Review by Neha Kirpal
December 01, 2018


By Neha Kirpal

Unwarping Time
Aishwarya Sultania
Curated by Shruthi Issac
November 15 to 27, 2018
Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi

Alliance Française de Delhi began its first series of exhibitions, ‘Back From France’ under the ‘Inview’ banner with a solo exhibition of young Indian contemporary artist, Aishwarya Sultania. The exhibition, called Unwarping Time, was inaugurated by Shalini Passi, art collector and Founder-Director of the Shalini Passi Art Foundation and Ashok Vajpeyi, poet and Managing Trustee of The Raza Foundation.

Brainchild of Jean-Francois Ramon, Director of Alliance Francaise, India, the progreamme intends to celebrate France in the works of younger Indian artists who have recently returned to India after a sojourn or study in Paris and now continue their practice in India. “Under this Inview umbrella, Back from France is a series of exhibitions to promote young artists under the age of 40 who have studied in France for a period of at least six months,” said Jean-Francois Ramon.

Aishwarya Sultania, a young multi-media artist, was the recipient of the French Embassy-Krishnakriti Fellowship award which allowed her to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris in 2010 after completing her Bachelors degree and Higher National Diploma from the School of Performing Arts and Creative Education, London in 2004, a BFA in Painting at the School of Performing Arts and Creative Education, Rai Foundation in 2006, and a Post graduate degree in Painting from the Government College of Art, Punjab in 2008. “A rencontre with an unfamiliar culture and language, the resulting abstractions of word-image and of memory-time inform her art practice,” said the curator-archivist, Shruthi Issac. Her art comprises “visual memories seeped in childhood impressions of India and tinted with a year-long encounter with Paris. The displayed works are a result of an eight years’ long studio work completed between India and France,” added Isaac.

In 2010, when Aishwarya went to study at the Ecole, she decided to consciously steer way from known methods of art making and experiment with the photo-making process. Her encounter with Paris wasn't the easiest with the initial hiccups of language, culture and identity. “It was winter, there was no sun, no colour. I saw monotonous black bodies in their own world,” she reminisces. This had an effect on her work too, which suddenly became somewhat rebellious. Since language was a natural communication barrier for Aishwarya, she decided to write a Hindi poem as a form of protest, urging the audience to interpret and decipher it by putting before them a curtain that they do not understand.

In order to break through these barriers, Aishwarya also began making fragile sculptures. Her efforts are documented in her performance video Wooing Paris (2010) in which she walked the streets of Paris with a sculpture of an Eiffel Tower that she made from mousse expansive. Along the way, she encountered enthusiastic children, rich men who wanted to buy the tower immediately, policemen, tourists and shopkeepers. People were surprised to see an Indian with something that they identified with, and so warmed up to her.

Aishwarya also made a huge photo magnet souvenir for Paris with 1,500 pieces of mirrors. It had “J love P = J’adore Paris” written on it with ‘J’ and ‘P’ written in Hindi. As a souvenir from an Indian in Paris, the work had elements and colours of both Indian and French cultures.

Further, one of her works on Ilford paper, Empty Exposures – From Circle to Square (2010) is a study of the effect of time on an empty slide. It captures two circular entities moving towards each other, their convergence for a brief moment and the swift moving away of the two bodies. The result is of two pulsating trail-lines chasing each other in an empty rectangular space. In another early work, Excerpts from My Painting (2007), the artist exposes herself to a clinical test that monitors nerve impulses while her face is being painted. Fluctuating lines across the screen indicate her response to the touch of a brush.

Speaking on the use of threads in her work, Aishwarya says, “The threads keep appearing and disappearing, both spiritually and metaphorically. Even when you do not see them physically in my work, you so see the aspect of connect in most of my works.” She adds, “Because it has much to do with my life where the element of connect is very important to me. This element is also there in the stops, metro lines, lines going up and down or just following through.”

The exhibition also included an hour and a half long workshop with students from Sanskriti School and Shiv Nadar School, Noida, involving painting, dancing and yoga which the artist personally conducted for 35 children between the age group of 6 and 10 years and another for 16 children between the age of 10 and 14 years, involving outdoor games, collaborative cellotape drawing and shadow dancing.

The series will see two solo exhibitions of two different artists every year for the coming years. Like Aishwarya, most of the exhibiting artists are scholars from Ecole Nationale Superieure de Beaux-arts, Paris.