At this unusual art show, paper scrolls tell the story of a dying planet
Last October, Jayashree Chakravarty became the first Indian artist to showcase at Paris’ Guimet Museum. On display were soaring paper scrolls nearly 14 ft long layered with dried leaves, twigs, roots and creepers — a comment on ecological imbalance.
This exhibition is titled Earth as Haven: Under the Canopy of Love. Now, it comes to Mumbai, presented by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum and the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation in collaboration with New Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA).
“There could be no more appropriate time to engage with this exhibition. With parts of the country devastated by nature’s fury, the artist’s comments on the growing ecological imbalance are a poignant reminder of the destruction humankind has wrought on the environment,” says Kamini Sawhney, curator for the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery at CSMVS.
The exhibition features 18 giant scrolls that hang from the ceiling and create a cave-like environment. The pièce de résistance is at the centre — scrolls laid over a ribbed armature to create a canopy that resembles a wasp house or cocoon.
Visitors can walk through the space and use their smartphone flashlights to discover tiny insect forms — beetles, flies, glowworms and fireflies — created on its surface with sequins and glitter.
“She has built the scrolls by kneading paper, painting it, staining it with tea, molding and layering it with found material from nature. This also makes a fragile material like paper more resilient,” says Roobina Karode, curator of the exhibition and director of KNMA.
This solo show marks the Kolkata-based artist Chakravarty’s return to Mumbai after 14 years. Born in Tripura, her work has evolved over three decades from thick oil-and-acrylic paintings to these backlit, translucent scrolls that breathe with life.
The shrinking natural habitats in ever-expanding cities and cycles of bloom and decay remain an overarching theme in her work. The act of healing a wound with gauze lends inspiration to her scroll-making technique. “My work is drawn from everyday observations. I would collect twigs, leaves and seed pods fallen on the ground. I’ve also used a lot of medicinal herbs in my work,” Chakravarty says.
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