Sense and sensuality

By Chenelle Fernando

After schooling at Stafford International School, Minal Naomi gained a background in business management, which she pursued in Singapore. Amid the realisation of a need to change paths, she pursued interior designing at the Academy of Arts. Having worked at John Keells for three-and-a-half years, she currently works under a landscape architect. Minal’s debut showcase titled “Sensuous” intrigued us to veer into what she had in store, and here is what we found out.

Your artwork is unique and different to what we witness daily like, for instance, the fine arts. Could you describe to us what your creations entail?

For me, it’s always looking at a concept, a theory, something that I want to tackle, and going at it from there.

A lot of artists tend to get the perfect style and composition through repetition, but my style comes out really raw because of my lack of training, I think. That helps me in a way, because I’m not constraining myself to look at light and shadow in a way artists would be technically trained to do. So, it’s a lot more about free form.

What inspires you to create this sort of artwork?

Lots of things inspire me. It’s generally a reaction to a lot of stimuli around me. My friends are my inspiration; just a chat with a girlfriend. Sometimes, it’s a complete stranger, watching and feeling so inspired by this character I’ve never even met. So I wouldn’t say there’s one thing, and neither would I believe that there is one use.

In fact, I think it’s fatal to put all your cards on one person and/or thing and say, “okay, all my inspirations are going to come from you”.

So, everything from the conversations I have with my sister and my mother to discussions based on contradictory things inspire me.

Your artwork incorporates numerous elements. What are they?

Lots of my artwork are collages. I do photography that I collage over. I use some of my interior design skills like 3D modelling, which I will be showcasing at my show; I will be using 3D modelling and rendering to make some art. But I also paint, so it’s a mish-mash of everything including style. Again, it depends on the topic I want to tackle. Sometimes, I look at what the topic is and I’ll choose the medium based on that.

Most artists enjoy creating artwork around particular topics or themes. What would that be for you?

The female form. Sometimes, it would be innate; I wouldn’t necessarily think that I was going to be designing something to look like a specific part. I draw my inspiration from something else, something others don’t. Because I was known as the girl who did all these avant garde, mad things, they would think I’m purposely showing a particular form or shape and so they question me and say, “Minal how do you above all people see what this is”. And while I was creating, I didn’t realise what it was – to me, it would look like a traditional padakkam or necklace that I did this decomposition of, but somehow that item turned into a vagina.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the female form because I think it’s a topic that is so taboo in Sri Lanka. Culturally, lots of girls don’t talk about these things.

Is there an underlying message you wish to convey through your artwork?

It depends on each piece. There is an underlying message all the time, but it depends on the piece because each piece is topical.

Since your artwork comprises so many elements, do tell us which mediums you use.

I’m sticking to acrylic for this exhibition, but I use watercolour as well. Not so much graphite and similar mediums – these are technical mediums many girls at AOD were using as they’re trained in its use.

I thought, okay, so these girls are trained in it, but I’m not, so what can I do? So I splashed some paint around and did some collages to see what happened.

 You’ve got a solo exhibition coming up and it will be your first. What is to be expected of this event?

I’ll definitely be raising some aunties’ eyebrows. I want to discuss sensuality in its entirety. The more I spoke to people, the more I realised that a lot of girls in Sri Lanka associate sensuality with sexuality. Even though they’re linked, they’re not the exact thing. They have different connotations; sensuality is what is pleasing to the senses – smell, touch, and just seeing things sometimes is a very sensuous experience, so I’m trying to look at that. I’m also trying to touch on the cultural connotations of this word in Sri Lanka and look at how different women try to explore that. I have around 30 pieces that’ll be showcased.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the female form because I think it’s a topic that is so taboo in Sri Lanka
Pictures by Krishan Kariyawasam