Inspired by a range of personal archives and old photographs, artist Remen Chopra’s works speak volumes about her personal journey. By Sakshi Sharma
Two-dimensional art installations using mulmul panel fill a spiral staircase. Several pictures of a woman in red kurta and blue pants in different poses are juxtaposed here. These look like a series of photos where the subject is caught mid-motion delving deep into spirituality. Amid a white backdrop, the works denote transition through time and captures several movements of the human body.
This is the first thing that grabs our attention as we witness artist Remen Chopra’s exhibition at Jorbagh. She takes us around and narrates some stories of how she constructed these thought-provoking pieces that resonate with the passage of time as well as human emotions.
“While shifting, I was going through migration and displacement. It was then that I realised that in order to calm myself, I need to find answers. So after going through all this, I questioned myself, ‘What makes me feel at home and safe?’ So I started writing and researching. I also tried to explore my maternal space. This is how the whole exhibition came together organically,” says Remen.
Through Memory’s Cut: Its Deep Embrace, she has transformed 24 Jor Bagh into a series of personal spaces, which reflect her reminiscence of home. The works depict her personal journey of migration as she questions the notions of home, lineage, space and time.
She uses various media like photography, drawing, sculpture, textiles and sound, which showcase her personal and familial histories of migration. The works include poetry and personal objects that were passed on matrilineally from one generation to the other.
The artist also recalls the stories of her family from Tehran, Rawalpindi and Shimla, which were narrated to her by her grandmother. She uses wood and embroidery on a cloth to write a poem, Under the lime tree, from her grandmother’s archive.
Inspired by Egyptian architecture, Imaginary landscapes: Shimla, Rawalpindi, is a work with recycled wood. The artist creates imaginary topographic maps to explore the feeling of dislocation. The maps, painted rust on three different black walls with triangular ends at some places, depict both the places, Rawalpindi and Shimla, which co-exist in one space and time. Along with the maps, there is also a collection of wooden pieces kept in a linear form. When one tries to comprehend them, the artist tells us that it is Urdu poetry.
Moving further, we also come across pieces which makes one wonder how she has constructed such complex monochromatic montages and layers of photographs with glass and mulmul. They vividly capture a fleeting moment of time. While the figures evoke a sense of mystery in us, the artist grows nostalgic.
One can clearly see a strong presence of the feminine forms in her works which reflect her idea of regeneration, nurturing and balancing. To what shore would you cross is a work with recycled wood. A maroon heirloom carpet that has been passed on from one generation to another has two rust lines at the ends which look like sculptures. It also represents the vagina and questions birth and regeneration. The artist questions, “how do we relate to our mothers and grandmothers through objects?”
All her works are in black and white with just a hint of rust in places. While one wonders if she has intentionally done it to revive old memories, the artist says, “I always work with monochromes. When I was studying in New York and exploring the idea and notion of time, I saw a lot of black and white films and got inspired by cinematic references. That was when I let go of the colours.”
Time has been a constant attraction for the artist. She says that the continuous circular movement of the past, present and future is hard to ignore. This is quite evident in her works as they seem to bridge the gap between history and now.