Chinatown Soup is pleased to present The Hour Before, an exhibition of poetry and drawing by Shikha Subramaniam. The exhibition features abstract charcoal illustrations and poems that begin with: I like the hour before… Each line is a contribution from a writer who embraced the prompt and offered a unique interpretation.   

This project was inspired by a walk around Soho two years ago, during which Shikha found herself in the poetry section of the local Housing Works and was struck by the phrase the hour before. Later that day, she felt compelled to chronicle the hour before a dinner date and the hour before sex and the hour before sunset, capturing moments of her routine. A few months later, Shikha shared her poetry with friends and writers who asked to contribute to her growing collection. Today, it includes poets, designers, filmmakers, and songwriters.

The visual component traces back to Shikha’s childhood, when she would watch her Grandmother—a renowned musician and painter—recreate majestic South Indian temples with intricate detail using charcoal. It is this memory, perhaps, that reawakened Shikha’s fascination with charcoal after attending a live model sketching session in Brooklyn. She soon started applying the charcoal brush on her apple pencil to recreate a messy, nostalgic feeling that made her comfortable to draw practically anywhere – on a subway, on a flight, or in bed. 

Her professional background as a designer pushed Shikha to explore digital alternatives, enabling works to become more adaptive and shareable. The final pieces are abstract and minimalistic to romanticize quotidian human gestures through the fluidity and movement of her swift chalky silhouettes.

Together, Shikha’s art and poetry aim to suggest rather than imply. Without the trappings of detail, they become liberated representations of universal sensations that invite audiences to reflect and consider their own precious moments. 

Shikha Subramaniam is an experience designer and visual artist. After earning her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Delhi University, she moved to New York City to pursue a masters in Communications Design at Pratt. She now works as an Interaction Designer at Code and Theory: a digital-first creative agency in New York.

Chinatown Soup