From Chloé to Kahlo, get to know artist Rithika Merchant
"Just show up and work on it every single day, even if you don’t feel like it"
Barcelona-based artist Rithika Merchant is known for her rich, detailed drawings that pull heavily from Indian mythology and the confluence of different cultures. She says that growing up in India, studying in the US (she holds a degree in fine art from Parsons School of Design, New York), and travelling extensively, allowed her to see how interlinked the world really is. “Myths and traditions show commonalities between cultures that often aren’t highlighted in classical history,” says Merchant. And her semi-surreal works are her way of plugging that gap. Last year, Merchant was approached by French luxury house Chloé to create an exclusive line of esoteric prints using spiritual symbols and botanical imagery for its Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Here, the 32-year-old artist talks about her work, life and loves.
ELLE: Tell us about the collaboration with Chloé.
Rithika Merchant: It happened by chance. Natacha [Ramsay-Levi, creative director, Chloé] was browsing the Internet and she came across my work. She liked it and thought it fit what she had in mind for what would become ‘the painted dresses’. Her team sent me an email, asking if I wanted to collaborate with them, and they briefed me about the project on Skype right after. Within a week or two, I was at the studio in Paris, working alongside Natacha and the rest of the team to place my drawings on the dresses.
ELLE: What compels you right now, as an artist?
RM: Forced migration, the mass displacement of people, and the dislocation and exile of groups of people all around the world. Living in Barcelona, I’ve felt helpless watching the European refugee crisis unfold right at my doorstep. This weighs on me, and I’m finding it difficult to make art about anything that is not a response to this.
ELLE: From where do you draw inspiration?
RM: Travel, nature, biology; I’m also a huge admirer of Indian artists such as Mithu Sen and Nalini Malani, naturalist illustrator Walton Ford, performance artist Ana Mendieta, printmaker Belkis Ayon, and of course, Frida Kahlo.
ELLE: What does it take to be creatively happy?
RM: You have to be very, very committed. Constantly hone your craft. Just show up and work on it every single day, even if you don’t feel like it.