Resurrecting Gandhi's timeless philosophies
Mahatma Gandhi has inspired several artists over time, but if there is someone who has revived, reinvented and resurrected Bapu's timeless ideologies to an extent rarely seen before, it has to be Delhi-based visual artist Shelly Jyoti. Showcasing over thirty textile-based artworks – using Ajrakh printing and dyeing along with needlework on Khadi canvases – Jyoti is putting forth a collection that demystifies the ideas of Swaraj and Swadharma.
Titled 'Revisiting Gandhi: The Art of Shelly Jyoti (2009-18)', this retro/introspective exhibition being presented by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) will go on until October 21, from 10 am to 7 pm. The exhibition includes four new textile site-specific installations, 30 new Ajrakh artworks on khadi, multimedia spoken word poetry and a short film on making of Swaraj and collectiveness.
Jyoti has been drawn to the Gandhian philosophies of Swadharma and Swaraj since her very first solo titled'Indigo Narratives' in 2009.
She says, "My work focuses on Gandhi's ideology of nation building for creating moral and peaceful societies, which I find relevant even in the 21st century – connecting past with the present. I turned to Gandhi's most important work Hind Swaraj to understand the meaning and importance of the relationship between self, societies and social transformation in our fast-paced technology-driven world. I also wanted to look at how modern India, that has achieved so much economically and culturally globally, could still connect with seventy percent of her rural population that still remains illiterate. It is in this context that I eventually decided to re-read key writings of Gandhi for insights."
The works in the current show, therefore, are inspired by Gandhi's seminal anti-imperialist text Hind Swaraj written in 1909. This exhibition examines elements of Gandhi's critique of modern civilisation, noting his emphasis on an evolved ethical and spiritual self for creating an alternative perspective of a better world.
An intriguing piece, created using 30 meters of handspun and handwoven Khadi material and seeped with the residual colours of ajrakh printing, is titled 'Residue, Reflections, Reproductions'. This is Jyoti's way of reflecting on and summing up her work in this exhibition. "In the process of creating the ajrakh scrolls, I placed lengths of fabric under each sheet before block printing the material laid out on the studio tables. The marks on the sheets are the outcome of the process of many prior works in progress, residue from the left-over dyes. I hope to convey through this piece that last decade of my life has been a period of intense study on Gandhi as well one of finding my own self, my own dilemmas, introspections, self-transformation. I feel through this process I'm coming closer to comprehending and understanding my life and artistic journey."
In a twelve-piece wall-mounted installation work titled 'Lunar Swell: Swaraj, Sarvodya, Swadharma', Jyoti is inspired by the powerful moon that orbits the earth, changing appearance due to its position in relation to the earth and sun.
Another site-specific installation titled 'Lunar Swell: Civilization and Collective Forces' consists of 32 Indigo-dyed khadi fabric strips in variable sizes that will be installed in shape of a semi-circle representing sequential movement and alluding to the nature of time itself. It calls to mind the endless ebb and flow of tides, the continual revolution of undersea and the state of perpetual motion. The gradually folding and merging of hues of blue amalgamate to make one whole where water is the beginning and end of life.