Hemali Bhuta: The Column in Transit and "The Wall Piece"

7 December 2012 - 26 January 2013

Hemali Bhuta's architectural intervention directly confronts the viewer, charging the entire space with its solid presence, its raw edge, its size and and placement. To the casual onlooker, it may look more like a leftover crumbling wall than a new contemporary sculptural installation that has just been built and carved. The work takes its cues from the history of the room, jutting out from the place at the back of the gallery where there is a vestigial structural column. 

This temporary site-specific installation, made of local silica sand, faced with painted plaster of paris, was conceived for this particular exhibition space and built in situ as a sort of shrine or memorial. Mumbai Art Room's location was first a two-car garage in the base of the Pipewala Building, then a karate studio, and in early 2011 was refurbished to become a contemporary exhibition space. During that renovation, a large nest of white ants (termites) was discovered inhabiting one of the walls, producing a few small puckers in the wall's surface that gave a subtle indication of the lacy network of boreholes that lay behind.


This entire history was taken into consideration by Bhuta when she conceived the construction of a wall jutting into the exhibition space, halving it into two distinct areas, and showing a raw edge made with the material used in termite barriers to ward off inundations of white ants.


She has paid close attention to the architectural components of the Mumbai Art Room space, creating a structure coming from a column, becoming a wall. She considers the building components to be transmitters, or catalysts, that expose their pasts, through projections, depressions, and other structural indicators. Humans, too, make their homes around themselves, obsessing about every square inch of space. Her installation is made with silica sand, a material that is a component of the Colaba terrain. Bhuta alludes to themes of vulnerability, fragility, and temporality.

The casual observer may not even recognize the installation as an artwork, or notice that the artist is responding to the architectural space and dividing it, sculpturally and structurally, into differing zones, forcing the viewer to adopt a particular position on one side or the other.  With this fairly large construction, she manages to create something that impacts the movement of the viewer, yet can almost hide in plain sight, can be absorbed into its surroundings. She agrees with contemporary Japanese architect Tadao Ando's statement, “You cannot simply put something new into a place. You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge along with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see.”


Bhuta works with abstract forms familiar from international sculptural traditions, and imbues them with meanings that are specific, local, and rooted. She has written, "this work intends to unveil the decay caused within the wall/ column and in turn the structure/ foundation, thus exposing the vulnerability, fragility and the temporality of all."


About the artist


Hemali Bhuta is an internationally recognized artist based in Mumbai, where she was born in 1978. She received her M.V.A. diploma in painting from M.S. Univer-sity, Baroda, and previous undergraduate diplomas in painting and interior design.  Bhuta has exhibited in group exhibitions throughout Europe and India over the past ten years. She has won numerous prestigious Indian awards, and participated in residencies in the UK, the United States, the Maldives and several Indian programs.