New Jersey based artist Sarasvathy TK is known for her hyper realistic paintings of food from Indian cuisine. Born in Chennai, Sarasvathy studied computer science and engineering in India. She then moved to UAE and Singapore, before settling down in New Jersey. Sarasvathy has worked as part of several prestigious assignments for the Ministry of Defence, Singapore as well as IBM India. In 2008, a chance conversation with her husband at an art exhibition made her realize how much she loved art and she quit her job to devote all her time to drawing and painting. She found inspiration in Dutch still life paintings from the Baroque period and painted several still life works.
Over the years, she found she could extend her background in engineering to the visual art field as well and apply the same meticulousness, precision and dedication to her art. She eventually found her calling in hyperrealism – exaggerated and vividly real food paintings. In the initial days, she sketched and painted landscapes and still life objects, before starting on her current series which focuses on Indian food. Her recent works are a celebration of food from different regions of India in a hyper realistic style. The incredibly detailed works capture the surface details, colors, aromas and textures of various food items, such as idli, dosa and samosa. Her art originates from a love for Indian cuisine, which is famous across the world and she feels excited and privileged to share it with a global audience of art and food connoisseurs.
The detailing in the images of her food paintings is an attempt to bridge the distance with the viewer psychologically and create an intimate engagement on multiple levels, beyond the visual element. For Sarasvathy, the process of painting is an elaborate one with numerous steps involved that allow her to explore various facets about herself too. It involves cooking, plating and lighting followed by hundreds of photographs and sketches, where each component requires extensive detailing and exactitude. To mark World Idli Day on March 30, Sarasvathy released a limited edition of 22 postal stamps featuring her painting around the theme.
What made you think of painting about Indian food? What was your inspiration?
Before answering this question on ‘Indian food’, I would like to give background on how I landed on this runway. Drawing and scribbling on paper using Pencil was always of interest but I never took it seriously till 2008. Computer science Engineering being my educational background, I never put my thoughts to action to pursue arts as my career. As it’s said, there is always a beginning for every story and this can happen irrespective of age or time. In 2007 visited Louvre museum in Paris and later an Art exhibition in 2008 to discuss my interest in drawing and painting with my spouse. Those discussions and encouragement from my family to explore this part of the world has paved the way to my first drawing and resulted in knowing my interest in painting. Once stabilized with oil on canvas I have experimented with various genres starting from landscape and still life but my eyes were always searching a unique subject as I wanted to explore something which wasn’t visited by others. Google introduced me to hyperrealism. Various works from renowned artists in hyperrealism world and especially in the world of food like burgers, desserts, fast foods attracted me to understand that Indian food is not explored in this context. This is where I started my journey to depict Indian food as hyper realistic art. Couple of my inspirations in this genre are Tjalf Sparnasy and Mary Ellen Johnson. I love their creation to the core which has influenced me a lot. This is due to the minutely detailed work depicting colour and texture of food over oil.
Where do you get your ideas from?
These ideas started 4-5 years back looking at some of the prestigious work done on hyper realism. Hyper realism covers lot of subjects but, I felt food is the most inspiring and satisfactory one. Later when I tried to search Indian food in this concept, haven’t found any and that is the where this idea, took birth.
Who is your favourite Indian chef?
Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Kanna, Ranveer Brar and Vineet Bhatia are my favourite Indian celebrity chefs.
What’s your favourite cuisine and favourite restaurant?
I like Indian and Mexican cuisine. My favorite Indian Restaurant is Celeste Restaurant at Taj Falaknuma palace in Hyderabad and Margaritta’s(Dempsey) restaurant in Singapore .
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your art?
I try to bring the realism of a picture which we view through our eyes over to canvas. For me, food representation is layered and nuanced, and I attempt to capture its sensuousness, tactile quality, colours and textures to form a multi sensory experience. Perhaps, even recreate the aroma and flavour and elicit a deeper engagement beyond the visual element. I am not very sure how much close it is but, I am trying my best. What brings uniqueness in my work is representing hyper realistic artworks of Indian food for the first time.
What do you love most about being an artist? Future Plans?
My journey into this world started with my love and passion towards colors and paintings. This gives me immense pleasure and relaxation when I am into painting. I would like to do a solo show in near future (my current project) on Indian food using this genre. I wish to invite celebrity Indian chefs for the show as a tribute to all their hard-work over the years. On a future projects perspective, after my current project, I am planning to extend Indian food hyper-realistic paintings with world renowned western luxurious brands such as like Versace, Hermès etc. This is to bring Indian cuisine closer to western etiquette.
What is your next painting going to be about?
My next painting is mango lassi, chola bhatura and I have 11 paintings in mind in all, so far I am 50% done with them. All my efforts and time is going to be in achieving this goal very soon.
Have you done a promotional event in India to publicize your unique talent?
Not yet. I am planning a solo exhibition in New York followed by rest of the world. I would love to do something in India and hoping for an opportunity/ collaborations.
How do you usually promote your work?
I promote my artwork by participating in art fairs, art competitions, exhibitions and these days I am promoting my current series “Bhojan” through social media such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. As promoting one’s work is a never an ending process, I always look for various interesting options to reach the world.