Transformations in architecture, fashion and art are explored in Deep (Skin) Skin Deep

At The Flying Elephant, a coliseum-like dining space over several levels, Art Chennai’s closing event started on a boom note as with the call of a conch for the end of day. The co-ordinators chose to filter in an end, characteristic of this festival where the experience of art embraced an open structure, allowing art to simply sink its impact on viewers within every space. Arvind Gupta, Consul-General of Macedonia inaugurated the show.

Sahej Rahal, performed Bootlegger’s Addendum, walking through crowds without pomp and show, wearing a dark cape obscuring his identity, carrying his booty on his back, blowing a bamboo wind instrument, a bootlegger whose disguise and goods become part of his body. Glass artist Anjali Srinivasan made her sparkling entrance wearing a skin clinging outfit of glass on silicone. She conceived the piece by blowing glass on a silicone base, smashing the finished bubble to mould it around the mock up cast of a mannequin, made to her fit. To everyone who shook hands with her glass-encrusted gloves, she laughed, “Is it crunchy?” In Manhattan where she tried the dress on the first time in 2007, many could not resist touching the glistening surface, apologising, “We’re so sorry we touched you inappropriately!” Her concept? “It’s like being a walking and talking Sheesh Mahal,” says Anjali steering clear of fashion, wanting to be “this thing walking around.” Casting it on like a second skin, the layers shed all evening, bits of glass fragmenting as she walked around. “It is like a monument that grows old and dies, a skin that flakes off.”

I walk across to an installation by Sameer Sethi titled ‘Play’. Using the technology of video mapping, Sethi has transformed the surface of a series of white cubes by changing graphic projections. The images weave, coil and circle about in lines and patterns, becoming the skin of the cubes, clothing the surfaces. And then Sethi says to me, “If you stand there, you will be mapped.” The patterns from the projector wraps around like a piece of clothing, the idea of cover becoming a visual transformation. We can press a button and change it any time.

Design, art and architecture

Gallery Veda’s show curated by Mayank Mansingh Kaul is spread out over two floors of the Park Hyatt celebrating its first anniversary. Deep (Skin) Skin Deep explores the relationship between art and design and Kaul proposes the exploration of “an accessible method to become another, finding meaning in its obsolescence.” The connection at first appears slim: while shelter and clothing are both covers, they derive their forms differently, do they not?

In her series ‘White Drawing and Black Drawing’, Parul Gupta explores construction, making parallel and multiple cuts in paper, elementary exercises transfiguring the nature of material. They could well be the cutting towards a flat piece of fabric that eventually turns it into three-dimensional garment to be worn. Little Shilpa’s digital photo prints unravel a range of headgear with similar settings: the head alone rests on a surface like that of a magician’s apprentice. Kaul says, “It could be a dining centrepiece arrangement — food and fashion are both important forces of influence today.” In ‘Gota’, titled after the peacock-embroidered fabric, the base for the tableau, there are multiple ornaments decorating the woman’s head like a crown of scallops. Ornamentation in architecture has often inspired jewellery and fabric design and this exchange of notation is the same language taking on alternative performative functions.

As important to the art of fashion, is exploring obsolescence. For fashion is about constant change and what is “not in vogue” is no longer worn. Dissected body parts and objects make up the assemblages of Rajesh Srivastava as in ‘Grand Matchstick’. The invention of personas, reassembling of forms and dismembering of “what was” well demonstrate the changing nuances of fashion. While Srivastava’s work comments on the “misuse of the body in a highly commercial world”, that can be stretched to fashion, where often to make an impact, the body is re-imagined to fit into provocative garbs that titillate. The preposterous, the ostentatious, the nonsensical and the unexpected all make the show on the ramp, as do Srivastava’s surrealistic canvases of acrylic wash on wood. Truly hair-raising is Chitra E.G’s sculpture at the entrance made of welded metal washer-type rings. Her long hair forming a column to the ground supports a horizontal woman. The levitating woman recalls the enchanting power of fashion to energise a new state: hair is fantastically styled or the body suspended by invisible supports to strike a dramatic pose. Here, it is the shavasana pose, one associated with death and magic — and fashion is always about the death of one skin to magically enter another.

At Park Hyatt till June 2014