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15/12/12: SITE-SPECIFIC PROJECT @ MUSEUM OF MEMORIES, Godrej India Culture Lab, Vikhroli.

THE SPACE

Image: The non-functional warehouse at Godrej Industries, Vikhroli, Mumbai

Image: Interior view, warehouse at Godrej Industries

THE CONCEPT

My original concept was to use one of the weight-bearing structural units in the space and paint an abstract painting on all four sides, so that it becomes a visually decorative element in the derelict, post-functional, post-commercial interior of the old industrial structure as a mode of spatial intervention.

Image: Interior view with the weight-bearing column to be painted on at center.

However, the night before the project was to be realized, I received the tragic news of the massacre in Newtown, Conn. on 14/12/12 where a lone gunman had taken so many innocent lives, including those of young children. I decided I wanted to create a work that not only transforms the physical space, but also one that employs the act of painting as a social metaphor.

THE BRIEF

Old structures project collective stories, memories, lives. For this site-specific project, the artist re-imagines an old weight-bearing structure as a work of art – as an abstract painting. Paintings have a thing of permanence to them. Paintings are made, they become unique objects that get distributed, elevated, shown, praised. They stay around for a long time. If they are lucky, they live on in museums, achieving for themselves and their maker, a legacy, a promise. But in fact, a painting is a beautiful object that culture can’t bear to destroy. Like all art that embraces permanence, these objects are the only objects in our human social/cultural fabric that lay claim to no other function other than their own internal logic and aesthetic.

Image: Interior view with structural column identified at site for site-specific work

In contrast, architectural structures that outlive their function are demolished: they are erased from human memory. Architectural units are built for a specific purpose and once they have multiplied their uses, and have lived through several avatars, undergone internal structural changes to suit a variety of purposes – they meet their demise when they lose all their usefulness, usability, functionality, utility. Through this spatial intervention and re-imagining of the structural unit as a painting/object, the artist transforms its function (now past its use) from a functional unit to a decorative/visual one. The end product is not a structural unit that has been ‘painted on,’ but a sculptural object that recollects such permanent structures from the past that have retained their usefulness through cultural heritage (temple structures, churches, etc).

By ‘inventing’ this new memory, meaning is shifted from functional to aesthetic, from transient to permanent, from mundane to the beautiful for one, final moment.

THE WORK PROCESS

Image: Sharmistha Ray at work on the structural column painted live at the warehouse on 15/12/12. The work starts with the decorative/beautiful aesthetics of painting. Material: Enamel paint on primed column walls.

Image: The work encompasses the aesthetics of beauty in the painting on the structural column, but also recalls the visuals of violence as the red, orange, ochre and yellow liquid paint drips and pours onto the floor in a seemingly random manner.

Image: Paint starts to collect in pools on the floor heightening the pure materiality of paint in stark contrast with the plastic application of its materiality into an abstract painting on the column. It is at once a work of art, but also an object that invites engagement. During the course of the day, some visitors dipped their feet into the pools of paint and walked away leaving traces of their footsteps away from the site. 

THE FINAL WORK

Image: Their Blood Is On The Wall, Enamel on structural column & bleed onto floor, 2012. (Approx. dimensions: Columnar: 6 feet x 31 in x 20 in; Bleed on floor: 5 feet diameter).

Image: DETAIL: Their Blood is on the Wall, 2012.

 Image: Their Blood is on the Wall: In memoriam to child victims of Newtown, Conn., 2012.

The entire warehouse structure was demolished the day after the project was realized. The transience of the work holds up a mirror to the duality of nature in the way material is used and its subsequent metaphors of beauty and violence, and its coexistence in the human experience.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Godrej India Culture Lab, Visual Disobedience & all their partners for their organization of the event & for extending generous support for materials for the project.

THE END