Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Bansie Vasvani reviews Ranjani Shettar: Night Skies and Daydreams at Talwar Gallery in New York City.
Indian sculptor Ranjani Shettar’s seventh solo exhibition Night Skies and Daydreams at Talwar Gallery, New York, showcases the artist’s enchanting ability to use organic materials to create new, distinctive evocations of nature. For Shettar, handcrafting and the use of natural materials are endemic to her practice. Inspired by a childhood spent in small Indian towns observing rural artisans’ sensitivity to craftsmanship, materials, color, and texture, Shettar’s choice of nature as a source from which nontraditional shapes and elements are drawn upon is a natural one.
Made of coffee-tree wood, Flight of the Butterfly (2014) is an entanglement of branches painted a bright guppy-green. Though an unexpected combination, the simple organic material and jarring artificial automobile paint enhance the piece’s allure. Thickened like elbows at the corners, the branches twist and turn freely, taking flight in different directions. Perfectly poised to recall nature’s exquisiteness, Flight of the Butterfly lives where balance emerges from random and asymmetrical formations.
Suspended from the ceiling, Fire in the Belly (2007) comprises numerous pieces of acacia shaped to resemble an array of small, fluorescent green-gold water organisms. The floating creatures shimmer in the room to create a sensation akin to being underwater. By creating the illusion of weightlessness, Shettar transforms these rigid materials to appear light and pliable. As cracks and shrinkage in the wood are made visible on the glossy surface of each specimen, one is immediately reminded of the material Shettar uses, and the relationship she maintains with nature in the rural South Indian location of her studio and practice.
Tuntoroo (2014) is the embodiment of Shettar’s remarkable ability to prod one’s imagination while staying eminently immersed in her communion and inspiration from nature. Displayed in the back room of the gallery, the sensational intertwining of thread and hand-molded beads captures nature’s delicacy and evanescent characteristics to great effect. Red and yellow beads of wax and wood are strung in intricate geometric patterns to create taught, diaphanous webs. Hung diagonally across the room from the wall to the floor, these fragile strings appear like darting shards of light from a comet that lingers precariously between the sky and the earth.
Shettar’s ability to constantly surprise the viewer by readapting natural materials is key to her art. The artist’s triumph is in conceiving works that are refreshing for their ingenuity, artistry, and dedication to the natural world.
Night Skies and Daydreams is on view at Talwar Gallery in New York City through August 1, 2014.
Bansie Vasvani is an art historian and critic who lives in New York.