SPACES REDEFINED

Review by Neha Kirpal
December 01, 2018

 

By Neha Kirpal

Endless Spaces
Hemavathy Guha and Nidhi Khurana
November 26, 2018 to January 15, 2019
Apparao Galleries, The Lodhi, New Delhi

 

Nidhi Khurana and Hemavathy Guha’s ongoing show at The Lodhi is an exhibition of art works inspired and influenced by textiles.

Nidhi Khurana makes a city space her own. She uses the base of a town planner's map while adding layers of her own experience to it. “I make art installations using materials like textile, paper, natural dyes, stitching and silver warakh, to question the veracity of the historical and contemporary maps of places,” she says. She collects and uses a variety of organic materials to produce works in several mediums to convey her ideas to the world. Her artworks in this exhibition come from various series created over a period of the last eight years. The common thread between all of them is that they are reminiscent of feelings from different places. 

So, while ‘Kolkata Red’ (2017) has some lovely patchwork strewn over a rough map of the city of joy, 'Auroville III' (2014) has a stitching frame embedded within, lending it a natural, free flowing three-dimensional effect. Her other recent Dilli Print series (2017) has four different images of Delhi's map dyed using cochineal and achiote, and was created after Nidhi spent four months in Oaxaca, Mexico researching the natural dye practices of the region.

“This series explores the relationship between India and Mexico in terms of food, culture, dyeing practices, weaving and many other things,” she explains. For instance, cochineal is an insect cultivated for its colour in South America, which has great historical importance as a dyestuff used for trade. Similarly achiote is used as a natural colour for food. 

Further, her Forest series, specific to Maihar and Ichol in Madhya Pradesh, uses silk and cotton dyed with natural elements like flowers, leaves, fruit and bark. “The tree silhouettes are reminders of my visit and stay, of the natural habitat of this region—the relationship between man and nature,” she adds. 

Hemavathy Guha’s work consists of cosmic space works in mixed media paintings having geometric forms using buttons, needle and thread on canvas. Her art work consists of mostly domestic elements and recycled materials. In this exhibition, she has displayed works that she created over the past two years. “My works have always dealt with people, their problems and the environment. I get my inspiration from my observations and things around me, including nature,” she says. 

So, while 'Cracks' (2018) speaks of cracks that we observe in our relationships, she also uses threads to patch them up and stitch them together. Hemavathy first makes the canvas at the centre and then stitches it onto a cloth where the buttons run through a pattern of distinct curved lines. One also notices more white buttons stitched closer together in the centre producing an intense effect, while they are transparent and more scattered on the sides. In 'Cosmos I' (2016) and 'Nature VI' (2015), she deliberately uses red colour as a backdrop symbolizing blood or the female body. Simply looking at 'Starry Night I' (2017) brings out a cosmic feeling of the universe consisting of all forms of nature and even though ‘Nebula II’ (2016) uses a simple embroidery stitch, it really does feel like you’re looking at a cluster of bright stars in the galaxy.

The artist who started her journey in the printmaking studios of the Garhi artists village says that in the series of works which she has been creating for the past few years, the primary concept is “space”—not only in a physical sense, but also inner space. “It could be the area which makes us think and reason, i.e., the brain and the mind or it could be any other biological space within our body, where creations take place, living or non-living,” she says. 

She elaborates that spatial arrangements can also be found in nature, such as the delicate patterns created by the branches and leaves of a tree when sunlight passes through them, or the beautiful carpet-like scenario with leaves falling down on the earth during autumn, the interplay of light and shadow in nature and the patterns or images on manmade structures like walls. “I try to capture these elusive moments on my canvas sometimes deciphering inner meanings,” she says.