New Delhi: With artworks spanning across the mediums of photography, printmaking, painting and film, Delhi-based artist Sonia Mehra Chawla (b. 1977), will show a selection of her works, made during the last seven years, at 1×1 Art Gallery, Dubai. The exhibition titled ‘(Un)Containable Life’, is a prayer against the relentless destruction of the planet.
Framed in the form of a mini-retrospective, it offers us a substantial account of the artist’s journey so far. Chawla works at the intersections of art, science and technology and artistic practice explores notions of selfhood, nature, ecology, sustainability and conservation.
In an essay, Mumbai-based cultural theorist and curator Nancy Adajania, writes, “As we join Sonia on her expeditions across the mangrove forests, wetlands and salt pans of India, and a tidal island in Scotland, we sense her empathy with ecological ruins and indigenous communities, and her disquiet at the manner in which such communities have been marginalized from the surroundings that they have conserved for hundreds of years. I would argue that, in the last few years, we have witnessed an extraordinary transition in the artist’s practice from a focus on the modernist, singular art object functioning as a portrait of a botanical specimen or an interconnected ecology, to the embrace of a more collaborative, processual understanding of art as a means to transformative knowledge.
“For Sonia, art is now indissolubly wedded to an ethic, even a politics of multi-species co-existence. Indeed, her artistic research could itself be seen as a political act, in which she has conspired with oceanologists, microbiologists and climate-change scientists, as well as farmers and fisherfolk who speak from their deep reserves of traditional wisdom.”
Suggestive of the fluid boundary between self and other, species and habitat, the title of Mehra Chawla’s exhibition alerts us to the need to subject our visions of anthropocentric, nature-depletive development, to critique. In bearing witness to an unprecedented moment in the history of the planet, she brings together a variety of impulses, ranging from microscopic details of bacterial and microbial cultures to documentary cinematic studies of marginalised groups whose eco-sensitive occupations have suffered as a result of the decline in their environment.
The exhibition runs from November 22 to January 4.