Bangalore sculptor Sheela Gowda is interested in the ways in which we imbue commonplace materials with significance. She addresses formal concerns, while exhibiting an unusual loyalty to the social factors that inform our appreciation of every last scrap of matter. It’s a clever formula, yet risky, for the quiet communication of her abstract sculptural works sits vulnerable to a deluge of distracting narratives.
Wood takes centre stage as Gowda’s material of choice for her new sculptural installation ‘Of All People’. An explosion paused, a fractured selection of doorways, windows and beams are suspended mid-air, providing a geometric framework for arrangements of small and individually crafted chips. Belying the influence of the artist’s homeland, these whittled votives are strewn amongst a bleached palette of pink, paling lemon and turquoise timbers.
This vertical hang provokes an unusual negotiation of the dissected space, and while Gowda’s repetitive use of her material provokes interesting comparisons between the domestic and the devotional, untimely parallels can also be drawn. Its resemblance to the recent spate of front-pages detailing the devastation caused by floods and earthquakes is undeniable. Overpowered by these contextual associations, the strength of Gowda’s personal sculptural language must here be called into question.
Turning her concentration from wood to ash, Gowda also re-presents 2007 work ‘Collateral’, comprising low-level frames mottled with the burnt and baked remnants of some earthy dough. Although formally effective, this funereal work – wrought with metaphors of loss and remembrance – does not escape discolouring by the tragic overtones connoted by the artist’s more recent work.