Updated: Mar 30
by Jyoti Tyagi
The covid-19 pandemic has not surprisingly influenced artists and art-related activities and events throughout the world. After the prolonged lockdown, Threshold art gallery located in Sarvodya Enclave, New Delhi, recently opened its doors to an exhibition titled “Nest”, jointly curated by well-known art critic, poet, translator and editor, Prayag Shukla, and art curator and owner of Threshold, Tunty Chauhan.
At the exhibition opening, from left to right: Tunty Chauhan, Manisha Gera Baswani, Prayag Shukla
Through its several years of existence with Tunty Chauhan at the helm, the gallery has rendered exceptional service to the art community and art lovers by mounting select and thought-provoking curated shows.
Tunty Chauhan shared that all the works were created especially for the show. The theme for the exhibition was suggested by Prayag Shukla and it had been planned before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. For this particular group exhibition, the participating artists were invited to explore, delve into and meditate around, as the curators mentioned,
“the very philosophy behind ‘Nest’ with all its physical and spiritual tenors”. They added, “Though nests and the acts of nesting are largely attributed to birds, it is only materially created through structures and objects but also through social and emotional relationships.”
In my conversation with Prayag Shukla regarding the choice of the nest thematic, he spoke about the multiple interpretations of the concept of a nest.
“The thought behind the show is not about the architectural design or constructional aspects of a house,” he said, “but it’s about what makes this construct a home, the experience and emotion that shape the idea of home into becoming a nest – a haven of security where one can relax and feel a sense of freedom and peace after returning from everyday work. This gives an individual not only his/her identity and feeling of belonging to that space, but also a need that is peculiar to not human beings alone but also to the world of animals and birds.”
Our feelings towards the value of a ‘nest’ have deepened during the pandemic. The sight of thousands of migrants trudging or cycling back to be among their near and dear ones owing to the sudden lockdown shocked us beyond belief. While the artists expressed their feelings through their art, for me, walking through an art gallery after nearly a year of the pandemic was an entirely new and enjoyable experience. Each artwork has been given its due in the gallery to allow the visitor to initiate a dialogue with the exhibits. With her deep understanding and experience, Tunty Chauhan has ensured the requisite balance and placement of the figurative and non-figurative works. It clearly shows the seriousness and sincerity of the art curator towards the exhibition.
The exhibition features artworks by Anindita Bhattacharya, Jayashree Chakravarty, Manisha Gera Baswani, Nilima Sheikh, Pandit Khairnar, Pooja Iranna, Rajendar Tiku, Sudhir Patwardhan, Suneet Ghildial, and Yashwant Deshmukh.
While attempting any critique of art, a question that often occurs to me is whether it is at all possible to do justice to an artwork by writing about it within the limited confines of ‘words’ alone. Viewers of art find their own meanings of a creation, which works to the artist’s advantage; at the same time, the artists articulate and give shape to their ideas through their artistic inspiration as seen in this show. This thought about what goes inside the mind of an artist inspired me to pen the following lines:
Sometimes from my inner consciousness
Sometimes from my inner consciousness Emerge lines of thought. Blurred, unknown Desiring to speak with colours Such is the entwining experience of life.
Often these lines emerging from the consciousness Finding their identity on canvas Flaunting their shape, formed of thoughts Conversing, overwhelm me with emotion.
Sometimes from my inner consciousness these lines emerge.
– Jyoti Tyagi
Anandita Bhattacharya’s series of small paintings convey amazing expression; the viewer can at once comprehend the patterns that have been detailed aesthetically. Intricately weaving her images, she presents a world of mutually dependent living organisms – different creatures, flowers, buds. Exploring the theme to its very core, Anandita uses a mature palette of earth colours, sand and mud to evoke the feeling of ‘gharonda’. Not satisfied with the outward appearance of flora, fauna and organisms, the artist lays threadbare the nucleus of the species she examines. However, the repetition and duplication of the palette gives the series somewhat of a monotony and we hope that in her future artworks she will experiment with new colours.
In a Grain of Sand . . . by Anindita Bhattacharya, Gouache and natural pigments on paper
(suite of 28 works), variable dimensions 7 inches x 5 inches each approx, 2020
Jayashree Chakravarty has presented a multi-layered portrayal of the subject. The artist seems to be searching for the meaning of the title 'nest' in the elements contained in nature. By using different materials – cotton, jute, paper, leaves, and oil colours – she has created a charmingly expressive and meaningful rendition of the nest. Her work, rather than being a depiction of an imagined world, reveals her sensibilities and deep love for nature. Her intricate observations are to be seen in her heavy layering of colours giving an almost surreal feel of the roots of a tree, narrating different tales related to nature. Her effort to exquisitely present the diversity of nature through art is commendable.
