The works in Manisha Gera Baswani’s exhibition are soaked in personal journeys
Manisha Gera Baswani’s art comes as a respite. No statements and no critical enquiries made. Soaked in simplicity, Manisha’s 14 works mounted on the walls of Renu Modi’s Gallery Espace in New Delhi read like a diary, stringing together disparate vignettes from the artist’s own life to recreate her journey. And it’s not as if she hasn’t allowed viewers a peep into her life earlier. But coming after a gap of six years, the artist has a lot to tell. While several works in her current exhibition, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’, are inspired by her travels to Mandu, Jaisalmer and Jerusalem, some of them draw from specific incidents in her life.
The artist moves away from her previous style to accommodate more white spaces, use metaphors, have more reds and take a minimalistic approach in her latest series. More than politics, Manisha’s art has always been guided by her immediate concerns, her life as a mother, daughter and wife, and she continues to walk on the path. One of the major reasons that drove this series was her shifting to Gurgaon. “I hated Gurgaon. There was a complete dip in my life. I would go on walks and collect these feathers. It was kind of metaphorical, as if gathering my life. It was therapeutic but I didn’t know that they would come into my work like that,” says Manisha walking through the gallery. So, objects like plumes, a sacred thread, and shell of a broken egg with blood stains that she encountered in her daily life made their way into her art, making it a highly personal affair.
The stack of pillows through which a needle runs (in ‘Pierced Comfort’) are Manisha’s own pillows she rests her head on every night, satisfied and dissatisfied at the tasks and aims left unachieved during the day. In ‘Never Ending Story’, a top-down view of a dining table, with the platters rendered like windows, Manisha goes back in time to come up with fresh imagery. When she did this work during MFA, the platters bore the images of her family, which have been replaced by the imagery of landscapes. She has also done her first sculpture, ‘Corazón Rosa’ (Spanish for “red rose”), an iron armour that contains a red heart.
On her use of clots, massy textures of clots, knots, shreds and lots of red, the artist says that though it does hint at her personal losses red can signify not just pain and blood but also fury and passion like a Quentin Tarantino or Pedro Almodóvar movie. Something needs to be said about her unique medium as well. The warm brown tones she achieves in some of her works, like ‘Travelnama’ and ‘Never Ending Story’, are the result of her engagement with tea water, one of the old Santiniketan techniques that she learnt from her guru A. Ramachandran.