Pooja Iranna, The Meltdown (detail), 2019. Staple pins, 106 x 4 x 40 in. Photo: Yogesh and Raj Salhotra, Courtesy Studio Art, New Delhi

“Silent Conflicts”

New Delhi

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre

Conflict does not necessarily occur over resources and geographical boundaries or between races, religions, or beliefs. There are silent conflicts within us as well, related to the inner self and personal physical space. In today’s world of consumerism and social media, with its focus on material possessions, conflict arises between who we are, what we possess, what we want to show, how the world perceives us, and our obsession with it all. “Silent Conflicts” gave form to this multifaceted war that wages within us. Curator Ashna Singh, director of Studio Art Gallery in New Delhi, made a brilliant selection of 12 artists whose work differs in terms of material, medium, and vision. Yet her choices sat comfortably together, showcasing inner conflict in all its dimensions. Many of the works were commissioned for the show. Singh began her conceptualization in September 2018 with an initial list of 25 artists, which she then narrowed to include Gigi Scaria, Jagannath Panda, Justin Ponmany, Khalil Chishtee, Pooja Iranna, Ranbir Kaleka, Reena Saini Kallat, Shivani Aggarwal, Sonia Khurana, Sudarshan Shetty, Sumedh Rajendran, and Veer Munshi.

Gigi Scaria’s amusingly titled bronze Please, don’t touch..!, which depicts a man precariously perched on a pole, balancing a mountain on his head with another pole, reflects a familiar mental state—it only takes one little push to lose mental equilibrium, at which point everything comes crashing down. The placid calm in Ranbir Kaleka’s Turbulence, Veiled, Unveiled, a video installation with digital collage on canvas, is shattered by the sounds of a storm-tossed ship. The noise hits deeply, reflecting how someone can look peaceful even though an internal storm may be brewing. Shivani Aggarwal’s work takes on a new inflection with a functional hammer breaking the self, symbolized in terra-cotta bricks. Pooja Iranna’s signature steel staples in Reconciliation Attempts are set in a revolving circle to reflect how we constantly make adjustments in order to deal with internal and external circumstances. Salvation comes in the form of Sudarshan Shetty’s Combat Kit, a survival kit that enables one to carry on with the business of life.

For Singh, this was an extremely relevant topic. She says, “We as humans forget that each one of us is going through his or her own struggle and journey, that everybody is trying to find a certain place of peace within themselves. We judge humans, situations, environments, and a lot of times we blame them for what our life has turned out to be, without taking responsibility for our own actions. This is because we are not conscious beings. We often come from a place of conditioning, thus we forget that each one of us is trying hard to coexist harmoniously. It is this inner turmoil of conflict that I wanted to highlight through these mediums of expression.”