Expanded Roots by Jayashree Chakravarty, Oil, acrylic, jute, cotton, paper and tea stains on canvas,
50 inches x 69 inches, 2019
Pandit Khairnar is an artist who has delved deep into the meaning of nest at both emotional and conceptual levels. He presents the title ‘nest’ quite uniquely and observes that a “home is a place where our childhood and memories from our life all assimilate in one place”. A colourist at heart, his deft handling of watercolour intensifies the works. His creations seldom resemble a constructed home as we know it; rather what appeals immediately to the viewer is the evocative dark, deep square representing the home against the backdrop of lighter tones. The balanced harmony of darkness and light conveys the optimism of the home as a sanctuary that one can always find solace in. To look at his artworks is to walk through an amazing world.
Gallery view of Pandit Khairnar's works
Untitled by Pandit Khairnar, Watercolour on paper, 11 inches x 11 inches, 2021
The works of Sudhir Patwardhan provide a commentary on people in urban social settings and changing circumstances. A home for him becomes a refuge to reflect and work in solitude. With his seriousness of purpose and skill he captures the true meaning of solitary nesting in his works on display. In his candid self-portrait, the crouched image of himself drawing on a sketch book is a manifestation of his pensive mood. The artist is a master at depicting careful observations. The pastel creation is a search for past memory while expressing a concern for a worrisome future. His courage and sensibility speaks volumes when he paints the disturbing silence of a lone woman; the backdrop of the eerie silence painted in a flat plane of colour is only broken by the shadow cast of the woman on it. His choice of colour suggests a tendency to be at variance with the obvious and superficial. It’s obvious for the viewer to have an intimate dialogue with the artwork.
Gallery view of Sudhir Patwardhan's works
Morning by Sudhir Patwardhan, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 34 inches x 43 inches, 2020
Afternoon by Sudhir Patwardhan, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 27 inches x 18 inches, 2020
Evening by Sudhir Patwardhan, Pastel on handmade paper, 27 inches x 21 inches, 2020
Sunit Ghildial, an artist from Uttarakhand, relates to the title ‘nest’ with the continuous journey of life and time using abstraction. Sunit explains, “a home has no meaning without nature and life”. Covid-19 has also unveiled the devastation and ravage caused to nature by human brutality. Through his small vertical surfaces and colours the artist has succeeded to create innovative intangible shapes reflecting this thought. Hailing as he does from the hilly regions, the influence of natural beauty is palpable as portrayed in the carefully balanced hues of green, yellow and brown. The pictorial spaces vibrate with soft and deep colours with the tonal variations lending a lyrical quality to his works. As we view his art, engaging with his thought process becomes inevitable – the harmony of the depiction of the background with the foreground is unmissable. The attraction is retained because of the appealing colour palette and effectual composition.
Gallery view of Sunit Ghildial's works
An artist’s philosophical world is often wondrous and filled with a quality of marvel that is not easily attained. Hence we tend to interpret an artist’s creations in multiple ways. The ‘home’ of our times, though blessed by nature, is passing through a turbulent phase.
Time & Life Series by Suneet Ghildial, Mixed media on canvas, 12 inches x 12 inches each, 2020
Time & Life Series (detail) by Suneet Ghildial, Mixed media on canvas, 12 inches x 12 inches each, 2020
Manisha Gera Baswani paints her narrative with stray feathers flying past – symbolic of movement and speed – trying to reach an uninhabited space as it were. Created in watercolour with pin incisions for feathers, the images and pictorial space come together in unison, reflecting the idea of a home that is in harmony with the environs. Baswani’s use of black and white hues accentuates the significance of balance and harmony in life.
Hope is a Thing with Feathers I (front) and II (back) by Manisha Gera Baswani,
Pin incisions on paper, 81 inches x 45 inches, 2020-21
In today's time, the ill effects of nature's neglect and misuse have also affected the habitat of birds. On the other hand, the life and mobility of a human being has also been affected. The feather is also known as an indicator of motion. Unlike traditional methods, the creations of the wings in a rhythmic way through pins are unique.
Hope is a Thing with Feathers II (detail) by Manisha Gera Baswani,
Pin incisions on paper, 81 inches x 45 inches, 2020-21
Nilima Sheikh’s body of work relates to contemporary life and living and she successfully carries the viewers along in her artistic journey. She shares her deep sensibilities in conjunction with the theme of ‘home’ in the exhibited works. In doing so, she reflects on the greatest tragedy of Covid times: the plight of migrant workers and their inner state of mind and heart as they are compelled to stay far away from home; her works also feature the pain of the flora and fauna. In her unique minimalist style, she depicts her concern with clarity and poignancy using paper stencils (‘sanjhi’) that are typical of her style. Nilima’s work on displacement carries metaphorical images and symbols of the migrants. The tonality and expressiveness of her intense works depict the sweat and labour of those who carry on their shoulders the burden of the haves of society while they themselves remain displaced and homeless.
Dreaming home 2 by Nilima Sheikh, Mixed tempera on Sanganer paper, 19.5 inches x 27 inches, 2020
Dreaming home 3 by Nilima Sheikh, Mixed tempera on Sanganer paper, 19.5 inches x 27 inches, 2020
Erased homes 5 by Nilima Sheikh, Mixed tempera on Sanganer paper, 16.5 inches x 25 inches, 2020
Contemporary sculptural art gives material form to an emotional expression. Rajendra Tiku’s imaginative mind interprets “the idea of a nest to the interpersonal bonding among the members of a family that go into the making of a home.” The use of stones tied together with ropes is suggestive of the rock-solid support the family home provides. The gold-plated metal can be symbolic of optimism. While he allows room for viewers to navigate through the signs and symbols to arrive at their own individual perceptions and interpretations, the works are infused with balance and harmony.
