When denim is your canvas… We go one-on-one with the talented artist whose creations were the inspiration for The Collection MoDA team shoot.
From the moment Rhea Biradar could hold a pencil, she knew she could draw. “The pencil for me was always an instrument to sketch, rather than write,” she says. It also became a tool for which she would compete with her sister for attention from her father. “One day my sister confessed that she struggles with drawing the ‘eyes’ correctly, and that was it...I knew I had to excel in drawing them no matter what!” It would become the life’s mission of the then seven-year-old girl, who went on to draw eyes on everything she could find. “Walls, paper, cardboard boxes, once I even drew on my dress, which my mum wasn’t too happy about,” Biradar says. “But that’s how ‘the curious me’, became fascinated with faces, and figurative art. “ She mounted a mirror on her table to teach herself, by learning through observation, and her love affair with art began.
Born in India, in the small town of Nagpur, and with a somewhat conservative background, a career in art was not considered a lucrative choice. She chose fashion instead, after discovering that there were art and illustration classes in the programme. This planted the seed for her to blend art and fashion. “ I became so fascinated with creating and painting on fabrics- my love for crystals, sequins, and rhinestones went to another level,” she says. “Mixed media found its way onto my canvas as well as on fabrics and somehow the two merged together. Now, there is no art that I create, that does not have some amount of sparkle sprinkled on it!”
In february 2016, Biradar’s husband was relocated to Kingston, Jamaica (from Chicago) and she found herself in unfamiliar territory. Her initial hesitation was brushed aside once she arrived in Jamaica. “I fell in love with this beautiful island, the free-spirited people, the culture, the greenery and the laidback lifestyle. It was everything I was looking for to feed my creative brain...It was serendipitous.”
Life in Jamaica fueled her passion and inspired her to truly turn her artistic vision into a reality; art that people could completely interact with, on both a physical and emotional level. She chose denim as her medium-along with gold paint and Swarovski crystals- to tell her story. It would be a story that could walk out of her house and down the street.
And while this art is an emotional and personal process for Biradar, it also serves a functional purpose...giving new life to denim pieces. “There is a joy, a wonderful aesthetic discovery,” she says, “which takes place when I paint on something unexpected like denim, a surface with a history that brings with it colours, textures,marks, and irregularities of its own.” And when the process is complete, what exists is something that cannot be replicated. “I create one of a kind art, and every piece of denim that I paint on comes with its own story and characteristics,” she says. “ I make sure I stay true to its narrative.”
Ever the creative soul, Biradar finds inspiration in daydreaming. “ I give myself plenty of time to do nothing,” she admits. But it’s also about getting out and living life. “Just getting out, seeing new places, [meeting new] people and connecting to life in some way, being around other creatives...It’s contagious!” It’s also a “magical process”, and one to which she dedicates much commitment and patience.
She is also inspired by her five year old daughter, Sasha. They host their own mother-daughter art sessions, and she shares that Sasha keeps her on her toes. “We have one wall dedicated to art, drawings, doodles, graffiti…,” she says, “and in a funny, weird way I find myself drawing eyes with her and reliving my childhood all over again.”