A woman is watching coniferous trees which are glistening with fresh rainwater. A leaf falls. The action happens. A flower blooms and a butterfly visits the flower. Is it autumn or spring? You don’t know. But you know that this is the season of happiness… This is the season of hope… This is the season to fall in love with yourself. These thoughts are evoked by one of artist Mekhala Bahl’s drawings, called Trees, which took me back to my own childhood. Just after fresh rains I used to shake the trees using both my hands to make the tiny droplets resting on the leaves fall on my face, the ones which used to have thin barks and were feeble by nature. Those trees had just received the rains. There was a heavenly feeling when the drops were received by my face. I still look at such trees with awe and immense gratitude which have made a part of my childhood nothing short of wonderful. The story of Trees it seems is set in the mountains, but the feelings and emotions it evokes could be from anywhere and everywhere.
This is the magic Mekhala creates in her latest solo exhibition, is that | that is. The drawings invite you to examine them closely and without any warning they transport you back into a host of memories or lead you subtly to your desires, as a viewer. There seems to be a narrative hidden in each of the drawings done by Mekhala like this one.
Ire, Church Search I and II and Box bring to life the texture, colour and lights of cities like Kyoto, Paris and New York, all of which Mekhala has lived or worked in. Similarly, in the work Horseshoe, one sees an inverted horseshoe reminiscent of stories of children riding their favourite horses in Kashmir.
Mekhala used to scribble stories with images alongside, for years before she became a practicing artist. Slowly, as she says, “words left and images remained.” After a point, she realised she was more interested in scratches and marks than the shapes in which they reside.
Mekhala was a trained at the College of Art, Delhi and then she transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design, from where she graduated in 2003. Her practice involves primarily printmaking and painting, using material as diverse as silk, felt, wood, plastic, paper. She has worked and exhibited in countries and cultures as diverse as Italy, France, Japan and America.
“I would encourage the viewer to engage with the work and form their own narratives, to be consumed by the marks and enter, and to sort of get lost in the feeling created by the work,” she says. “It may be interesting to me that the viewer constructs her own plot and scenarios inhabited with their own characters and signs whether based on memory or surrealist fantasies conjured by the seemingly abstract images.”
Thoughts are important to us, they linger for the longest time, and to create a piece of art out of those thoughts gives an artist a sort of liberation only she can understand. She says, “My images could be similar to journal entries. Visuals of my mind, life, journey. Sometimes vivid accounts of my travels whether on artist’s residencies or travels to explore.”
These drawings could also be records of the spaces she inhabits, like her home or studio spaces.
is that | that is will be on view at Gallery Espace from 24 February 2016 to 24 March 2016.