Tag Archives: oil

‘I Want My Work to Encourage People to Stop & Think’ Says Michelle Poonawalla

(Featured Image: Michelle Poonwalla and Circle of Life Artwork)

Artist, businesswoman, philanthropist, and socialite Michelle Poonawalla recently showcased a series of her new artworks at the Tao Art Gallery’s exhibition The Tangible Imaginative for the Mumbai Gallery Weekend. Michelle’s four oil on canvas works—Blue Wave, Desert Rose, Forest Flutter and Flutter Fly—come from the artist’s Butterfly Series, and feature three-dimensional, sculptural elements affixed to the canvas. Painted in bold colors, the works feature gold-effect butterflies.

Futter Fly

Poonawalla lives and works between London and Pune. Her practice combines cutting-edge technology and traditional artistic mediums, often utilizing sound, video mapping, projection, motion sensors, and other techniques. She has previously exhibited her work at the Saatchi Gallery, London; Alserkal Avenue, Dubai; and as a collateral project at the Kochi Biennale, India. More recently, Poonawalla has also begun exploring work with shorter digital format films.

In this exclusive interview, she spoke to us among other things about her earliest artistic influences, nature as inspiration, her favorite art medium, and the butterfly symbol in her works.

Tell us a little about your oil-on-canvas works at the Tao Art Gallery’s exhibition The Tangible Imaginative for the Mumbai Gallery Weekend.

MP: The four works come from my Butterfly Series which evolves beyond traditional 2D painting, incorporating sculptural elements that bring the artworks off the canvas and into the viewer’s space. A lot of my work features the butterfly symbol which for me represents both beauty and freedom–an ephemeral creature that is the result of a metamorphosis.

What was the idea, inspiration behind them?

MP: The works all have different inspirations and stories behind them. For example, Blue Wave is inspired by Mumbai and references the city through its free-flowing language and color. Desert Rose, which also features butterflies, represents the inherent beauty in nature’s patterns as I allowed the butterfly sculptures to fall naturally on the work before affixing each one where they landed.

A theme often addressed in my work is the strength and beauty of nature and the importance of preserving it. This is perhaps most obvious in Forrest Flutter. Painted in dark earthy hues and greens, the work celebrates the forest. 

You are the granddaughter of the iconic south Mumbai architect Jehangir Vazifdar. Tell us about some of your earliest artistic influences.

MP: From an early age, I was taken to some of the greatest museums and galleries in the world. I have always loved art and painted throughout my life and studied Interior Design at university. I was perhaps most inspired by my grandfather, Jehangir Vazifdar, a renowned painter and architect. My grandfather had a very special technique in oil painting with a ruler which he shared only with me, and it is important for me to carry on his legacy.

Your work is known to explore universal, socially engaged topics. Tell our readers about some of these themes.

MP: Art is a universal language with a powerful voice, and I’m conscious my work is used to spread a positive message. For example, I have recently produced a series of video works that explore environmental change and other issues around us today. I want my work to encourage people to stop, think, and introspect. Be it climate change, water scarcity, or violence in our world, people should always stop and think.

Desert Rose

Which is your favorite art medium? Do you feel that digital art is the future of art?

MP: I enjoy acrylic and work in acrylic for my butterfly paintings. However, I wouldn’t say I have one favorite medium. I’ve worked in oils a lot and I am looking forward to exhibiting some drawings at the 079 Stories gallery in Ahmedabad soon.

Digital art is certainly something we are seeing more of but I think physical painting will always have a place – it is important to be able to physically engage with artwork in person. I’ve always been interested in combining cutting-edge technology and traditional art forms, and digital art has allowed me to create huge immersive installations where the viewer is completely emerged in the visual image. Technology gives an artist the freedom to explore endless possibilities; it allows a greater feeling. I also think digital art speaks the language of the younger generation, and it keeps their interest in art growing.  

What are you working on next?

MP: I’ve got several projects coming up, including showing work in a drawings exhibition at the beautiful 079 Stories in Ahmedabad in February. Later in the year, I will also be showing work in a group exhibition in Delhi. Alongside this, I am exhibiting work online with several platforms including digital work with SeditionArt.com and several new works I have just produced for House of Culture. Hopefully, there are a few international projects on the cards which I will be able to announce later in the year. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.

Fatal Fallout of Fossil Fuels

At the Front Door: Renewable and Carbon-Free Energy –  a column on climate change in our lives

Renewable and carbon-free energy is cheaper than fossil fuels!

Don’t believe me? Look at your energy bill.

San Jose has a program called San Jose Clean Energy, which is one of 23 Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs in California. In fact, the vast majority Bay Area communities are part of CCE programs. These programs provide “competitively priced clean energy options to customers” and reinvests any revenues into local communities. The majority of San Jose residents were automatically enrolled in this program in 2019, and once enrolled your power bill would have gone down. That’s right, the default option from San Jose Clean Energy provides consumers with 45% renewable energy at a cost that is approximately 1% less than what you would pay for traditional energy generation (which is currently about 29% renewable). For $5 more a month you can opt for a plan with 100% renewable sources. All it takes is the click of a button on your PG&E account.

