Concrete as canvas

Updated: Sep 12, 2019, 08:39 IST | Dalreen Ramos

In her first solo, Mumbai artist Shanthi Kasiviswanathan photographs walls across the city, capturing their changing beauty

Concrete as canvas
Kasiviswanathan began photographing walls from Colaba to Andheri and in Thane

What does a pretty wall look like? While many think of patterns and decoration, Shanthi Kasiviswanathan looks at them bare, stripped off their uniformity due to environmental decay. She then sets a frame and captures it on her camera.

But when viewers look at her work, the fact that they are photographs leaves them in astonishment — they either qualify as abstract or even impressionist paintings; staring at her image of a battered wall with a dark brown stain, it is easy to find traces of Monet's Woman with a Parasol. That's what Kasiviswanathan hopes to achieve in her first solo exhibition this week — to let the viewer come up with multiple interpretations of her work.

Initially, the artist photographed the walls and then rendered them as pencil drawings
Initially, the artist photographed the walls and then rendered them as pencil drawings

In a week-long exhibition titled Enduring | Ephemeral at Kala Ghoda's ARTISANS', the 51-year-old artist will present 20 photographs of walls she captured from Colaba to Andheri and Thane.

Giving more context of why her camera functions more like a paintbrush, city-based Kasiviswanathan says, "I started photographing them because I loved the texture and the pattern and initially, I would make pencil drawings of what I saw." Although she had taken to painting since childhood, she began work as a researcher. After taking a sabbatical, she decided to pursue a BFA at JJ School of Arts in 2009. Four years later, she started capturing walls on her way to college in the monsoon.

Mumbai's walls are more prone to decay because of moisture
Mumbai's walls are more prone to decay because of moisture

"The nature of my work is very transient. For instance, the wall as seen today is different from what it might look like tomorrow. My background in market research came handy as I would earmark the location before heading out," Kasiviswanathan explains, adding she has also done a similar series in Bengaluru.

The geography of a place, she states, significantly impacts the wall texture. Mumbai is humid and thus the degradation is high due to moisture. "I would also love to do a series in Chennai since they have a culture of posters there," she shares.

Shanthi Kasiviswanathan

During her process of photographing the walls around the city, Kasiviswanathan is always met with the same reaction: people either ask her why she wishes to capture something so dirty, if she's planning to complain to the BMC or if she is a BMC worker herself. But once she shows them her frame, they understand. That's the job of the artist, she says. "One can choose to see ugliness or beauty but an artist should be able to show what others see but don't see."

Till: September 19, 11 am to 7 pm
At: ARTISANS', VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.
Call: 9820145397
Free

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