In the heart of New Delhi, a captivating solo exhibition is currently underway, featuring the remarkable works of artist Ayesha Singh. Titled Monumental Turns, this exhibition is not only a testament to Singh's creative prowess but also a deep exploration of the intricate relationship between architecture, history, and identity. Singh's artistic journey is a reflection of her keen interest in the socio-political dimensions of architecture, particularly focusing on her hometown, New Delhi. In her first solo exhibition at Nature Morte, she takes her audience on an immersive journey that transcends time and space
The centerpiece of the exhibition, Skewed Histories (2023), immediately captures one's attention with its imposing sculptures. Singh draws inspiration from the iconic Southern Gateway of the Qutub Minar complex, a marvel commissioned by the Khalji Dynasty in 1311 AD. She reinterprets the horseshoe arch with great finesse, a symbol deeply rooted in Delhi's history. These sculptures are not mere replicas; they are a dialogue between the past and the present, demonstrating how architectural elements can carry the weight of centuries of history.
As we delve further into Singh's world, we encounter pieces that borrow motifs from the entryways of 20th-century homes in Old Delhi. These homes, designed in Indo-Saracenic architecture, seamlessly blend Indian and European design elements. Singh's art reflects the architectural diversity that has shaped the city, making it a living testament to cultural amalgamation.
A third design element in Singh's exhibit pays homage to her Sikh heritage through arches reminiscent of 19th-century Mughal-inspired motifs. These arches, in their eloquent arrangement, become metaphors for the effects of time and the ever-evolving nature of history. They remind us that history is not static but rather a fluid narrative shaped by the perspectives and ideologies of each passing era.
In the gallery's second viewing room, visitors are treated to an installation of Singh's renowned linear sculptural works, aptly named Hybrid Drawings (2023). This series takes on a new dimension as four works converge into an optical marvel. The interplay of sightlines in these pieces expands, collapses, and flattens histories, offering a dynamic perspective on the past and present.
One cannot help but be drawn into the gallery's smallest room by the subtle hum of machinery. Here, Frayed Continuum, Cement (2023) is a testament to the artist's innovation. This analog machine, surrounded by a scaffolding structure, cradles nine intricately carved wooden fragments dating from 1910 to 1960. Singh repeatedly submerges the central element into liquid cement throughout the exhibition, transforming it into an archaeological enigma. It is a powerful reminder that history is not a monolith but a mosaic of fragments, constantly being reshaped and redefined.
The exhibition also features Singh's Hybrid Amalgamations (histo-futuristic) (2023), graphite drawings that depict possible totemic structures. These structures blur the boundaries between the imagined and the pre-existing, challenging us to consider if the past can have a future beyond its monumentalization. Singh's drawings evoke a sense of contradiction, displacing these structures in time and offering a glimpse into a fantasized dystopia.
The title of the exhibition, Monumental Turns, draws inspiration from a thought-provoking paper co-authored by political scientist Dr. Jordie Davies and Ayesha Singh. This exhibition serves as a visual representation of the paper's ideas, inviting viewers to ponder the reappropriation of monument aesthetics and their role in shaping our collective memory. In academia, where the majority of work exists in the realm of theory, Ayesha Singh, through the exhibits, has articulately managed to translate her ideas into physical forms.
In Monumental Turns, Ayesha Singh has masterfully blended history, architecture, art and sci-fi to create a thought-provoking and immersive experience. Her works challenge us to rethink the way we perceive our surroundings, our past, and our future. Through the lens of her sculptures and installations, we are reminded that architecture is not merely bricks and mortar; it is a living, breathing narrative that shapes our sense of time, identity and belonging. Attend the exhibition and step inside Ayesha Singh’s mind-bending histo-futuristic dystopian world!
Venue: Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi
On view till: 24th September, 2023
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