A Croydon artist of small things: meet Parnita Senjit

By - Monday 23rd June, 2014

Liz Sheppard-Jones talks to artist Parnita Senjit at Croydon’s ClickClock Gallery about the beauty of sufficiency, and sending a message in sari fabric

‘The search is on to find perfect balance’, Artist Parnita Senjit with the contrasting work on display in Croydon’s ClickClock Gallery. Image by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Parmita Senjit’s exhibition consists of just seven paintings, hanging quietly in the rear display area at the ClickClock Gallery, Katharine Street. Having looked at her other work on her website, I’d expected something more imposing. I express my surprise when I meet her there on Monday June 16th.

It’s quite a small show, isn’t it? I was expecting to see some of your big stuff.

Yes, I wanted to do something different here. I’m interested in simplicity,which seems to me to be a beautiful thing which contains a great deal of energy. I’m always thinking about the importance of finding balance, which for many people in modern society is about having less, rather than getting more which is what we so often think we desire. A lot of my work is bigger, and takes up more space. Not just in terms of its size, but in colour and presence, too. Whereas these images are fine, just drawings (except for one), and their subject matter is very quiet – people performing ordinary daily tasks. So yes – it’s an exhibition that contains less!

How did this exhibition come about?

A few months ago I met John Reeve, the proprietor of the ClickClock Gallery, and we talked about my work and he offered this space to me. It’s a quiet period for me at the moment before the excitement of showing work in Brick Lane, East London, (at the Old Truman Brewery summer exhibition), so it has worked out very well.

These drawings seemed almost oriental to me at first glance – they have such a delicate look. How are they drawn?

These are six ink drawings on handmade paper, bordered in sari fabric and depicting rustic scenes from India. It’s very plain fabric, without the gold border or any of the expensive flourishes this kind of fabric can have – the kind of clothing worn in the area where I grew up, Dombivli, which is not far from Mumbai. As a young girl I was very aware of the excitement and fast pace of that city, with the businesses and international trade and movie-making, and its contrast to the area immediately around where life was much simpler. I did not feel a negative comparison being made between Mumbai and their own community by the people in Dombivli and that interested me. It’s a place I still visit.

‘Hope 1′ – the painting done by Parnita Senjit with her little fingers after watching a young girl produce art without access to materials. Image not on display at the ClickClock Gallery, reproduced here with the permission of the artist.

It was in India that I saw a girl by the roadside, drawing with her fingertips using rice paint on clay. I stopped and asked her about what she was doing, and was able to give her some art materials which her family could not afford, but it got me thinking about what I could do with my fingertips – about why I use brushes and equipment and what I could do creatively by removing those things. I finished up painting using just my little fingers – as little as I could, really.

Art about rustic life being displayed in the middle of Croydon – that’s another contrast. 

I would say this is art about balance. A lot of my work is about the search for that – about balancing emotions, or balancing the demands of work with other aspects of life, or the noise and rush of a city with the need for peace. I’d like to think that having a place where something quiet and reflective is happening could help Croydon become more balanced.

Forgive me, but isn’t it sentimental to talk about poorer communities as being somehow ‘richer’ because they don’t mind being poor. I mean – the people who live in them, don’t they want flat screen TVs and access to Sky the minute they can get them? 

I really don’t think it’s that – although I’m sure there are some who do. But a community like Dombivli is a place I know and what I find there is a sense of what it means to have sufficient. These drawings are of things I have seen and experienced there. For me the search is on until I find perfect balance, and knowing what is enough is an important part of that. Awful poverty is never better than anything – it’s something to be overcome – but enormous amounts of possessions are not better than having sufficient either.

I think a delicate drawing can capture that idea beautifully, by containing enough lines to capture the essence of something. After that, adding more would not really add anything. It’s about knowing when to stop. For too many people, simplicity is a lost entity.

The central painting is very different.

It’s called ‘The restricted deformation of emotion’ and it won special recognition for figurative painting at the LST Online Gallery Awards. It’s certainly bigger than the other pictures here but I don’t think it overpowers them. It’s about contrasts again, and showing how the right point, the balancing point, is always between the extremes. That’s where the good vibes are, the state of mind that people want to find.

How do you balance your work as an artist with other aspects of your life? You’re a fitness professional, a mother, then your husband’s work takes you between different countries and that’s not always something you can control. I experienced international moves as a child too and I think it can be dislocating in some ways – how has your family found that?

We’ve been living in Croydon for seven years. Before that, we were in India for three years, then before that in the USA for five. I think it’s made my son, who’s now 15, very flexible with a good sense of perspective. I work as a fitness and nutrition instructor (I’m a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals) and what I tell clients is really the same message – about balance, giving yourself space and the importance of making small good choices.

Parnita Senjit’s exhibition is on at the ClickClockArt and Photography Gallery, Katharine Street, Croydon, CR9 1ET Monday-Saturday until 28th June. To come to see it is a good small choice that I hope many people in Croydon will be making. You can also see more of her work on her website.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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