Reviewed by Devki Modi
Contemporary art practice has arrived at a point where all the forms of representation are merging with one another. There is a back and forth movement between the context and the medium. Artists are experimenting with new media art, new forms of painting, sculpture, design, installation and performance art, thus opening up new possibilities of display and representation. At the same time they are addressing new subject matter, social and current issues through which they undergo a process of self-discovery and an acute understanding of their surroundings.
Nandita Kumar is one such multimedia artist who engages with printmaking, painting, installation, animation, art technology and delicate hand drawings. She weaves her personal process of reflection, travelling and varied interests through poetically created immersive and tangible environmental spaces. Here the viewer can enjoy ‘ the experience’ of being in a space visually, physically and mentally. She explores the duality in an encounter where one gets the urge to touch and feel at the same time while departing mentally to a deeper level of understanding and perception.
‘LeT tHe bRAinFly,’ her current solo show at Gallery Lakeeren displays a manifestation of a metaphorically created neuron space in which she explores the journey of a person’s ‘individuation’ into a mental space and beyond.
Upon confronting the extremely thoughtfully curated canvases along with the background sound piece that leads up to the animation video, one resonates with the idea 20th century art historian, Andre Malraux’s idea of the museum without walls. This notion has been defined as the space where the artwork is taken outside the premises of the museum walls and the traditional norms of display.
Moreover, owing to the history of the gallery it has been involved in giving an impetus to upcoming artists and displaying new avant-garde art in the contemporary Indian art environment. Thus the compact space of Gallery Lakeeren is perfect for this exhibition.
Born in Mauritius, Kumar has moved most of her life. After moving to New Zealand she underwent a process of individuation. Her fragmented identity along with constant travel has had a great influence on her imagination and proved to be a driving force in her art practices.
Kumar looks at various layers of themes during this exhibition. Having undergone the process of individuation, a term created by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. It is a process of self- analysis, self-discovery and analyzing one’s own psyche and life while recognizing the truths that lie underneath the conscious egocentric personality. It is a journey about becoming free from one’s ego, from bondages of the body and mind and embracing one’s masculinity and feminity at the same time.
The viewer’s journey through this neuro-scape begins with an Assembly Line Emo that represents all the emotions one experiences – fear, guilt, pain, happiness, frustration while one is in the limbo phase of figuring things out. Moving on from this one encounters tiny brains in wheelchairs in the lower right corner that eventually get out of the wheel chair and begin flying thus symbolizing the commencement of freedom and evolution.
Furthermore, the viewer is lead by these brain flies to the next story on the board. The Neuron Scape that is reminiscent of the Ardhanarishvara, the joint male and female figure of Shiva and Parvati. In this Kumar suggests that another part of evolution includes the acceptance of both the male and the female identities of oneself. It brings the viewer’s awareness tothe blending of identities and rejection of ego and gender complexities.
As one walks through the show the canvases function as a story board leading to the animated video along with the cloud of drain covers that hang from the ceiling creating an intimate, yet expansive space. It is extremely interesting to notice that the painting bleeds outside of the space of the canvas parading bug like creatures that on a closer view shows the brain as a fly. It metaphorically symbolizes freedom of thought. The innovative way of displaying the artwork challenges the normal notion of displaying canvases on a white wall and explores the infinite possibility of interacting with the whole space to create a wholesome experience of viewing and physically experiencing the artwork.
The Orgy of the Organs displays sea-creature like forms but on a closer look they are parts of the body that blend out of the canvas floating towards the ceiling. They represent the movement of the brain fly towards evolution and metamorphosis where it dies and then rises again as a phoenix in the last canvas title C. It is here when we realize that process of evolution has been completed and the person’s psyche has evolved where they have discarded the ego to strive for a higher consciousness and a greater knowledge of self sans ego and physical realization of the body.
Among other works, Element Earth and Polymorphic Humanscape are biomimic glass bottle dioramas where Kumar creates parallel utopic spaces using technology to explore the relationship between nature, technology and urban space. In Dharavi she headed the ‘Ghar Pe’ project where she interacts with the local women in the area and exhibits a show using household elements expressing the identities of those women. As a result addressing bigger questions of culture, identity, gender, philosophy, migration, movement and the experience of being, through her interactive art work.
Even though the gallery space is compact and not very big the exhibition manages to transport the viewer to another parallel space that is created and crafted by the artist through a fusion of many spaces and fragments put together. This exceedingly thought provoking exhibition leaves us wondering whether art today has left behind its historical baggage and is being experienced for what it is as a universal global phenomenon. At the same time, it also makes us wonder about our own fragmented identities that we need to individuatize.
LeT tHe bRAinFly is on from Monday to Saturday 11-7 pm, till April 30th at Lakeeren Art Gallery in Colaba, Mumbai. For more information visit www.lakeerenartgallery.com.