by Sukanya GargJul 12, 2019
Pirelli HangarBicocca presents Remains, Italy’s first major solo show of works by Bangalore based Indian artist, Sheela Gowda. Featured in the monumental and undivided space of the Navate, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to discover more than 20 years of Gowda’s production. In addition to new works, the show includes a wide selection of site-specific installations and sculptures, as well as watercolors and prints, ranging from 1996 through the present day, giving shape to an unprecedented experience of her practice.
Born in 1957, Gowda studied at the Ken School of Art and Visva-Bharati University (India). She further deepened her research and knowledge in painting at the Royal College of Art in London. Recently, Gowda was awarded the 2019 Maria Lassnig Prize, a biennial award by the Maria Lassnig Foundation which comes with €50,000. The award includes a solo exhibition at the affiliated institution, which for Gowda will be the Lenbachhaus museum in Munich, Germany. Gowda has previously been nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2014. She has exhibited across prominent biennales and art fairs across the world including the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012, the Venice Biennale in 2009, and Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007.
Gowda has developed her work through a constant dialogue and exchange between local artistic traditions and international forms of art. In the mid1980s, Gowda started her transition from the pictorial space to three-dimensional works, definitively breaking the “frame” within her practice. On the one hand, this transition responded to a personal need to reach beyond representation and intervene directly within the space. On the other hand, it responded to the artist’s determination to actively include the audience within her artwork. More importantly, it was a response to the sociopolitical situation in India in the 1980s and 1990s.
Remains at Pirelli HangarBicocca brings more than 20 pieces together, ranging from different periods and constructed using various materials and scales. The exhibition attempts to highlight both Gowda’s poetic and her political practices, grounded on a thoughtful and perceptive view of the world, accompanied by an awareness of the symbolic and communicative value of matter, objects and their remains.
The artist addressed these concerns through direct manipulation and quiet but tenacious confrontation with a series of new materials that she gradually added to her work, such as cow dung, which became the basic material for her paintings and sculpture. Its presence in her work is not exotic, but dictated by the cultural environment in which Gowda works. In the early 1990s, Gowda began using other everyday objects and materials with highly metaphorical and political meaning, including tar drums, ritual pigments, hair rope, needles, thread, incense and rubber.
For the artist, the liturgy—the transformative ritual that occurs during a highly performance-based process of manipulation, confrontation and conversation with her materials—remains fundamental. Sheela Gowda redefines the pathos of things, their feelings and affections; a relational condition between objects, their reasons for being and their behaviours. It is a 'moment of encounter', understood not as a moment in time but as a kind of force that allows a particular set of circumstances to come together.
The exhibition is curated by Nuria Enguita, Director of Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia; and Lucia Aspesi, Assistant Curator at Pirelli HangarBicocca.
The show is running at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan until September 15, 2019. In October 2019, an adapted version of this show will travel to Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia.