Dimple B. Shah gives an expression to catharsis through paintings, installations and sculptures

The first installation that greets visitors at Kalakriti Art Gallery is a shower chamber, which Dimple B. Shah calls the ‘Katharsis Chamber’. The curtains of the shower place bear psychological theories of Carl Rogers, the process of calcination and the glass walls of the chamber are lined with rows of tiny bottles. Nothing is here for ornamentation of by accident, says the artist. The bottles are filled with shreds of hair, nails and ash. An recorded audio completes the picture providing the sound of water streaming in.

‘Kartharsis in Forbidden Zones’ is an exhibition of installations, paintings and sculptures that communicate Dimple’s ideas. It took her three and a half years to complete this series, she tells us. “The installations took time. Once I worked on the concept and made detailed sketches, I took help of carpenters and technicians who cut acrylic sheets, wooden and iron planks. I scouted junk shops and found a 100-year-old shop selling old bottles and sourced these for the installation. For another installation, I needed wheels of a cart and after much trial and error, I travelled to Baroda to find the kind of wheels I was looking for,” she says.

Dimple’s paintings reflect her study of metals, their properties and their effect on our lives. While studying art in Glasgow, she researched on Jain philosophy and imagery. “I came across a book on metals, alchemy and equated what I read to the seven basic planets in astrology and the seven chakras described in yoga. I learnt about lead and it’s correlation to Saturn. I read that nail samples of criminals have an increased lead content in them. I also came to know that women have more traces of copper in them. It was fascinating as I dug deeper into metals and the way they affect us,” she explains.

In one of her paintings, Dimple uses a chameleon to represent the changing state of mercury. A glass jar with a sample of the metal corresponding to her paintings and a page from her workbook, detailing her paintings and installation are there for the audience to correlate and introspect.

Dimple completes her work through a performance. She’s been supplementing her work with a performance since her college days in 2001. Her performance has no dialogues, doesn’t fall strictly into the realms of theatre though Dimple has studied theatre. For an earlier exhibition titled Saffron Borders, she gave vent to people’s fear psychosis in the aftermath of the Godhra riots by encircling herself with a ring of fire and reacting to it. “This is the way I connect with people — through a visual medium of painting, sculpture, installation of expressing my thoughts by way of performance,” she says.

What’s interesting is this artist did her bachelors in commerce before shifting gears to fine arts. “After B.Com., I realised I was truly interested in arts and did a five-year bachelor course in visual arts, followed by masters in Baroda and one year in Glasgow,” she smiles.

As a parting shot, she admits installations don’t come cheap. “I am yet to sell any of them. But I don’t think of returns when I work on an idea,” she says.

Kartharsis in Forbidden Zones is on at Kalakriti Art Gallery till March 13.