Artist of a Perishable world
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Her works reconfigure space in intriguing ways and advocate the idea of imperfection. Some of the reasons which make Hemali Bhuta an artist to watch out for.
Last month, at the Frieze Art fair in London, Mumbai-based artist Hemali Bhuta showcased an installation of 11 roots made of bronze. Partially buried in the ground, the work called Roots/Speed Breakers, went on display at the Beech Tree Woodland at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park earlier this week. The roots appear like transmitters, rising from the ground and submerging at the other end, as though they are swallowed back into earth. The work, says Bhuta, who is one of India's most promising artists, was born of long walks in the park and conversations with the staff and visitors. "One of the first things I learned was that the woodlands are now a rare sight in England. The bark of the beech was traditionally thought to ward off snakes and I thought it would be interesting to work around it. Speed Breakers is meant to slow down a visitor in order to [make him] look down and explore the ground. They are designed to occupy floor space, and merge with the environment like an extension of the existing roots of the beech tree," says Bhuta.
The work has fetched Bhuta critical acclaim and brought into focus the 34-year-old's exploration of the possibilities of space. As a student at MS University, Baroda, she once filled dirty public toilets with incense-coated clay that resembled wasp colonies; in 2009, visitors at Mumbai's Project88 gallery were repulsed by the sight of dog excreta in one part of the gallery. Those who overcame their disgust and walked by, realised it was an artwork they were looking at — Deceiving Landscape, made entirely of incense paste. During a residency programme at Moltavo Arts Centre, Saratoga, California, in 2010, her bathroom became her studio, where she recreated the mineral-rich algae found in California's springs with multi-coloured soap. "I create environments responding to the space. These demand total physical complicity, at times obsessive and repetitive and labour-intensive processes. These are works of which I have a very vague vision before I start working. I like to build by employing multiples of a material, never through an amalgamation of various materials," she says.
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