I am a multidisciplinary artist from Bangalore, studied in MS University. Currently practicing in Bangalore, Karnaraka. My work has developed in number of ways over the years yet from the very beginning of my art practice, I have workded in Painting, Printmaking, Installation, Video Art and Live/ Performance art. My intention is to blend these mediums into an interdisciplinary language.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sheet Happen -Time Out Bangalore

One Monday last month, as the city slipped into the bustling rhythms of the morning, Dimple Shah began supervising the unloading of 15 boxes from a truck that had driven up to Gallery Sumukha. She was just emerging from about with conjunctivitis, which she contracted before undertaking a train journey to the city from Baroda– but with a tight schedule leading up to the opening of her latest show Catharsis in a Forbidden Zone, Shah couldn't afford to let physical discomfort derail her work.

Over the next few days the artist had the formidable job of unpacking 400 kgs of material and getting her show ready. Possibly the most daunting task – setting up the extraordinary piece titled “Catharsis Chamber” – a shower cubicle that she designed, surrounded by PVC curtains and shelves made of acrylic sheets. Once the basic structure of the cubicle was ready, Shah would have to line the shelves with 1,800 medicine bottles, each one filled with either ash, salt, hair or nail clippings, to create a room for a viewer to enter, a space permeated with a sense of privacy and almost ritualistic calm.

“I initially wanted to use pieces of my own nails for the work,” said Shah, who, while talking about her work, veers between earnestness and giggly delight (the former, in this case). “I started collecting clippings two years ago.” Does that mean she’s been planning the details of this show for the last two years? “No,” she clarified. “I just have a habit of collecting things which I might decide to use. I would have used my own clippings, but in a few days I found that they had started attracting ants, so I threw them away. I don’t know why ants were interested in my nails. Maybe the ants inBaroda[where Shah studied, at the Maharaja Sayajirao University] are a little mad.”

The clippings that finally became a part of the show were artificial, procured by Shah after scouring dozens of beauty shops. But there was a problem. “They looked terrible, too artificial and white. My friend and I sat and painted each individual clipping so that it looked a little more natural.” What about the hair in the other bottles? “That’s my hair,” said Shah. “I collected it over two years.”

The sense of theatricality in Shah’s installation work is perhaps explained by the fact that, for many years, she’s had a parallel interest in performance art. Through her training inBaroda, she held performance art shows in which she herself featured, often rendered unrecognisable by blotches of paint. And over the years, photographs of these performances showed up in Shah’s print works and paintings, along with other traces of herself – an image of an eye, a hand print, a diary entry.

“You might enjoy this,” said Shah, momentarily distracted in the middle of going over slides of her work, and flipping open a notebook crammed with preparatory notes and sketches.
A glance through its pages suggested an almost obsessive bent of mind. Reams of notes about psychoanalytic concepts jostle for space with conceptual diagrams, such as the ones of imaginary scientific apparati that Shah ended up fabricating out of copper for Forbidden Zone.

In creating these apparati, and, indeed, in all her explorations into the show’s central theme of alchemy, Shah seems to be responding to a need to explain the inexplicable, and to organise the chaotic storm of ideas that rage through her mind. And while some of her earlier works can bewilder the viewer just because of the sheer number of elements used, in newer works like “Catharsis Chamber” these impulses are expressed simply, with an immediate and undeniable power.

Showing off the sketch of a piece of apparatus, which didn’t make it to the final show, Shah said it was a challenge to get vendors to carry out her orders. “They go crazy when I show them what I want done,” she said. “They’re used to normal orders. I have to spend days with them. They eat my head, and I eat their heads.”

These tedious transactions more than exhausted her, Shah admitted. “Every single work seems to take a toll on my body,” she said, gesturing towards the example of her infected eye. Then, a smile appearing, and her tone growing kinder, “But it doesn’t matter. After all, art is about hard work.”

Ajay Krishnan
Time Out Bangalore
October 01 2010 7.14am


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