Mumbai-based styling artist, Riya Panwar’s series, ‘The Flower of Remembrance’ is a project embodying the symbolic meaning of the word, ‘poppy’, which is that of sleep, peace, death as well as regeneration and rebirth.
The symbolism partly derives from the use of poppy seeds as ‘opium’, a byproduct of poppy seeds, which is a natural sedative. It also derives its legacy from Greek and Roman myths, where poppies were used as offerings to the dead, as well as emblems on tombstones, symbolising eternal sleep – a symbolism which was evoked in the children’s novel, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, in which a magical poppy field threatened to make the protagonists sleep forever. In Classical Mythology, however, the bright red colour of the poppy also signifies a promise of resurrection after death. The poppy was the first flower to bloom on the battlefield where hundreds of people had died during the world wars. In her styling project, Riya turns to these allusions of the poppy to create something that reflected all these emotions visually.
She talks about her creation as the ‘field of remembrance’ which aids you to start a new life. Showcasing a girl adorned with the lovely colours of the poppy, her project works as a metaphor for hope and possibility and the beginning of a new life. In doing so, it also anticipates a better world after an apocalypse.
Even though Riya is still exploring her art style, she believes that there is absolutely anything that can inspire her to combine art and styling.
“It can be mundane tasks or even something as specific as art history that can help me relate and produce the work I want,” says Riya.
“I create art simply to produce something that challenges my thought process. Eventually, it becomes a cycle where my mind is in this continuous search to produce different art pieces.”
She has drawn inspiration for her work from different artists around the globe as well as different kinds of artwork. In India, she likes the work produced by Nikhil Dudani, since his way of creating art is interlinked with fashion.
Having been driven by poetry and short stories all her life, Riya based her first styling project on a poem by Emily Dickinson, ‘Because I could Not Stop for Death’, where she creates the aura of the author through her styling. Her favourite piece of work of her own till date, however, is ‘Thoughts of Water’, which was an underwater shoot.
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