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Sheela Gowda

16 June — 3 September 2017

Born in Bhadravati, India in 1957, Gowda studied Painting at the Royal College of Art during the 1980s under the eminent British figurative artist Peter de Francia. Her practice subsequently developed to include installations in more abstracted configurations. As a response to the political situation in the early 90’s, Gowda’s work became more material based, whilst eschewing didacticism.

A new work in Ikon’s exhibition sees the artist source sheets of flattened metal drums – often used to transport tree resin or oil –  to recycle into ‘Bandlis’: metal bowls, used extensively in the Indian construction industry to carry concrete slurry, sand and other building materials. Each sheet is cut by hand into 8 circular parts that are then pressed in hand-operated machines into shallow bowls. The process itself yields forms that the artist foregrounds.

 “The Bandli, however humble its connotations, belongs to the best of Indian design, and as a tool it says a lot about society. It could, for example, never be a European tool. In Europe the wheelbarrow, the counter tool to the Bandli – speaks about how to stress the limits of manpower, however dependent of the person pushing it. Bandli and wheelbarrow have two completely different concepts of efficiency. The wheelbarrow is more like a basic machine simulating a mule, while the Bandli seems to grow together with the worker lifting it on her head.

   Obviously a Bandli has to remain small, it seems to be more at peace with possibilities and natural efficiency of any human anatomy, and it can be so because there is an abundance of anatomically normal people waiting to be employed. Its form already tells that human labour is available easily and that the concept of time here allows many small steps instead of a few big ones. The Bandli is the needle’s eye through which the substance of even high-rise buildings of Bengaluru has passed.”