Saturday, January 17, 2015

Art Nouveau (and Filter Coffee!) with Smruthi Gargi Eswar!

Aalayam signifies “a place of residence”, a confluence of ideas and inspiration. And you know that, at Aalayam, we house our musings in the vibrant world of multicultural design, culture, gastronomy and art. We have had abundant opportunities over the years to celebrate the visual and cerebral appeal of Indian culture. We have brought to you inspiring artists who revel in retelling mythos, folklore, history and culinary art in their own individualized ways…leaving their indelible impressions in this impersonal, mercantile, fickle universe. And how enriched have we been with those people. And how thankful are we that they have shared their stories with us!

I am proud to bring to you one more such artist. Smruthi Gargi Eswar.

Smurthi Gargi Eswar is the featured artist on Aalayam. Picture courtesy Ninfa Bito - Manila

Smruthi is a graphic artist, designer and modern art aficionado who is interpreting Indian mythology through her bold retelling via her series "Sister Misfortune". (Follow Smruthi and her work on Or check out her website

I was introduced to Smruthi’s work when I chanced upon one of her graphic art pieces in a very good friend’s home. (Check this link out, I also introduced you guys to it!) I was floored by Smruthi’s bold strokes, use of color, and the visceral story telling embedded deep in the art – the limited edition artwork seemed to captivate, and draw all eyes from its pride of place in the home owner’s abode. I was fortunate enough to get introduced to Smruthi following that intimate experience with her work,  fascinated as I was with her masterful art retelling of modern mythos. And boy was I impressed.

Smruthi's art "APARNA" in Velu Shankar home in Conoor, India

Smruthi’s art adorns home, office spaces, book covers, posters and walls of school buildings! This verdant feature speaks to the versatility and seamless translation that Smruthi infuses into her work.  And it’s not surprising, how organically the art lends itself, as an expression of individuality, as a remarkable statement, in whatever she touches. Smruthi’s design and collaborative space StudioSMU is the wellspring of her ideas and her forever messaging!

Smurthi's studio and creative space

 Smruthi is, I found, down to earth, vivacious and super chill (but with sublime attention to perfection, like all artists!!), even as she is expression shades of fierce feminism. All major pluses for me, an observer of artist personalities and human nature. So I will stop gushing and admiring, and let you meet Smruthi youself! And get inside her gorgeous head.

Here goes!

Shilo Shiv Suleman collaboration Power to Women

Supriya (Su): Smruthi, I personally love mythology. Its visceral, and deep. And you seem to have captured the quintessence of Mythology perfectly in your brand! We want to pick your brain to know more about it! First of all, what got you started?? And why Mythology?

Smruthi (Sm): My interest in Mythology is a rather personal. I feel like the Hindu identity has become a very narrow one. We seem to have forgotten about the diversity even within Hinduism. This series was a way for me to reclaim mythology and study older versions (matriarchal versions) of these stories. Especially in a country where people seem to fall back on what is traditional or cultural to explain their own actions, I think it’s a good idea to understand, that what we think of as timeless stories, are in fact changed versions of earlier tellings. And these earlier tellings, most often than not, stand for very different ideologies. I am interested in these early tellings that tend to be less patriarchal and far more diverse.   

APARNA from the Sister Misfortune Series

Su: Where do you derive your daily inspiration from? What gets you started designing and handcrafting a piece of art?

Sm: It’s hard to put my inspiration to one or two things. It could be sketching a bit, listening to music or reading. Once it comes to my graphic design work at StudioSMU there is more of process. Breaking the brief down, and then letting your mind wander but still very consciously to keep putting these ideas down in visual form. Sketching these ideas and fine tuning them is usually the perfect environment for the better ideas and the final design to surface. 

But with Graphic Art projects I do nothing at all. The idea or the need to discuss something appears quite naturally and the execution as well is more fluid and does not really have process that I apply. But I can see rather clearly the my design practice is a strong influence in how I go about creating my more "artistic" work. 

Wall graphics for a TV Show on NDTV, designed by Smruthi

Su: How do you give a modern slant to traditional representations of Hindu Gods? We see your art adorning classical abodes, and rocking in a modern space as well! So tell us more!

Sm: What interests me is a culture that is living and breathing. A space where we can interact with ideas from the past and be able readdress them from our own points of reference and interest. With Sister Misfortune I am looking at the matriarchal gods from a matriarchal time, in which the woman also known as Prakrithi (nature in Sanskrit) were revered. The adaptation of the Art Nouveau style is a direct outcome of this. 

