Sheher, Prakriti, Devi

Sheher, Prakriti, Devi marks artist and photographer Gauri Gill’s first extensive curation in an art context. Ruminating on the interwoven relationship between dynamic cities, the natural environment and the inseparable sacred, the show presents twelve artists and collectives working across diverse contexts of urban, rural, domestic, communitarian, public and non-material spaces.

Sheher, Prakriti, Devi comes from the Hindustani terms for ‘city’, ‘nature’ and ‘deity’. The exhibition germinates from Gill’s ongoing documentation of urban and semi-urban spaces in India since 2003 in a series titled ‘Rememory’ (after Toni Morrison). Gill offers a unique lens to regard cities as spaces of habitation that are shaped by multiple life-worlds. Together with various practitioners with whom she shares an affinity, the exhibition presents a world where built and natural structures are rendered porous by termites; gates open to unfinished roads; historical ruins become homes to migratory birds while pigeons become occupants of post-colonial houses; locusts bear witness to contemporary terrors and forests manifest as spirit sisters. In this show, viewers are invited to regard ecology as an overlap of cultural, natural and spiritual domains.

In Gill’s words, “Apart from the sheer beauty and multiple truths expressed by the different artists – from the mundane to the transcendental, the gross to the subtle, and, the manmade to the sacred – through this palimpsestic and idiosyncratic exhibition, I wish to acknowledge those who have found ways to stubbornly persist in their practice, often sharing their work only within their families and local communities, completely outside the circuits and networks of professional artists, contemporary art discourse, galleries and markets… Through this gathering of insistent voices we hope to consider the dualistic worlds of the depleted and regenerative, manmade and natural, colonial and Indigenous, young and old, English and non-English, mundane and magical, absent and present.”

Sheher, Prakriti, Devi includes works by Chamba Rumal, Chiara Camoni, Gauri Gill, Ladhki Devi, Mariam Suhail, Meera Mukherjee, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Rashmi Kaleka, Shefalee Jain, Sukanya Ghosh, Vinnie Gill and Yoshiko Crow.

Curated by Gauri Gill, in dialogue with Sabih Ahmed.

Artworks for this exhibition have been loaned from the private collections of Anant Art, Akar Prakar, the Pundole Family Collection, the Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation, and the Ishara Art Foundation and the Prabhakar Collection.

The exhibition has been generously supported by ZEISS Vision and J. Safra Sarasin (Middle East) Ltd.
Logistical support from Vadehra Art Gallery.

‘Sheher, Prakriti, Devi: Experiments in World Making’ – Essay by Gauri Gill

About the Curator:

Gauri Gill (b. 1970) was born in Chandigarh, and lives in Delhi, India. Gill’s practice is complex because it contains several lines of pursuit. These include a more than two-decade long engagement with marginalised communities in rural Rajasthan called Notes from the Desert, now a large photographic archive of rural India. She has explored human displacement and the migrant experience among South Asians in North America and Afghanistan in The Americans and What Remains. Projects such as the 1984 notebooks highlight her sustained belief in collaboration and ‘active listening’, and in using photography as a memory practice. Beginning in early 2013, Fields of Sight is an equal collaboration with the renowned Adivasi artist, Rajesh Vangad, combining the contemporary language of photography with the ancient one of Warli drawing to co-create new narratives. In Acts of Appearance (from 2015—ongoing), the artist has worked closely with the paper mache artists of the Kokna and Warli tribes in Maharashtra, using unique new masks to tell fictional stories improvised together of contemporary life in the village. Working in both black and white and colour, Gill addresses the Indian identity markers of caste, class and community as determinants of mobility and social behaviour. In her work there is empathy, surprise and a human concern over issues of survival.

Gill has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions within India and internationally since 1995, including the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017). In 2022, her first major survey exhibition opened at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, and continued on to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, in 2023. Gill has recently published two books with Edition Patrick Frey about her collaborations with rural artists, ‘Acts of Appearance’ (2022) and ‘Fields of Sight’ (2023). In 2023, she was awarded the 10th Prix Pictet. Her work is in the collections of prominent institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Museum, London; Smithsonian Institution, Washington; Fotomuseum, Winterthur; and the Ishara Art Foundation and the Prabhakar Collection, Dubai.

Artist Biography

Chamba Rumal is a narrative art-form from the hill state of Himanchal Pradesh, India.

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Chiara Camoni (b. 1974) is an artist based in Fabbiano in the Apuan Alps in Versilia, Italy.

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Emily Avery Yoshiko Crow is an artist born in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

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Ladhki Devi (b. 1955) lives in Sakhre village, Maharashtra, India, and is a practitioner of Warli art.

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Mariam Suhail (b. 1979) was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and lives and works in Bangalore, India.

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Meera Mukherjee (1923 - 1998) was born in Calcutta, in pre-partition India.

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Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949 – 2015) was born in Mumbai, India.

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Rashmi Kaleka (b. 1957) was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and lives and works in New Delhi, India.

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Shefalee Jain (b. 1979) is an artist, illustrator and educator based in Delhi, India.

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Sukanya Ghosh (b. 1973) lives and works between Delhi and Calcutta, India.

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Vinnie Gill (b. 1946) was born in Jhansi and lives in Delhi, India.

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