While on the surface, the large canvases adorning the walls of the Akar Prakar Gallery in Defence Colony, are bright and vivid, there is an air of solemnity around them that encourages quiet contemplation.
Dealing with themes of gendered violence, religiosity, and politics across the world, Piyali Sadhukhan's artworks are colourful, swirling masses of cut bangles stuck to scorched canvases. These works get significantly complex the more one looks at them. 'Kingdom of Dreams' is a solo exhibition by Sadhukhan, which will be on display till January 14.
Explaining the use of cut bangles in her work, Sadhukhan shares, "Bangles have a metaphorical presence. They are very feminine and fragile, and yet rigid in shape. When I cut the bangles, I am cutting them to accommodate them in my designs, which is parallel to women’s lives. You are told to cut yourself to fit yourself into prevalent structures."
She mentions that the way these materials evolve post treatment help her with her artistic interpretations, "How my materials change when I work, give me some sensibility. It is an artistic journey for me as well," she says.
The poignant works at the 'Kingdom of Cards' exhibition deal with contemporary topics, like the pandemic, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, and women's issues. "We are going through a very critical time, full of unprecedented events. Due to the pandemic, the social system around me shattered. As an artist, I react to the events around me, and express it through my art; it is the only form of expression I am comfortable with," she says.
A closer look
Explaining the origin of the exhibition's name, Sadhukhan says, "'Kingdom of Cards' is what stood out to Siddhi, the curator, and I. It is based on Tagore's play Tasher Desh, which is about a country where the people are all cards, who always follow norms set by a king, whether it makes them happy or not."
One of Sadhukhan works, which is also the exhibition's namesake, depicts a group of people, with playing card symbols instead of human features. Their hands are folded in prayer to an unknown entity, despite fire raging around them, and a few of them drowning.
Talking about her inspiration for the work, she says, "In the play, the characters cannot go against the instructions of the king. But some people decided to rebel. The work is mainly about the COVID situation. Despite the government prohibiting travel, some people had no choice but to walk back to their homes. We were drowning, like the people in the work. There was an inferno around us. But even then, people were praying to the system."
Another feature worth noting in Sadhukhan’s work is her depiction of 'sound waves'. 'Annunciation' portrays a bride surrounded by people, with all of their features replaced by sound waves. "The sound waves in my work represent silent screams. I use these sound graphs to portray agony in my work," concludes Sadhukhan.