REVIEW : The Great ‘Leveler’/ Level show by Tanya Goel / Sushma Sabnis
Artist Tanya Goel’s solo show ‘Level’ is her subtle negotiation with issues related to progress, change and loss of landscapes and aim to reconstruct it in the viewer’s memory, observes Sushma Sabnis.
The landscape is seldom a mute entity. Dressed, redressed and undressed by different civilisations, the landscape adorns the identity and the essence of the ones who inhabit and inherit it. The hues of this ever changing entity often bring into focus certain specificities while deliberately defocussing others. This has become the quintessential process of cognizance of things in today’s times. The viewer scans over the landscape laid out before him/her while simultaneously constructing another within his/ her mind. A mindscape which becomes imprinted on the psyche of the viewer with certain affiliations contributing to memory, which essentially is a mindscape of a given time to be stored away and referred to if required.
The works of artist Tanya Goel address this fine fabric of an internal memory while literally employing totem objects from an experienced and tangible past. In her works on show at the Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, the artist lays out large scale grid like patterned works. One is instantly reminded of colour swatches painted over walls on construction sites. But that is not the only thing that gets the viewer’s attention. On closer observation, these rectangular colour gradients are varying ever so slightly in texture and each one is unique in essence, layout, direction of movement. The artist in an earlier interview explains the process of her work and the making of the colour swatches using material collected from demolished sites, rubble and debris of constructions, ground to a powder and then bound together to create the raw material for the slightly varying hues of pigments. The ‘shade card’ effect comes through with clarity.
These hues also are reminiscent of genetic mapping strips, often colourful, results of chromatography techniques. The arrangement of the strict grid patterns appears to be the negotiations that the artist has made with navigating herself through two different spaces, in Baroda, India and the Chicago, US during her stay there. This mental mapping has rendered her understanding of the space in specific reticulations within her mind. Hence one could easily see the influences of such an interpretation of the surrounding by the artist in her works.
The artist tries to achieve a ‘level’ in her works with the hinting at indigo pigment drawings on the wall where lines seem to dictate the logistics of space and division. Also the pieces of rubble which are on display, a tile, a piece of cement, are a reminder of the source, a foundation broken and razed to the ground ‘level’ over time.
One cannot ignore the quiet tension between the play of polarities, for example the simplicity and complexity, as the artist reconstructs a simple visual from the complex chaos of a demolished site. On the other hand, it is recreating a contemporary visual from that which was outworn or ancient.
While this act of collection and mixing collected raw materials is an act of concrete tactility, the artist also binds these ground materials with the binder of a memory. The debris and rubble intermingle with human memory of the structure or edifice and its numerous associations therein.
Hence when one looks at Tanya’s works, one walks through a landscape once lost and now reconstructed in a way which may innately be the same, yet, starkly different in visual perception or comprehension. This could be experienced in today’s times when stones of an old edifice are moved to a different location and kept as ‘relics’ of a monument as a forerunner of a new construct. This loss in translation is often the gap in which one experiences a loss of time.
The works also denote a residue of a past landscape which now occupies a new space and exists unlike its former self. It would seem like reclamation of a dystopian marker to realign its sensibilities to a new world. A lost identity survives as a silent shape shifter of a space in time.
Like living bodies, reclaimed by nature upon death, become permanent fixtures in the memories of the living, these works are a subtle picture album of the edifices that were reclaimed in the name of progress. Tanya Goel reconstructs these landscapes in the minds of the viewer in her own unique ways.
The show, ‘Level’ is on view till 18th February 2016.
(Images courtesy- Galerie Mirchandani+ Steinruecke )