He feels that even when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is a thing of the past, what will linger on is an almost permanent sense of uncertainty.
“So much sickness, so many deaths… This has been a long period of everyday tragedy which has left no one untouched. In the pre-Covid times, people, especially the young, never imagined that life could be so unpredictably short,” says New-Delhi based artist Gigi Scaria, whose latest solo exhibition ‘No Stone Unturned presented by Vadehra Art Gallery as part of Edition 6 of In Touch — a digital exhibitions platform created in partnership between galleries in India and Dubai opened recently (May 28-August 28).
In his latest body of watercolours on paper, the artist’s ecological concerns come forth even as he deliberates upon the systemic friction between natural and man-made spaces. “All the works were completed in one month,” says Scaria.
The artist, who has been working on environmental issues for a long time now says that while the pandemic and consequent lockdowns have deeply affected people at large and the artistic community, he would not like to believe that his concerns have been amplified owing to that.
Scaria, who recently taught one semester at Shiv Nadar University adds: “One subject was Art and Ecology. Effective teaching warrants that one goes deeper into the subject through extensive reading — so I was also going more in detail of the ecological concerns. One tends to think that in the face of phenomena like urbanisation, everything is going haywire. However, when you study in detail, there are larger concerns about which we cannot do much, and these are going to immediately affect us. Are we not seeing a multitude of changes in our own lifetime that have drastically affected us? The eimmediacy’ in everyone’s psyche is something that I have been closely observing, an immediacy to the nature of the problem we are facing — changes are bound to take place in our social system.”
While eNo Stone Unturned’ explores the idea of curtailed movement, Scaria says that the first lockdown left everyone completely isolated and stressed, and this had much effect on artists like him. “There is this notion that artists need complete isolation owing to the general nature of art-making. But let us not forget that we all derive energy from the society.”
Talk to him about his fascination for spaces, and Scaria, a chronicle of urban spaces says that he is fascinated by the social interactive space and how it functions. “Say noticing a multitude of societal factors in a Sunday or Monday market. At the same time, there are also constrained man-made spaces created because there is no planning or structural understanding. They boast of no financial stability either — be it a slum area or lower middle-class settlements. One sees diverse segments in architectural spaces. A lot of social information can be gathered by looking at these structures and how the civic sense of people works in all these different spaces. So, these are the kinds of things which I am interested in. There are endless acres of land available all around Delhi. Right now, I am in Greater Noida. The kind of land, the way the Metros are lined up, the way the things are functioning, everything has a very tragic story to tell at times because of the way the land was taken, the construction done, and how it is abandoned…”
Talk to him about his video art, which he started quite in his career — in 2000s, and the artist asserts that he was always fascinated by it owing to his interest in cinema. “So there was a kind of aesthetic shift when that medium took place. Also, I can never disassociate with cinema. Video has surely added more layers to my practice. I am as serious about it as painting and sculptures as whenever I express through that medium, it opens several interesting doors.”
He adds that ever since Instagram and other social media platforms have come up, there are a lot of avenues that have been opening up for video-art. “So many interesting videos in the Tik-Tok format are coming up, with a lot of artistic sensibility. One witnesses the rearrangement of the popular cultural understanding in a twisted manner, which I find really interesting.”
The artist, who also has plans for a feature film, is looking forward to some future projects. “A major exhibition was scheduled to happen in July-August, which may get postponed. Also, there is an environment related project with Khoj.”