The show, consisting of over twenty paintings and collages on canvas, is vibrant and energetic. A sense of joy and playful vigour is demonstrated in these colourful canvases. However beneath this display of indulgence in colour are veilings of mystery and concealment. A sense of absence permeates through the thin veiling saris, a subject which dominates the show.
Fragile yet Strong is the earliest work in the show, produced over eight years ago. The small, square, acrylic on canvas is hidden away in the recesses of the gallery but should not be overlooked. The layered, painted surface has been delicately overlaid and scratched into, producing an image of thread and silk in a delicate, feminine manner. The most successful painting of the show, there is a simple beauty in the richness of the painted weaves and pared-back surface. A thin, fragile membrane of paint, reminiscent of lace, is used as a means of cloaking what lurks beneath. This may be the origin of the recurring veil and sari in Chanda’s practice.
Three collaged works, hung close together, make an elegant and opulent display. Each collage consists of a piece of highly ornate, decadent crimson fabric, intricately embroidered or woven with rich gold thread. These pieces of fabric are attached to the canvas so as to flow seamlessly with the painted surfaces. Drapery has traditionally been kept to the background of paintings, its folds used to fill the vacant space. Chanda subverts this tradition, creating a primary subject and bestowing value and importance onto a pictorial element historically reserved for decoration.
Many saris contain a deeply personal significance in Indian culture. An important heirloom and personal piece of heritage, these fine cloths are passed down through generations, from mother to daughter. The delicate silk fabric may become moth-eaten and degraded, but the borders, with their highly decorative stitching, usually survive. Chanda removes these alluring pieces of fabric and in an act of appropriation sacrifices them to become once again an elegant sari, but as a painted image this time.
Yellow Sari is of particular significance to Chanda. The sari from which the fabric was removed was bought for her by her mother when she was nineteen, shortly before she left for India. The artist revealed there are very personal messages and memories bound up within this fabric, messages she needs to remain hidden. There is a duality lurking within these saris. The veil is both a symbol for an actual, real secret and is itself used for hiding behind. It is both metaphor and disguise.
Drapery is often used to cover and conceal, hiding what should not be seen. In these images, the pieces of cloth indicate a veneer or masquerade. There is no figure or form on which to drape these pieces of clothing, they are simply floating and arching in the air. Although bound up in tradition, these real pieces of fabric have been relieved of their function and heritage as clothing and now exist as mere fragments, remnants of their past.
Deep Within is an overtly decedent exhibition which explores issues of secrecy and opulence. The thinly veiled folds of real and pictorial fabric both engage us in the mystery of their origins and conceal something the artist wishes to hide.