The focus on natural forms and the placing of nature over all other things. The goddesses themselves seem more like us. I wanted this role reversal as a contrast to the constant obsession for women to be more "goddess like". Woman are layered, complex and flawed. And that is how I see the goddesses too. Also in Indian mythology as with Greek mythology we can see these layers to these gods. All I am doing is letting these complexities surface in  new visual context.

Old city cave graphic series - quirky, eclectic and emphatic

Su: Can you talk to us a little bit about your design work? Do you hold the creative reins of the design, or do you let your customers decide what they would like?

Sm: With Graphic Design work there is a lot of interaction with the Client. At this point most of them come to me because they have seen my work and would like to work with me. I get many different types of clients. Some who have a clear idea about what they want, some who might need a little help getting there while some don't want the hassle of it at all and are quite willing that I take it all on. Most clients I have worked with continue to work with me over numerous projects over time and I personally find a lot of happiness in that. 

Sandbox Collective and The Humming Tree poster

Su: What are your general interests and do you mind sharing how you spend your down time?

Sm: The usual - listening to music, dancing (nothing academic), watching films, or obsessing over a series, enjoying food while avoiding cooking (which i mean to change), day dreaming and analyzing the nighttime ones... things like that.  

DioramaDesign Studio project with Thara Thomas and Nidhi Miriam Jacob Cariappa

Su: Talk to us about Sister Misfortune. What do you aspire to achieve with the series? How, in your opinion, does your art contribute to the preserving of culture? 

Sm: Personally, Sister Misfortune created a space in which I can address stuff I want to. I am hoping that it also creates a platform where we can talk about gender, religion, culture and the existence  of multiplicity in all of them. It’s not so much about preserving culture but about interacting with it. The culture by default is preserved, and kept alive through different ways people find to interact with it.  

SITA at Pimento and Studio Five Architects

Su: Has your creative entrepreneurship changed your everyday perspective - at home, at work and at play?

Sm: I don’t see my artistic work or my work as designer as separate from the rest of me. It’s not really like they influence each other because they co-exist. It’s more like they are a single unit that find different ways of expression. Having said that, yes they have influenced how I look at the world and my life. Definitely helps bring a sense of meaning into things and helps avoid an existential crisis :) 

Getting artsy at Vartur

Su: Smruthi. please talk to us about your collaborations. With Designers, Fashion Houses, Schools and other brands.

Sm: As an artist I have had a chance to collaborate with artists from many different specters. Shilo Shiv Suleman the visual artist, Avril Stormy Unger a movement and performance artist, the well known Ritu Kumar Label the fashion house. 

Avril Stormy Unger Fearless - with APARNA in the background

StudioSMU my design space, on the other hand has worked together with Nidhi Mariam Jacob Cariappa (Diorama Design), Oroon Das, Fish Eye (In Delhi) amongst others. 

Amrish Kumar, Smruthi Gargi Eswar and Ritu Kumar (L-R), Label Ritu Kumar 

These collaborations work at different levels. With Ritu Kumar Label -  I was commissioned to create 4 pieces for them, which were then used on their clothing. The miniseries is called Seasoned and is an of shoot of Sister Misfortune. Ritu Kumar Label went on to launching the series in Delhi. 

StudioSMU's collaborations with Diorama Design are more diverse. We came together on a wall painting project that was done for a government school in Vartur Bangalore and now are working together through a new set of products from SmuSHOP. SmuSHOP will shorty be releasing these products online.  

Diorama Design Studio Collaboration - its time to get real!! And make an impact.

Smruthi, that was refreshing. Like drinking a cup of hot filter coffee. And EVERYONE knows how much I love that!

Smruthi Gargi Eswar smiles for the camera as she contemplates what lies ahead in 2015. Picture courtesy Kashyap

Thank you, you have reawakened my mojo for 2015. Keep doing what you are doing - go higher, do bigger, and inspire better!! We loved having you over at Aalayam and hope you enjoyed working with us too!!! 

Aalayam is privileged to have collaborated with you.

Good luck on all your future endeavors. We stay excited to see what you come up with next.



  1. Thank you for this post! Smruthi's work is super exquisite, fearless feminine. Off to see more of her work. Also loved each photo in this post, including her studio!

  2. Ambika, thank you for stopping by! I could not agree more. Its quirky the way Smruthi blends soft and steely of feminine with art. Truly inspiring.

    Hope you are well, and have started off the new year with a bang! See you around the blogging block.


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