NEW YORK – The Karnataka-based artist Ranjani Shettar’s intriguing installation ‘Seven ponds and a few raindrops’, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of the Talwar Gallery, was the focal point of a weekend reception throw by the auction house Christie’s, to commence the Asia Week in New York.
Suspended from the ceiling, ‘Seven ponds and a few raindrops’ comprises of molded pieces of stainless steel worked into a series of sensual, curved, amoebic, shape-shifting elements that have been covered in tamarind-stained muslin. The work seems to defy gravity, casting a series of mesmerizing shadows, which, from a distance, evoke the sense of having stumbled upon a surreal, hidden-away oasis.
Suspended installations have become somewhat of a forte of Shettar, 40, with past works exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Talwar Gallery, among others.
Shettar is unarguably one of the most prolific installation artists India has produced. Deepak Talwar, the founder of the Talwar Gallery, revealed to this writer, at the reception – which was co-hosted by the Prestige Group, that Shettar has already had more shows in the US than any other contemporary Indian artist, across all mediums.
Talking to this writer, Shettar said that she “escaped” the environs of Bengaluru – from where she got her art degree from – and now works in a village 400 kilometers from the city, in rural Karnataka. She home schools her children, along with her artist husband. She says she’s happy staying in a rural area, able to create in peace, away from the “glamor world” of city-based artists.
Though the Met publicized ‘Seven ponds and a few raindrops’ as inspired by Shettar’s observations of the now-threatened natural environs of rural India, the installation could well be interpreted as the artist’s agony of watching the erosion and degradation of greenery and pollution of water bodies in Bengaluru – where residential buildings, commercialization and industrialization encroach rapidly on verdant land, and water bodies almost vaporize overnight.
Shettar’s fantasy of creating small utopias of floating ponds in the air – almost as if suspended between residential towers, able to evade the destruction happening at the ground level – offer respite from the punishing reality of modernization.
It’s also intermixed with Shettar’s wry observation in her selection of the title of “few raindrops’, which seem to suggest man’s uphill battle against the force of nature – to sustain greenery in the wake of monsoon changes, greenhouse effect and global warming.
“I think like an engineer,” she responded with a laugh, when I asked her for the source of her inspiration, why she used aluminum for the installation. It’s a metal that Shettar has been using for a little over a decade, in her works.
Perhaps, those ponds really are pools of water bodies on top of residential towers, exposed to the ravages of nature.
Interpreted any which way, Shettar’s remarkable and memorable works evoke at once wonder, nostalgia, hope and despair.
RHINOS IN NEW YORK CITY
Last week also saw the unveiling of ‘The Last Three’, the world’s tallest bronze rhino sculpture by the Australian artists and conservationists Gillie and Marc Shattner, a project sponsored by Intrepid Travel, in New York City. The work can be seen by the public through May of this year.
The 7-ton, 17-foot sculpture comprising of three Northern White rhinos atop each other, the second largest land mammal after the elephant and on the brink of extinction, was unveiled in Astor Place, on March 15, to “inspire, educate, and mobilize the global community to raise their voices and affect real change against rhino horn sales.”
“We just wanted everyone to know their names so that when they do leave this world they won’t be forgotten,” said Marc, speaking of the sculpture, at the unveiling.
Intrepid Travel, to focus attention on the endangered rhinos, has launched a limited-edition expedition to Kenya taking travelers to visit the world’s last three remaining northern white rhinos.
Departing in June and August 2019, the seven-day Kenya Expedition – The Last Northern White Rhinos – will bring travelers to Ol Pejeta Conservancy for the rare opportunity to see the three remaining northern white rhinos–Najin, Fatu, and Sudan (whose health is rapidly deteriorating).
Priced from $2,850 per person, the Kenya Expedition will also include: a presentation from the East Africa Wildlife Society on the work they do and how each donation through the trip helps their cause; a game drive at Ol Pejeta to see other resident animals such as lions, giraffes and elephants; multiple game drives and a visit to Thomson Falls in Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park, known for its population of southern white and black rhinos; and an interactive community visit in Nairobi to spend time with local women who are overcoming hardship, thanks to a local social enterprise.
“The magnificence of the northern white rhinos is undeniable; it’s so disheartening to see the species in such a critical state,” said Leigh Barnes, Chief Purpose Officer for Intrepid Travel.
Through Intrepid Travel’s not-for-profit organization, The Intrepid Foundation, a portion of the trip cost will be donated to the East Africa Wildlife Society on behalf of travelers, which will help provide ongoing support to the organization’s efforts in protecting rare, endangered and threatened species and habitats.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)
(This post was updated on 3/22/2018 correcting the name of the artist Ranjani Shettar)