PRESS | The Hindu | The art of identity

The art of identity

by Nidhi Mathew | March 30 2017

A show in mixed media ‘we are all islands’ forays into sidelined subjects

“As we hurtle towards digital realities in the age of technology, the internet and social media, do we risk the extinction of our sentient consciousness, mediated by touch, human presence and an appreciation of beauty? Have we all become wilful islands, fragments of humanity adrift in the ocean of virtual connections in a globalised world?” asks Sharmistha Ray talking of her ongoing show, We Are All Islands 2, at Mill Hall in Mattancherry. Comprising photography, painting, drawing, sculptures and installations, it tells an autobiographical story in which Ray acts as the titular island. Through her artwork, we see the world from her perspective. The theme of queer politics and post-colonial theory dominate this metaphorical stage. Having experienced war, migration and coming out in her formative years, the discourse and perceptions of identity have had a great professional influence on her.

Playing with time and space, she compels the viewers to follow her suit as she believes this will lead to us reconsidering our understanding of the scope of humanity. Her LGBT activism is evidenced vis –a- vis her work. “I consider myself to be from the spectrum of LGBT persons and the work beholds queer politics within the arena of gender and sexuality. I believe the two are closely aligned. Furthermore, it is a cultural specific experience to being queer within our culture, which isolate differences and pushes it to the margins of our society,” she says. It’s her personal memory that is used as a kind of a weapon in her resistance against cultural erasure, an occurrence that has become commonplace over the passage of time. For example, inWe Are All Islands there is a light installation called ‘In Search Of Rainbows’ which is intentionally reminiscent of the pride flag. Accompanying all her artworks are excerpts from an essay by cultural theorist Nancy Adajania. This particular essay titled “Polyamorous Love: Queering the straight and the narrow” is the catalogue essay for Sharmistha Ray’s art show. “She has written a narrative which forms a backdrop for the exhibition,” she says “This is done to provide a deeper understanding for the viewer”.

This solo exhibition, eighth by Ray, is presented by the Nine Fish Art Gallery, Mumbai.

Ray was born in Kolkata and spent part of her childhood in Kuwait. The Gulf War brought her back to India. She decided to continue her higher education in the United States. An alumni of the Pratt institute, she has a Masters in Art History and Painting. She graduated cum laude from Williams College, Massachusetts.

“I am a product of both India and overseas and hence my views have been shaped by both, a local and a global experience of being a queer identified woman”.

It was a chance meeting of the artist Bhupen Khakar that led her to walk down her current path.

Additionally, she is also a TED fellow and the founder of Bellevue Salons.

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