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Sheela Gowda's Crime Fiction

Posted by sunanda  |  27. October 2008

They say goodness is a relative thing. Much in the same line of thought, crime, too, can be interpreted in several ways. Sheela Gowda’s recent exhibition ‘Crime Fiction’ blurs the thin line that separates crime from its doers and the predator from its prey.

Take the instance of ‘Crime Fiction’, the diptych that lends the entire exhibition its name. This work depicting a Caligo Memnon or owl butterfly perched on a leaf and extinguishing the border between predator and victim is stunning. For an observer, the Caligo Memnon brings forth the predatory owl and snake as well as the victimized butterfly in a single frame. Another half of the diptych displays a woman pelting stones violently even while her fragility gets a chance to come forth through the minute beads accessorizing the work.

‘Fake’, a triptych on the changing forces of the world through negativity and disillusionment, depicts the ideal Gandhi on one hand and the crime of forfeiture on the other. With cunning artistry, Sheela mocks the necessity felt on the part of man to distort and damage what is there already. A closer look at the triptych reveals vast detailing that spans across hand stains to illegible markings made with pen.

The violent upheavals in Kashmir constitute the inspiration behind ‘Loss’, a suite of six. Highly personal and heart rending, Loss comes forth as a result of the artist’s own sentimental attachment to a land that comes closest to paradise yet is farthest away from it. Be it the gloom or the devastated naturalness, Loss traverses the ups and downs of Kashmir as well as their effects on the human mind.

‘Moth Mirror’ holds a silent communion with the Caligo Memnon featured in ‘Crime Fiction’. While its bodily imprints infuse fear into an observer, the latter also gets the chance to behold the victim in the creature. 

Apart from photography and painting, installation art, too, is an aspect of the exhibit. ‘Spider’ talks of the tentacles of the creature in the lines of entrapment, subjugation and claustrophobia. It would also remind the observer of chains and the consequent effect of binding. ‘The Lineup’, once again, is a diptych featuring the asymmetry in the symmetry found in a regular identification lineup to detect the criminal or the predator, in this case.

As a summation, Gowda’s ‘Crime Fiction’ can be best put as an exhibit that explores, defines and redefines the concept of crime and negativity (though relative). The shades of gloom are dark and heavy but still manage to capture the observer’s imagination and restore it to a point of realization of the real.

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