Indian postcards from the 20th century pasted on a wall painted in electric blue, antiquarian books juxtaposed with plastic plants bought from China and Thailand, historical maps beautifully and neatly wrapped inside antique bottles and decorative paper cut outs on vintage shoe moulds. All this and more on the same lines forms the basis for New York-based Indian artist, Samanta Batra Mehta’s artworks, that just opened solo on April 18 at the Shrine Empire Gallery in the city.
Another artist who debuted solo in Delhi recently is Ahmedabad-based Sarika Mehta, making the Capital the new, preferred canvas for young and emerging artists.
Samanta’s works are inspired by the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’— an encyclopedic collection in the Renaissance period, where historians, scientists and artists collected oddities from nature, religious relics, scientific instruments and other things that later became valuable items for research and museum collections.
Titled ‘The Other Side of Time’, her works include photography, prints, drawings and installations. “I am a collector by nature. Whatever I have collected over the years reflects my interests, my history and my childhood memories and the same are replicated in my work,” says Samanta.
For example, one of her works, with the same title as that of the show, almost summarises the concept behind all the artworks. Made with antique medicine bottles, maps, compasses, gold leaves, prints and collaged texts, the work echoes the journey of her grandparents, when they left their homes and belongings in Pakistan to start a new life in independent India. “The cabinet stands as a remembrance and a memory. It is also reflective of socio-cultural order and post-colonial theory.”
Besides this, she has photos and drawings on display that broadly map the connection between human body and nature.
Sarika’s show, Born From the Terrain, is also interestingly a reflection on self evolution and the relationship between man and nature. The range of works on display includes oil, water colour, pencil and an installation. Titled, Flow, the installation is made with wet towels painted in oil pigments, which spreads like algae around the airconditioning pipes in the gallery staircase. “The work is a reference to the emotions that are raw and untamed and spread like algae.”
The Other Side of time is on till May 18 at Shrine Empire Gallery, New Friends Colony, and Born From the Terrain is on till May 20 at Latitude 28, Lado Sarai.