Given the depth and maturity of her works, it's surprising that Epiphanies is Ranjani Shettar's first show in India, and that she is only 30 years old. Over the last few years, this Bangalore-based sculptor-printmaker has been touring the world with her innovative installations, two of which are currently on exhibit.
The first installation, "touch me not" recalls the delicate plant of the same name, but it's a whimsical echo, for its sturdy manmade materials in obvious contrast to the theme of nature, both implied and intrinsic. The first impression of sheer awe at the large scale of the detailed installation: thousands of steel rods are drilled into a flowing canvas across two walls, each supporting a lacquered globe of wood. It's a creation that becomes increasingly interesting the longer you observe it, with a vitality that seems effortless until you recognise the meticulous preparation. The project took two years to conceive and comprises 12,500 holes into which every rod is drilled at a particular depth and angle; it takes two weeks just to set it up. Some rods stick up in high, sparse clusters; others are more deeply embedded and angled; creating a natural rise and fall when viewed from the side. It's an installation that can take you on any number of ideas, if you're so inclined; urbanisation and the migration of people; animals and birds, murmuring, eddying waves; and of course, the uneasy co-existence of industrialisation and the natural world. But the final effect of the sharply defined yet softly rounded beads is tactile and sensuous, leaving it free to appeal without having to take on any complex meaning at all.
Downstairs, "me, no, not me, buy me, eat me, wear me, have me, me, no, no me," reflects an equally painstaking process. The five large pieces of the installation take on the appearance of baskets or pitchers, and, like the craft of basket-weaving, are literally woven together from strips of metal from old cars. (Shettar wanted to weave together the stories of old and ruined cars found in Bangalore.) Again, man-made materials are used to mimic nature and natural behaviour, with their dull hues of olive green, rust, and blue and their curly metallic ends, the objects recall acorns scattered across a forest floor. Shettar has retained the original pigment of the cars to create her own colour palette, with an added metal paste to imitate the natural process of integration. In these strange, intriguing and enchantingly delicate objects, she seems to cull out the hidden "life" from even the most industrial materials.
Shettar also works with woodcuts, and the prints on display here are notable for their size and the precision of cutting, carving, and stamping. But the prints are somewhat overshadowed by the installations- for good reason.