resonate with and appreciate. 

Denise Wyllie’s SECRET GARDENS Nov 6 – 10, Convention Foyer, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India.

Published by Slipstream Media

Arts Media and Production Company