But money isn’t the only way we pay for our fixation with fossil fuels. An article published in Nature in 2017 stated that “all energy production has environmental and societal effects.” Another way to term ‘effects’ is to say ‘costs’. But what, exactly, does that mean? 

To calculate the true cost of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, we must factor in the social and environmental cost of their carbon emissions. Let’s take coal as an example. In 2011 the perceived cost of coal was 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, a report by the National Academies of Science noted that each kilowatt-hour also cost 5.6 cents in adverse health impacts.

Another study put the cost of coal’s ‘externalities’- meaning releasing carbon dioxide – at between 9.4 to 26.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. They averaged their guess to about 17.8 cents, this may not seem like a lot but that puts the cost of the United States coal addiction at “a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually” in unaccounted for costs. And it turns out that these numbers are likely too low. Recent research has indicated that the costs of carbon are more severe and one of the study’s authors noted that a higher number is more realistic. 

And some countries will pay much, much, more than others. A paper recently released in Nature Climate Change used recent climate model projections and economic and social damage estimates to devise a country-specific social cost of carbon (CSCC). The CSCC is, in short, the projected “economic damages from carbon dioxide emissions” by country – and it highlights that the consequences of carbon emissions will fall unevenly across the globe. And it turns out that India, struggling under a cost of $86 per ton of carbon, will pay the most. In fact, the next closest country is the United States, which will end up paying just over half of what India will pay at $48 per ton of carbon. 

The non-monetary costs of fossil fuels have already become apparent in industrializing countries like India. A study published by the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust found that “[a]s many as 115,000 people die in India each year from coal-fired power plant pollution, costing the country about $4.6 billion.” The number of fatalities includes 10,000 children under the age of five.

India’s demand for energy, and thus its coal use and subsequent negative health impacts, will likely continue to rise. Despite its reliance on fossil fuels, the Indian government has placed a tax on coal with the aim of spurring developments in renewables. If India is able to take this initiative, why can’t we?

The money that comes out of our monthly budget isn’t actually what we pay for energy. We pay with our health in the form of lower air quality, higher asthma rates, and higher COVID-19 mortality. We pay social costs with environmental degradation, increased social inequality, and a reduced quality of life. In short, we pay with shorter, sicker, less-equitable, and less-enjoyable lives. And worst of all, we pay with the lives and the future of our children. 


Erin Zimmerman is trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2019 by the Climate Reality Project, but has been active in the environmental movement for over a decade. Erin holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Adelaide, where she focused on environmental degradation and its impacts on country and regional stability in Asia. She is currently the Chair of the Speakers’ Bureau of the Santa Clara Chapter of the Climate Reality Project  and an active member of the Legislative and Policy team.

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor at India Currents.

Image credit: Hermina Oláh Vass

Bibliography

Friedman, Lisa. (2013). “Coal-Fired Power in India May Cause More Than 100,000 Premature Deaths Annually.” Scientific American. URL: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-fired-power-in-india-may-cause-more-than-100000-premature-deaths-annually/

Greenstone, M and Looney, A. (2011), “The Real Costs of U.S. Energy.” Brookings Institute. URL: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-real-costs-of-u-s-energy/

Gres, E. (2017). “The Real Cost of Energy.” Nature, URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-017-07510-3 

Harvey, C. and Gronewold, N. (2019). “CO2 Emissions Will Break Another Record in 2019.” Scientific American. URL: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/co2-emissions-will-break-another-record-in-2019/

Meyer, R. (2015), “This Is the Real Cost of Coal.” Mother Jones, URL: https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/08/coals-cost-climate-change/

Ricke, K., Drouet, L., Caldeira, K., Tavoni, M. (2018). “Country-Level Social Cost of Carbon.” Nature Climate Change, Vol.8: 895-900.

San Jose Clean Energy. (2020). URL: https://sanjosecleanenergy.org/totalgreen/

Image of Duck Poop

Dr. Thiru’s ‘Art That People Step On’ Challenge For Kids

Anyone that participates in this challenge will be entered in a raffle for Art Supplies!

Dr. Thiru’s image of duck poop.

 Guess what I saw in the parking lot one day when I returned to the apartment complex where I live?

Yes, you are correct if you guessed “The image in the photo.”

There are a few ducks in the apartment complex near me and to me, it looks like the image in the photo was formed by duck droppings.

Look at the image with your children or grandchildren, and discuss what the image looks like. There are no right or wrong answers, only your answers.

Here is the challenge for this month:

Walk around in a safe area with your children or grandchildren, and find images that are formed by bird droppings, or smudges or leaks or spills of some kind. Surfaces that people walk on are good places to start looking for patterns that look like art. Anyone is welcome to submit but we encourage those under 18 to attempt the challenge!

