We asked performers Abirami Eswar, Erica Mulkern, Kimberley Hardy and producer Olga Maloney to describe their favourite paintings by Kahlo and Sher-Gill.

Abi: The Three Girls by Amrita Sher-Gil

‘This particular painting really caught my eye the first time I saw it.

I was drawn to the vibrant colours and then on a closer look, I was moved by their eyes. The painter clearly exhibited the emotions portrayed by the women in the painting through their eyes. Amrita is the master at what she does.

It really shows the sacrifices South Asian women endured within their homes and lands. I would like to imagine these three women had a strong story to tell and were representative of people of similar roots across the globe. Amrita beautifully captured their souls in the form of a painting.

Erica: Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress by Frida Kahlo

Frida had such a tragic and short life; I like to remember her in this way. Demure but with a fire.

The sensuality in this painting was a huge inspiration when creating in the studio. She was unapologetically herself. The detailing of the waves in the background reminds me of a tempest. A constant rumble that was going through her saying that she wasn’t good enough.

Kim: Pages from a Frida Kahlo sketchbook and Trees by Amrita Sher-Gil

This sketch by Frida Kahlo was included within a diary entry to her mother. I expect the diary was never meant to be shared so I like the intimacy of the drawing and its honesty. It first appears like a doodle with little structure, but on second glance, smaller more intricate details begin to show themselves. Every time I look at the piece I see something new or I see an element differently, it’s as though the hidden pictures are waiting for their time to come to the surface.

Doodles are an automatic style of drawing, they are unplanned and closely connected to the subconscious mind. I connected with this drawing immediately. To me, it shows the Frida behind the mask, when she is potentially trying to say nothing at all and doing nothing other than drawing for the love and therapy of it.

 

Amrita Sher-Gil’s Trees is simple; it doesn’t give anything away but instead allows me to find my own journey through the painting. I like how I can see the base of the tree, I can see where it begins and that it has a sturdy base; this brings me peace.

The grass is bright in colour compared to the bark which amplifies my belief that the roots are nourished and fruitful.

The branches don’t travel in the cleanest lines, they taper off in various directions whilst still rising up towards the top of the painting. I could make endless observations but to keep it short, my favourite part of the picture is the very top of the painting where the branches disappear. The almost incomplete nature of the tree brings me a sense of relief.

When I look at this painting it speaks to me about growth, resilience, adaptability and self-love. It doesn’t tell me what to feel. It shows me where to look so that I can decide for myself what I want to take from it.

Olga: Roots by Frida Kahlo and Sumair by Amrita Sher-Gil

As soon as I started researching Frida, Roots became my favourite painting, probably because of the connection to nature and earth, the fascinating way it interweaves with Frida’s body.

Sumair is a portrait of Amrita’ Sher Gil’s cousin. The depth of the expression on Samair’s face, the loneliness and silent resolve at the same time, with flowers in her hand maybe telling a story of what’s on her mind.