Beyond the Blue
he third solo presentation of Galhotra’s work at the gallery, the show is spatially and conceptually divided into two parts: the first imagines looming catastrophe on earth as the planet’s resources are depleted, and the second examines questions of survival and interplanetary escape. Together, they act as a warning, imparting a sense of urgency before environmental displacement forces the population into space.
The artist’s practice centers on environmental concerns and the consequences of industrialization and globalization. Offering a counter to the conventional approach to environmental studies, Galhotra seeks to expand the discourse to include history, theory, political intervention, economy, tradition, and culture when considering the current state of environmental degradation. Her process-oriented practice is based in both research and intuition; her work dwells between the personal and public, reality and belief, and science and spirituality to explore the shifting landscape of society.
Featured in the first room of the gallery are molded paper works imagining the earth’s landscape after its resources have been exhausted, offering a picture of the consequences of our perpetual denial and refusal to forgo the perceived comforts of development and capitalism. In working with paper, an inherently delicate material, Galhotra meditates on the ephemerality of the planet’s resources and the fragility of our existence. In these performative works, the paper terrain is cast from a concrete mold, resulting in a topography that acts as a record of the artist’s creative process - a process through which Galhotra enacts the wounding of our planet, impressing upon the viewer the damage caused by human activity.
Comprised of eight large tondos from her current series Life on Mars, the second part of the exhibition offers a vision for the future of civilization in response. In reference to this present body of work, Galhotra cites the following text by Radhika Subramaniam, Director and Chief curator at Parsons The New School of Design:
There are signs of flowing water on Mars, says the news, bringing an unexpected thrill to a Monday morning. We see reflected in our neighbor some of the potencies of our own liquid planet. With water comes the promise of life. Without it, all is latent...
Water slips its way into every crevice of our lives. It crashes into our imaginations even as it rocks us to sleep. It appears as a welcome glass of hospitality; it coaxes a seed to sprout; it soothes the parched land. It appears as a leak in the roof; a puddle on the road; a dripping faucet and in the frustration before the mute mouth of many an Indian municipal tap. We are lulled into complacency by its quiet foundational flow until its ravaging excesses—as floods, hurricanes and tsunamis—command our attention.
A pillar of life, water is also central to Galhotra’s artistic practice. Her work has been deeply influenced by the Yamuna River, a sacred source of life that flows through the city of New Delhi and is in a critical state of exploitation and pollution. Her new series is specifically concerned with the water crisis, as the earth faces an increasing shortage of viable freshwater sources, and turns to the evidence of water on Mars as an answer. Using intricately woven metal ghungroos characteristic of her practice, Galhotra deconstructs images of the surface of Mars sourced from NASA research to create surreal, celestial landscapes. Through her meticulous, effortful process, Galhotra interrogates a utopian vision of Mars, the shimmering beauty of the resulting works revealing both the hope and delusion of an interplanetary escape.
The speculative image of Mars proposes a new theory of colonization, holding the question of whether a future habitat will be built on the same hierarchical orders that destroyed the earth. Galhotra also seeks to highlight the absurdity of our times, where we use advancing technology to search beyond ourselves rather than to conserve and invest in the planet’s resources. As progress takes the form of avoidance and escapism, Galhotra instead urges us to embrace the wounded, fragile planet. Amidst hope and despair, reality and delusion, the essential question remains one of survival.