Creature Comfort

Malavika.PC is an illustrator of children’s books, print designer, theatre actor, a good cook, a little wonky and a lot of fun. Oscillating between theatre and ink, she dreams up, impersonates, and creates these fantastic stories with unreal creatures. She has been an integral part of the Chai Kadai family, designing our logo, illustrating for our publications, and making tea for our many nights of work. So, we went to Bangalore to help set up and launch her first solo exhibition of 22 pen and ink drawings — Creature Comfort (29th Dec 2011 – 06th Jan 2012).

In Bangalore, built around an assortment of second-hand windows and doors from demolished government buildings, is No.1 Shanti Road, which houses artists from diverse countries by providing the space and opportunity for them to learn, experiment, and interact with each other. Managed by a former-professor, Suresh, a former-police man, Cop Shiva, and Ragu who is obsessed with gardening, this space brings together artists, curators, scholars, writers and young students from around the world. Snarcode, Lady Onchiididae, Squid Juice, Bappi Coolers, Don Turtilione, Oscillatus Equinosae, Heliosae Tugapodae, and Amba & Me, are only some of the super cool  members of Malavika’s Creature Comfort family, hanging out at No.1 Shanti Road.

Creature Comfort at No.1 Shanti Road. Photography by Cop Shiva

Malavika initially trained to be an industrial ceramist wanting to make colourful potties. She has jumped from there to graphic designing, print-making, theatre, gardening, travelling across many worlds, and soon realized that she had an unbreakable loved for the Rotring pen.

In 1928, Tintenkuli Handels started making stylographic pens that enabled artists and architects to create extremely detailed illustrations. In the 1970s they renamed themselves as Rotring (which literally means red ring) specializing in all kinds of technical writing and drawing instruments. The most fascinating character of the Rotring pen is its thin steel-tube-like-nib.

Shiva's Third Eye from The Red Sketchbook. Illustration by Malavika.PC

Over ten years, she has developed a lovely relationship with the Rotring pen, paper, ink, her worlds and its many creatures. Some characters part of the Creature Comfort family, first came alive in her red, black, blue and brown sketchbooks. Some live in her mirror, some transformed into prints, and some of them she ate up. Over the last year, they have came together as twenty-two peculiar ink drawings.

Caught in the spite of the Pondicherry power cuts, she has spent days and nights bent over her paper carefully guiding the pen with the invisible 0.1 nib. Unfortunately, the Rotring only offers black, bright red, and green inks. Like a chemist, she says, she had to mix photo and drawing inks drop by drop to get all the purples, browns, blues, and greens from every place in the spectrum. Organically this party has evolved from many underwater creatures like sea slugs, squids, turtles, and sea cockroaches that have inspired her over time. Some are snobbish, some dreamy, some proud, and some eery. Read Harshini Vakkalanka’s article in The Hindu to know more about the exhibition. Malavika says in an interview with DNA:

“Well, I have always had an affinity towards creepy, crawly creatures — amphibians in particular. I could watch squids or praying mantis for hours together. I find their bodies and the designs on them fascinating…I found it exciting to morph these creatures together. For instance bits of octopus, turtle, sea anemone or squid come together to create another creature. It’s been much like a game for me”

Here are some of our favourites:

From left to right: Snarcode, Bappi Coolers, and Squid Ink - Creature Comfort

We are very happy that we were able to help her during the launch and thoroughly enjoyed our stay at No.1 Shanti Road. For a person like Malavika, so much in love with stories, we surely know this is but one of her creations, nevertheless eccentric and comforting!

If you’re in Bangalore, travel to No.1 Shanti Road, in Shanti Nagar, to view this excellent collection and marvel at this space. If not, take a week or so to browse through her collection at her blog, The Red Sketchbook.