When India went into lockdown in April 2020, artist Shivani Aggarwal, like everyone else in the country, found herself stuck at home. The days spent in isolation forced her to become more sensitive to the little apartment in Delhi that she shared with her husband and daughter. "I began noticing my room and the four walls and the corners and the intersections of these walls," says Aggarwal, a painter, sculptor and photographer. The memory of these days of confinement is captured in her mixed-media artwork, Intersections: stitched white and grey panels that contain photographs of various objects, including Agarwal’s hands. "When I was alone, I began looking at things in different ways," she says. "We were left with nothing but what was in front of us."
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Aggarwal is one of eleven artists in Artspeaks India's latest photography exhibition, Poetry of Lived Spaces, A Brush with the Lens, curated by Georgina Maddox. The show, which is live on the Artspeaks India viewing room until 22 March 2022, "looks at how societies across the globe have dealt with the global pandemic and explores our lived realities through the edifice as a metaphor," as the release to the exhibition puts it. The participating artists, including Aditya Arya, Gigi Scaria, Parul Sharma, Ravi Agarwal, Sandeep Biswas and Sarah Kaushik, have all drawn on their lockdown experience to create their artworks.
"The Poetry of Lived Spaces explores how we relate to our physical spaces and how it becomes a symbol for our human existence, " says curator Georgina Maddox, pointing out that covid and the subsequent lockdown forced us to take a view of these spaces like never before. “Everything was locked down, and people were barely moving around. There was a ghostliness to those two years—something poetic and poignant, ” she says. In her curatorial essay, Maddox points out that the exhibition hopes to tease out "hidden secrets that lie buried within the edifice, the empty room with its hidden sense of abandoned glory and its past," she writes. The artists, armed with their cameras and sketchbooks, have witnessed and borne the ravages of the pandemic “with a sense of heightened empathy and a sense of stark poetry”.
Photographer Aditya Arya's photographs, for instance, capturing the DLF Gateway Tower and serpentine flyovers of Gurgaon in black-and-white, have an ethereal, otherworldly feel, while Parul Sharma's images of migrants struggling to reach home are heartbreakingly poignant. Some of the other artworks have more quotidian themes: everyday life shrunken by the pandemic. Take Gigi Scaria's Lost and Found Circles and Scattered Bits, both the artworks visual almanacs of all he lived through over the last two years, including Zoom meetings, a trip to Chandigarh, kittens who wandered into his home and grew up during the pandemic. Everything he did at that time he captured on his mobile phone, recalls Scaria, who thinks of those images as a "personal diary" of sorts. "The mood was more about waiting and loneliness," he adds.
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Poetry of Lived Spaces can be accessed on the Artspeaks India viewing room till March 22.