Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai is currently hosting Only Life, Myriad Places, a solo show by Indian conceptual artist Sudarshan Shetty. Celebrating the premiere of his new film “One Life Many”, the exhibition is the first survey of the artist’s moving image works, featuring rarely seen videos, installations, and sculptures.
Only Life, Myriad Places transports one to the mental mazes depicted through videos and curious set pieces. All of a sudden, familiar places, people, and stories become foreign. The displayed films challenge visitors to wonder whether they are experiencing the dreams of the film’s characters or watching the dream of someone else.
In the exhibition, on view are Shetty’s eight art pieces that reflect his deep interest in South Asian literary and musical tradition. With his practice promoting a special kind of interdisciplinarity, the show’s leitmotif is what the artist calls a poetics of listening. Videos, pictures, physical objects, and texts have a transient presence in Shetty’s art as if they were abstract musical notes both familiar and new.
Shetty’s exhibited works include an untitled installation comprising six pairs of water vessels in a glass vitrine which are arranged vertically in a column. The artwork reminds one of percussive instruments, an abstract composition of progressive scales, and a duet of bodies resting together. Meanwhile, “Waiting for others to arrive” (a single-channel video shot in an empty building in Mumbai) delves into the philosophical conundrums of life, death, and the afterlife.
“One Life Many” (2022) is based on a mediaeval Indian myth of a sage who turns into another being and back. The film raises the question “How there can be one true self we identify with when we also carry a plethora of selves inside of us?”. The myth is resituated into today’s world reawakening after a coronavirus pandemic. The protagonist recollects events throughout the film as memories intertwine with folklore and dreams.
There is a group of three artworks (an untitled installation, a text, and a single-channel video “The Juggler”) united by the image of an earthen pot. They reflect on the nature of life and death and what finally lives on. The film shows a man juggling three pots in slow motion. Reminiscent of some Indian traditions where the pot represents the body, Shetty refers to its meaning as a vessel for prana. The untitled installation that comprises three photos of the artist throwing a pot over his shoulder is presented with an actual clay pot, its shards pieced back together. The text artwork evokes the image of a cracked pot.
“A Song A Story” (a two-channel video accompanied by two hand-carved installations made of wood) focuses on a South Indian folktale and is sung in Braj Bhāshā, a western Hindustani language. In this video work, the unconscious takes a life of its own. It traverses the domestic and public domains of its characters and seeps into the outside world.
The exhibited works also include “Age of Love”, a multimedia installation. Selected from the tradition of Hindustani Classical music, six singers string together elaborate renditions in praise of love. Staged in a domestic environment, a chandelier looms over the dining table with a sense of collapse.
About the artist
Sudarshan Shetty (b. 1961, Mangalore, India) is an internationally recognised artist residing in Mumbai, India who obtained a BFA in Painting from Sir. JJ School of Art (Mumbai) in 1985. Shetty’s art practice involves painting, sculpture, installation, video, sound, and performance.
The artist creates his thought-provoking art pieces using a plethora of mediums. He is famous for producing hybrid constructions, mechanical devices, and multimedia compositions in which he combines Indian and Western traditions. In his art, Shetty investigates the inner and exterior realms of everyday life. His art pieces emphasise a fleeting and constantly changing character of things by blurring the lines between dreams and the present, memories and fantasies.
Shetty has displayed his art in multiple exhibitions in India and other countries, such as Japan, the UK, the Netherlands, China, Belgium, and many others. His artworks have been added to such public and private collections as the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Vanhaerents Art Collection, The Prabhakar Collection, and others.
The exhibition Only Life, Myriad Places will be open to the public until 9 December 2023. Apart from attending the show, one will also be able to listen to artist talks and take part in physical or virtual tours and educational and public programmes. To get more information, please visit the event’s official web page.
You might also be interested in visiting Moving Art, a group show at XVA Gallery.