It’s Vintage

New York-based artist Samanta Batra Mehta’s debut solo show uses antique objects to clock anthropology down the ages.

Published: April 20, 2013 2:36 am

If cupboards and cabinets flushed with black and white photographs,magnifying glass,maps,trophies,and vintage wooden clocks leave you with a sense of wonder,then artist Samanta Batra Mehta’s work titled The Other Side of Time might interest you. In her debut solo show,she marries antique objects to contemporary techniques to express themes of longing and identity.

“The inspiration came from the Cabinet of Curiosities,which were popular during Renaissance in Europe. People would display their collections of religious relics,science instruments,and archaeological pieces in rooms or cabinets. These were regarded as a mirror reflection of the collector’s inner-psyche,” says 38-year-old Mehta. Her insatiable hunger to collect rare books,and maps from 1800s and 1900s,postcards,wooden letterpress drawers,among other objet d’art have been the inspiration for the show that comprises photographs,prints,drawings and installations.

Themes of migration,longing,dislocation and identity creep into her photographs. For instance,in Here I Lie in My Own Separate Skin 1 and 2,a woman,with her back to the viewer,has on her “who” and “home” painted. This image has been superimposed into a street scene in Cairo,where Mehta had travelled to. “The colour of our skin is a mark of our personal identity — a veil of our social cultural self. The words in red question our identity,” says Mehta.

Decoupage on wooden shoe lasts,bought from antique markets in the US,that date back to the 1940s and 1960s,make up the installation Rites of Passage. They act as a metaphor for how human beings mould themselves according to the foreign land they live in. “It evokes memories of accepting a foreign country as a home,just like I did,” says Mehta,who lived for more than a decade in New York.

A corner of the gallery is now home to a radio belonging to 1940s while one of Batra’s collection of postcards dating back to 1947 — the time of India’s Partition — decorate a blue wall. The show traces her family history. “My grandparents shifted from Lahore during the Partition. The show brings out my constant engagement with my family’s history,” says Mehta.

The exhibition is on display at Shrine Empire,7,Friends Colony (West) till May 18 between 11 am to 7 pm. Contact: 4132 7630/ 2632 6930.

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