NAVIGATING SHADOWS WITH AZRA BHAGAT
<p class="font_8">Having just celebrated India’s 75th year of independence, we all must confront what it truly means to be free— to express openly, think critically, and right previous wrongs. Both at home and across the globe, we begin to find ourselves raising our voices against the ever growing cacophony of corruption, control, environmental damage, violence, unemployment and loss of democracy.</p>
<p class="font_8">It is fitting then that newly opened APRE Art House in the heart of Mumbai’s creative district, chose to exhibit works which directly address these issues.</p>
<p class="font_8">For this month’s Praxis Journal Entry, curator at APRE, Azra Bhagat, shares with us key works from their show, Shadow Lands, and expands on its significance.</p>
Ranjeet Singh shows us labour from the point of view of strength rather than weakness in APRE Art House’s inaugural show Shadow Lands. Rather than showing us the labourers as ‘the other’ (as Edward Said critiques in his book Oriental), Singh depicts these miners as everyday people going about their jobs. Turning the ‘art for art’s sake’ slogan on its head, Singh is interested in art that makes a social commentary about the societal context it is placed within.
The Black Truth - 24
Vivid orange and bright blue drapes cover a woman working in the coal mines of Jharkhand. She stands in the foreground of the frame with the factory making an appearance in the background with its high chimneys and a crane hanging overhead. Singh has used the law of thirds in his composition of the image and the woman looks trapped between a rock of coal and the mine. It is an interesting use of space within the canvas. She holds coal with one hand and covers her face with the other perhaps trying to protect herself from the smoke of burning coal perhaps realising she’s being photographed.
The Black Truth - 21
Coal in its use and also its harvesting is detrimental to the environment in many ways. In order to get rid of the farmers who natively inhabit coal rich terrain, fires are set in the mines underneath the villages so that the land gets too hot for them to live on. The natural resources of these areas are pillaged and destroyed and recreated into infernal landscapes made up of gigantic mounds of dug-up soil. Though the beast in the image above is exaggerated and possibly mythical, it gives us a sense of the destruction of wild and human life in the process of mining coal.