Sonia Mehra Chawla20 August - 16 September, 2015
An exhibition of recent works by Sonia Mehra Chawla, Scapelands examines the development of the artist’s strategies that unsettle conventional wisdom about our relationship with and within nature and take on a notion of turning inwards into a phenomenological experience of life. Based on her navigations in the Sunderbans in West Bengal and Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu, both biomes of mangroves; the forests of Uttarakhand; fallen boughs in Goa and Pondicherry; and a riverbank in Thailand, Chawla engages with the natural and organic world — a result of several years of research and documentation of sites across geographies. Her creative process involves working intimately with various mediums: painting, printmaking, photography and video. As an artist-in-residence at the London Print Studio in the UK in 2014, she experimented with photopolymer gravure, a form of non-toxic intaglio printmaking, which is elemental to the works displayed in this exhibition. Chawla’s artistic practice is concerned with the construction of nature that is defined not just as the physical world around us but also the conditions of our physical, metaphorical, social and ecological interactions with it. Drawing inspiration from the tropes of germination, gestation, ecotopia and science fiction, she explores spaces, and the articulation of human experiences within these spaces — both inner and outer. Through her practice, she endeavors to transform everyday earthly images into phantasmagorical visions, landscapes that could be from the earth’s primordial past or vistas from distant planetary surfaces we are yet to encounter. Evolution through dynamic growth and metamorphosis is fundamental to the imagery in Chawla’s works.
Born in 1977 in Kolkata, Sonia Mehra Chawla received her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 2001, and Master’s degree in Fine Arts in 2004 from College of Art, Delhi University. She is the recipient of several awards such as the National Award for Painting, Lalit Kala Akademi (2004) and the National Scholarship, Ministry of Culture, India (2004). She received the Charles Wallace India Trust Award (2014-2015) by the British Council and the Charles Wallace India Trust for her project, Scapelands. Chawla’s solo projects include Scapelands at Exhibit 320, New Delhi (2015), in collaboration with the British Council; The Embryonic Plant and Otherworlds at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong (2013) and Metamorphosing Female: Transition-Transfiguration at Beck & Eggeling International Fine Arts, Dusseldorf (2011) among others. She has participated in projects at Khoj International Artists’ Organization, New Delhi; SCAD Museum Hong Kong; Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Austria; Tate Modern, London; Today Art Museum, Beijing and ET4U Visual Art Projects, Denmark. Her art fair participation includes Project Stage Asia Pacific, Singapore; Sydney Contemporary 13; Art Basel Hong Kong; Art HK; India Art Fair and SH Contemporary, Shanghai. Chawla’s selected curated projects include What Rules? at Nature Morte, Berlin (2012); Global/Local: Time and Space in Contemporary Indian Art, at Henn Galerie, Munich (2010); India Awakens at Kunst der Gegenwart, Essl Museum, Vienna,(2010); Lo Real Maravilloso- Marvelous Reality at Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2009) and Re-claim/Re-Cite/Re-Cycle at Bose Pacia, Kolkata and New York (2009). The artist lives and works in New Delhi.
Quick 7 with Sonia Mehra Chawla
Winner of the Lalit Kala Akademi’s National Award for Painting, Sonia Mehra Chawla’s creations are often intensely coloured by her relationship with and scrutiny of nature. In conversation with Verve, she talks about finding beauty in fragility and her upcoming projects in India and abroad
Verve07 Sep 2015
Prints from Nature
Sonia Mehra Chawla was in her early teens the first time she visited the Sundarbans. The artist, who grew up in Kolkata, was awed by the wild landscape and it is perhaps this early encounter that forms the basis for her recent artistic engagements with the natural world.
The Indian Express02 Sep 2015