Migrating Histories of Molecular Identities

By Valay Shende  |  Image Gallery

Curated by Dr. Giles Tillotson

JAN 10, 2015 – FEB 28, 2015

Migrating Histories of Molecular Identities is an exhibition of works by Mumbai-based artist Valay Shende. His life size works represent objects and situations around us. The ease with which Shende uses symbols within everyday Indian identities – from trucks, buffalos and tiffin-carriers to Buddha, Marx, grenades and scooters – to address issues in society, lends a unique perspective to identification across cultures and languages.

Artist Interaction

Valay Shende in conversation with Veerangana Solanki

February 12, 2015 6:30 PM

Open to all.


Valay Shende through his works unravels the pace of time, histories and myths to question where we as a society are placed today and the future of where we are headed. The human being and his system of society are the central subject of Shende’s works, which act as points of departure for the numerous issues and global concerns he addresses. His life size works represent objects and situations around us, through the deconstruction of the matter in the form of molecular discs of metal and portraits as a primary medium. These discs symbolically represent atoms of form, whereby science, the base of existence, takes on an important role.

Society, the system and one’s surrounding become an inevitable factor to identify within Valay Shende’s works. The artist’s imagery though strongly reflective of his surroundings (viz. India), references the global citizen. He says – “if you consider the world yours, there are no seams, no boundaries… the moment you look at yourself as a citizen of a country and not of the world, you limit yourself…”

A work that strongly represents Shende’s concerns and personal experience of migration and time is – ‘Transit’. The largest scale work the artist has created so far is a life-size truck with migrant men, women and children transiting migratory time in the lorry. These people and families are timelessly stuck in transit, while the truck of development labours forward as suggested by the moving images of buildings and construction sites from Mumbai and London, which whizz past in the video screens acting as rear-view mirrors.

Commenting on rural issues and extremes in society, ‘Shetkari Atmahatya Narsinglu Rukmawar Vidarbha’, is one of Valay Shende’s most powerful works. An ornate silver dining table, surrounded by rich brocade upholstered chairs conjures an image in the mind of it belonging to a household, where lavish feasts have been devoured ravenously everyday. A pair of gold salt and pepper shakers, placed at the centre of the table suggest the preparation for the next meal. This perfect vision sharply snaps the moment one is informed of the contents of the shakers. The saltshaker contains the ashes of the farmer from Vidarbha, Narsinglu Rukmawar, who committed suicide due poverty of money to support and feed his family. The peppershaker contains the soil from Rukmawar’s fields, which grew the grains that another family will now enjoy, perhaps at this silver dining table. The bull is the sole representative and support of the farmer that will toil with him through the field all day in any weather. What we see in Valay Shende’s work is a bull’s head mounted on the wall in the form of a hunted trophy, similar to those displayed in landlords’ houses.

Image Gallery

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