Home: Residence/ Dwelling/ Safe house/ Place of love and warmth, of duties and responsibilities. How far do we stray from home and do we ever come back?
Veteran photographer Sunil Gupta's new curatorial project titled Home & Away brings together the work of nine Indian and international photographers, including his own. The selection of photographs reflects each artist's personal vision of home, or their memory of it. The introductory text ends such — "Without a deliberate bias, it's interesting that the women are looking inwards to a domestic environment and the men are on the outside; either away or strangers in their own homes." This strain runs through my head as I view the photographs, consciously taking note of the gender of the photographer behind each image and this for me, sets the tone of the show.
The exhibition opens with the work of Portuguese Pedro Maçãs. His black and white photographs of dissolute construction sites are from the series "The storm that bends the birch trees", drawn from a poem by Bertolt Brecht on violence that metaphorically exposes many of the half-way abandoned housing projects in an economically struggling Portugal. On the opposite wall, equally large and imposing are images taken on the streets of New Delhi and New York titled Catskills, by Rishi Singhal, who charts the awkward relationship between natural and built environments. Both artists are preoccupied with documenting the changing urban landscape yet while Maçãs looks inside its architecture, Singhal explores the fringes outside. Placed on a table in the corner is a box of cards called Querencias by Dinesh Abiram, a medley of text and image that hold personal memories reflecting the manner in which a person affects his habitat.
An adjacent room is devoted to Gupta's fourteen prints from Stockwell, 2014. The series responds to the frequently asked question as to where Gupta comes from; to which he replies, "I am from India, but now live on Stockwell". The photographs are a narrative of his musings, of everyday observations of life in Stockwell — the corner of a building, a ramshackle garage door, a neon road sign or a decorated window display.
Without a deliberate bias, it’s interesting that the women are looking inwards to a domestic environment and the men are on the outside; either away or strangers in their own homes.
Anusha Yadav's Home, An Irrevocable Condition poetically expresses how the home is a reflection of the woman who resides in it. Each image is accompanied by a biographical note of the woman photographed in the "comfort of her own home". Along a similar thread of domesticity are Deborah Lorraine Grant's more emotionally charged 28 Days, 28 Dinners. Suffering from chronic pain, the work documents each of the 28 dinners she cooked for her husband, accompanied here too with autobiographical entries on how and what was cooked, why she decided to order take-out or sometimes never eat at all.
Charan Singh’s Not At Home series questions male stereotypes
Continuing on the first floor is Charan Singh's Not at Home that alternatively questions male domesticity amidst social stereotypes of masculinity and heroism. He chooses to photograph himself within familial settings in the landscape of his home, ironically telling of what comes across as obviously awkward and forced. There could not have been a more apt title!
A further renewal of family album photography is invigorated in the accordion styled book of memories, Native Place by Aditi Thekkuveettil, who belongs to parents of mixed parentage and wondered which she was more of. Beside this, is a series of ugly close-ups of a communal home in Northern London where Anna Fox grew up. A stained wall, a chipped marble counter, a child's drawing, an assemblage of junk food and candy wrappers — relics of those who lived in 40 Hewit Road (1996-99), each a document of memory, each wanting to be forgotten.
The sequence in which Gupta has chosen to exhibit each artist's work echoes a sense of "being led" from the outside to the inside, from a landscape to a mindscape and thereby, to a deeper understanding of emotions and relationships. By ending with the work of Fox, Gupta cleverly provokes the viewer to question the idea of home and wherein it lies! The exhibition is amongst the better I've seen in Delhi over the past few months and well worth the visit.