An upended ribcage bringing to mind an animal graveyard and associated ideas of death, decomposition and rebirth currently stands in front of a stuffed Indian rhinoceros in the natural history section of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS).
Titled ‘Cocoon’, it’s the opener to Kolkata-based artist Jayashree Chakravarty’s Earth as Haven: Under the Canopy of Love, now showing at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery in the East Wing of the museum. Curated by Roobina Karode and presented in collaboration with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi, and Akar Prakar, Kolkata, the show illustrates Chakravarty’s focus on the relationship between man and natural spaces, and the relentless changes human progress and ‘development’ have made to the planet and our idea of nature.
“Jayashree reminds us that the earth is continuously being pushed towards a precarious edge,” says Karode, noting that the artist has witnessed the rapid urbanisation of Kolkata’s Salt Lake City (Bidhan
Nagar), which destroyed the city’s wetlands and resulted in a loss of biodiversity.
With scrolls, installations and canvases, the exhibition points to a growing imbalance between spaces held by man and nature.
Chakravarty illustrates the fact that humans are taking up more and more space through insects—vital to the ecosystem, though many of us look upon them with revulsion. In ‘Cocoon’ (2010-11), she magnifies the spaces these insects escape to when humans invade their territory.
The eponymous installation of the show is a structure suspended from the ceiling. It invokes a prehistoric cave full of markings; it also has an insect’s carcass, and the tarpaulin hutment of migrant labour to highlight the other side of development. Viewers are invited to use one of the accompanying torches to investigate the belly of the installation—which is both the inside of a beastly insect and a cave in which a hundred tiny creatures hide.
Chakravarty uses natural material like leaves, twigs, roots collected from the parks and streets. Delicate Nepalese paper and other common objects like sequins create a sense of wonder that reflects questions pertaining to the use of land by man. Chakravarty’s canvases are from the last decade, which heralded imbalance in the natural world. Accompanying the exhibition is a short video that provides insight into how the work was created, repeatedly and painstakingly emphasaising the urgency with which we must reconsider our engagement with nature.
Jayashree Chakravarty’s works, like the installation Earth as Heaven(below), highlight man’s destruction of the natural world