Akshita Gandhi: A Love Letter to My Home 23 – 27 May 2022 The Nehru Centre 8 S Audley St Mayfair London W1K 1HF
Is India truly free seventy-five years after its independence? The Indian Independence Act, which established India’s independence from British imperialism, went into effect in August 1947. However, the act partitioned India, causing significant social divisions. What is India’s post-colonial identity now, amidst social and political upheaval and increasing censorship? And how does the surrounding architecture reflect the residents’ vitality and spirit?
Photographer and multimedia artist Akshita Gandhi strives to answer these questions in her solo exhibition “A love letter to my home.” Presented at The Nehru Centre by Gabriel Fine Arts to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, Gandhi’s work casts new light on Mumbai and Udaipur, revealing cityscapes in flux and essentially coming undone.
For its vibrancy, chaos, and potential for upward mobility, Mumbai is known as the “City of Dreams.” Gandhi’s images show futuristic skyscrapers rising above low-income neighborhoods and postcolonial architecture. Chawls, tenements, British imperialist architecture, and high-rises dominate “Pincode,” a collection of digitally reworked pictures in and around popular sites such as the racecourse, Horniman Circle, Colaba, and Bhendi Bazaar. They portray a lesser-known aspect of the city at night: peaceful and motionless, almost otherworldly. Obfuscated windows and doors, a symbol for inaccessibility, limit the viewer’s entry point into the life of city people.
They allude to the increasing censorship in India’s media and cultural sector, an issue that reappears in Gandhi’s past work. Through repetition and distortion, Gandhi explores stability and instability within image and memory. The paintings on display in her “Fluid” series are more impassioned.
The artist has splashed, smeared, and brushed paint on pictures of Mumbai’s diverse architecture and material culture, resulting in a sense of disjointedness, vibrancy, and monumentality. These mixed media pieces, in stark contrast to her photographs, portray the city’s frenetic vitality and colorful dynamism. Beyond Mumbai, the exhibition features images taken by Gandhi while in Udaipur.
She concentrates on short houses atop businesses in the city’s town centre, rather than the grand Rajput palaces that draw tourists to the area. To native audiences, her warm-toned photographs provide a sense of familiarity, while to outsiders, they provide a mix of local and worldwide reference points.
The exhibition will also feature an installation that incorporates parts from the images and allows people to sit and listen to an immersive sound composition inspired by India’s unique cacophony. Gandhi struggled to comprehend the idea of “home” and “freedom” after studying in an international education system and coming from a patriarchal society and traditional cultural background. Nonetheless, while her work is a love letter to cities, it also examines the conflict and mayhem that exists between forces of tradition and modern life.