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Aarti Vir: Shadow Crossing

Aarti made the work in terra-cotta clay, painted with the different slips when bone dry and then fired to cone 010 degrees Celsius. It’s the painting atop the hollow rectangular arches that entice the eye for their ability to weave into narratives that kindle the imagination

Aarti Vir: Shadow Crossing

Among the outdoor installations at Breaking Ground, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur stood Aarti Vir's monumental creation Shadow Crossing. It became vital for its imperative and artistic intent. It became an open-ended invitation for art lovers to walk through and experience the magic and caprice of three life-size doorways that unconsciously presented a flashback to days of yore and royal palace arches but also brought forward the brilliance and bravura of modernist meanderings in clay. "I wanted visitors to walk through successive doorways and as they transited each threshold, they would walk into space and substance that either challenged, provoked discomforted or excited wonder," states Aarti a consummate ceramicist who presents perfection in materials she explores. "The intent was to encourage reflection upon intermediate spaces that in life we often pass through obliviously."

This critic felt that these three doorways stood like 'silent sentinels in time'. Indeed a commentary on the pathways of life itself and the beauty of embracing today's humanity for a momentous sporadic moment in history. Vir explains her viewpoint: "I guess that is one way of looking at the transformative moments in one's life. I have been working with the idea of the threshold and the doorway for some time now. Life is full of these moments, isn't it? The thresholds one arrives at and must cross, whether willingly or reluctantly. One can pause at that threshold, reflect and step forward into the next phase/stage/moment, with awareness, or else get dragged across it unwillingly and lose that opportunity for transformation. At every threshold will be demons – within, to be faced and overcome. And with every demon faced, we can find the strength within to move forward."

Aarti has long been fascinated by a concept of space that is neither inside nor out, yesterday nor tomorrow, here nor there. Framed by a doorway, "the threshold represents an interstice, a pause – a moment of stillness, holding within it the certainty of passage, the potential for transformation, epiphany, resurrection or dissolution."

Shadow Crossing worked more like a threshold, where the transient transformative moment of the unexpected transpires, and where all life is. Aarti made the work in terracotta clay, painted with the different slips when bone dry and then fired to cone 010 degrees Celsius. It is the painting atop the hollow rectangular arches that entice the eye for their ability to weave into narratives that kindle the imagination in more ways than one.

"I really enjoyed the painting," affirms Aarti. "A return to my roots as an artist as it were. When I studied painting in Baroda as well as Hyderabad, drawing was always my first love. To me, this work is just the beginning of a new phase."

She gives us an insight into her working." The work was made in sections that I could lift and move around myself since I don't have reliable help at the studio. I fired it in a small, 20 cft wood kiln to cone 010 degrees Celsius. I haven't worked with terracotta before, except for some little projects with kids. It was great to build with, but a nightmare to dry. It cracked and warped and shrank enormously during the drying stage. Also, I had to wait until all the pieces were dry, then set it all up and paint it. A bit hair raising to stack up raw pieces to that height and paint them."

The success of Aarti's installation lay in the elemental difference she created, of knowing that the presence of an audience, within her frames would be like a readership. Your readers become very real and your obligation to them supercedes all others: to artists, to people whose opinion you respect. In the same way, the audience who walked through her archways became the animated offering of the installation and merged the past and the present.

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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