Exhibition text for 'who must write these lines'

who must write these lines, a solo exhibition of sculptural installations, photography and drawing by Sudarshan Shetty explores the idea of authorship and the conceptual constructs of our value system through the materiality of finely handcrafted constructions. Works on view are consistently referential, deferring the notion of singular meaning, to offer a speculative space through which viewers may enter the work.

The installation ‘Path to Water’ explores the intricacies and potential for subjective readings in translation. Five hand carved wood reliefs feature iterations of an idealised Indian landscape, rendered as a hybrid image on one face. The other face features textual phrases that are multifarious translations in English of the first line of a poem by 13th/14th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Amir Khusrao. The phrase reads, “Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki” or “The road to the well is much too difficult.” Translations of this line show that ‘well’ may also be read as ‘water,’ and the difficulty of the road may alternatively be interpreted as ‘hard’ or ‘long,’ giving rise to Shetty’s iterative translations of the phrase, as gestures towards the openness of meaning.

Alongside the reliefs, an assemblage of terracotta objects placed on a long low plinth in a haphazard manner resembles artifacts found in an archaeological excavation of an ancient Indian civilization. The found objects were in reality effortlessly acquired from a street market. Free of labels or descriptions, the installation questions the authority of museological display, collapsing time and history. The terracotta objects viewed in parallel and on the same plane as the laboriously produced reliefs elicits the ambiguous relationship between labour and value.

An untitled triptych of photographs set at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, documents the artist dropping an earthen pot over his shoulder at twilight. The performative act is reminiscent of a culturally familiar funerary ritual wherein the pot refers to the human body. In front of the photographic trilogy, the broken earthen pot has been reconstituted, and is displayed in a vitrine. Through the photographic medium and the museification of an everyday object involved in an event which is transitory in nature, Shetty conveys the anxieties that arise in our conceptions of loss and revival, tradition and modernity.

The corner of a carpet folds up against the wall as though someone might have tripped over it. Perhaps the aftermath of a domestic incident, Shetty freezes the event to draw attention to the creation of an artifice. The carpet in reality has been rendered in a material contrary to what is apparent, using reclaimed wood. In another room, a found antique wooden chair has been restored from a state of disrepair with the addition of a hybrid leg, cast with polyester resin and marble dust. In the gallery gardens, a large boulder appears stone-like, but is not stone. Through these constructs, Shetty contests ideas of real and fake, old and new, function and meaning, displacing inherent value systems that come into play when perceiving objects in the gallery context.

Sudarshan Shetty’s recent solo shows include ‘every broken moment, piece by piece’ at GALLERYSKE New Delhi (2014), ‘the pieces the earth took away’ at Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna (2012), and ‘Between the teacup and a sinking constellation’ at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris (2011). Shetty’s work has featured in major group exhibitions including ‘Passage to India,’ Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Schwerin (2015), ‘Art Walk: Water,’ curated by Gayatri Sinha, Europalia India, Liege (2013-14), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012), ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay...,’ Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011), ‘Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum,’ curated by Nancy Spector at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010) and in ‘Indian Highway,’ a traveling exhibit (2009-2012). In 2010, Shetty’s ‘House of Shades,’ commissioned by Louis Vuitton, was unveiled at Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan. In 2012, Shetty unveiled ‘The Flying Bus’, a public art work at Maker Maxity, Mumbai, a significant public work in the country. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.

View images of the show here: http://www.galleryske.com/Sudarshan_2015/index.html

Vasundhara Sellamuthu