Near the doorway at the gallery at Alliance Française de Delhi, in the work titled Curtain, artist Aishwarya Sultania prints and paints a poem on a gallery roll that she wrote in response to her encounters in Paris in 2010 — she remembers the city as one where everyone wore plain clothes and loved black cats. They named her Indienne and did not understand her vegetarianism, which does not include eggs in the diet.
Sultania’s solo “Unwarping Time” opened the “Inview” art series, conceptualised under the Back From France programme. Initiated by Alliance Française’s director, Jean-Francois Ramon, the programme intends to celebrate France through the works of young Indian artists who have spent at least six months in the country. Curated by Shruthi Isaac, the programme will comprise two solo exhibitions of two artists every year, till 2021.
“Aishwarya was the most sensitive of the group of artists that we have chosen for the series. The French are very proud of their language and literature, so how does a foreign artist who does not speak French interact with them? How does she find familiarity there? It comes out very strikingly in her work,” says Isaac.
A recipient of the French Embassy-Krishnakriti Fellowship award, under which she studied at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, Sultania, 34, plays with words and imagery. In Curtain, the poem that she writes is in Hindi and “a digitally coded ‘bhains language’, drawing from the Hindi proverb — kala akshar bhains barabar”. “The poem is made of words but it seems more like an image,” says Sultania.
If in Lifeline, a set of 13 photographs on ilford paper, the artist documents the places that she frequented, like the community kitchen, metro, fruit vendors, university, and the streets. In Empty Exposures — From Circle to Square, she captures two circular entities moving towards each other; they meet for a brief moment and then swiftly move away, creating two pulsating trail lines that chase each other in an otherwise empty rectangular space. Her video performance, Wooing Paris, records conversations she had with the audience who were intrigued by her creation of the Eiffel Tower with foam on the streets of Paris.
Threads also keep occuring in her works, stitching the photographs together or connecting different works. “They keep appearing and disappearing, both physically and metaphorically. Even when you do not see the threads, it is an element that binds the works,” says Sultana. The exhibition is on view till November 27 at Alliance Française de Delhi