Wings on paper: Michelle Poonawalla’s interior design collab with Inkiostro Bianco


Michelle Poonawalla juggles many hats: wife, mother, businesswoman, philanthropist, artist. It is as the latter that she has showcased at galleries across the country (solo exhibitions such as What If You Fly? and Born Free), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 and Dubai Art Week 2019 (multi-media installation, Introspection). Her canvases, her unique ruler technique — which she learnt from her grandfather, artist Jehangir Vazifdar — and explorations with digital video mapping have made her a recognised name in the field.

Through it all, she has taken her signature motif, the butterfly, with her. “It is synonymous with me and my style, from my very first art piece. To me the butterfly can depict multiple meanings. It reminds us of the fragility of life, freedom, the feeling of hope and love, and a metamorphosis,” says Poonawalla.

So when she collaborated with Italian furnishings company, Inkiostro Bianco, in one of the few global interior design collaborations with an Indian name during the pandemic, the butterfly once again took centre stage.

Flights of fancy

Poonawalla has created two expressions, Flutter and Misty Flutter, as part of the Turin-based brand’s Goldenwall 2020 wallpaper collection. The former uses a ‘stamping method’ of acrylic paint, while the latter is softer, with a more dreamy quality, done with acrylic spray painting. “I did my art keeping in mind its usage as wallpaper. So the design needed to have an infinite feel,” she says. The Pune artist began working with Inkiostro Bianco early this year, exchanging ideas and artwork files over the internet, and did the actual art on white paper so that it could be superimposed on gold foil, one of several metal-effect base materials they’ve used.

Though there isn’t a direct inspiration from her video mapping, she says she wanted to create the feeling of an immersive experience and a contemplative space through both mediums. “While works like Introspection forces you to question the world, Goldenwall is intended to be a more calming presence. But they are both intended to take you to a new space, in part through their scale and volume of imagery,” she shares.

Message in a rose

The Italian team met Poonawalla through a common friend during a business trip to India last year. “We were fascinated by her artwork and immediately thought our gold foil wallpaper perfectly matched the aesthetics of her works,” says Elena Grazioli, Marketing & Communication Manager, adding that the range was to have been launched in April, at the Salone del Mobile. It was finally unveiled a few weeks ago.

Goldenwall may be the artist’s first time working with an interior brand, but having dipped her toes, she is now looking forward to collaborating on more projects. Meanwhile, the lockdown afforded her time to reflect and explore her practice further. “I’ve been working on a few pieces, such as From Dust to Dust, a stop-motion video work with a single dying rose that is a reflection on nature’s ability to humble humanity — something I see as an important message we need to take away from the Covid-19 pandemic. And more traditional works, including 21 Migrants, a sketch that portrays the human tragedy of the impact of Coronavirus in India.”

Gold wallpaper from 96€ (approximately ₹8,200) per sq mt. Available at select dealers in cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. Details: [email protected]

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