When Delhi-based photographer Gigi Scaria went to The University of Melbourne in Australia as a Macgeorge Fellow in 2012, he felt an instant connect. He found the landscapes of the two countries similar—the vastness and emptiness of the deserts reminded him of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, and the tranquility of the salt lakes took him back to Kutch, Gujarat.

It was in 2013, that the 40-year-old artist actually gave shape to these references in the form of photographs, videos and paintings, when The Ian Potter Museum of Art, part of the Melbourne University, invited him to do a solo show that would “explore the geographical diversity of India and reveal the powerful connections between the Australian and Indian continents". And that’s how Dust, Scaria’s latest exhibition, was conceived. It’s now showing at Delhi’s Palette Art Gallery, which has associated with the Australian high commission.

“I thought the most apparent similarities, that is the landscapes of Australia and India, would be the best way to show the connection between the two nations," says Scaria. He chose to spend two months, April and May, in Kutch and Jaisalmer to document the salt lakes and expanses of the great Indian desert. “People in Australia actually thought these pictures were taken in their country," he says. He did not shoot in Australia at all.

The 18 images being exhibited are devoid of human presence—the clear blue skies, the white of the salt and grainy sand dominate. “The presence of people would have made it easier to recognize the place. Besides, I have used metaphors in terms of broken wires or shoes to ‘humanize’ the photos," he says.

Even in Scaria’s six video installations—of the places he photographed—you can hear him walking but can’t see his shadow or presence. “It’s just to give a message that any place is approachable, be it in Australia, or India, or any other country". There’s also a painting that shows an ancient rural rock in Australia “which is also surrounded by people".

Scaria, who has worked primarily with themes of modernity and urbanization, insists that in this work he has tried to break away from these. “It was more of a connection and the beauty of the natural landscapes for me," he says.

But the titles of his images may suggest otherwise. For instance, one image is of a blue sky and white salt lake; the title Betrayed tells the story of a broken electricity pole. Similarly, a video installation showing a truck moving at breakneck speed and vanishing in a storm of sand is titled Against Gravity, to convey the message of rapid urbanization and how is it affecting the earth.

“One cannot go away from the roots and my inspiration. However, I’ll try and make this body of work more unique with other geographies and more anonymity and similarities", says Sarcaria.

Dust, 11am-7pm, is on till 15 March at Palette Art Gallery, 14, Golf Links, Delhi. The gallery is closed on Sundays

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