A Group of six Artists in collaboration with Studio Art.
Debasish Mukherjee | Megha Joshi | Pratul Dash | Rahul Kumar
Remen Chopra W. VanDerVaart | Shivani Aggarwal
Curated by Ashna Singh
The title of the exhibition contains within it a conundrum, for how can something be simultaneously perfect and flawed? It is on the one hand authentic and on the other entirely subjective. The acknowledgement of the “imperfectly perfect" is a quest for beauty and joy and the liberation from a fruitless search for an ideal. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi encourages the appreciation of imperfection, negating ideas of perfection and permanence. It is the imperfection that makes something meaningful and precious, signposting its existence, its purpose, a life lived.
Greek philosopher Plato in his allegory of the cave, invited people to grapple with this enigma by positing the distinction between ‘what is reality’, that which is truth and ‘what we believe to be reality’, i.e. our perception. Artist Remen Chopra W. Van Der Vaart draws on memories of her grandmother and her home, which was her site of stability and permanence through her nomadic childhood. In Seeking Stillness: Memory, Archiving and Preserving, the artist etches an Urdu poem from her grandmother’s library onto 4 cement blocks. In her attempt to capture the perfection of her memories, the essence of home and love embodied within those memories through the imperfect act of inscription onto blocks, the emotional inconsistencies between the past and present, the artist makes reference to Plato’s dichotomous imaginary. In the recitation of the poem, the attempt to retrieve memories through sound, she aligns this attempt to Plato’s prisoners who attempt to understand truth by staring at shadows.
Remen makes her poem illegible, obscured and shrouded. To apply meaning through erasure is central in Rahul Kumar’s mixed media works Pages from my diary and I can read you. Starting his artistic journey as a potter, to later study ceramics, a writer and founding editor (Arts) of Stir magazine, these distinct practices are ever present in his work. Always building from the base of clay, with the inherent desire to leave his mark by distorting the functional perfection of pottery, his recent work has been exploring the ways in which language falls short of communication, of the precision of meaning. In Pages from my diary, Rahul inscribes the background of clay on paper with illegible text, words written with intention but without being comprehensible. To view this masking of meaning is frustrating but also intrigues us to question the purpose and vehicles of communicability - language and art. To search for meaning activates what is otherwise a passive act of viewership. Taking the idea of re-contextuality further is the installation, ambiguously titled, I can read you, wherein the artist casts found twigs in various clay and porcelain and places them to resemble pictographs. If we were to see them as small bones, the clay resembling skin and the obscured texts as psyche, Rahul’s practice becomes an interesting mapping of resilient human cultural endeavour, the search for truth rooted in subjective perception.
From Benaras, Debasish Mukherjee has worked in the fashion industry in Delhi for several decades and the dual interests of urban archeology and textiles informs his work. Selections from two bodies of work are included in the exhibition. The Museum Within shows two architectural white works resembling a baoli, step-well structure with the bust of a man in the centre. Using the motif drawn from the ghats of Benaras the works excavate urban memory and reiterates the importance of preserving monuments and living traditions. In River Song, four rectangular stitched fabric monochrome pieces brings the ideas of preservation closer to home as the fabrics are portraits of spaces he’s inhabited, thus creating hauntingly beautiful blueprints of his life.
Pratul Dash’s digital work Saving for Future centres on the masked protagonist, the artist’s portrait, supporting a fecund bouquet of vibrant flora and fauna. This arc of abundance is set against a barren landscape marked by the tyre tracks of a bulldozer. The work delves into Pratul’s journey, like Debasish’s, from the rural to the urban space and his deep desire to preserve memories, of a childhood past and of species extinct. On the left of the poignant work in a cabinet, a shelter housing images dear to the artist.
Shivani Aggarwal presents two works, the diptych of thread stitching on canvas in Crevices and a teak wood sculpture of an open book with devanagiri alphabets spilling from it in Holding My Essence. The latter work continues the idea of incomprehensibility. Germinating from the desire to transcribe the Gayatri Mantra onto a book, the frustration in its failure led to a study in the emptiness of social expectations and the liberation of moving beyond prescribed boundaries, even in one’s thoughts if not fully by our actions. Crevices examines the hollowness those social prescriptions cause and the painstaking methodology of stitching on canvas becomes an act of reclamation of self and identity. Through the materiality and durationality of her work, the tactile beauty in what she creates, Shivani encourages the embodiment of the exhibition thematic.
Megha Joshi takes a more oppositional stance to social patriarchies by wresting meaning away from items wholly submerged in Hindu ritual practices - the rudraksha, the mouli (sacred thread), the dhoop (incense cone). She works to address misogyny, perpetuated by endless repetitive social and religious practices. In Islands Unto Ourselves, Megha creates multiple cellular structures resembling islands in an ocean, pressing upon us the relativity of perfection. Each of us may be perfect but we are challenged in the context of others and perfection thus is a deeply flawed notion within a gendered social structure. Untitled, four lines on handmade incense cones stuck to the wall firstly supports women’s cottage industry and secondly further examines the notion of perfection and its impossibility. Using the simile of artisans failing in their endeavour to roll identical conical shapes, she highlights our failure to fit social moulds of perfection not as an individual defeat but an inherent structural problem.
The impossibility of perfection, its allure, the acceptance of its existence yet the struggle to liberate ourselves ‘from it’, is a journey we spend our lives on. It drives our ambitions and desires, it straddles the realms of the social, cultural and political and the acknowledgement of imperfection as the one truth, like Megha’s burnt down incense cones, punctuates the end.
Curatorial Text by - Deeksha Nath | 2023
'Holding my essence'
8 x 10 Inches
Teakwood and epoxy | 2023
24 x 24 Inches (Each) | Diptych
Cotton thread and Acrylic on canvas | 2023
Islands Unto Ourselves
118 x 48 Inches
Rudraksha, Sacred threads and Lamp cotton wicks on MDF