Sheela Gowda - Remains
April 4–September 15, 2019
Pirelli HangarBicocca presents Remains, Italy’s first major solo show of works by Sheela Gowda. Featured in the monumental and undivided space of the Navate, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to discover more than 20 years of Gowda’s production. In addition to new works, the show includes a wide selection of site-specific installations and sculptures, as well as watercolors and prints, ranging from 1996 through the present day, giving shape to an unprecedented experience of her practice.
Sheela Gowda (born in Bhadravati, Karnataka, India, 1957; lives and works in Bangalore) has developed her work through a constant dialog and exchange between local artistic traditions and international forms of art. In the mid-1980s Gowda started her transition from the pictorial space to three-dimensional works, definitively breaking the “frame” within her practice. On the one hand, this transition responded to a personal need to reach beyond representation and intervene directly within the space. On the other hand, it responded to the artist’s determination to actively include the audience within her artwork. More importantly, it was a response to the sociopolitical situation in India in the 1980s and 1990s.
Remains at Pirelli HangarBicocca brings more than 20 pieces together, ranging from different periods and constructed using various materials and scales. The exhibition attempts to highlight both Gowda’s poetic and her political practices, grounded on a thoughtful and perceptive view of the world, accompanied by an awareness of the symbolic and communicative value of matter, objects and their remains. This selection of works also conveys her engagement with the process of defining form as a way of transforming meaning.
The artist addressed these concerns through direct manipulation and quiet but tenacious confrontation with a series of new materials that she gradually added to her work, such as cow dung, which became the basic material for her paintings and sculpture. Its presence in her work is not exotic, but dictated by the cultural environment in which Gowda works. In the early 1990s, Gowda began using other everyday objects and materials with highly metaphorical and political meaning, including tar drums, ritual pigments, hair rope, needles, thread, incense and rubber.
For the artist the liturgy—the transformative ritual that occurs during a highly performance-based process of manipulation, confrontation and conversation with her materials—remains fundamental. Sheela Gowda redefines the pathos of things, their feelings and affections; a relational condition between objects, their reasons for being and their behaviors. It is a “moment of encounter,” understood not as a moment in time but as a kind of force that allows a particular set of circumstances to come together.
The exhibition is curated by Nuria Enguita, Director of Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia; and Lucia Aspesi, Assistant Curator at Pirelli HangarBicocca.
In October 2019 an adapted version of this show will travel to Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia.
Sheela Gowda’s works have been exhibited in numerous solo shows at international institutions, including Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2017); Pérez Art Museum, Miami, Para Site, Hong Kong (2015); Centre international d'art et du paysage, Vassivière, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2013-14); Iniva, London (2011), Office for Contemporary Art (OCA), Oslo (2010). Sheela Gowda has also taken part in major group shows, including 31st São Paulo Biennale (2014); 1st Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012); 53rd Venice Biennale, 9th Sharjah Biennale (2009); 9th Lyon Biennale, documenta 12 (2007). Recently the artist was awarded with the 2019 Maria Lassnig Prize.
Remains is accompanied by a catalogue raisonné dedicated to the exhibition and to Sheela Gowda’s production from the early 1990s through the present day. The publication, including the installation views at Pirelli HangarBicocca, features critical essays by art historian Geeta Kapur and writer and curator Pablo Lafuente, a text on the show by the curators as well as as well as contributions by Roger M. Buergel, Grant Watson, Anthony Downey, Abhishek Hazra, Jessica Morgan, Zehra Jumabhoy, Marta Kuzma and Tobias Ostrander.