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Asian Art News

Indian artist Ranjani Shettar's fragile ceiling installations charm with their innocence and joyfulness. These large and meticulously made works of art suspended from the ceiling on thin strings radiate a rare freshness and tenderness, almost like that of a blossoming tree in a village untouched by the anxiety and angst of urbanization. 

The metaphor of a tree is perhaps appropriate here since her works feel extremely organic and one of the installations, Vasanta, even resembles a tree. The material she uses, such as beeswax and wooden beads, are natural as well. Vasanta, which means spring in Hindi, is a delightfully ethereal maze of strings dyed with tea on which sit thousands of hand-rolled beeswax beads subtly changing color from blue to green to yellow, suggesting the eternal nature of transition, be it of the seasons or of life. The intricate and diaphanous work, which begins with one layer that extends and encircles two other layers a few feet later, might also remind one of a nest out of which a nightingale might step out any time and break into a sweet song. 

There is a natural lyricism to this work, in the seamless flow of the strings weaving in and out of each other, in the rhythm of myriad beads gently changing their hue. The effect of the work, provided one behold it long enough in silence, is one both meditative and sensuous. Shettar has cleverly constructed the work in such a way that the viewer has to look up in order to get a full view of the rising and expanding piece, which moves you with its message of hope and optimism. 

While Vasanta feels very gentle and virginal, In Bloom, almost overwhelms you with its sumptuousness and fecundity. Teeming with magenta-colored wooden beads that look like luscious berries, this dazzling installation reminds you of an Indian wedding. The rows of beads are arranged in such a way that they evoke the image of garlands exchanged by the bride and groom in a traditional ceremony and an ingenious light on the ceiling creates a red dot on each bead. The spirit of the work is infused with a wonderful spirit of unadulterated celebration and harmony one seldom comes across in contemporary art galleries in New York. 

-Priya Malhotra