March 3, 2017 12:03:25 am
He has used the mirror as his muse but artist GR Iranna has replaced the glass with cubes of ash bricks contained within a wooden frame in the installation titled Loved Ash. Part of his solo “Ether is All That is” at Gallery Espace in Delhi, the artist explains that he strives for the work to be “more metaphorical and experiential”. The 46-year-old says, “When we see the mirror, we are in a way creating an ego around our looks or personality. But when viewers look into this mirror, all that gets reflected is the ash, which all of us will turn into by the end of our life. This is the actual reflection and the actual mirror. The work is a kind of realisation.”
The solo is a continuation of the dialogue he generated with Garbh, his giant egg-like sculpture made of ash and exhibited at Aspinwall Hall at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The egg suggests the beginning of life and the use of ash implies its end. “The moment viewers enter the room, it looks like a huge gigantic moon within this tiny space. Taking a round around it is an experience altogether. It is a monumental work but if one touches the sculpture, ash falls off it, revealing its fragile nature. This is how I wished to depict the fragility of life,” says the Delhi-based artist. The display has 12 works, installations and paintings, that use ash as a reference to the burning of a body after death and draw parallels between life and death.
The diptych Beautiful Burning Tree, made using silver foil on paper, gives an aerial view of a huge tree, its branches and trees spreading out like the flared wings of a peacock. Designed in the form of a carpet, another installation Ethereal Beauty I lies on the ground in the underground basement. Here, ash bricks form its base in place of fibres, reflecting how a carpet stays witness to events and incidents occurring around it. “In most households, when its members step on the carpet, it turns into a witness, even when we pray or sleep on it. The carpet stands for my consciousness, that observes the daily happenings around me.”
Inspiration for the work came to him eight years ago, when he visited a village in Mexico and came across a tree that was 3,500 years old, leading to a deeply “meditative experience”. “Its trunk was four times the size of this gallery. As I stood in front of it, I wondered how many generations and wars it must have witnessed over the last 3,500 years and yet it is alive and continues to stand tall. I was not looking at a tree. It seemed as if I was browsing through the pages of history and observing how many kings it must have seen. The term witness comes from there.”
Iranna traces the origins of the show to a trip to Hampi in Karnataka, when he visited the temple ruins from the Vijayanagara empire. “According to history, the Vijayanagara empire is considered one of the biggest kingdoms. But today only the stones stand as a witness to how rich it was. Imagine how many people were killed for the land in the wars that took place. At the end of the day, everyone had to eventually leave, so why did they have to fight and grab the land in the first place. Today it belongs to nobody but the government. All that remains are the ruins,” says Iranna. His medium was easy to choose,being a Hindu Shaivite who applied ash on his forehead everyday as a child. “The practice helps one stay grounded and realise that we do not belong to this place, and will return to nature at the end, with none of our worldly possessions and our bodies.”
The exhibition is on till March 31 at Gallery Espace, 16, Community Centre, New Friends Colony
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