Tucked away amidst the imposing concrete jungle of London's Barbican complex lies a hidden gem that offers solace and natural beauty to visitors from around the world. The Barbican Conservatory, a sprawling 23,000-square-foot glasshouse, stands as an oasis of tranquillity within the heart of the city. It's a place where urban architecture and lush botanical wonders harmoniously coexist, drawing 1.5 million annual visitors seeking respite and cultural enrichment.
The Barbican, with its striking Brutalist design, has long been a hub for the arts, hosting theatre performances, art exhibitions, concerts, and much more. However, hidden within this architectural masterpiece is a secret garden, a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts and those seeking an escape from the urban grind. It's currently hosting the work of Ranjani Shettar, an Indian sculptor renowned for her ability to seamlessly blend natural and industrial materials into captivating, large-scale installations. Shettar's work transcends traditional boundaries, incorporating elements like beeswax, wood, organic dyes, vegetable pastes, lacquer, steel, and cloth. Her art is a reflection of her deep connection to nature and her observations of the ever-threatened rural Indian environment.
In a landmark moment, Shettar's Cloud Songs on the Horizon marks her first major institutional show in Europe, and it's a perfect marriage of her artistry and the Barbican Conservatory's ethereal setting. This exhibition features five breathtaking, handcrafted sculptures suspended throughout the conservatory, transforming the space into an otherworldly experience.
Shettar's inspiration is drawn from the intricate complexity of nature itself, and her chosen materials reflect this reverence. She employs wood, stainless steel, muslin, and lacquer in a meticulous process that intertwines traditional Indian craftsmanship with her intuitive approach. The resulting sculptures embody the subtle, imperceptible processes of change and metamorphosis that unfold in nature.
As you wander through the Barbican Conservatory, you'll encounter these suspended masterpieces. A reclaimed teak wood pillar gracefully glides above the koi pond, while other sculptures reveal their stainless steel base, handwoven muslin cloth, and a vibrant palette of colors. Shettar's transformation of materials and textures mirrors the natural world's adaptation and evolution. Ranjani's art embodies the essence of the Barbican Conservatory — a place where urban architecture embraces nature's wonders. As you explore this hidden garden, you'll discover the magic of Shettar's creations and the serenity of a botanical paradise nestled within London's bustling cityscape.
Cloud Songs on the Horizon will be up for exhibition from September 15 to October 1. Find out more about it here.