In the dusty light of her airy Chennai studio, Benitha Perciyal tells us why she loves working with her hands: “When something touches my hand,” she explains, “it goes to my brain, then it goes to my heart… even, sometimes, it goes to my navel.” Her world is one of reciprocity: when Perciyal touches the earth, the earth touches her back. She describes the process of sculpting as an “encounter”, in which natural materials take on the forms of peaceful faces and biblical bodies.
As she reaches for a bottle of lemongrass oil, the artist moves from touch into the realm of smell. Suffusing her sculptures with the scent of incense — made by combining the essential oils of myrrh, cinnamon, cloves, frankincense, lemongrass, bark powder, and cedar — Perciyal unites her Christian faith with an abiding belief in the power of the sensory. Pieces of scarred wood from the roadside “talk to her”, become “part of her.” Taste, she observes, must also be part of the work.
In this BMW Artist Film, we follow Benitha Perciyal as she prises open space for a new kind of visual, and non-visual, art.
Benitha Perciyal was born in 1978 in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu and currently lives and works in Chennai. In a career spanning two decades, she has achieved international renown for her distinctive approach to sculpture, and has shown at India Art Fair in previous years.