A review of the exhibition ‘River Song’ that is being held from August 23 to October 4, 2019 at Akar Prakar Contemporary in New Delhi.
Debasish Mukherjee, Untitled, Digital print on fabric, wood & metal, 79″ x 60″ x 19″, 2019. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Akar Prakar Contemporary, New Delhi.
Surfing through the textures of various forms of fabric, Debasish Mukherjee’s River Song weaves into the artist’s personal history quite tangibly. The exhibition navigates an interesting past, forming fine, invisible bonds between the viewer and Mukherjee’s vision.
Debasish Mukherjee, Untitled, Threads, Size: variable, 2019. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Akar Prakar Contemporary, New Delhi.
Subtle but intense, the memories come to life through the layering of a certain remembrance and the history of the region (Chhapra, Bihar). Art critic and historian Ranjit Hoskote said, ‘Chhapra was a depot town, closely associated with the trade in saltpetre and indigo. In the 18th century, the Dutch, French, Portuguese and British established trading stations…The artist’s father, who worked with the railways, was based there. Banaras was the other pole of the artist’s childhood, his maternal grandmother’s home and the paradise of his summer holidays.’
Debasish Mukherjee, Untitled, Wood, paper & industrial texture, 84″ x 52″ x 18″, 2019. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Akar Prakar Contemporary, New Delhi.
Taking from the depths of such an archive and interpreting it through an unconventional medium, the fabric transforms itself with fluidity. Wisps of portraiture, beehives in cupboards and piles of plain printed sarees transfigure in front of our eyes. The embroidery hoops with textured cracks recall images of old walls, expanding through their weathering like memories expanding and fading with age.
Installation view, River Song. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Akar Prakar Contemporary, New Delhi.
‘What makes us yearn for an era lost? What triggers memories, and how we comprehend moments as we had experienced them, even though we no longer exist in that place or time?’ asks Debasish, as though questioning the very existence of his recollection and its echo through time. ‘River Song explores the concept of home, spaces or place of origin through sensorial and emotional memory,’ he adds.
Aptly titled and elegantly envisioned, the works permeate the subconscious and become more than just a reinvented photo album. Offering homage to his father and his grandmother, his roots and his recollection, the river truly reverberates with an exquisite melody.
More from Arts Illustrated :