SHEELA GOWDA @ IKON
〰 (hole emoji) 👤
i don’t quite know how to start writing bout this show. it was so sticky and strange and it sits so wonky in my memory;;;;;; i haven’t seen something like it in a while;;;;;; i don’t know what the backdrop for it to sit against is; i always think i solve these problems thru writing but this time i’m not too sure. also also, this show closed last sunday;; and i never really know how to write about shows that have closed. You probably didn’t see this show, dear reader. And i don’t know how to describe it to you so you felt like u were in the room. i think for one of the first times, twp will have to describe wot was in the room.
So::: Sheela Gowda at Ikon Gallery….
Ikon is a weird building; it used to be an old school, but the architecture is so specific, very catholic. All stained glass windows and high arches, ribbed columns. Apparently everyone gets confused, thinks it used to be a cathedral. They’ve kept a lot of the rooms the same; high arches painted white. but sometimes u walk into a room and the room looks bolted on. Too modern, too square, too much glass. i wouldn’t normally mention it, but this show was so within the space it was in (if that makes sense?) the space was so important;; how it unpacked itself within the space. so bear this in mind
3 rooms, 3 very separate flavours::
first room: u walk in, there’s no natural light but the lights are on it’s warm cream. in the space, large runners like red bunting sit collapsed, hanging from the ceiling like sad banners, hanging across a scaffolding cube, held together by wires. the red cloth is cut into sharp spikes. it is red red. bold red. true red. it makes my eyes ache and my heart hurt. on the wall furthest from you as you enter, there’s a floor to ceiling print. India and a riot, modern day, lawyers and press and policemen in their sandy brown uniforms. the lawyers’ eyes are blacked out, struck out. they’re throwing stones, and on the floor in front of the print are small stones; spotlit.
second room: you turn out right through the first room to a small chamber; like an entry way into the third room. it’s all white. larger stones, painted white; pipes, sticks, weird clusters, all painted white. I bend down, look close a one of the stones, one of the sticks. A small blob of red; kumkum i think;;; with rice stuck to it. Part of hindu ritual, you put it on ur forehead, in between ur brows when ur doing a pooja, a ritual blessing, a cleansing. these rocks have been cleansed before entering the gallery. my heart hurts again. There’s something about knowing that, feeling that in a gallery that makes so much sense. i don’t know why we don’t all do that; treat sculpture as lingam, wash it in honey milk and put ghee on its forehead. i don’t know why we don’t bring flowers for its feet. i wish we did. when i was 16 a holy woman gave me a small stone. It is small (the size of a round 10 pence coin) dark teal with a white stripe across the outer third. She said holding it will bring me clarity. I’m not sure it does. i am meant to hold it and say “ohm nama shivaya” 3 times and place it on my wrist; against my neck; at my temples;;;;; wherever u can feel my pulse. This room reminded me of that. that calm, that vibe, that mode of being. sitting calm and still.
third room: i blend seamlessly at my edges. I am bleeding from room to room like liquid like gas. high ceiling, white arches, wide window. the room is full only of sheets of metal, some folded, some whole. All with 8 large circles cut out. Gab says “doesn’t this trigger ur trypophobia?’ but it doesn’t. Something about how this room feels is soothing. The circles that have been cut out are lying on the floor; bent into bowls. There’s sheet metal everywhere, lining the walls, in the centre of the gallery floor, piled up to the ceiling. This room makes me feel nothing, only calm, soothed, bland like a settled stomach, peppermint oil in water.
This show was sticky, i couldn’t pin it down. I couldn’t hold onto it tight enough to stop it slipping through my fingers. It gave me nothing, it said nothing. It only sat; reflected my gaze back at me. After we went round, we were chatting to one of the girls invigilating. She said Sheela Gowda also didn’t know what the show was about. She made it in the space;; feeling the space (not site specific, but FEELING the SPACE), and it was all so new, she honestly didn’t know what it did, how it did it, why or what it all was or meant;;; how it was weighted, the shape it took in her hands. I respect that way of making, that mode of operating as you make. It feels familiar and closer to me than when artists copy and paste things into gallery spaces. I feel like as i walked around i was feeling something, something kinda unspecific, unlocated, foreign and also familiar, something in the in-between. Idk what liminal really means, but i feel like it means this.
I wanted to write a bit about labour, about that as a theme, as a form, as a material running through the three rooms; but i don’t know how. i think if i try and put it into words rn it’ll feel corny, and that doesn’t seem right. bc i’ll be honest, i wasn’t thinking about that as i walked round. i only felt like a feeling, a change, like when i tweet about how i hate being in a body bc i got a hangnail, a stepmother’s blessing; how i wish i was a ghost, or a disembodied voice. I felt that, i felt away from myself. I felt grounded and tied to something outside my body and my flesh. This show did something to me, it made me feel something, it made me like it with its quietness. but i’m not happy with how i’ve written about it. This isn’t it, it doesn’t feel like it matches. Most of the time, i feel like i sum up my thoughts and feelings quite well, better than i thought i would. This show will sit with me i think. i think it will burn slow, crouch low, i will carry it with me when i also make things. I value subtlety at the moment, i value that slippery feeling of not quite grasping it in your fingers. I value instability; a total rejection of the didactic, polemic; the way we speak now in 2017,,, with certainty. i value this.