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Trash Is The Failure Of Imagination: Ritu Dua On Creating Art Through Used Teabags

  • IWB Post
  •  April 15, 2019

Nothing like a hot cup of tea to refresh you, right? Every tea lover out there will agree as they sip their favourite brew. And on this chai pe charcha, people always come up with some refreshing ideas. Starting from Indian politics, they somehow end up at IPL’s latest update and these conversations never end.

This is how Ritu Dua came up with the idea to portray art through teabags. The artist works on used teabags to create little browned dappled canvases for her to paint and sketch on.

In a conversation with IWB, Ritu discussed her exhibition, ‘Between Brew and Bin’, and how she is reusing teabags to create art. Excerpts:

On how she turned to teabags for art

“In 2013, I was in the UAE, the government had announced that this year’s UAE festival theme will be ‘Go Green’. Every art gallery of UAE was supposed to follow the theme. An idea struck me when I was having tea. I happened to look at the teabag and thought, ‘Why can’t I make something out of it’. The stain of the teabag attracted me a lot. I decided to work on it. In the beginning, it was hard to work on a teabag. It’s quite delicate; it would get torn at times. It took a few days to master the medium.

Also, I used a broken graffiti board and used it as a canvas, along with other recycled materials to form the artwork. I used the teabag’s stain as a background. Due to different varieties of tea, the colours that appeared on the bag were also different.”

On understanding the potential of a teabag

“I always believe that trash is the failure of imagination. Trash is not created by nature but it is man-made. I have taken the soggy and damp teabags to transform them into a piece of beauty. It’s not necessary that whatever we throw away is trash. People ignore small details and throw it away. We fail to notice the colour and patches created due to the stain of a teabag. It’s very attractive and unique.

Also, I first dry the bag, then open it, throw the tea leaves away, clean it and then process it so that it doesn’t catch fungus. I have to be very careful.”

“Deja-Brew” Art2Day “Deja Brew” – I thought of an interesting, interactive activity for the visitors of “Between Brew and Bin”! Tea is a wonderful medium for human connection. “Deja Brew” takes you all to a soul-nourishing adventure where you pause, recollect, evoke, relive and share memories. I invite you to pen down your thoughts/story/poem/ experience of that particular cup of tea which is unforgettable for you! In all the rushed madness of today’s world, I am sure this fun filled exercise will transport you to another level of comfort, peace, calm and tranquillity and at the same time connect you to other tea-lovers! I have prepared some used teabags specially for you to write on! So come take this journey with me whenever you visit “Between Brew and Bin”!

56 Likes, 8 Comments – Ritu Dua (@rituheartsart) on Instagram: “”Deja-Brew” Art2Day “Deja Brew” – I thought of an interesting, interactive activity for the…”

On various concepts being described through teabag art

“The entire concept of teabag acts as a therapy. The material of the teabags is very thin and delicate. It used to get torn sometimes. I try to stitch or glue the teabags together. In the recent exhibition, I stitched hundreds of teabags together. It included different variety, like Hibiscus tea, turmeric tea, which gives a different colour and a canvas altogether.

So while working on it, I felt like art itself is therapy. To work with extreme concentration, I had to slow down and observe minute details. I started experimenting with it. I paint or write on the material, which makes it more attractive. While I worked on it, I thought that art has no boundaries.”

Impact of the Exhibition ‘Between Brew and Bin’ and the activity ‘Deja Brew’

“In the exhibition, ‘Between Brew and Bin’, I tried to tell the story of the teabag which has been brewed and relished by the drinker. But instead of being thrown into the dustbin, I tried to convey how it can be reused and converted into a work of art. In the exhibition, I also conducted an activity. Through the activity, whoever visited the exhibition was asked to recollect, evoke, relive and share memories. We asked them to pen down their thoughts, story, poem, or experience of that particular cup of tea which is unforgettable for them. That’s why I decided to call it Deja Brew. It was such a beautiful experience, people said a lot about their memories, romantic experiences, past memories, or some emotional connections to it.”

“Between Brew and Bin” Samovar Samovar literally meaning self-boiler is the most distinguishable, traditional exceptionally beautiful utensil of Kashmir and is deeply rooted in the socio-cultural ambiance of the valley. Its presence imparts an intimate touch of social warmth and cheer to every festive occasion. It is believed that a samovar has a soul. The shape of samovar accounts for amazing acoustics and water makes peculiar noises when being boiled. It begins by singing, then murmur and then rumble like a storm. My samovar comprises of hundreds of randomly placed used teabags. Each teabag tells the story of the drinker… a story of that hot cup of tea, of the countless mellow casual conversations or maybe intense political ones, of little chit chats or maybe delicate heart to heart, of the rhythm after laughter and maybe the calm after tears, of happy moments and maybe the sad ones too. It gives you the feeling of being home… relaxing over simple things. The magnificence is a reflection of the grandeur of an actual Samovar. All I can say is my Samovar too carries a soul.

58 Likes, 3 Comments – Ritu Dua (@rituheartsart) on Instagram: “”Between Brew and Bin” Samovar Samovar literally meaning self-boiler is the most distinguishable,…”

On chaiwalas of India

“In Delhi, we have some tea stalls near office areas. The chaiwalas have all the story of the world. People who are working there will come for a cup of chai and discuss lots of things. Their conversations start from cricket and end up at something very unusual. Everything is discussed there. With the chaiwalas, you can talk about anything. You can discuss their work, where they live, and their children, the list can never end. Chai is like a lifeline of India because, without it, people won’t even start working. (she laughs)”

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