This Sunday, if you drop by the Special Project Space in Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, you'll come face to face with an ethereal 18-feet coral, made of lace and thread, suspended from the ceiling. This piece will vie for your attention with fragile skeletons of algae, seaweed, jellyfish, pressed flowers, leaves and seeds - all appearing as if they are levitating, unaffected by gravity, as they float in glass casks and bottles. These botanical and maritime 'specimens', invented and reconfigured from thread and wire, are the handiwork of Delhi-born artist Sumakshi Singh, who is in the city with her first solo, Leaving The Terrestrial: Its Own Kind Of Archive.
The walk-through installation, In The Garden
"It's set up as a mock-natural history museum-style exhibit. The repository of armatures references memory, nature, science and fantasy, as lace-like fragments that seem to be embroidered on air. "It isn't often that artists get to test their practice with a non 'art world' crowd. So, I am looking forward to see the reactions of all sorts of people, including those who are on their way to the zoo," shares Singh, who has previously showcased her works at Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art, France, and MAXXI Museum, Rome.
These include an installation where viewers can walk into an illustrated manuscript book with skewed drawings, another where animated, painted characters from famous frescoes of the world walk over a vaulted ceiling, and an exhibition where Singh has entrenched microcosmic worlds in the cracks of the walls.
Details from installation Leaving The Terrestrial: Its Own Kind Of Archive
Piecing the past
Singh's tryst with thread and wire began a year-and-half ago, when she started embroidering the letters her mother had penned for her. It was a way to reconnect with her after her death. "She was an incredible gardener; at times, she would send pressed flowers in her letters to me. I also started embroidering these flowers. Then, it became clear that the fabric on which this was embroidered was too present. The words and plant forms needed to float, free from the fabric and so, I discovered the technique of removing the fabric, so that the thread can exist as a levitating drawing with no ground [no paper, no fabric], permeated with space as if embroidered on air... like the nature of memory. So, in a way, it is an archive of invented memory, of imagination and of play," she explains.
Using thread and wire as the media was also connected to her mother. "She was an embroiderer. Since the entire series came from a desire to connect with her, it seemed natural. It's also interesting how a thread ties itself to its ground — the fabric. Then, I remove the object that provides it the stability, yet it stands."
Sumakshi Singh. Pic courtesy/Sunder Ramu
Tread into the garden
The specimens lead visitors to the second installation, In The Garden, where they are invited to walk through luminous, hand-drawn and embroidered stop-motion animations projected on transparent scrolls of hanging fabric and dried flowers, suspended from the ceiling. She elaborates, "This is a labour-intensive but fun process where I paint or embroider the image of a plant and every time I draw a line or add a stitch, I take a photo of it from the same angle. When all these photos are run in a rapid sequence, the plant appears to grow."
From: May 7 to June 6, 10 am to 5.30 pm (Wednesdays closed)
At: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Rani Baug, BA Road, Byculla (E).