An Enchanted Passage - Shruti Nelson 2011

An Enchanted Passage - Shruti Nelson 2011

An Enchanted Passage

Text by Jasmine Shah Varma on Shruti Nelson’s 2011 solo show

Life is both mundane and fantastic, material and ethereal. In Shruti Nelson’s work, the two meet. Her latest series of works, on both paper and canvas, creates a meeting ground of the worldly concepts of glamour and luxury on the one hand, and the untamed fantastical on the other.

At first glance, one will see cars: different makes and colours. The luxury cars—like motorcycles, a motif that Shruti has previously used—convey more than just that. They become receptors reflecting life, nature and wilderness, as they supposedly pass through streets and highways. They are more than vehicles of transport. They become characters with a life and personality of their own. They metamorphose into fantastical beings with wings and horns. Animals inhabit them and make them their own. Shruti has always deployed the trope of an image within an image, and the overlapping and layering of motifs create a complex matrix. A sense of other-worldliness and perhaps the bygone are evoked.

Shruti’s world of fantasy is informed by fairy tales with castles, meadows, pirate ships, bottles with images rather than scrolls of messages, frogs and angels. It also has the sense of contemporary hi-life. The female figures in her works have the swagger of fashion models. The flowing dresses they adorn feature a landscape or elegant beasts like deer and antelopes. An image is projected to the viewer and at the same time the protagonist’s dreamy desires are played out. The cars are painted in gold and silver, or have a shimmering glow that suggests lavishness and magnificence. Overall there is a feel of celebration and the extraordinary. She extends this imagery and colour palette to 3-D forms. Carefully painted cut-outs stick out of the flat surface of paper. If in her previous shows she stitched a wearable coat and jacket out of canvas and painted on it, this time she has tried to create things she’d like to live amongst. A painted wooden table, a handbag with deer peering out, a cushion cover in canvas with the frenzy of animals at sunset, and painted boxes with mirrors. Shruti creates a lifestyle, a fantastical haven to escape to with a stance of her own.

We all have an escape button – films, television, sports. As an artist Shruti creates her own escape and invites us to the enchanted land. Her pursuit is how she can use her creativity to reach that enthralling, elusive rapturous place of dreams where she’d like to dwell. In previous works, Shruti dealt with metamorphosis, and the idea of movement and transition. Her latest works have these concepts and a suggestion of a way of life she imagines. Everyday motifs from life, film and advertising come together with a compelling dream-like imagery that stays with you long after the lights have been turned off and the paintings on the walls are no longer visible.

December 2010