Hemali Bhuta, Encounters with gold, 2017, rug in rubber, imitation of gold leaf, dust of gneiss, quartz coring, colourless lacquer and arabic eraser, 80.5 cm x 60 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai, © Photo: Aurélien Mole / CIAP de Vassivière
Born in 1978 in Mumbai where she lives and works,1 Indian artist Hemali Bhuta is presenting her first solo exhibition in Europe at the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage de Vassivière (Limousin):2 Subarnarekha (La ligne d’or) [Subarnarekha (The Golden Line)].
Hemali Bhuta, Cut Piece Corner, 2017, 70 gr/mÇ handmade cotton paper, hemp and linen, zari gold thread, 22 carats yellow gold leaf, golden ribbon, paper ribbon, powder turmeric, 360 x 44 cm not folded, production Centre international d’art et du paysage de Vassivière, 2017, Courtesy de l’artiste et Project 88, Mumbai, © Photo : Aurélien Mole / CIAP de Vassivière
Hemali Bhuta, From the pile, 2017, two cutting boards, dust of granite, turmeric, zari gold thread, 206 x 244 cm, production Centre international d’art et du paysage de Vassivière with the participation of Marbrerie Bonnichon, Courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai, © Photo: Aurélien Mole / CIAP de Vassivière.
The double title refers to a duality and conjunction of landscapes and geologies between the northeast of Indian where the Subarnarekha River flows towards the Bay of Bengal,3 which was a gold-bearing exploitation area, and this Limousin region, also known for its gold-extraction activity and in which the island and lake of Vassivière were artificially created. Bhuta thus interconnects mineral and aqueous bodies in these new artworks. The minimalist installations and modest sculptures presented are made of reworked, recycled, collected, reused, remodelled, displaced, or metamorphosised elements, which are then associated, combined, or superimposed. The artworks are dotted around the space, from the lighthouse to the little theatre, representing a pathway of moments of stasis, cross-references, and citations, within the monumental corpus of the post-modern building designed by Aldo Rossi and Xavier Fabre. The sculptures are distributed across the floor (Encounters with Gold, 2017; From the Pile, 2017), hung on the walls creating a floating effect (Cut Piece Corner, 2017), fragmented in an almost pictorial visual composition, or brought together in miniature form under glass museum display cases (Maquette for “The Fold” & Maquette for “80 Cuts”, 2017). They are thus confronted spatially, entering into conversation or contrasting with one another, and sometimes represent the memory of one with respect to another.
Hemali Bhuta, Maquette for The Fold (détail), 2017, 18 carats gold, 4 cm x 6.25 cm, production Centre international d’art et du paysage de Vassivière with the participation of jeweller’s Verlinden, Courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai, © Photos: Aurélien Mole / CIAP de Vassivière
These works by Bhuta, specific to the Limousin site, to its landscaped and environmental lines, its human or industrial activities (paper manufacturing, jewellery), and its exposed substrata (gold extraction and the gneiss stone quarries) were devised during a short artist’s residency, last autumn, on Vassivière island. They bear the marks and forms of a history that is as biographical as it is anthropological and geological, bearing witness to a symbolic and ceremonial nostalgia, that of a moment of encounter and interaction. Bhuta plumbs the depths and brings a subterranean landscape and history to the surface, which she relates to another history, to other geologies and archaeologies, other everyday rituals and practices: those of her native country, from her life and work. She had already provided glimpses of these in her previous exhibitions (The Hangover of Agarlum, 2010; Point-Shift and Quoted Objects, 2012-2013; Measure of a Foot, 2016), held at the Project 88 art centre (Mumbai), with the ordinary, worn materials used in all activities of communal and traditional Indian life. They are all forms, residues, and reappropriated materials that the artist opens up to the spectators’ probing gaze – modest and sometimes ephemeral substances (soap, beeswax, stone dust, graphite, alum, paper), or that subvert any imposing notion of form, or whose symbolic value (gold) is alienated and inversed by sculptures in miniature format.
Hemali Bhuta, Subarnarekha (La ligne d’or), exhibition view, Centre international d’art et du paysage de Vassivière, 2017, Courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai, © Photo: Aurélien Mole / CIAP of Vassivière
From Mumbai to Vassivière, Bhuta presents this golden line within a relationship of duality and acknowledgement – a rapport that seems only natural for this artist, who maintains a physical, carnal, deeply tactile, and spiritual connection with the materiality of landscapes and the rhythms of daily life and for whom the work of art is geological, involving excavation, measurement, and metamorphosis. Bhuta extracts, dissects, covers over, hammers, sets down, rubs, folds, and refolds, until she has attained the dust of things, down to a state of detritus, down to the infinitely small. As though in the open air, the Vassivière exhibition reconnects dualities, archaeologies, and layers that are always underground and intimate, which, in their telling, give rise to the work’s visceral self-reflexivity.
Hemali Bhuta, Subarnarekha (La ligne d’or), from 3 December 2017 to 11 March 2018, at the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage de Vassivière (Beaumont-du-Lac, France).