Rachel Arthur
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A passage to India - The Courier Mail

By Sandra McLean
FEW people go to India and return untouched. If you're an artist then the attack on the senses is even more profound, as Rachel Arthur discovered. Last year she spent five weeks in India, returning to Brisbane to spend the next seven months turning what she saw, felt and ate into works of art.
A showing of these works, aptly titled There Are a Lot of People in India, opened at Metro Arts last week. Located on the first floor, it is housed in a small room that speaks of solitude rather than the multitudes of India. And yet the show says a lot about the country -- its pantheon of unusual characters, reverence for tradition, yet a knack for absorbing the new into the old, as well as its bowerbird-like love for making use of whatever can be found lying around.
Similarly, Arthur's work is a delightful exercise in mix and match. She has snubbed tradition to use oil on paper and her keen eye and award-winning illustrating skills have enabled her to reproduce traditional motifs, especially those used in Mithila -- a traditional form of women's art. There are collages and drawings, and even a little bit of interior decorating -- you enter the show under a halo of leaves adorned by tiny handmade dolls.
While most of Arthur's works are small, the room is dominated by a glowing yellow work on the back wall. Called Piece, it depicts a person meditating.
``I just wanted to sum up the beauty of this culture,'' Arthur says. ``Meditation is something in my background that has been considered very out there, but to people in India it is something they do every day.''
There's humour here, too, in works such as Go Forth and Multiply, a crazy, child-like caricature of a toothy Sikh adorned with a necklace of cows that is a comment on the pull between traditional approaches to fertility and the demands a growing population has put on food supplies.
This is Arthur's fifth solo exhibition. A graduate of the Queensland College of Art, she especially wanted her show to impart to audiences the feeling that India might be overpopulated -- and there were times during her travels when Arthur felt a bit edgy about the billion or so other people who were trying to survive alongside her -- but let's not forget the individuals.
``The most overwhelming thing for me when I was there was the sheer amount of people,'' she says. ``Obviously that's where the title comes from. So I decided to develop a portraiture show, from emperors to stonemasons. It was to show the beauty of a culture that may not be known or commonplace here.''
Also, Arthur wanted to share her vivid memories of colour and movement at every turn.
``It is so much more colourful than here -- we need some more colour.''
There Are a Lot of People in India, Metro Arts, 109 Edward Street, Brisbane, until February 11.

Caption:  ARTIST in residence . . . Rachel Arthur at Metro Arts.
Illus:  Photo
IllusBy:  Glenn Barnes
BIOG:  RACHEL ARTHUR Column:  Accent
Section:  FEATURES
Edition 1 - First with the newsTUE 08 FEB 2000, Page 012