Home away from Home – in Auroville
“A mosaic of a community”
After a two-year residency in the Parisian ‘Le Mobilier National’, Indo-French artist Mario d’Souza dreamed of another voyage to India; the country that remains his second home and where he spent the first 22 years of his life. When a project with ‘Fondation Martell’ culminated in an auction that raised sufficient funds to cover this journey, he eagerly confirmed his participation in Auroville’s collaborative artist platform ‘La Petite Maison’; a program largely inspired by Mario’s own enthusiasm. After Auroville, Mario’s journey continues onwards to a residency and exhibition in Delhi, before returning to France for a residency with ‘Fondation Rothschild’.
At the age of 22, Mario left India to explore France, while on a scholarship of ‘École des Beaux-Arts’. He says it took him 18 years to pinpoint with exact precision what inspires him as a person and as an artist: “Truth”, he says, “is what drives me. And this, in my life and in my work, has become my priority.”
Inspired to portray the promise held in a childhood memory and to capture and share the essence of cultural elements that are alive to him, Mario d’Souza creates art with the vitality of local traditional objects, colors and textures. Entwined in Mario’s memory that he calls ‘story of the mind’ where he raises himself by vigorously clutching the helm of his mother’s saree is the conscious feel that this saree texture bestowed him confidence, safety, gravity, fullness, and strength.
From the magnitude of this moment where he realized he was held by his own grasp, emerged his paramount fascination with hands and all things hand-made. “Handicrafts and artisan products are testimonies to the human hands that toil and create things”, Mario says, “Watching a weaver make a basket or a box is like going on a world tour: until you open it you are going on a journey, imagining what it contains, and it can be filled with emotions and love, and then shared with someone.”
The recurring theme of hands and focal point in his drawings followed him to Auroville. He reveals: “Here, we see hands in prayer, hands that dig and plant in the Earth, hands in rituals, hands in movement; they are the screen through which you can see the inner soul. The hands bring the inner soul to work. Silent hands are lost.” The form, shape and movement of different hands is a key element of Mario’s exhibition, in which he showcases his continued research in the context of his experience in Auroville. Reinforcing Mario’s drawings is how he chooses to present them; each one is carefully mounted in a custom handmade wooden frame, made by Gagan.
During his month in residency at ‘La Petite Maison’ Mario connected, exchanged, and engaged with the wide array of people who helped him create the material for his artwork. He explains that throughout his stay, there was no compromise on quality of material. Daily, Mario uncovered its true value and learned how to reward it fairly. To name a few, Mario approached Vanaville to make boxes out of marble paper from Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory, sat and conversed with a basket weaving family in Kuilappalayam, connected with merchants of handloom sarees in Pondicherry, and visited Auroville’s EcoService to collect recycled items.
By spending time in Auroville and the outdoors Mario discovered again the world as he knew it as a child. The beautiful green canopy at his doorstep he found spiritually moving, contemplating on the perfection and specificity of each leaf. “A mango tree leaf is different from a laurel leaf, which is different from a palm leaf” he observes. His drawing are inspired by this contemplation, as he paid particular attention to the forms that connect people and nature.
Mario chose the materials and colors for his work carefully. Transported back in time, he was flooded with memories of how he used to write greeting cards as a child, on Ashram paper. Honoring the synchronicity of the memory, he chose to use the same paper to cover the boxes that hold handcrafted and handwoven items. In a perfect blend of memories, research, and passion, and with a silent mantra of ‘mother’ flowing through him, Mario prepared and painted 20 handcrafted boxes. In what Mario describes as a “mosaic of community” each box is laid out carefully and holds a different drawing and a specific accompanying saree cloth. Together, these represent the journey of this communal endeavour, and each one contains objects that honour the very fabric of human labour: our hands.
While in Auroville, Mario will host a workshop in which he shares the process and methodology of his artwork.
Further, he will hold an artist talk where he will dive into the meaning of home and community, territory, working together, gestures, traveling, and nationality.