A tale of two installations

Art can grow out of the most mundane and unexpected situations. Who would think that two girls diligently working on their French and discussing the intricacies of environmental conservation would hit upon a plan to make art installations?

This is exactly what happened with Ramya Upadhya and Aisha Siddiqa, both currently associated with the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore. An initial enthusiasm to experiment with recycling and utilise discarded materials as a means of generating public awareness and discussion somewhere along the way turned into a full-fledged exploration into the aesthetics of art making and enquiry into the simultaneous existence of imperfections and symmetry in objects that surround us.

Single bottle with wax globules. Pic: Ramya Upadhya.

Ramya is a trained print-maker, and though she has not practiced with the medium over the last few years, the sensibilities that drove her etchings and linocuts earlier – scale, balance, line and symmetry- came back to her as she discussed the possibilities of creating art objects.

Aisha on the other hand says she has an innate tendency ‘to mess with things’ and is fascinated by theories of imperfection, one being the chemical reactions at molecular level that make certain mediums translucent, and cause them to scatter light differently. Playing with a used plastic coffee cup one day, she tore it and folded it in such a way that it transformed itself into a wonderful receptacle for light, “just like the way clouds hold the light on a lovely day in Bangalore” she says.

Correspondingly, Ramya decided to work with glass bottles, with their decisive shape, colourlessness and ability to channel light through them. Individually, they visualised a work that fundamentally described their personal ideas and allowed an overlay of other’s views. In collaboration, they worked on building them into actual art objects. These will be displayed in their exhibition ‘Imperfections and Symmetry’ in the atrium at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore from January 17th to 21st.

A large skeletal cube-shape forms the structure of Ramya’s work. Each face of the cube is strung with a random number of bottles on translucent fish-wire creating different patterns. Each bottle contains a few perfectly shaped globules of wax, made by the process of dripping wax on a water surface. The work brings together elements of both collaborator’s concepts – the cube stands for symmetry and balance, while each bottled-face gives way to randomness; the bottles are all of equal shape and size, their homogeneity is disturbed by the contents; the wax droplets for Aisha create imperfections in the smooth veneer of the glass, but for Ramya they form an overall design of particles, pattern among the chaos.

A large skeletal cube-shape forms the structure of Ramya’s work. Each face of the cube is strung with a random number of bottles on translucent fish-wire creating different patterns. Pic: Lina Vincent.

The other work is in the form of a chandelier, made up of about 800 ‘scrumpir’s (pronounced skryoumpeeers),  the French name Aisha coined for her plastic-cup creations. The work appears as two disintegrating cube-sections one below the other, supported by aluminium and basket wire, and is assembled with translucent fish wire again, intercepting and dispersing to varied degrees the light that comes from white Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) bulbs, hidden within the groupings. The effect is like that of a cloud-form, in the seeming process of slowly unraveling earthwards. In breaking down the shape of the cups, and drilling holes in the glass, imperfections were utilised to achieve the outer perfection of the art objects, say the art makers.

The conceptual and formal frameworks of the two installations throw up a series of contrasts between dualities of light and shadow, transparency and opacity, solidity and buoyancy, rigidity and flexibility; they juxtapose perfection with imperfection in a constant interplay of material and idea. In the process of realising their ideas in three-dimension, the two faced several limitations and difficulties in terms of the materials and their adaptability; however, these they profess helped them develop new methodologies, new combinations.

Of the 800 cups used in the chandelier, 200 were recycled cups, and the entire set of around 240 glass ‘fruit-essence’ bottles used in the cube structure were used ones.

It is the first time either of them has worked on an installation, and though a lack of exact technical expertise prevented them from realising the project on a much larger scale, it is an effort worth applauding, and their determined bringing-to-fruition of an idea is one that will inspire others in similar paths.   

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About Lina Vincent Sunish 10 Articles
Lina Vincent Sunish is a Bangalore based art historian and curator.