Biraaj Dodiya, Soft Helmet

The Art Review | The (Pro)found Object | Vadehra Contemporary, New Delhi

Reviewed by Chahak Agrawal | 30 September, 2021
Featured artwork: Biraaj Dodiya, Soft Helmet


For a closer look at the exhibition, check out our video on our Youtube channel

Four contemporary artists, working from around the world, come together in an exploration of the tangible and intangible, essentialist existence and interpretive identities, and found objects with profound dispositions. 


profound object

40 artworks, a myriad of materials, and expressions of identity that spill over an object’s innate existence, The (Pro)found Object is a spectacle of the ordinary. It is a reflection of collective consciousness associated with the inherent meaning of objects and materials, and transformations that force further discourse surrounding transformative art. Four artists - Biraaj Dodiya, Moonis Ahmad Shah, Shailesh BR, Youdhisthir Maharjan, work with individual definitions of found objects that reflect the transience of meaning associated with the term, and present their own transgressive and transformative reflections of objects and their contexts. The exhibition is set across 3 spaces within the larger gallery on the ground floor of Vadehra Contemporary, New Delhi.


Moonis Ahmad Shah, Telegrams to Bollywood from a Mad Landscape Scout
Moonis Ahmad Shah, Telegrams to Bollywood from a Mad Landscape Scout, 2019-2021

Greeting the visitor as they enter the gallery, Moonis Ahmad Shah’s line of framed telegrams, Telegrams to Bollywood from a Mad Landscape Scout, line one side of the room. The dilapidated and aged telegrams, with their browning surface and decaying edges, force the viewer to ponder over memories and manifestations of nostalgia that come with the remnants of a bygone era. The stories told through these telegrams speak of memories lost, words spoken in a rush, lives lived in a period unknown, and objects that no longer represent what they were intended to be. The telegrams are also a facet of the found object that suggests a morphological change in their very being. They have been painted over, and the messages that once were the focal point, have given way to the paint, and interpretations of the message by the artist. 


Biraaj Dodiya, Fog and Spine
Biraaj Dodiya, Fog and Spine, 2021

To that effect, on the wall opposing Shah’s frames are Biraaj Dodiya’s installations. Created from old, discarded, and reclaimed materials - old headboards, cycle chains, beams, and structures, her works evoke nostalgia in much the same, and yet dichotomously different way to Shah’s. Dodiya works, Fog and Spine and Soft Helmet, feature structures that are meant to be the building blocks or foundational pieces of something larger. Wooden boards supporting the bed, a cycle chain that allows the bicycle to function, her works intend to change the perspective of discarded objects, bringing often-forgotten elements to the forefront. With familiar objects and mundane narratives, Dodiya works within the framework of nostalgia, one that is reminiscent of what emerged to be a larger underlying theme within the exhibition.


Shailesh BR, 8+24=32
Shailesh BR, 8+24=32, 2021

It’s this feeling of nostalgia that follows when one enters the far end of the first gallery, a space semi separated from the rest with jutting walls and different lighting - connected, and yet disconnected from the whole. On the wall is a veritable collection of 32 frames, identical in dimensions, placed in a grid of 4 x 8, by artist Shailesh B.R. Each frame consists of an eclectic collection of motifs, symbols, images, and photographs, coming together to form a larger narrative. The installation, titled 8 + 24 = 32, forces the viewer to take a seat and think about the process, and the feelings evoked from these 32 frames. Each frame represents images that are extremely familiar, yet placed in jarring contexts that force a reevaluation of what the viewer is seeing.

There are objects, placed as if in a child’s project with cut-outs, drawings, textures, and colours, a melange of everything the artist could get their hands on. It is a study of found objects, beyond their physical existence into the metaphysical plane of thought and evocations, a manifestation of what that object can represent and its provenance. It is the story of growth, and of growing, as objects change and adapt to new meanings, losing where they come from and becoming what they need to be for a user and the observer. In many ways, one can consider this piece to be a summation of what the exhibition intends to do - deconstruct the very idea of the physicality of objects to their sum parts, with all their essentialist and abstract identities, and representing the very process of creation and artistry.


Youdhisthir Maharjan, Letters by a Half-Moon
Youdhisthir Maharjan, Letters by a Half-Moon, 2021

Moving past the wall with the theme of The (Pro)found Object stated, the gallery opens into a smaller room with frames situated on each wall. From afar, they look like framed pages from books old and yellowing. However, a closer look provides an interesting change in the way these pages have been presented. Each page has had the letters meticulously cut out, in a way that renders the words still legible, despite the physical alphabet missing. Artist Youdhisthir Maharjan plays with language, as he breaks down language to its bones, playing around with what gives words their meaning, and pages of texts their story. Letters that are now mere shadows, not only are still legible but appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of the viewer, who then ponder over this state of non-being of words, meanings, and printed text. Some pages have also had cutouts in the form of other languages, or languages reminiscent of old, forgotten languages akin to cuneiform or hieroglyphics. The artist glibly refers to the contrariety in their work through a piece titled To Be & Not To Be, a reclaimed page from a book with the same title with the letters cut out, with the title self-referential to the very state of being of that page and the words on it, and the larger intention with the exhibit. 


Shailesh BR, Present Time

Shailesh BR, Present Time, 2021

The exhibition ends with the room that has been given the name “Room of Disquiet”. An interesting negation of the word quiet, as it does not quite present the same meaning as ‘noise’. Disquiet is a sense of discomfort. It is prophetic in the way of warning the viewer of what they can expect from the installation inside the room. The sensorial experience of walking into the room is at first underwhelming, with a very familiar ticking sound echoing in the space. It's a common sound, almost mundane in its everyday applications with the tick-tock sound of a clock as its second’s hand moves around. The whole room speaks to a homage to the clock, a utilitarian object, yet often used motif in art, in both form and function.

But it is here where artist Shailesh BR brings the sensual to the mundane. It is the artist's rendition of time and the arbitrariness of its definitive identity. The room of disquiet is a room where time does not function in the normative sense. The clocks work backwards, or they do not have hours or dials, but a pressure/weight gauge, along with a backward moving clock hand. The idea of the anti-clock is rife in the room, with the auditory experience of time not working in conjunction with the visual element, creating a discomfort with what one sees and what they can hear. The largest installation in the middle of the wall is a blue wind-up clock, titled Present Time, making the unmistakable ticking sound echoing around the room.

Shailesh BR, Clock Hands

Shailesh BR, Clock Hands, 2015-2021

On the wall to the side is the artist’s collection of clock hands, in an installation titled Clock Hands. It is a board with the characteristics of a weekly calendar and suggests an alternative to traditional time, with aspects that don’t function within the physical boundaries of time. For the artist, perhaps this collection and the moments they represent are more real than an arbitrary calendar or intangible days of the week. It is also a reflection of time and memories, associated more with objects than the metaphysical state of being, and the tangible having more of an effect on the experience of time than the intangible existence of the same. 


The (Pro)found Object is a study of form and function, but it is also a deconstruction of collective consciousness surrounding objects and their meanings. It is an exhibition with renditions of found objects in ways that transcend deliberate meaning and reductive identities associated with the physical world. It is an evocation of affectations associated with repurposed objects, and the profundity we attribute to abstractions and manifestations of our inner ideologies and thought structures through physical objects and metaphysical interpretations. The exhibition ended on the 24th of September, 2021 but is still available on view on Vadehra Contemporary’s website.