We have through time witnessed the shifting scapes that have been caused due to a varying combination of geological, political, and ecological reasons. The exhibition Breathing through Shifting Scapes, traces these shifts through the artistic practices of Ankush Safaya, Lakshman Rao Kotturu, Madhu Das, Meghna Patpatia, Minal Damani, Nidhi Khurana, Rachana Badrakia, Ratna Gupta, Sitaram Swain, Sneh Mehra, Sujith SN and Suhasini Kejriwal.
Nature encompasses many scapes; by the body of the earth through flowing waterbodies reflecting the suspended sky along with the developing urban scapes mapping their political boundaries the artist is a witness to this continuous transformation and commodification. Each of the twelve artists present a distinct aspect of this multilayered scape, from its organic earthly formation, to its resounding abstraction and vital force to its chaotic urbanisation and political mapping that leads to an ecological disrupt, each one weaving a reality that confronts their own surrounding existence.
Everything is Precious, a series of sculptures created by Ratna Gupta, are organic formations of earth elements that remind us of its geological earth memory. A memory of its existence in spite of the constant transformation and evolution, each sculpture is embedded with this very evolving earth consciousness. Further extending into a series of dry point prints titled Home Unhome, In-between Time, Grow etc. that personifies this very fading memory and uncertainty of our existence. Re-rooting into earth’s abstract memory Ankush Safaya tunes into the sound-scapes of the earth with his minimalist works that resonate an order. Each work is a careful composition of the soundless sounds sown into the auric landscapes. The method of piercing the surface and combining it with copper transforms the sheets as resounding bodies of earth music, heard only through the silence of the mind-scapes.
Minal Damani’s series of works titled Rise and Fall, statistically orchestrates the changing scapes ironically against the wavering economical shifts that define and control the topographical reality. The Flow that Clots, another satirical work draws a comparative between the present condition of women-womanhood and the clotting obstructions in nature. Chartering through these changing scapes we have Nidhi Khurana’s series of maps that have been cartographically woven with the traditional methods using cloth and stitching. The maps depict the changing landscape of Mumbai, beginning with a complete map of Bombay 1895, to more detailed highlights of the city Seaface and Colaba, the maps though not literal geographical representations capture its vibrant culture. Although her works represent the politics of space, boundaries and changing maps, the materials and techniques incorporated reflect the sociological imprint of various cultures on a particular textile through the history of time. This very intervention of traditional, handwoven, naturally pigmented textiles stitched to create maps, questions the very existence of map-scapes which surpasses all physical boundaries synchronising into a cultural ethos.
My Home is made of Pearls along with the series of black and white muted canvases and floating forms by Rachana Badrakia, whispers a hum of a surreal dream, projecting an enchanted landscape that invites us into its virtuous space, devoid of human or ecological contamination. The surreal imagination is extended through the Moon series that reflects the many facets of the moon-scape intuitively envisioned by the artist in its twisting and twirling forms. Each a reflection of an idealised moon, complete in its own formation.
A series of monochromatic detailed painted drawings by Meghna Patpatia addresses the dual nature and co-existent nature of land, its barrenness caused with the overpowering technological interventions as well as its regenerating power and capability. Organic forms such as cabbage, the onion, the egg, the nautilus, the mushrooms, the moth are constant elements seen in her illustrious landscapes, carefully delineated and re-envisioning the cycle of chaos and order as parabolic reflections of Fecundity and Clairvoyance, characterising an Arid land.
Madhu Das’s performative interventions Landscape of Confronted Abstraction, The Landscape that is Not Ours and Three views of Mapping Huge Cloud are works that oscillate between fact and fiction, dealing with the projection of identity onto the social and natural worlds, both of which are intertwined in the matrix of space. The performances seek to intervene in public spaces to build up a visual representation of ‘the mysterious’ and ‘the ambiguous’, to construct a mythical narrative around the characteristics of space. Artist Sitaram Swain re-characterises this definition of space synchronising the ethereal with the personal and material. Drawing from the irony of constant urbanisation and construction he incorporates the medium of cement into his practice so as to refurbish the fluid with the concrete. Recreating the sky as concrete blocks of grey with a window opening to the blue he reminds us that There was a Sky Before. In yet another work, Grey Area, is seen a graphic representation of the moonscape being inhabited with life along with its concrete urbanisation, as though the two are inseparable. The grey here is a metaphoric representation of uncertainty, anxiety and impermanence, conflicting with the very definition and existence of concrete constructions.
Sujith SN through his miniaturised paper works titled Prelude represents an appalling reality of our delusional landscape with morphed horizons and smog scapes. The abstraction caused by an extreme urbanisation and unplanned industrial growth that has disrupted the troposphere making a haze of mirages. The human is seen as a witness to this prelude of an apocalyptic future clouded with uncertainty and unpredictability.
Sneh Mehra portrays this same uncertainty through a series of works Dry August, Wet September etc. which illustrates the unpredictability and erratic growth and decay of the surrounding foliage. Through the canvases Growth of Plastic Flowers I & II, the artist has finely rendered the proliferation of the plastic inlayed within the foliage transforming the tree-scape into a synthetically mutated plastic-scape which is hazardous for our existence.
Lakshman Rao Kotturu’s sculptures present another dichotomy, of life’s profundity along with its shallow reality caused due to treachery, betrayal, lies, helplessness and power play. An organised system that has seeped into our inner-scapes and have bound us in its complex structures and workings. Lakshman portrays these fluctuations using ordinary objects from his everyday life, like knives, scissors, hangars and food plates that forms a story as well as the body of an animal, re-creating fables and reviving the lost history of folk tales. The mettalized razor edged characteristics of the materials used are in stark contrast with the natural body-form of the animals, highlighting the disparate distance and deception between our co-existence.
Suhasisni Kejriwal series of mixed media works establish a pedagogical processes that reflects the journey of a collective landscape impregnated with its local and regional offshoots. Her engagement with two prominent surreal streets Chitpur in Kolkata and Chorbazaar in Mumbai, result in a series of archival works combined with embroidery, paint and print, conceptually representing the complex cultural-scape of these hybrid streets. In the work Beadon Street, one metaphorically connects the dilapidated structures, Jatra film posters, isolated stray animals and the antiquated rikshawala, that all entwines to form a displaced migrant-scape. The other two Untitled works starkly portrays this displacement seen through the astray goat juxtaposed with an automated two wheeler that pollutes and overpowers our disengaged existence.
Breathing Through Shifting Scapes, is a curatorial enquiry that brings together these dislodged, entangled, morphed and surreal scapes that the artists have been observing, archiving and voicing through the many mediums of their ongoing language of art.