Saga in Wood
A large room at Talwar Gallery in Neeti Bagh serves as the site for Ranjani Shettar’s sculptural installation Between the Sky and Earth that inspires her latest exhibition of the same name. Four teakwood blocks, weighing around 30 kg each and shaped into abstract forms, are suspended effortlessly by strings from the ceiling. They appear to be on the verge of falling down or flying up, and viewers are left wondering how wood could be so weightless.
“I wanted the wood to look as if it was floating in the air, though that is not the true nature of the material. When I started making sculptures, I did not want them to look heavy and grounded. It was tricky to suspend them as it was not easy to calculate the centre of gravity and deal with weight balance,” says Shettar, adding that she is opposed to her sculptures sitting on the floor, motionless.
Shettar, who is based in the Malnad village of Karnataka, uses traditional methods of carving wood with a chisel and a mallet. Her works are in permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi.
Shettar’s solo in Delhi comprises eight new wooden sculptures, including a small work, titled Remanence from Last Night’s Dream, carved from rosewood and lacquered wood and fixed to the wall like a painting. This work draws from the artist’s memories of watching children of her generation play with Channapatna toys (toys made from lacquered wood in rural Karnataka).
An untitled work, made from rosewood, comprises blocks that resemble large stones and decorate an entire floor in the lower ground. A viewer feels he is venturing into a forest, where earthen rocks appear along the path, mushrooming with red flowers or wild plants. “I come with some ideas and make the work but it is not necessary that the viewer would read it my way. The work is open-ended,” says the artist.