Artist Richa Navani in her solo exhibition, Inhabited Geometries, has skillfully combined Eastern and Western motifs.
The show overall has over 50 artworks. Helmed together by sacred Indian geometrical patterns and her travels across France, the show features paintings, sculptures, installation and a video.
This is the third edition of Back To France series by Alliance Française that promotes Indian artists with a French connection. In Navani’s case, she was an artist-in-residence on the invitation of French institutions Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans, Camac Centre d’Art and Musée-atelier Yvonne Guégan.
Her ideas often take the viewer back to French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, a book on architecture. Like Bachelard, Navani too, emotionally responds to the buildings she’s come across.
For instance, her Red Colour at Gabelle, watercolour on paper painting, depicts the Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans in Eastern France that’s associated with gory history of salt tax.
Through the use of red paint on the building’s facade, she tries to recall its bloody memories.
“The breeze is so beautiful around the place that you do not think about anything bad could have happened here. But once you learn the history of the place, the whole scene changes in your mind.”Strong research is focal to Navani’s art. Her PhD in Fine Arts from Delhi University was about sacred symbols and geometry in the Indian contemporary art. Especially of the beehive, a long-standing leitmotif in her works. “I have been associating bees and humans in my artworks for a while. I read the Upanishads to further my knowledge on the subject and it kind of validated my research on bees and the beehive.
A certain line which read, ‘As beehive holds honey, human body holds soul,’ had me curiously engaged with the thought. The human body is just like a beehive structure, it can easily shake during difficult times.”In the show, we see acrylics-on-canvas paintings of phallus and female torsos, in conjugation with beehives that were completed between 2009-2011. The paintings hold great strength, an uncommon factor owing to this being an early period in her artistic career.
In continuum to the theme of nature is a seven-minute video installation, recording the daily dilemma of a sparrow looking for a space to build her nest within tall buildings. Titled, Chakuli: My Home has Taken Your Nest, this video raises concerns on urban encroachment into the rural landscape. Navani says, “When I go to my new house in my village in Uttrakhand, I do not feel that I am staying away from Delhi. It has all the elements of a modern house but no space for Chakuli, the sparrow.”
At: Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Française de Delhi.On: November 25
In curator Adwait Singh’s words
“Another work that combines drawings and embroidery on a piece of fabric is inspired from the Tapestry of Bayeux that documents the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England following the battle of Hastings in 1066 CE.”