Michelle Poonawalla is an artist who lives and works between London, UK, and Pune, India. Poonawalla’s works explore universal, socially engaged topics that resonate with a diverse range of audiences, creating powerful memories and moving experiences. Her practice combines cutting-edge technology and traditional artistic mediums in an emotionally charged and poetic form; often utilizing sound, video mapping, projection, motion sensors and other techniques to bring her innovative paintings and installations to life.
Her seminal piece, Introspection (2018), is a striking, immersive experiential artwork which leaves many viewers moved and affected, whilst inspiring them to take action in their own lives. More recently Poonawalla has begun exploring work with shorter digital format films. Her 3min 36 second film Circle of Life addresses the idea of memory was exhibited at the 7th Mediations Biennale in Poland. Poonawalla is currently exhibiting work in The Tangible Imaginative at Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai. In an exclusive interview with the newsweekly she spoke about her artwork, her process and her thoughts on belonging to a globally famous family.
When asked if there’s a difference between how men and women view art from different lenses, she said, “Generally, I do not differentiate between a man and a woman. No one knows what or how anyone thinks. I think art comes from one’s own thoughts, experiences and beliefs.”
We also explored the kind of training, support or preparation Michelle thinks women need, to pursue art as a career, especially women of colour. Commenting on that she said, “Training is always the same- be it for a man or a woman. It is the same classroom where there are boys and girls, people from different backgrounds and diverse cultures. The training is same for all, irrespective of gender, colour or race of an individual.”
If she were to paint a series of portraits on Asian Women, Poonawalla thinks that she would personally select subjects that SPEAK. “There are several factors like the expression, the portrait and the detail of the face which are exceptionally important to tell the right story,” she added.
Only a small percentage of Asian Women are well-versed with technology when it comes to art and creativity. Being technically sound minded and having the right resources can hence be quite empowering. Poonawalla agrees. “I would agree that I have been fortunate enough to work on projects using video mappings and other video works, which is an expensive medium to be in. Having said that, I also strongly believe that the art world is a difficult place to be in, irrespective of a technological background. We need to have an increase in galleries, platforms and spaces for exhibitions,” she said.
Michelle has stood out and made her own mark despite belonging to a family that has various popular and successful names that are known worldwide. But what makes her secure and independent? Michelle said, “I believe talent can’t be procured. I constantly had to prove myself over and above who and what my family name is. I was inspired by my grand-father to be an artist, he shared his prized technique of oil painting only with me. This led me to think- I cannot lead a lifetime doing nothing with what I know and my talent.”
“Determination is the key to success. I always believe if you want something you have to put in the hard-work and go after what you believe and want to achieve. I desired the legacy to live on due to which I was willing and determined to prove myself, no matter any hurdles or what anyone said,” she told the newsweekly.