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Arts Illustrated 31st Jan 2018

A review of artist Jayashree Chakravarty’s solo exhibition titled ‘Earth as Haven: Under the Canopy of Love’ at the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet in Paris that was on till January 15, 2018

Jayashree Chakravarty, Installation at Musée national des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet. All Images Courtesy of Akar Prakar and the artist.

In a recent exhibition at Musée National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet in Paris, one would encounter a large, suspended paper structure whose asymmetry is accentuated by the perfect symmetry and geometry of the neo-Greek building’s extraordinary rotunda. The delicate ribbed armature of this built form further emulates the ribbed vaults of Gothic architecture. Tea stains and mud washes lend an earthiness to the structure, providing dusty tints that further subdue the light within. This imaginary form inspired by the architectonic quality of the wasp-house or a cocoon, acquires massive proportions and allows its viewers to go in and experience the insect world. Bare from the outside, the canopy, imitating cave forms and natural shelters, invites one to enter and explore dark interiors that at a closer look unfolds the mysteries hidden within. The integration of form and function in built architecture finds its best prototypes in nature and for Jayashree Chakravarty, the artist behind the installation, the anthill, the beehive and the wasp-cocoon have been a consistent source of inspiration. The genesis of the work was a direct response to the specificity of the site, the space and scale of architecture of the Guimet Museum. Chakravarty drew the serpentine line as the spine of the imagined structure, its potential of behaving like a slow crawling form. With only the feet of visitors visible from the outside, she conceived it as an inherent part of the expressive form. With seventeen large soaring paper scrolls displayed around as a continuous curtain, Earth as Haven: Under the Canopy of Love, curated by Roobina Karode of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, transforms the space of the rotunda, creating an immersive environment that invites the human gaze into its depth of design.

Jayashree Chakravarty, Installation at Musée national des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet. All Images Courtesy of Akar Prakar and the artist.

For more than three decades now, Chakravarty’s art practice has been focused on the pressing situation of shrinking natural habitat and water bodies in ever-expanding Indian cities. Living in a rapidly urbanising suburb of Kolkata, she has witnessed the rich marshlands of Salt Lake transform into ‘Salt Lake City’ – a sprawling suburban development, exemplary of congestive urbanism and a growing hostility towards the ecology of life. ‘Working on paper is a passion for me. Nepali paper has texture. I create colours with materials to add another dimension. I use clay, tea dust and tobacco leaves to add to the textures. The footprints are mine. What remains is what you can bring from within,’ she explains.

Jayashree Chakravarty, Installation at Musée national des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet. All Images Courtesy of Akar Prakar and the artist.

Earth as Haven rhymes with and alludes to heaven, and perhaps to a utopian desire, but Chakravarty here is more significantly immersed in retrieving the earth as a place of refuge and shelter for all visible and invisible forms of life that inhabit its soil, air, water and sunlight. It is in the depths of her immersive practice that one realises the affirmative power of art to transcend moments of despair and lost hope, in order to heal a fractured world.

Other Stories by Arts Illustrated

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Love in the Time of Poetry​

Remembering The Earth​

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Her Words, Her Weapon

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