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Smells Like Home

Artists respond to an abandoned house in south Delhi by drawing their home from memory .

Written by Vandana Kalra |
Updated: April 26, 2017 12:00:27 am
indian contemporary art, interior design, kashmiri migrants, home, interiors, kashmir, exhibition, artist, lefestyle news, art and culture news, indian express news (From left) Priyanka Choudhary’s Pahunch Ghar: to reach home

There are more than 20 of them on the wall — rough sketches of homes that people have left behind. While some focus on the interiors, others give an outside view of the green valley and the chinar trees in the backdrop. Artist Priyanka Choudhary is quick to explain that her collection comprises drawings made by Kashmiri migrants in Delhi, drawn from their recollections of their homes. The works are part of the exhibition “A Proposition, A Playground, A House”, where the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art has invited artists to respond to an abandoned house in south Delhi’s Pamposh Enclave that has been vacant for years.

Choudhary’s exhibit Pahunch Ghar: to reach home, has an accompanying video in which the migrants describe their drawings. For instance, if one leads us into the red and green corridor of her three-floor house, another recalls how neighbours and friends often borrowed their house keys to entertain guests since they had a large drawing room. “When asked to reminisce about their past, residents of this locality spoke about their homes far away. They remembered minute details that had been deliberately tucked away. The colours, smell, textures, nooks and crannies of their childhood and youth. The house had become a temple that contained no ill-will,” says Choudhary.

The exhibition, says curator Vidya Shivadas, “invites us to re-imagine the spaces and contexts we inhabit and how we choose to inhabit them. It invites us to listen in on its stories and in turn share ours.” The participating artists have all responded in a different manner.

If Shefalee Jain’s Strangest Sights of Man reflects on the “spectacularisation of bodies” with “the disabled body fast disappearing from common sight”, in Between the Winds Babu Eashwar Prasad dwells on the fate of the house with photographs of its windows on a lightbox. Thlana Bazik reflects on lingering memories in Presence in Absence, with photographs of the house and toys safely kept in glass jars. He recreates a corner of a home with an Oscar Wilde book kept on a low table and a cloth bag hanging from a nail, among others. In Mnemo Toy, Karthik KG presents the mechanical contraption, with punch cards for handloom weaving designed in Madurai.

The picture is grim on several occasions, including the time when Delhi-based photographer Chandan Gomes reexamines his sense of origin through objects that surrounded him as a child. Living in a modest neighbourhood in Delhi and studying in elite institutions, he recalls how the contrast made him “emotionally vulnerable” and “an introvert”. “These photographs are not only a passage for the viewer into my ‘home’, my private space, but they also represent a move that I make towards breaching the barriers that I have constructed for myself in expressing my relationship with this space,” says Gomes, looking at photographs that have peeling walls, a cluttered kitchen and magazines stacked in a corner, among others.

Late Inder Bhan Madan’s daughter Shobha Madan shares cartoons of her father, an employee of the Post and Telegraph department, who sketched during his free time. This is the first time the archive is being made public, and not surprisingly the issues he sketched remain relevant, from Kashmir to the impact of industralisation on human labour, and the ban on cow slaughter.

Currently exhibiting her work at Threshold Gallery, in this exhibition Priya Ravish Mehra shares the process of collaborating with the rafoogars in her hometown Najibabad, in Bijnor district. She gives an insight into their workings — with a collaboratively produced Najibabad naksha embroidered by the rafoogars and a sampler used as technical directory of all stitches used by them. Another framed work has her grandfather’s white shawl inherited by her as the base, with darners filling the plain center with floral borders, patterns and motifs. “This is a garden of memories. He planted a lot of gardens in Najibabad, so Priya thought it will be nice to have floral patterns found in Kashmiri shawls on his shawl. It’s an interesting look at the idea of abandon,”
says Shivadas.

The exhibition at C-13, Pamposh Enclave, is on till May 7. A series of workshops and discussions have been planned, for detailed schedule log onto http://www.ficart.org

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