Sheela Gowda, And…, 2007. Installation view Photograph: Vegard Kleven. Courtesy of the artist

Exhibition : 29 April – 26 June 2010

Sheela Gowda: Postulates of Contiguity

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Sheela Gowda's work And…(2007) performs linearly within OCA's space, through a form that is inscribed by a meticulous and laborious process of production that is central to it. And…was produced by the artist in her studio in Bangalore starting from simple raw materials: 120 sewing needles and 120 red threads. As if in preparation for hand sewing, Gowda led each thread, measuring 230 metres in length, through the eye of each needle, doubling the thread at its centre. The threaded needles were then gathered together into an aggregate base that was bound together with a compound paste of a wood-based glue and kumkum - a powder made from turmeric mixed with slaked lime and traditionally used for religious rituals and body adornment. The kumkum was methodically layered by Gowda along the serpentine thread, producing three separate cords of sanguine hues - the first two measuring 115 metres and the third 60 metres in length. Placed within the project space, the work transposes its material line drawing into a site-specific installation that establishes a set of relationships: of each of the ropes with the other two, of the head of the rope (the needles) to the tails (the loose ends) and the body, of the lines described by the cords to the space they occupy.

As an axiom or postulate in space, the work is not only self-evident as a physical rope, but it is also informed by its process of production, which reflects a set of relationships and unresolved contradictions - contradictions that reverberate between the physical tactility of materials, textures and colours, the process from which the work results, and the eventual abstraction that results.

For the last two decades, Gowda has been making artworks in which abstract compositions construct meanings through suggestion, avoiding strident statements and relying on very specific local materials - cow dung, metal pipes and coconut fibre, charcoal and incense, ash, human hair and embroidery - which might suggest an instinctual interpretation of her work within the tradition of craft and textile making. Yet this type of reading would inevitably short-circuit the complexity of Gowda's practice, which transposes these elements into social objects located within a network of production and distribution, and frames them in relation to India's socio-political legacy.

In the wake of the Bombay riots of 1992, Gowda adopted a reflective consciousness toward fractional violence in India - an attitude that would result 10 years later in Best Cutting (2008). Formally consisting of pages from a newspaper titled The Chronic Chronicle, Best Cutting is composed of newspaper clippings gathered for over a decade by Gowda and her partner Christoph Storz. Through this collection of clippings of humourous, tragic or erroneous news stories, Best Cutting renders explicit the political references that are always present in Gowda's work - for example, the State of Uttar Pradesh in the northern region of India; the polemics around the Bharatiya Janata Party; the ironies of Best Bakery Case and the person of Zahira Sheikh (a witness of communal carnage later sentenced to a jail term); the expulsion of Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh; the political successes of the Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi; or the reflective issues inherent to the land policy toward the rural poor in India. These news stories serve as the backdrop for shapes that suggest how social constructions and ways of doing are created and maintained - with real patterns sourced from a tailoring book that gave its title to the piece.

Together, both works use lines to undermine explicit narrative constructions of space - be it the exhibition space or the social space. Together, they short-circuit referential systems, as the relationships that are established between red and green tailoring on the page and red threads on the space ultimately dismiss the principles of continuity and coherence - principles that are supposed to regulate the ways that we perceive and understand our position in the world.

'Sheela Gowda: Postulates of Continguity' has been supported by O3-funds as underwritten by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for enhancing collaboration in the contemporary art field with professional artists in countries designated by the MFA. The purpose of the O3-funds as allocated to OCA is to further develop cooperation and professional networking between OCA and the constituency of artists, independent cultural producers, and organisations that are located in designated countries.