FIRST SHOWING V - Retellings
For the fifth installment of FIRST SHOWING Aparajita Jain of Seven Art and independent curator Deeksha Nath are pleased to present the works of New Delhi based Baaraan Ijlal and New York based Pritika Chowdhry.
Baaraan Ijlal is a self-trained artist. Her narrative-style paintings are part of two larger series, Stitched Wings looking at the circus, the other To Be Continued inspired by the oral tradition of fable telling exemplified by the 1001 Arabian Nights. The latter expresses the desire to ‘connect’, to ‘dialogue’ and presents stage settings where this is possible, cafés, women gatherings etc. Baaraan explains, “Invoking the differentiated traditions of Arabic fable, to be continued explores the idea that the dialogue should never cease. Like Sheherzade’s narrative, it has to continue to keep the humanity going.”
Baaraan translates her wonderful skill of character creation to tell small intimate interactions between individuals in her miniature almirahs. The cupboard function as canvas and are effective in making the private public, and the search by the viewer into the details of the characters lives both playful and voyeuristic and thus illicit. Baaraan explains, “There’s inside and outside. All parts are open and accessible _ in default. These lives of others can be watched.” She instructs, ''Third parties'', ''outsiders'' to “please approach DIRECTLY.”
Artist, curator, and educator, Pritika Chowdhry has an MFA from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and has shown her work widely in the US, including at the Queens Museum, and Islip Museum in New York, the Hunterdon Museum in New Jersey, and the DoVA Temporary in Chicago. Pritika’s work is being presented in India for the first time in the form of two installations, one composed of multiple kites called The Shadow Lines, and the other, The Crooked Lines, a Pachisi game revisited. In the latter, she uses the gaming mode to make a pointed remark at the ways in which national borders are ‘played’ by political leaders and military personnel. Interchangeable game panels are made from dupioni silk which are printed with actual border fragments of India, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel, Korea, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland, and Vietnam and the viewer can choose which disputed country they want to play their game on.
The Shadow Linesis comprised of maps drawn and stitched onto a series of kites, which are the size and shapes of the patangs popular in the subcontinent. One set of kites are made of hand-made flax paper and wax, and the border has been indicated by burnt holes. Surgical sutures have been used to make gestures of mending these ruptured borders. Another set of kites have been made of cow and pig gut skin, hand-dyed with turmeric. Hair has been used to indicate the border on these kites. The third set of kites are made of abaca paper and dyed red. No cities or countries are named on these kites, only the terminology of borders has been inscribed, such as, line of control, cease fire line, border post, DMZ, etc.
Pritika twists the playful into a macabre and dangerous game she invites people to gather and ponder. Baaraan uses various social settings and paints human gatherings to highlight the need to keep dialogue open in todays environment of distrust and exclusion. Both artists use the tools of play – kites, pachisi, toy cupboards, the circus – to opine on global concerns. They retell the stories of nations, communities, individuals; from childhood and the imagination, fabulous, terrifying, joyous and sad and make the exhibition a hothouse of emotional response and narrative construction.