A house, shaped like a mountain, rises in Rupali Patil’s artwork and recalls the frenzy of construction on hillsides across the country. Patil grew up in Pune, overlooking verdant hills that are now pockmarked with buildings. “I liked the idea of using a paper-cutting mat, employed by architects to create plans of houses, for my work, which is titled To Be Hollowed,” says Patil, who studied printmaking at MS University, Baroda. An artist, who is also trying to follow a zero-waste lifestyle, Patil has, previously, commented on capitalism and water privatisation in the work Let’s Divide The River Too. The comment in To Be Hollowed is reinforced by lines by the poet Eunice de Souza crawling through the house like ants, We push so much under the carpet / the carpet’s now a landscape / A worm embedded in each tuft / There’s a forest moving / Everybody smiles and smiles and smiles…
To Be Hollowed is among the works that are taking shape at TIFA Working Studios on Connaught Road, Pune. As part of a residency, the space is hosting 12 artists based in the city. “Open studio is hosted to foster creativity and encourage experimentation in an atmosphere of cultural exchange, conversation, encouragement, and freedom of expression,” says Trishla Talera, Director, TIFA.
Spread across the floors are the works in progress of Abhijit Patil, a documentary photographer, who moonlights as a farmer and is trying to figure out self-sustenance; 2009 Charles Wallace winner Aditi, whose installations feature new media, film, videos and photography; and Carine Figueras, who uses natural pigments and environmental material such as rocks, sand and plants to explore the relationship between mankind and the space they inhabit, among others.
In a white room that resembles a wooden cabin, Payal Arya has turned on the smoke machine. Once the doors are shut, a visitor gets an experience of smog-filled Delhi, where she stayed while studying at Shiv Nadar University. “The site-specific installation was triggered by a moment in the winter of 2016, when I emerged from my home into the Delhi smog. I found myself engulfed in an unknowing situation of a demonetised and unsafe city environment. There will be a television showing visuals of a fire, in which the smoke travels downward as a metaphor for our conditions in society,” she says. The work is called Deficiency or Absence, Darkness, the Quality or Condition of being Unknown. “The title of the work is the definition of obscurity,” says Arya, who, for a previous work, created the smell of violence — a rusted, cold odour — based on accounts of survivors of upheavels. Arya adds that she took care to ensure that the smoke in her present is not harmful.
In a room on the same floor, Shraddha Borawake is bent over a life-size digital print showing a woman’s profile disappearing in an avalanche of trash. Titled Garb Age, it is a long-term project that started three years ago. Borawake, who graduated from New York University and went to Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam for post graduation, has scattered the workspace with objects, ranging from azurite malacite from Congo and a fossil of a crustacean to a fucite with raw rubies and plastic cellophane packaging waste. “Garb Age is a reflection of objects in the world, from the natural, such as dead insects, to the artificial, such as cans. What are the things that our bodies are bonded to, from food to quarries? The moment you throw away a container of oil, what is going to happen? The residue of our existence interests me,” says Borawake. In the large print, which will be hung from the roof and reflect on the walls, a can that is flying towards the sky holds the moon within it, a pointer to the artist’s belief that “somewhere there is light in all of this clutter of material existence”.
Her fellow artist, who stands at the seam of contemporary art and art history, is Vaibhav Raj Shah. He is painting sylvan landscapes in his studio at TIFA. On the walls hang large oil canvases covered in plastic and painted over with dripping red paint as well as photographs of broken-down roadside benches, spilling dustbins and other signs of urban decay. If the unsettling feature of the former is the plastic covering, the curious detail in the later are the numbers stenciled against these public eyesores. “These are marks I have given to these ugly public spaces. This is how I grade the landscape, the government, the people and the municipal commissioner directly,” says Shah, who has given TIFA 41/100. A postgraduate in fine arts from MS University, Baroda, Shah has judged the stone that acted as a seat for students in the canteen 21/100 and the VT station in Mumbai gets 31/100. “While learning landscape painting, I told lies every time I made the sky in India look blue and the landscape green. I visually fixed and cleaned the country for five years. #Swacchbharat was not a concept then. Now, I am giving marks to the country,” he says. Why does he wrap his paintings in plastic? “I am purposely depriving the viewer of beauty. The painting imagines the past from memory while the plastic represents the now,” says Shah.
The Open Studios will be held at TIFA Working Studios on April 14, 4 pm -8 pm. Donation pass: Rs 100