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  Life   Art  11 Apr 2018  Art that’s a tactile archive

Art that’s a tactile archive

Published : Apr 11, 2018, 11:54 pm IST
Updated : Apr 11, 2018, 11:54 pm IST

So, can we call these works abstract renderings of a concrete reality?

Works by Shalina S. Vichitra at Gallery Art Motif
 Works by Shalina S. Vichitra at Gallery Art Motif

A place to which we belong, an exhibition of works by artist Shalina S. Vichitra at Gallery Art Motif, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi, focuses on forms of mapping that communicate our sensorial experiences of remembering or imagining a place, as opposed to being within or outside of it. The show is on till April 17.

For Shalina, land is not just a visual metaphor of lived experiences but also a tactile archive. Her paintings function as visceral geographical annotations and recordings that employ the tools of cartography to address the complex subject of “belonging”.

Through these works, the artist has tried to show the delicate balance that exists between between human habitation and nature. The lines and markings drawn by her help both, organise a place or delineate it from its surroundings.

The works also show the multifarious relationships that people, and society at large has with the environment. In a way, this exhibition also questions our personal understanding of a place as a filtered sequence of encounters that encompasses its own set of narratives, aesthetic textures and subliminal thoughts.

“For me, land is not just a visual metaphor of lived experiences but also a tactile archive,” she says, “my paintings function as visceral geographical annotations and recordings that employ the tools of cartography to address the complex subject of ‘belonging’.”

Shalina doesn’t have any fixed timings of doing her work. So, how does she go about doing her work with no fixed schedule?

“Sometime I finish a piece in about a few weeks’ time but sometime the work may take me months together,” she remarks. And that’s the reason she begins working on two to three works simultaneously.

“My process is simple … My work is an outcome of my life experiences, the people I meet with, the places I visit and the environment I am in…all this stimulates in me the need to make art….These interactions sum up to larger issues,” she says.

Ask her who has influenced her the most and pat comes the reply, “It is hard to pin point any particular artist but I like artists whose works are an outcome of their experiences and the works that reflect a process.”

“As for my works, metaphors I use to express my concerns come from natural as well as man-made environment. Here, I must confess that I am greatly impressed by Maya Lin….. an American designer and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and land art,” she says. “Lin’s most well-known sculptures and architectural work are historical memorials, she also works to memorialise nature through her environmentally themed works. In creating works which deal with the depleting environment, Lin aims to raise awareness for the environment for audiences in urban spaces. All this leaves a deep impact on me,” she adds.

True to her thoughts, she has tried to show the delicate balance between human habitation and nature through lines and markings that conventionally help organise place or, maybe, delineate it from its habitat. Underlining her practice are moments of movement, of journeying through paths and routes, across or within boundaries, between past and present, all this with the suggestion of an alternative possibility.

So, can we call these works abstract renderings of a concrete reality?

“Oh, yeah. I draw references from aerial maps, urban sprawls, constructed spaces, topographic studies, symbols and architectural plans. I like to engage in constructing deconstructing, positioning-dis-positioning… locating-dislocating and also peeling layers of time. Evolving these thoughts and associations give rise to an experiential space,” she says.


“To examine the stillness and constant change interests me quite a lot,” she says, “everything that exists anywhere is part of our macrocosm. Nature has it all planned, placed in a grid where the roles, positions are defined all in tandem with each other working like a circuit.”

“As the new urban society goes through this shift… neo consumerism, cross-cultural influences, the grid seems to distort thus displacing identities. Enmeshed in this change they are provoked to find form and hold together new entities, spaces, intertwined with the existing experiences, the fragility of life and its vulnerable moments,” she adds.

A part of several national and international exhibitions, including the reputed Fusing Barn Biennale (Taiwan), Shalina is an alumni of the College of Art, Delhi. “Even though I was brought up in a purely academic family (her father is an engineer, sister an architect and brother an MBA) since childhood I was sure that I wanted to do something creative in the field of art or design, and this is the reason I opted for College of Art. It was only after I joined the College of Art that I realised I wanted to be a painter and nothing else,” she informs.

Shalina combines philosophical and aesthetic insights to engage with the idea of cartography in contemporary times. Her work focuses on perceptual reality that changes with the contextual frame, and embodies a palpable interaction of natural and manmade spaces. Her work is largely defined by positioning and dis-positioning the contradictions of urban living and unravel an alternate reality.

A great advocate of art fairs, Shalina opines that these fairs further the cause of art and bring it closer to the common man. But she has a word of caution here: “Care must be taken to carefully curate and edit such shows as they play an important role in sensitising the masses towards various forms of art”.

Though she welcomes the new trend wherein start-ups and small businesses are reaching out to artists to purchase or subscribe to their paintings, she says, “Any new trend is always welcome as long as it focusses on content and involves people who have an in-depth knowledge and experience of art.” As her how demonetisation and tax levies impacted the domestic art market, and she steers clear: “Being an artist my knowledge of the market trends and the economics of it is limited. My main concern is the art that I produce...But I do hope things continue positively so that it helps sustain artists, so that artists can continue to work towards projects that they truly believe in.”

Other than painting, trekking, travelling to remote places and digging out histories about lost places and people, interests Shalina the most.

Tags: safdarjung, relationships, environmentally