I enter the Spartan, industrial looking basement space. What is this realm? I stand in the middle, on the polished floor, and look around at the white walls, covered in lines that twist and turn creating beautiful, voluptuous forms, and I find myself contemplating the very nature of the form, of the line, and its relationship with space it may/ may not occupy.
The word form appears to be a simple one but is complex in that it lies hidden amongst others, while still creating new words. There is no visible blueprint and yet a structure emerges. If form was an idea, it could be imagined as an invisible but strong, underlying bond holding distinct entities together, like a planet’s gravity, its moons.
Among the obscure, form is perhaps the most deeply hidden and yet it’s presence is so overwhelming, it’s almost tangible! This was what first struck me, as I stood in the middle of Radhika Khimji’s exhibition at Project 88.
Khimji’s works span across several media, from large cutout works to smaller collages and drawings. Across diverse media, the lines reveal female forms that create a unique language as they interact with the space around them. Her pen-and-ink drawings of overlapping bodies caught in different gestures are highlighted by a single hue. The faceless nudes are deliberately devoid of color, thus striking up a sharp contrast with the background. In her practice, she has reinvented the relationship between positive and negative space.
In The Space Behind Me, a nude with her face hidden in shadows reclines against ochre nothingness. Thin Skin features a hollowed out, yet fleshy woman’s lower body, suspended against a textured universe. Bodies, faces and limbs freely float through Khimji’s drawings. The outlines of forms gradually reveal a relationship between said positive and negative space. They lay bare the gaps in between, allowing the viewer an opportunity to question and to probe and to the reach out for the unreachable.
I move along the perimeter of the room, my gaze fixed on the walls, and come upon her large, sculptural cutouts. The cutouts are essentially just lines, yet Khimji’s treatment of them is what is interesting to observe. In some cases, she has layered several cutouts same form, bound together with spools of wool. In another pieces, a single cutout seeks to escape from its origins. The result is the interesting juxtaposition of a passive dynamism. Their clean lines throw overlapping shadows upon the walls creating imagery that seems to be born out of nothing but white and grey. Depending on the viewer’s perception the forms might alter their purpose while the walls change their characters.
Experienced collectively, Khimji’s works make the viewer aware of the concept of the desexualized female nude. It is this nature of her female figures that brings to the foreground the relationship between form, gesture, space, and line – these constitute the crux of this exhibition.
Khimji transgresses the notion of lines being represented only on a two-dimensional plane and in effect, prevents herself from arriving at a pre-determined conclusion to her journey. Her works seem more like an exploration of the female form – for centuries depicted either as the ideal aesthetic beauty, or as an object for consumption by the male gaze.
Whether in her drawings or cut-outs, the forms display a kind of serenity and it all seems to culminate in a small work, in which a deep mandarin hue painted directly onto glass seems like the core of all form. Lines and spaces seep into each other, thus creating new entities, emerging from dancing shadows. The nudes, along with the contours of the lines, their undulating forms and ever-changing shadows, all keep shifting roles. Space gives way to space.