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Each living thing contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction and transformation into the other. This belief is fundamental to Indian cosmology and, as an artist from India, this has been a important influence on my work. The tension in my work arises from the co-existence of opposing forces that both drive and resist transformation. The changes brought about by metamorphosis and evolution create a desire for a magical world in which the subjective and the objective are indistinguishable. Notions of transformation and more specifically transmogrification form the leitmotif of my work.

I explore these notions by creating fantastic and enchanted worlds that inhabit the space between realities. My work is informed by memory and myths recast in a contemporary context.

"In the subconscious mind there are no distinctions between myth and magic.
For the child or for primitive man, no distinctions exist between the actual and the fantastic. So if you can believe in the actual elephant, there is no reason why you cannot believe in a creature that is half human and half elephant."

The tension created by this co-existence of transformative forces provides the basis for balancing my ceramic practice and conceptual narratives explored though cross-disciplinary instillation.

It is important to me that my work be as aesthetically eloquent as it is conceptually meaningful.

Aesthetically I am investigating the heterogeneous aspect of beauty and the grotesque. My installation Untitled 2005, incorporating mixed media elements of clay, wire and water, is a primordial yet dystopian work. The act of incubating-ideas, embryos or entire worlds-suggests a decaying existence headed towards a radical transformation, where the seeds of the future have been sown. In my installation Vanitas, the reflection of wrapped decomposing fruits hung over ceramic bowls filled with what may be the blood or essence of the fruits explores the nostalgia of something diminishing. And in my installation His Master's Voice, themes of metamorphosis and marginalization inherent in the consequences of religious fundamentalism are implied through life-sized hybrid ceramic figures focused towards a deified center.

My most recent works, Abol Tabol and Supper with a Vulture, build on childhood memories. Supper with a Vulture is an animated fable that playfully explores entropy and altered perception while concealing a dark centre. With childlike innocence, a girl and a vulture sit at a table, lovingly eating a meal together. Soon they begin to devour each other. "Abol Tabol is a multimedia installation inspired by the nonsense rhyme of Kolkata's beloved poet Sukumar Ray. In the poem Khichuri Sukumar Ray claims he defies the grammarian to create his world of beasts, birds, insects and amphibians combining with each other to create such non-actual beings. The world of grammar is the reverse of this magical world: it is unambiguous, tautological, well-ordered and perhaps necessary." The installation reinvents the poet's half-human, half-animal creatures and combines them with a medley of Kolkata street sounds in a gently satirical commentary on social mores.

I am currently working on a ceramic carpet titled Aswattha or the inverted tree. The Inverted Tree in the Bhagvad Gita, one of Hinduism's sacred books, is a cosmic tree with its roots in the sky and its branches below. For this work I have combined two of the oldest and richest traditional arts of the "orient", the carpets of Persia and porcelain of China which were traded along the Silk Route that connected the three great Asian kingdoms of Persia, India and China. Today the balance of power-economic, political and military-is shifting back to these very countries. This work, reflecting this seismic shift, brings together these two mediums and makes them both dysfunctional and subversive. In this it reflects the central theme of much of my work, which is based on interwoven cultures, the ease or unease of the transplant, and the fertile ground that makes for the birth of hitherto unusual and fantastic life forms.

This awareness of how myth and culture can be re-examined in new ways will continue to be engaged in my work.






© 2010-, Nidhi Jalan