Shivani Aggarwal's mixed media works are a response to the layers of norms and conditions, the real self is hidden behind.

For long, Shivani Aggarwal has been searching for a language which could effectively voice her concerns, both artistic and personal. Though she passed out from College of Art, New Delhi in 1996 followed by MFA from Wimbledon School of Art in London, it is only now Shivani is beginning to showcase a whole body of work, unlike earlier where she would show a canvas here or a canvas there.

She has arrived at a language which would bind a number of canvases together in her ongoing solo show ‘Close Knit', her first in the Capital, at Ashna Art gallery. In her realm of art, photography marries painting and there emerges an imagery of laces, threads, embroidery, scissors, nail-cutter and safety pins.

How we layer ourselves in these societal norms, conventions and get accustomed to it is what Shivani's work primarily deals with. The work ‘Lace I' shows a model stitching laces onto her body. Using lace as a metaphor for adornment, the artist expresses how we literally stitch onto ourselves, many things, borrowed from the surroundings and not the real self.

“It's not even about the norms. There are times, when I want to be true to myself but I can't,” explains Shivani.

Interesting allegory

While the model stitching laces is a photograph, the artist has painted upon it the needle and thread. “The model couldn't have stitched the lace onto her body so whatever I can't do in real is worked out by painting,” she explains.

Photography, Shivani says, bounces off a lot more ideas; one of them being the work titled ‘Pin Cushion', a cushion used in sewing to store pins or needles, allowing their smooth retrieval when needed. She clicked it in somebody's house. The artist decided to make her own pin cushion, place it on the model's palm and take picture. From stitching threads on board to stitching on the canvas, Shivani has now come to capturing the craft on lens but fabric and stitching remain a recurrent motif in her art. Besides being a craft, stitching also stands as an allegory for ‘repair'. “Don't we keep repairing ourselves to suit the system around us and as women it happens to us all the more. I feel, I am like a pin cushion, you can attach things to. This work has emerged more out of my feminine sensitivities because it talks about pain and marginalization from that perspective,” says Shivani.

In an untitled acrylic work, she has a pair of knitting needles producing knitted red fabric on top right of the canvas, a bag with threads besides two twisted needles at the bottom right of the canvas. “The gathri with threads coming out represents an unresolved situation and the twisted needles mean I have lost the patience to knit or resolve an issue. I think my work has many layers to it and this piece conveys my emotions more easily to the viewer,” she clears.

Movement is another noticeable feature of Shivani's art practice. She could have done a diptych or triptych but the will to create an effect of action led her to create square panels hung in a group forming one work each. “Sometimes they look like a still from a video performance and who knows I might be doing video art next,” says the upcoming artist.

(The show ‘Close Knit' is on at Ashna Gallery, New Friends Colony till May 15. For details call – 011-46515394)