Shrimanti Saha’s practice reveals a highly cognitive and deeply perceptual understanding of the world at large, which she approaches through historical and contemporary sources and systems of knowledge – from news reports, Indian miniatures, science fiction, literary criticism, cinema, European art history, comic books, architecture and natural almanacs, among others. Her multi-narrative works are plotted in assemblage and explore esoteric themes surrounding the Anthropocentric human condition, leaning into visual and intellectual contradictions to dissolve subjective divisions of time as well as play with juxtapositions between vibrancy and rupture, and pedagogy and humour. Using her imagination to enter, interpret and edit a plethora of these impressions and references, Saha maps alternative histories or futures in the viewing frame of the present effectively offering up bold and dynamic dreamscapes, where the possibilities of truth for the questions that matter are endless – particularly around the global ecological crises, human interventions in knowledge and political maneuvers of control. Saha’s magical realism supports a world built on organic creatures, visceral characters and fragmented structures, yielding surrealist manifestations in imagery much of which repeats in her narratives as poetic vocabulary. Much of her ruminations on form come from natural history books and imperial archives that detail the flora and fauna of colonized nations, as well as quotations from European art history, culturalized imagery and media interventions.
Saha’s long-awaited solo exhibition Reveries in the Atelier endears the studio as a space for performance rooted in both creativity and chaos. As we’re invited to read her works as one might a novel or poem, the act of viewing becomes subsumed in camouflage as much as reveal, leaving us with open-ended interpretations that intimate a secret beginning in the artist’s subjectivity. The ingenious confluence of Saha’s posterity and futurism is explored through objectivity in her works on paper, autobiography in her oils and experiment in her animations – a cohesive body of work being presented together for the first time.
Paintings like The Bear Hunt, The Dance Party, Fire in the Museum, Monument Formation and City of Djinns present stirred characters implementing haphazard gestures surrounding issues of identity, control, gender, representation and ecology in a kind of theatrical diorama. Her forays into oil consider traditions of Euro-centric painting in India alongside the relevant materiality of oil as a medium, and adopt a more personal voice; in works like Red Studio, Nightmare and Studio Visit, an existential figure invokes the perplexities of the creative process that involve companion instincts to articulate and to silence. Finally, Saha presents a series of analogue, hand-drawn animations like The Secret Matriarchy, Bulldozer Babu and Clash of Perspectives – recreating an alternative origin story of the woman, addressing inequalities in feudal systems and commenting on the supposed westernization of India – that level-up on comedy and irrationality through sound and moving image in familiar subjects that she otherwise deals with more clinically in her painting.