The strange bond of art and astronomy

Published: 29th January 2013 11:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2013 11:11 AM   |  A+A-


In the enigmatic cosmic structure of the universe, she has found her moments of creativity and streaks of artistic brilliance. Rohini Devasher, a petite 34-year-old Delhi-based artist and amateur astronomer, has put up a fascinating installation at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale that engages you with the sheer novelty of the concept - a connect between familiar and strange, a tryst between known and unknown, a synergy between science and fiction, a symmetry of imagination and observation.

Rohini has tried to project this by combining art with astronomy, a rather unusual bonding aimed at exploring the complexities of nature in all its grandeur, a search for the unimagined and strange.

“When trying to imagine the unimaginable, we are forced to rely on the powers of projection, the imagination which recycles past impressions and memories, projecting them onto the strange to render them conceivable. Yet one way of gaining new perspectives on a situation is to juxtapose it with something completely unrelated, thereby making the familiar, strange,” says the artist, who has put up her installation ‘Parts Unknown’ at the Aspinwall House, the prime venue of India’s first biennale.

Rohini got her inspiration from an unusual place - the sprawling cold desert of Ladakh, where the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) is located at Hanle at an altitude of 14,500 feet. It is one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.

 These telescopes collect gamma rays, perhaps the most enigmatic and energetic forms of light in the universe created by celestial events such as supernova explosions, the creation of black holes and the decay of radioactive material in space.

Rohini’s installation offers seven perspectives of new terrains and fictions, created through the layering of video with drawings and satellite images of the earth. “An alternative hybridised world, once familiar and now strange,” notes the artist, who has exhibited her works in South African National Gallery and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and participated in art fairs in Korea, Hong Kong, Frieze (London), among others.

The artist says her practice over the past few years has been rooted in science. The work has taken many directions, driven sometimes by an exploration of the self-organisation of pattern in natural systems, to a more recent interest in the processes of emergence.

“I am interested in the way complex systems  and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. My current research is an exploration of the interface between astronomy and art practice through which I try to define the ambiguous space between science and art, imagined and observed reality,” says Rohini, who obtained her MA degree in Printmaking from Winchester School of Art, the UK.


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