Confrontations between life and death

Tree of life: ‘That Quiet Corner’ juxtaposes the black skeleton of a bed, light and an image of the sky with tombstones in the corners. It’s like the artist is lying in a cemetery to capture the world around her.  

Death is often understood as a void, a vacuum, a black hole that defines an end. As artist Yardena Kurulkar uncovers, life is construed only by death. Kurulkar’s solo show, So It Goes, conjures up a transitionary space emerging from the void, with personal subjects and objects – that include visualising her own body. Death ceases to be a distant black hole, as Kurulkar deconstructs it into a dichotomy that dictates the rituals of life.

“The eventuality of death is not seen as a cataclysmic event as it is already in motion, in a continuous almost circadian rhythm”, Gita Chadha writes on Kurulkar’s work. The key to comprehending this dialectic lies in the ritual behind each artwork. Kurulkar’s practice focuses on this process – a deeply meditative method exploring an inner terrain. The exploration becomes a ritual as the artist repeats, re-enacts and renews memories of the past and imagined futures.

Requiem for love

The material for each work bears some remnants of the artist. For instance, ‘So It Goes’, an installation that also forms the title of the show, comprises of 382 porcelain replicas of the artist’s uterus in individual glass beakers – a symmetrical visual of her menstrual cycles till date. A rolled-out thin sheet of porcelain clay is placed on the replica, as each one is uniquely folded, like the ritual of shrouding a deceased body. The work called, ‘The Invisible Father’ contains 13 snow globes alluding to a world of fairytales, except these are born from memory. A rabbit fashioned from her family’s nail cutter is the protagonist of each sphere. The white flakes of confetti inside the globe are actually nail clippings – of the exact length the artist’s father’s nails would have grown and been clipped in his short lifetime.

Dichotomy of life

Perhaps one must surrender into darker realms to navigate a void. ‘Fall of the Buckler’ comprises of sliced images of a 3D recreation of the artist’s heart. You see the top view of this fragmented heart on pulped paper charged with her blood. Each paper is pierced, as the shield is withdrawn. The rhythm of this work begins softly, grows louder, and fades into a mortal shadow. In ‘A Prelude to Sleep’, one encounters photographs of an empty hospital bed. It’s almost as though death, despite the mask of absolute permanence, is ultimately transient. The bed covers will be removed, and new sheets will be put for its next companion. So it goes.

This dichotomy deepens in ‘A Premature Burial’, as one lingers upon the residue of dissolution. Kurulkar takes terracotta clay equal in weight to her body and breaks it, repeatedly distorting and amputating each piece. The fractured remnants are tightly wrapped in gauze and stitched with black surgical thread. As each bit of fleshy clay heals, the artist stitches all the wounded pieces close to each other. But the thread that holds them together slowly begins to choke.

Eternal as ephemeral

In ‘Synonym’, an unsettling work is a video of Kurulkar’s performance, the body morphs into a metaphor – for a piece of clay. In a conversation with The Hindu, Kurulkar said she allowed, “External forces to mould, shape, fire and ultimately transcend the body’s physicality into something more.” In a similar vein, ‘That Quiet Corner’ juxtaposes the black skeleton of a bed, light and an image of the sky with tombstones in the corners. It’s like the artist is lying in a cemetery to capture the world around her.

Kurulkar also composes a compelling prelude to a story that begins with an ending. In ‘Earworm’, as one wears the headphones - you enter a wormhole of time, surrounded by black matter. The music you hear is sung at Bene Israeli funerals, was rediscovered by the artist from a distant memory. She re-creates this song, with no words, with a cello performance by Lavine Da Costa. Part of the work is a 3D replica of Kurulkar’s inverted skull filled with water. She then activates this liquid vessel with the re-created funeral song, documenting the movement of water. As one hears the music in the midst of these photographs, you enter a different world. The water inside this cosmic void rumbles, and is silent again. And if you swim deeper, the void gradually wanders inside you.

So It Goes is ongoing at Chemould Prescott Road, until November 22

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 6:42:27 PM |

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