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Friday, December 03, 2021

Artists Sunanda Khajuria and Gouri Vemula navigate liminal spaces through their works

As the two artists share space in the exhibition appropriately titled “Liminal Worlds”, viewers encounter varied elements and iconographies that seem to come together to tell stories of our times.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
October 18, 2021 8:00:32 pm
Sunanda Khajuria, Gouri Vemula, art exhibition If Gouri Vemula populates her works with humans and beasts, Sunanda Khajuria’s renditions borrow from Indian and Chinese traditional iconography. (Photo: PR handout)

At first glance, it seems that little is common between artist Sunanda Khajuria’s vibrant canvases and Gouri Vemula’s monochromatic pen and ink drawings on display at Art Heritage gallery in Delhi, but gallerist Tariq Allana notes how both are navigating liminal spaces and transient dream-like worlds. “Both of them are addressing the surreal world — between the real and the unreal,” says Allana.

As the two artists share space in the exhibition appropriately titled “Liminal Worlds”, viewers encounter varied elements and iconographies that seem to come together to tell stories of our times. If Gouri Vemula populates her works with humans and beasts, Khajuria’s renditions borrow from Indian and Chinese traditional iconography. The numerous shades of the much discussed and conflicted relationship between man and nature become visible.

Gouri Vemula, Gouri Vemula artworks, Gouri Vemula exhibition Hyderabad-based Vemula’s surreal pen and ink drawings are populated with mythic figures of gods and goddesses, animals and humans.

Even as thoughts turn to the present unprecedented times and the global pandemic that has altered lives, we are told that when most thought Covid was a distant virus limited to China, Khajuria was at ground zero in Wuhan, considering catching a flight back home. Pursuing a doctoral study at the Wuhan University of Technology in China (focusing on the challenges, present situation and significance of Asian contemporary women artists in the present era), she left the city on January 31, 2020, on the first evacuation flight for Indian students by the Indian government.

Influenced by Chinese traditional paintings, her works on display at the gallery also depict her close relationship with nature. Floating on her canvases are winged birds, fish and sheep that she describes as “talismans imbued with mysterious symbolic meaning”. If the paper work In the Waiting Room (2015) has a woman interacting with a bird, in The End and the Beginning we see a masked man (2021) in deep thought. “There are two types of world for every human being. One is the outer world, and the other is the inner world. There is a world outside of us, and there is a world inside of us. Both are very different and are like mirror images of each other. The inner world is everything that happens in our minds, such as our thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, etc. What you see in my work is my artistic and creative inner world. You can definitely say that these two are influenced by each other from time to time. My artwork reflects the inspiration from my inner world and personal meaning of the object or thoughts, which is completely different from the outer world or physical world,” she says.

Sunanda Khajuria, Sunanda Khajuria artworks, Sunanda Khajuria news Floating on Sunanda Khajuria’s canvases are winged birds, fish and sheep that she describes as “talismans imbued with mysterious symbolic meaning”.

Hyderabad-based Vemula’s surreal pen and ink drawings are populated with mythic figures of gods and goddesses, animals and humans. She draws inspiration from the deep forests and conjures a fantasy world where nature and urban spaces as well as the real and the imagined coexist. In another series, the zodiac signs act as a point of departure, exploring varied elements and associated connotations. The post-graduate in printmaking from Central University, Hyderabad, also draws from her experiences of growing up in Dharwad and Hubli. A note on the exhibition reads: “Gouri draws from indigenous classical and popular traditions of Indian iconography, creating imagined landscapes where gods, humans and nature coexist in a tempestuous cosmic play.”

The exhibition is on at Art Heritage Gallery, Delhi, till October 23.

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