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November 14, 2016

A Day In The Life Of Artist Rithika Merchant

Photographs and narrative by Rithika Merchant

This Barcelona-based Indian artist tells us how she spends her day, what her motivations are, and life outside art

Click on the images to view in larger gallery.

Every morning is a lazy one. I have breakfast in bed, read the news and check my emails. I like to rise early, and start the day quietly and alone.

I usually go for a walk along the beach in Barceloneta before I settle down to work. The boardwalk seamlessly joins city life with the sea and beach. It is quiet and uncrowded early in the day.

The sea here is known for its calm waters most of the year — we rarely get waves. Autumn brings storms and the dramatic sea with it — my favourite part of the change in season.

Mornings in the studio are peaceful. I work best when my studio is ordered and uncluttered.

Details and tools on my work desk. I’ve been adding mixed media elements into my work. I’ve recently started incorporating embroidery hoops into some of my pieces. I stretch paper instead of fabric in the hoops. Needlework has long been considered ‘women’s work’ — dainty art for docile women. By changing the content and medium, I hope to subvert historic ideas of how women create.

Mid-morning tea is a must. I usually sip it on my balcony, which overlooks Estació de França. It’s oddly calming to hear the trains coming and going.

Back to the studio: working vertically and large scale brings a new perspective. I’ve only recently started making large-scale work. The most unexpected thing about working this way is the physical toll it takes on my body. My work is very detailed and drawing upright for hours without anything to support my arm can sometimes be painful.

Lunch sometimes involves something homemade, along with a chat with my husband. We both like to cook, and the start of the chilly weather calls for something hearty.

The afternoon light in my studio is dreamy. Post-lunch is the perfect time for a podcast and detailing. At the moment, I am listening to The Black Tapes podcast. It’s a fictional serialised docudrama about a journalist and a paranormal investigator, as they explore unsolved cases.

Note-making and planning is an important part of my practice. I spend a lot of my time reading and researching ideas I have, or subjects that I am interested in. I make lots of written notes and diagrams but I almost never make sketches or studies of things. I sketch more with words than images.

I take tea time very seriously. I always take a break at around 4pm, have chai, eat a bunch of snacks and read my book.

Quiet moments at home. I’m currently reading Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka. It’s about migrant workers from three continents who are forced to flee the English strawberry field they work in. The book takes you on their journey across England as they pursue a better future. Although the book deals with a somber subject, the characters portrayed are sweet and funny.

An evening stroll in Barcelona uncovers many wonders. This modernist beauty is in Plaça de la Virreina. The wall decoration made using a technique called ‘sgraffito’ is made by scratching through the top layer of plaster to reveal a lower layer of a different colour. I love the attention to detail: you can even find mosaics on the underside of the balconies.

Carrer d’Allada Vermell is a great place to have a drink and people watch. It also has one of my favourite buildings in El Born — so lush!

Late evening rays of sun and drinks with friends. Wines from Penedès are our favourite. It’s one of the best wine-producing regions in the country along with Rioja. The dry white is perfect for these last lingering days of summer.

Gazing at our beloved Barceloneta as the day winds down. We have lived in La Barceloneta ever since we moved to Barcelona six years ago. It’s my favourite neighbourhood here because it feels like a village in the middle of the city. La Barceloneta was largely uninhabited until mid 18th century. It began as a fishing village and many of the old maritime traditions still persist today.

Rithika Merchant is a Mumbai-born artist currently residing in Barcelona. Her drawings combine craft and concept alongside mythological associations.  

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