Working magic into materials: the sculpted forms of Ranjani Shettar at Talwar Gallery, New Delhi

The sculpted forms of Ranjani Shettar animate inside the gallery space.

In her latest solo exhibition running until 12 August 2017 at Talwar Gallery in New Delhi, Indian artist Ranjani Shettar presents a series of sculpted works that derive from her observations of the natural world and our relationship with it.

Ranjani Shettar, 'Honeysuckle and mercury in a thick midnight plot', 2016, rosewood, teak wood and stainless steel, 90 x 112 x 21 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Ranjani Shettar, ‘Honeysuckle and Mercury in a Thick Midnight Plot’, 2016, rosewood, teak wood and stainless steel, 90 x 112 x 21 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Indian artist Ranjani Shettar’s ongoing solo at Talwar Gallery, New Delhi is a wonderland of sculpted forms that appear in suspended animation. Drawn from her observations of the natural world, Shettar’s skill in punctuating the sensual and tactile elements of nature elevates dense materials into objects that float and pulsate with latent energy. Her forms respond to the ebb and flow of growth and decay, largely unseen by the human eye.

The exhibition “Bubble trap and a double bow” hosts a body of work made between 2011 and 2016 that continues the artist’s interest in materials and its recalibration into pliant forms, either as a whole or as repetitive multiples, assembled in rhythmic suspension. The title of her exhibition is drawn from a work of bent walnut wood that belies its inherent hardness. Like the bubble that is shaped as a sphere owing to the surface tension of the material within which it occurs, the piece Bubble trap and a double bow (2016) is a masterpiece of resistance packaged within a lithe form.

Ranjani Shettar, 'Bubble trap and a double bow;, 2016, bent walnut and automotive paint, 38 x 111 x 1.75 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Ranjani Shettar, ‘Bubble Trap and a Double Bow’, 2016, bent walnut and automotive paint, 38 x 111 x 1.75 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Shettar’s committed employment of traditional craft techniques in the meticulous making of her sculptures speaks of her deep engagement with her environment, reflected also in her choice to live in the countryside on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. Where home, studio and laboratory merge, mundane phenomena become her specimens, translating into art experiments that underscore the charm and mystery of nature. This is well articulated in the wispy Open wings of a precious secret (2016) installed diagonally in a corner of the gallery, which creates whisker-like shadows that mitigate the severity of its stainless steel frame, swathed in dyed muslin fabric and tamarind kernel flour paste.

Ranjani Shettar, (backgroun) 'Open wings of a precious secret', 2016, stainless steel, dyed muslin fabric and tamarind kernel flour paste, 131 x 154 x 128 in, and (foreground) 'Lattice' 2016, stainless steel, dyed muslin and tamarind kernel flour paste, 39 x 40 x 1 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Ranjani Shettar, (background) ‘Open Wings of a Precious Secret’, 2016, stainless steel, dyed muslin fabric and tamarind kernel flour paste, 131 x 154 x 128 in; (foreground) ‘Lattice’, 2016, stainless steel, dyed muslin and tamarind kernel flour paste, 39 x 40 x 1 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Akin to musical notes that are orchestrated into a melodic composition, works like Morning Song (2016) made of hand turned lacquered wood and pigments, as well as How long before another turn (2016) made of beeswax, pigments, wooden beads and polyester threads, waft like a gentle breeze in the spaces they inhabit. Immersive in their manner of presentation, the works articulate a purposeful equilibrium that successfully echoes the natural order of things.

There is a large measure of playful candor within the calculated arrangements of materials that keeps the viewer’s eye spellbound. For instance, Sama, a form of active Sufi meditation of which whirling is most common, finds spirit in the pair of teak wood sculptures that share the same title. Protruding from the wall, the work seems to be momentarily frozen mid-whirl, arrested in motion.

Ranjani Shettar, 'Sama', 2016, teak, 33 x 44 x 29 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Ranjani Shettar, ‘Sama’, 2016, teak, 33 x 44 x 29 in. Image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

Ranjani Shettar, 'Morning Song' (detail), 2016, hand turned lacquered wood and pigments, 132 x 336 x 5 in.

Ranjani Shettar, ‘Morning Song’ (detail), 2016, hand turned lacquered wood and pigments, 132 x 336 x 5 in.

Shettar also presents a series of Song Books (I-IV) (2015), monotypes in ivory and blue along with a block printed scroll of henna-dyed muslin entitled Liana’s lullaby (2015). Better known as a sculptor, she has over the years produced both small and large scale prints, mostly woodblocks that enable narration in finer textures and more acute delicacy.

Her use of material – organic or industrial – and their application, whether woven, carved, moulded or printed, speak of a multi-layered, and often, fraught relationship humans share with both nature and technology. The exhibition culminates in an outdoor sculpture, Where in time is now (2016), a three-part steel structure affixed with wooden wheels at its ends that aptly questions the dynamic between the past and the present through the materials themselves.

Kanika Anand

1727

Related Topics: Indian artists, nature, installation, sculpture, gallery shows, events in New Delhi

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