‘In praise of shadows’
From the Kanji script to the shape of the fuki leaves that surrounded her, Manisha Parekh’s residency at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre in northern Japan in 2013 was inspired. Four years on, the works that emerged from her residency are being exhibited at the Jhaveri Contemporary gallery in Mumbai alongside newer ones made in her Delhi studio. The show, titled Line Of Light, follows through with Parekh’s engagement with material and form as much as concept. After her stint at the residency, Parekh seems to have taken to heart the famous line from Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s classic book on Japanese aesthetics, In Praise Of Shadows: “Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”
Here are three works that reveal this best.
Shadow Garden (2013)
Using Japanese cypress wood, Parekh sculpted 100 pieces that took the shape of the fuki leaves that she saw growing in abundance. She then used a vertical drill to make small holes, as though the leaf has been eaten away by a worm. Parekh, who only carried red silk fabric from India to the residency, then stuffed small balls of silk into some of the holes, almost as though to insert herself into the work. “I was consuming everything around me—and I mean consumption as absorption—from the material, to the workshop, to the environment. In a way, I was the worm in the leaf.”
The 100 pieces are stacked up against the wall and gradually flow towards the ground, mimicking the undergrowth and abundance of foliage that surrounded Parekh. The shadows that they throw on the surfaces are also a part of this installation.
These five works made on thick Arches paper, washed with indigo dye and sumi ink—all of which were locally sourced—and then drip-dried, showcase Parekh’s interest in the figurative as well as her deliberate choice of material. Using the vertical drill on the paper, Parekh made perforations that took the shape of a word. Each 105x75cm piece has a word in the Kanji script used in Japanese writing: mountain, mist, sun, tree, and rain. The uneven wash on the paper, which clearly withstood a lot of battering, serves as the perfect backdrop to the delicate bumps and depressions that spell out the word. As the piece absorbs light, it puts the viewer in a unique position, allowing her to fathom the pattern in her own time.
Invisible Notes (2016)
Although a newer set of works, these 11.5x16cm small-format pieces take forward a few central thematic concerns that emerge from the show, particularly Parekh’s own innovative use of light and shadow. The 100 units are arranged in a line across three walls. Each is a handmade rag paper on which Parekh has made outlines of shapes with silver watercolour, which doesn’t absorb light as well as other colours, like ink or indigo, might. As a result, one must stand very close to the work in order to discern the shape on it. The paint strokes look minimal and convey both absence and sufficiency. “These pieces were like a daily diary when I was making them. I didn’t think too much on the shape. The idea was to draw the viewer in. You have to walk closer to see them.”
Line Of Light is on till 4 March (Tuesday-Saturday), 11am-6pm, at Jhaveri Contemporary, 2, Krishna Niwas, 58A, Walkeshwar Road, Mumbai. For more details, visit Jhavericontemporary.com.