Sharbani Das Gupta – United States

(Residency at Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery)

Sharbani Das Gupta, who was born in India, but resides in the United States, was in residency at the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery. In a logical continuation of her socially engaged practice that explores environmental issues, the artist’s ‘Mind Maps’ installation engages with questions of locality and partition (via her great-grandfather’s personal diaries that record his life against the backdrop of the Indian independence movement and partition).

The installation consists of a series of clay cubes engraved with imaginary topographical contour maps. The cubes are presented on a plaster base that also suggests an aerial view of landscape. Dense palimpsests of history are suggested by the layering of these forms. The work may be viewed through tinted, fused glass ‘VR’ headpieces that facilitate a subtle optical illusion. The transformative power of this simple device suggests that perception of reality is often decided by the lens of our personal beliefs. Das Gupta’s work suggests that slight alterations to a given context, may reformat our vision and understanding. Concerned about rebalancing historical perceptions of privilege and education, the artist believes that our future will be drawn on our capacity to imagine and enact a new post-national world. 

Das Gupta’s second work, ‘The Language of Stones’ is a personal homage to the many courageous people she has met during her residency. The tectonic plates of black clay, juxtaposed with a few small rounded pebbles, reference local funerary traditions, cairns and stones associated with protest and demolition. The work was not conceived, but emerged gradually out of a process of assimilation, and trying to dissolve into the environment of her residency. The work evokes a calm solemnity and irenic gravitas.  

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