Sharmila Samant - Halcyon Days

Discarded Bottle caps, 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Sharmila Samant - Halcyon Days

Discarded Bottle caps, 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Halcyon Days

Discarded bottle caps, 2015
8.5’ X 19’

In 2010  I was invited to respond to the weapons and textiles collection at Powis Castle in Wales. The collection was created by two generations of the Clive family: Robert (Clive of India, as he was popularly known, served in the East India Company several times between 1744 to 1767, setting the stage for the British Empire on the subcontinent) and his son Edward (who married Henrietta Herbert, daughter of the 1st Earl of Powis).  The tension between the local population and the British increased in the late-18th century, with the Indian opposition led by Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, or Tippoo Sahib as the British called him, who was the ruler of the south Indian state of Mysore. Events came to a head at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799.  Tipu Sultan was defeated and many of his possessions were acquired by the British as spoils of war.

The spectacular items that became a part of the Clives’ share included Tipu’s magnificent state tent,  one of the gold tiger’s head finials from Tipu’s throne; and the two cannons in the courtyard of the castle entrance.The tent which intrigued me the most has a plain off-white exterior, but the interior made of hand-painted cotton chintz in the kalamkari technique block-printed, resist-dyed and hand-painted in an intricate repeating pattern of acanthus cusped niches, with a white ground, with each enclosing a central vase with symmetrical flower arrangement, predominantly in reds and blues. The colours of red, white and blue, which are the colours of the Union Jack and, strikingly, also of the crown caps of the Kingfisher beer used as part of the artwork.

Halcyon, a bird of classical Greek legend of Alcyone, identified with the kingfisher, is said to breed about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea, and to have the power of charming winds and waves into calmness. Current use of ‘halcyon days’ tends to be nostalgic and recalling of the seemingly endless sunny days of youth or good times.

Sharmila Samant

Samant's visually exciting work follows the major trends that define the globally evolving world from an Indian perspective, taking into account the formidable developments of the country over the last few decades. The history of textiles features heavily in her work, as she sees it as an indicator of global economical trends.

Samant has exhibited her work internationally, including at the Sydney Biennial, and has had recent solo exhibitions in Mumbai and Geneva.

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