Her : Within and without

HER: Within and Without is a two-year collaboration between ceramic artist Ruby Jhunjhunwala and lens based artist Shraddha Borawake. The collaboration brings together Ruby’s 40 years’ experience with the elements of clay, earth and fire and Shraddha’s 15 years work in photography, image and representation. What started as a fun project soon evolved into a collaborative large-scale mixed media installation.

The journey started with eight discarded photographs from Shraddha’s archives, taken at Dahegaon, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra, while on an assignment for a corporate calendar.  The images had a strong focus on rural life, its textures, colors and other such cultural caches that inspired expansion beyond their discarded existence. Ruby interacted with these images to slowly render them in her ceramic language along with her team at Adipa studio in Tara Baug, Pune. Ruby says “I loved the strong rani pink color (a very Indian color). I also instantly saw how the pattern of rural background would translate in clay and fire. This gave life to the inceptive ceramics, which were a simple replica of the image.”

Installation View from Her - Within and Without at Mona Lisa Gallery, October 2015, Pune, India 

Installation View from Her - Within and Without at Mona Lisa Gallery, October 2015, Pune, India 

The set of photographs were initially used with no definite direction or idea. The goal was to find out where the two mediums would meet and how they would co-exist within a frame. ‘Her: Within and Without’ was a gradual evolution of this thought process. The photographic series was retouched and presented specifically to engage in the motion and flow of the godhadi and the photographer’s position while shooting. Shraddha helped the female subject’s hidden identity to emerge from behind the veil of the godhadi being dusted. Ruby, meanwhile focused on emulating the gentle flow of the fabric and challenging the plasticity of clay. Somewhere along the process they started thinking beyond the mediums of clay and photographic prints; WOMEN in the pictures became the focus.

A dialogue emerged between the language of clay and images. The artworks started taking shape through the unpredictable nature of fire. The photographic imagination multiplied and deconstructed forms within the infinite possibilities of digital experimentation, finally representing a new thought and material that came out of this discovery. The two artists bound by Her image, and Her peripheries mingled their energies, meandering through an emancipating flow. 

This collaboration by nature has been an artistic, personal, familial, social and spiritual exploration of two artists living in Pune, and engaging with an identity particular to these roots. Both practicing two different mediums, coming from two different generations and with distinct ideologies in art, transcended questions of authorship, thus never impeding the production of ideas. The whole artwork reflects a very clean gentle yet powerful feminine feel. The installations flow into each other without any distinct boundaries. 

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The ‘godhadi’ became the main muse; a trope and symbolic representation of a disappearing culture. It probed an investigation of the Indian female identity in the present context. … Who and What is an Indian woman in the post globalization world? The godhadi is not only hand stitched, but is an inherent part of our culture. For Shraddha the whole idea of recycling and the social aspect of this activity was a point to explore. The upcycling of discarded images resonated as one of the many layers in this work.  It led to the exploration of printing on fabric, and fragmenting the image while slowly processing traditional norms into a contemporary narrative.

 Godhadis are made in rural areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. These quilts are prepared using torn and faded pieces of cloth from dhotis, saris, skirts, ghagras and so on. They are used to wrap babies because of their old fabric which is soft and warm. Daughters are given a godhadi as a part of their trousseau. This central point of focus has emanated in many ways as Ruby’s established practice and studio has been a point of cross generational dialogue. Her life steeped in tradition has rooted many ethereal concepts in this ethnic quest.

For Ruby the entire project is an experience of reappearing dialogues. She says, “Many facets of my life that felt like bygones are re-emerging in every aspect of this photograph. It takes me back to the memories of stitching and sowing, as we cousins and sisters sat around the verandah on a sunny winter morning, chatting and trying to finish a school craft project. Then I find myself disappearing within the old doors - an inquisitiveness to see the life within (as if I was back into my childhood home in Dholpur).Those rugged over-worn shoes and the scattered chappals remind me of the era of way side cobblers that is slowly disappearing.
Machine made cheap foot wear is replacing the old with urgency and it seems the shoes are begging me to take a look at them before they fall into extinction.
The niche (allaa) in the tumbling, crumbling mud wall beckons; was it here the oil lamp was kept? When I was a child, electricity hadn’t come into Kalpi my mother’s village home.”

Shraddha says “Working on the project “Her” has been one hell of a roller coaster. From dissecting to expanding to narrowing down; the journey is endless. Through the ebbs and flow of creation, destruction and fragmentation there has been rebuilding of visuals, materials, composite, nets, structures, concepts, series and single works. My soul is one accelerated vehicle, and I’m in it, and how! The question is how to glide through it? How to flow smoothly? Is it the creative process that drives you, or you that drive the creativity? How do you not be helplessly at the mercy of the insane possibilities within limited time of 24 hours in a day, as endless hours are spent improving?”

The entire show stands unique as a pure experience of two creative persons.

There is neither a desire nor an attempt to breakdown traditional notions of sculpture, art or form. It is a portrayal of what two artists experience when they collaborate and work with unfamiliar mediums. Throughout the space there is a strong hint of provocation without actually demanding it. 

Yes there is a conveyance that to be a female artist one does not necessarily have to defy important roles that a women plays in her life. Ruby has never regretted being in her role of wife, mother, daughter in law and care giver. While Shraddha has tested current norms by experiencing both the aspects of modern approach and traditional expectations in order to find her own balance. As this dialog continues, it is a constant feeling of CURIOSITY. The longer you look, story upon story unfolds till the mind becomes still and only an EXPERIENCE remains.