The artist uses twigs and threads in his second work to weave this idea of a home. The images he creates with honesty and clarity using mixed media leave an indelible mark. While in one work the minute shape of a home etched on a panel in shades of white is indicative of the favourable conditions, in another work, the use of black and the picture image of a fallen house symbolizes with stark simplicity the negative circumstances that wrought damage to the idea of a home. It is an impressive and admirable expression using abstraction.
Gallery view of Rajendra Tiku's works
(Left) Then some said that now we came in the line of Black Snow by Rajendar Tiku, Dry pastel, acrylic colour and pencils on Bhutanese handmade paper (Diptych), 27 inches x 21 Inches (framed), 2020
(Right) Then some said that now we came in the line of Black Snow by Rajendar Tiku, Dry pastel, acrylic colour and pencils on Bhutanese handmade paper (Diptych), 27 inches x 21 Inches (framed), 2020
जिस्म ऐसा मक़ान है जिसमें, रहने वाला नज़र नहीं आता . . . (Aasi) by Rajendar Tiku, 2020
(translation: The body is such a house where the resident cannot be seen)
Cured twigs, thread, acrylic colour and pencil on Bhutanese handmade paper,
27 inches x 21 inches x 2 inches (photograph courtesy of Aakshat Sinha)
Including a crescent moon many things had I to put together to give this place
the semblance of a house\ . . . home still eluded by Rajendar Tiku
Sandstone, gold gilded silver and jute rope,
8 inches x 6inches x 4 inches, 2019 (photograph courtesy of Aakshat Sinha)
The works of Yashwant Deshmukh are symbolic depictions of home. The work ‘cityscape’ captures the ruthless urbanization happening around us with the colour black at the centre of the canvas alluding to increasing population and the problems it results in. This is contrasted with the open home in a rural habitat, suggestive of peace and calm. In another work titled “Homeland”, while the earthy greys prevail, the hint of glow is symbolic of the warmth of the hearth and home that cannot be extinguished. The home is drawn using a graphite pencil while the yellow in the foreground conveys positive energy. Almost all the works use a mix of pencil and acrylic paint on canvas and there is an extensive use of greys in his works.
Gallery view of Yashwant Deshmukh's works
Cityscape by Yashwant Deshmukh, Acrylic on canvas, 36 inches x 48 inches, 2017
Home-land by Yashwant Deshmukh, Acrylics, graphite on canvas, 27 inches x 48 inches, 2020
Untitled by Yashwant Deshmukh, Pencil and acrylics on canvas, 20 inches x 14.5 inches, 2016
Pooja Irana raises several questions regarding the dizzying pace of unplanned and hollowness of urban development. She aptly observes that the processes of “development, modernization and the desire to aggrandize riches have in fact not only depleted our natural resources and relentlessly devastated nature but have also undermined the idea of human identity”. Her works question the need for urbanization and its growth. She says, “multistorey buildings also divide the social structure on economic lines”.
Gallery view of Yashwant Deshmukh's works
And time passed by 2 by Pooja Iranna, Ink on paper (set of five works), 6 inches x 8 inches, 2020
The image of micro-urbanization through ink on paper is commendable. A concrete jungle without people questions its necessity. She expresses the need to react using the things around us which we ignore, despite our close association with them. Through these compositions we an gain insight into the artist's concept of home. Her sculptures present vacant and tall, mushrooming skyscrapers that overpower the skyline, which have become a regular feature of our urban landscape.
From left to right: Pervasive Mushrooming 11, 12 and 13 by Pooja Iranna,
Staple pins and cement, 11 inches x 8 inches x 3.5 inches, 2020
The artist makes effective use of stiff, staple pins and cement to portray an aesthetically surreal concrete jungle devoid of humans; the powerful image depicting the superficiality of contemporary living becomes even more pertinent during our current Covid times. The everyday-used staple pins and cement have been used by Pooja Irana quite effectively. The compositions are depicted in their original style in a meticulous and planned manner; her artistic rendition is a notable feature. The compositions compel us raise the questions regarding urbanization. Do we need it? Could this have been avoided? My personal view will simply not suffice. All of us need to equally reflect on the problems depicted in Pooja Irana’ works.
Viewing the entire exhibition gave me the opportunity to experience various nuanced interpretations of the theme of ‘nest’ and it’s imagined and recreated manifestations. We immediately connect to the powerful and impactful imagery as depicted in the works since they raise our collective consciousness and give hope to humanity. The artists and curators need to be commended for their collaborative effort and a visit to the gallery to view the show which remains open till 21 April 2021 is strongly recommended.
(All images are courtesy of Jyoti Tyagi, Threshold art gallery and the respective artists, unless mentioned otherwise)
Jyoti Tyagi is a contemporary artist and poet.