‘Only Life, Myriad Places’ by Sudarshan Shetty at Ishara Art Foundation

Sudarshan Shetty, Still from Waiting for others to arrive (2013). Single channel video played in loop, 10:36 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sudarshan Shetty’s artistic practice navigates the intricate realms of both inner and outer dimensions of everyday existence. Through his creations, the lines between dreams and reality, memories and fantasies, and tangible objects and ethereal spectres blur, spotlighting the impermanent and ever-shifting essence of all entities. In the realm of “Only Life, Myriad Places,” viewers embark on a journey into the intricate mazes of the mind, experienced through moving images and intricate mise en scènes. In this context, places, individuals, and narratives that appear familiar become estranged, leading audiences to ponder whether the films portray someone’s dream or if the viewers themselves reside within the dreams of the characters on screen.

Sudarshan Shetty, Still from The Juggler (2012). Single channel video played in loop, 8:04 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist.

The exhibition at Ishara showcases eight significant works from Shetty’s extensive portfolio, revealing his deep and rare fascination with the musical and literary traditions of South Asia. Within the unique interdisciplinary framework of his practice, a central motif prevalent throughout the exhibition is the “poetics of listening.” In Shetty’s repertoire, videos, images, objects, and texts fleetingly inhabit the space, akin to musical notes that are simultaneously tangible yet elusive, repetitive yet novel.

Shetty’s creative approach transcends the traditional role of art as a relic confined to museums. His works beckon toward domains of the sacred, the mystical, and the mundane, all of which are in constant flux. The remnants of physical objects persist as after-images in the minds of viewers, transitioning from one room to the next. Prioritising the act of hearing as a primary sense in the engagement with art, “One Life, Myriad Places” encourages individuals to perceive the world through multifaceted lenses.

Sudarshan Shetty reflects on the exhibition, stating, “Much like the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East is steeped in a captivating tradition of poetry and storytelling. The interaction between these distant lands has birthed a cross-pollination of stories, blending myths, legends, and folktales into a vibrant mosaic resonating through both regions. The retelling of narratives is integral to oral traditions, fostering a sense of community and transmitting wisdom accumulated over centuries. It’s a way to comprehend our present.”

“Only Life, Myriad Places” pays tribute to the diverse traditions of music, literature, and storytelling that have traversed centuries, now presented through a contemporary artistic lens. The exhibition is accompanied by physical and virtual tours, educational programs, public engagement, and discussions with the artist throughout its duration.

Sudarshan Shetty, Still from Age of Love (2019). Single channel video installation, 15:48 minutes, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.

About Sudarshan Shetty

Born in 1961 and currently residing in Mumbai, Sudarshan Shetty underwent formal training in painting at the Sir J.J. School of Art before transitioning to sculpture and installation as his primary mediums. As a conceptual artist, he is celebrated for creating enigmatic pieces through hybrid constructions, mechanical devices, and multimedia compositions that fuse Indian and Western traditions. Shetty’s art is rooted in an extensive exploration of materials and the juxtaposition of forms from disparate cultural realms. Shetty’s achievements include being a Ford Foundation Fellow at the New School for General Studies (New York) and an artist-in-residence at the Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh). In 1999, he was commissioned as the sole Indian artist to create a public sculpture in Fukuoka for the Hakata Riverain Art Project. His works are displayed at both public and private art collections, such as the Devi Art Foundation, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Frank Cohen Museum of Modern Art, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Vanhaerents Art Collection, Ishara Art Foundation, and The Prabhakar Collection.

Location: Ishara Art Foundation, Alserkal, Dubai, UAE

Date: 25 August 2023 – 9 December January 2023

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