“The image worlds assembling in Sheher, Prakriti, Devi invite a mode of sensing built and organic landscapes through unusual juxtapositions—sifting through aspiration, acts of faith and gestures of survival. These suites of photographs and drawings interlace the pedestrian, cosmographic and ecological as a common horizon. Gauri Gill forges matrilineal connections in the exhibition, giving rise to an asynchronous yet deeply intuitive tableau….”- Natasha Ginwala
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke is pleased to present Sheher, Prakriti, Devi, an exhibition by Gauri Gill, Vinnie Gill and Ladhki Devi, opening November 25,2021. Showcasing three bodies of work that are distinct enquiries on world-making as ongoing unfoldings of investigation, belief and care, the exhibition traverses cartographies of the city, environment and psyche.
The exhibition has been constructed around the nucleus of Gauri Gill’s long-term documentation of the contemporary built landscape of urban India since 2003. Titled "Re-memory" (after Toni Morrison), these photographic fragments and typologies draw upon the tensions between history’s impulse to erase and memory’s tendency to reify. Gautam Bhan explains the subversive nature of Gill’s series thus: ‘… The built environment has historically been the archive not of memory but precisely of history—of intention and opportunity, power writ into sand, brick and mortar, the realisation of the ability to build one’s stake in the city onto its ground. In Gill’s hands, these material lifeworlds are more supple, more uncertain, more intimate.’ The series revels in the ‘unintended’ nature of the city, against its utopian visions, discarding ‘plans, grids, patterns—the hallmarks of modernist urban thought’, in favour of incomplete gestures, a ‘settling rather than a settlement, a patchwork of cement and tarpaulin, a gate that opens onto a road not yet built, concrete rods that sink deeper into marshland convinced they can persuade it to hold, and hold on’.
Interspersed among these fragments from the city are beloved forms from nature, animals, old ruins and other experiential subject matter assiduously expressed as a kind of visual diary by Gauri’s mother, Vinnie Gill, for nearly six decades. Here is a vocabulary of trees, flowers, animals, mountains and tombs, a warm embrace of the natural world and spaces of refuge. Ginwala understands these as exercises in forging a kinship with the ‘more-than-human’ world. Ginwala writes: ‘When observing the botanical expressions of Vinnie Gill, I recognize a sense of kinship with neighborhood trees, in her fluid renditions of the mountainous Nubra Valley, and the palette of seasonal transformations. Recognising the asymmetry of petals, textures of barks and medicinal qualities of shrubs, Gill’s pastel, ink and watercolour sketches do not strive for technical perfection but rather form sequences made over decades of committing to memory those transient moments of unfolding, shedding, cross-pollinating and perishing.’
These are joined by a different mode of remembrance as devotion and transcendence, in the art of Ladhki Devi, a lifelong practitioner of the Warli school of painting.The set of striking forms of the Devi here manifest the miraculous as inseparable from quotidian modes of life. To Ginwala, these works ‘draw upon oracular knowledge, in the sense that they are prescient in composing the devotional form “at work.” Be this the goddess of the wind (Vayu Devi) who must ensure that the seeds she carries—as a swirling mass—flourish over the next seasonal cycle or the Paani Naari (water woman) who spreads her limbs to embrace the waters and all creatures in its ambit. Since the early seventies, Devi has been making chauks or auspicious squares using rice-flour paste at weddings and pujas (prayer ceremonies) of local deities. These are resonant forms of Shakti or the inner life of power that is constitutive rather than destructive.’
Solidarity and kinship as essential to the regenerative potential of beings has been a cornerstone of Gill’s practice. Ginwala describes this gathering,‘I wonder if the ensemble Sheher, Prakriti, Devi is a kind of metaphysical document, one that is vibrantly located in material grounds and fecund imagination—ways of remembering earth through a common sense of belonging, protection and recovery. It is meta-speculation as manna, offering generational perspectives—ways of seeing—between three women across cities, mountain valleys and village.’