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14 July 2020

 

What are artists thinking and doing? We hope you enjoy the eighth in our series of ‘Reflections from Home’. 

Seher Shah’s studio. Photo: Randhir Singh

View from the studio

City Unknown: Notes from Defence Colony, New Delhi

‘My drawing table is in a quiet room overlooking my balcony, which provides the light I need to work. Flora such as the Gulmohar from Madagascar, Amaltas from South and South East Asia, and many types of Bougainvillea flower amidst the disappearing modernist houses. A stillness pervades our neighbourhood. Yet underneath the surface of this megacity, muscles are being flexed that silence those that fight against the mechanisms of fear.

I have been thinking about the relationships between drawing, anxiety, time and materiality. For most of the lockdown I have been working on small graphite drawings that use the soft application of lines to create a pale cross-hatch texture. This surface resembles muslin, or a thin gauze, something that is fragile and easily torn. The progression of day into night, and its repetition, and the corners and edges of architectural interior walls have found a strange echo in these drawings.

The city’s arteries are built in its histories and ruins. Colonial, caste, religious, economic and social divides permeate the daily lives of its inhabitants, and the visible scars and traces are left behind in the urban fabric. These fault lines, which also include gender, are churning inside a cauldron rushing towards something unknown, and at times violent. I am learning how to listen in this city through the fragments it presents and through a language that is both distant and familiar.’ – Seher Shah, July 2020

 

Seher Shah, Muslin gauze studies, 2020. Graphite on paper.

Seher Shah, Muslin gauze studies, 2020. Graphite on paper.

Excerpt from ‘Land’ by Agha Shahid Ali.

‘Why must the bars turn neon now when, Love,
I’m already drunk in your capitalist land?

If home is found on both sides of the globe,
home is of course here—and always a missed land.

The hour’s come to redeem the pledge (not wholly?)
in Fate’s “Long years ago we made a tryst” land.

Clearly, these men were here only to destroy,
a mosque now the dust of a prejudiced land.

Will the Doomsayers die, bitten with envy,
when springtime returns to our dismissed land?’

Seher Shah in her studio. Photo: Randhir Singh

Seher Shah, Edges and corners within a day and night, 2020. Graphite on paper.

Seher Shah, Edges and corners within a day and night, 2020. Graphite on paper.


Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle’s Yard, writes: ‘we are asking artists we have worked with to offer their reflections from home, at a time when millions around the world are homebound.

Jim Ede, its creator, described Kettle’s Yard as “a space, an ambience, a home”. For Ede, the home was a social place in which art and life might become inseparable. As the artist Anthea Hamilton has observed, the Kettle’s Yard House can also be understood as ‘a state of mind’. Of course, for many the concept of ‘home’ is also deeply personal, and often economic and political too, as our recent exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan’, explored. For Jim Ede, who never forgot his time in the trenches in WW1, Kettle’s Yard was a welcoming sanctuary, a place of renewal and insight which could sharpen how we engage and act in the world’.

More about Seher Shah

The 2019 exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan’ told stories of migration and resettlement in South Asia and beyond, as well as violent division and unexpected connections. Seher Shah was one of the twelve exhibiting artists.

The exhibition was accompanied by a new publication which you can purchase here.

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