High tide for a blue moon

by Ranjini Shettar

Dec 02, 2012 - Feb 17, 2013

Industrial Arts Gallery | 19th Century Gallery | Origins of Mumbai Gallery | Kamalnayan Bajaj Gallery

Shettar's large installations draw inspiration from natural forms recalling the surreal beauty of magical creatures and sensuous landscapes. She gives imaginative form to natural phenomena as diverse and unique as the interaction of light and water, the luminescence of fireflies and the kinetic response of plants to sunlight. Evocative titles such as Heliotropes and Scent of a Sound allow us to engage with the essence of the work, which emphasize handmade and pre industrial processes, but employ the most sophisticated technical and scientific processes in their assemblage. Celebrating both the natural and the man-made, the works recall the interface of art and science which was one of the founding ideas of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum.

Shettar's work acquires an entirely new meaning when contextualised within the Museum. Founded in the 19th century, the collection was significantly influenced by the contemporary fascination with natural history, botany and horticulture of colonised lands. In particular, Shettar's title work, High tide for a blue moon is especially evocative when contextualised within the Industrial Arts gallery. Here, it is positioned in front of the statue of Prince Albert, flanked by the Muse of Science and the Muse of Art, an allegorical representation of the museum's historical emphasis on the relationship between the two. The work recalls the botanical beginnings of the museum which has a large collection of fossils and corals. Made of coffeewood, it is sprayed with automobile paint bringing the organic and the man made into an unexpected symbiosis.

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The artist's sensitivity to her natural surroundings is reflected in her use of materials, her works draw upon locally cultivated coffee wood, tamarind kernels, rosewood, teak and cotton. Far from the empirical approach of the past, driven by collecting and classifying, Shettar's artistic oeuvre draws upon sensory experiences, however it is significant to note that her natural, fairy tale world of lights, shadows and floating sculptures is constructed through a scientific, technical process. Shettar negotiates a delicate balance between light and shadow, the daintiness of her installations emphasised by the intricate configurations that continue on the gallery walls, transferring her sculptures into the two dimensional space.