Directions

  1. Using the camera in your smartphone, take a picture of the art-like image you find. Try to find something on the ground that isn’t an obvious object.
  2. Provide a title for the image in your photo and explain what you think it looks like.
  3. You can also submit your explanation of what the image in my photo looks like. I will tell you what I think the image looks like after I hear from you.
  4. Send the image, title, and possible explanation to: editor@indiacurrents.com by Dec. 31st!
  5. Use the email header: Art That People Step On – Submission

India Currents will feature selected photos in a future issue and all who send submissions will be entered in a raffle for Art Supplies!

Have fun, and be safe. Adult supervision is strongly recommended. 

To learn more about ‘Art People Step On‘, check out the article here!


Dr. Mandayam Osuri Thirunarayanan was born in Madras, India. He became a citizen of the United States and currently lives in Miami, Florida.

How India Can Lead the World in Clean Energy

As evidenced by the fall of the rupee and the widening account deficit, India’s dependence on oil has left it bruised by global forces. In previous oil crises, India had no choice but to tighten budgets. But things are different now; advancing technologies offer a permanent solution to this and another dire problem: pollution. The country needs to take an aggressive approach to replacing fossil fuels with energy from the sun and wind.

What blocked humanity’s ability to tap the sun until recently was the cost of capturing its energy and converting it into electricity. Now, a few things have changed. We have become much better at making semiconductors for computers; and those same silicon technologies are what convert solar energy into electricity. We have developed ways to make solar panels from thinner slivers of silicon. We have gotten much better also at figuring out how to squeeze more out of the solar energy we capture. And, most importantly, economies of scale are beginning to affect the price.

For these reasons, solar-energy capture is advancing on an exponential curve. With that advance, we are heading into an era of practically unlimited, clean, almost free energy—and this could be India’s savior.

The first solar photovoltaic panel built by Bell Labs in 1954 cost $1,000 per watt of power it produced. In 2008, modules used in solar arrays cost $3.49 per watt; by 2018, the price per watt had fallen to less than 40 cents. The amount of solar-generated power has been doubling every two years or less for the past 40 years — as costs have been falling. At this rate, solar power is only five doublings, or less than 12 years, away from being able to meet 100 percent of today’s energy needs.

It isn’t just solar production that is advancing at a rapid rate, and this will not be our only source of clean energy; there are also technologies with which to harness wind, biomass, thermal, tidal, and waste-breakdown energy, and research projects all over the world are working on improving their efficiency and effectiveness. Wind power’s price became competitive with the cost of energy from new coal-burning power plants in 2016, and prices have continued to fall since. Wind-power contracts were recently signed at 2 cents/kwh in Mexico and Brazil and Rs 2.43 in Gujarat.

According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018, India’s levelled cost of electricity, which takes into account the net present value of the unit-cost of electricity over the lifetime of a generating asset, for onshore wind is now 3.9 cents per kWh, down by 46 percent from its price of a year ago, and the cost of solar is 4.1 cents, down by 45 percednt. By comparison, coal costs 6.8 cents per kWh, and combined-cycle gas, 9.3 cents.

To be completely free from fossil fuels and a dependence on the grid, energy storage is needed. The cost of this too is plummeting. In 2008, the cost of industrial batteries was $1,000 per kWh of energy stored; by 2015, it had fallen to $268/kWh. In 2016, Tesla said that the cost of battery production at its Gigafactory was less than $190 kWh. This June, Elon Musk said this could fall to $100/kWh by year’s end. Even if this benchmark takes a year or two longer, what is clear is that there are revolutions in the making — revolutions that India can lead.

Prime Minister Modi laid out ambitious plans to build 175 GW of renewable power generation by 2022, with the addition of 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of biomass, and 5 GW of small hydro. But, with the tariffs that have been imposed on solar cells, GST, and a lack of incentives, this goal is not likely to be achieved.

India should instead be cutting all red tape and taxes, offering subsidies, and doing whatever else it takes to transform the majority of its energy generation to solar and wind — by 2025 or sooner. Unlike fossil fuel subsidies, which only burn money, these investments will provide huge pay-offs in the short term.

Next, India should be first country in the world to rid its roads of fossil-fuel-consuming vehicles; this too is possible. The same batteries that store energy for the grid also power electric vehicles. With their falling costs, electric cars will soon be available at prices a fraction of their climate destroying predecessors’. The government should mandate that, by 2023, the sale of all fossil vehicles be banned and that by 2027, they will not be allowed on the roads.

Yes, there are very few electric vehicles on the market today; they are still costly; and the charging infrastructure isn’t there. But there is nothing to stop India’s entrepreneurs from fixing all of these problems, given the motive and support. The economic boom that would result, and the innovations India would create, could benefit the world.

Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University. This article is partly derived from his book “Driver in the Driverless Car.”

This article first appeared in the Hindustan Times and is published with permission from the author.