ABIR Charitable Trust first introduced ‘First Take’ in 2016, with the setting up of an art competition and event that was warmly received and subsequently, more editions followed. In the fourth edition of First Take, Sewon Rai, a native of Gangtok is on the list of 10 winners, becoming the first artist from Sikkim to win the prestigious award.
The First Take event was created to give artists from the entire length and breadth of India space to showcase their talent, represent their perspective of the world and with it, the places they hail from. The diversity of the nominees and mediums of art is what marks First Take as one of the reputable platforms to display their work and explain their inspiration, process and execution of it.
The exhibition features a selection of 140 paintings, ceramics, sculptures and prints by artists chosen by a jury comprised of Brinda Miller, Jayanti Rabadia, Subodh Kerkar, Umang Hutheesing and Veer Munshi.
Rai describes his paintings for the upcoming exhibition, titled “Poppies Series”, as having been taken from personal experience and local surroundings, with the poppies standing as metaphors for various things such as tears, bloodshed, war or simply, the flower that it is. He references to ‘Field of Flanders’ a poem by John McCrae, which stands as a “symbol of remembrance” of the First World War.
His artwork doesn’t only rely on the visual aspect but triggers a network of thought in the audience as all great art naturally does. Rai’s earlier work – ‘Last Supper’, ‘civilization and destruction’ has an almost surreal quality, but he believes that his style is more Expressionist. “I like to use the least amount of colour but still make the work vibrant”.
Yet there is a palpable sense of suffering and anxiety in them; his work touches on the sociopolitical issues of the land and especially in the Poppies Series, he visits the quality of remembrance. He says that apart from the poppies as a metaphor for suffering, they also signify recollecting a memory. “In parts of North Sikkim, the land is barren except for when seasonal flowers bloom. They eventually die and the land is left bare again, but that sight reminds people of the last time they saw the blossoming flowers.”