Shadows Under My Sky
Soghra Khurasani Peeled -1, 2021 Woodcut print on paper Print size - 22 x 31.6 inches

Paper size - 25.1 x 38.1 inches In an edition of 3

Shadows Under My Sky

This is the artist’s first show in India after a hiatus of over 5 years. The title of this exhibition is inspired by a series of woodcut prints and etching works created during the ongoing pandemic. Khurasani’s works explore themes of unity and identity through the fragile landscapes and forms that she observes from her studio just outside Baroda.

The subtle landscapes in this exhibition hint towards Khurasani’s layered imagination that gradually reveals itself in hues of vivid colours and textures. Rife with art historical and social references, Khurasani’s works employ visual metaphors to express her beliefs on religious and national identities, casteism, and racism and gender bias. Placing the intimate connections between human bodies and nature at the centre of her practice, Khurasani regularly uses natural forms as a grounding framework.

According to Khurasani, “My new series of works... are forms of Shadows of sky, paths, agricultural land, scratches on land, bruises of skin, weed plants and these forms remind me of nature its lifecycle and the dark side of existence; through this series of works I mostly share my thoughts on growth, life, care and hope.”

Here is an excerpt from the catalogue essay written by Nancy Adajania – “Soghra Khurasani’s recent exhibition – ‘Shadows Under My Sky’ – marks a transition from the high colour and operatic gestures of her earlier prints to a gentler, more reflective register. The fissured earth and volcanic craters are no longer cast in harsh reds and pinks. The artist now dwells on luminous evocations of night, quiet fields, emerald islands and wetlands that nurture processes of germination. Soghra has spoken of her feeling of having been ‘labelled’ through stereotypes of gender, religion and ethnicity, and has resisted such mechanisms of Othering. 

Shadows Under My Sky Paper size - 32 x 46.3 inches In an edition of 3

Soghra Khurasani Shadows under my Sky - 3, 2021 Woodcut print on paper Print size - 28 x 44 inches

Paper size - 32 x 46.3 inches In an edition of 3

In her new work, she establishes a solidarity with those who nourish an earth that has for too long been exploited for its mineral and vegetable fecundity. Having herself become involved in small-scale cultivation around her studio on the outskirts of Baroda, she finds a natural affinity with the farmers whose protests have spearheaded a resistance to the Indian State’s attempt to privatise agriculture and concentrate it in the hands of a corporate oligarchy. Soghra’s previous disquiet at being Othered and her more recent preoccupation with the diversity of India’s environment come together in works where she depicts marsh grass, emblematic of the wetlands that are not recognized by the Forest Act, which is more closely linked to revenue classification than to ecological sensitivity. These seemingly marginal zones are, in fact, essential to the health of the ecosystem. The marsh grass becomes symbolic, in Soghra’s lexicon, for the ‘unwanted’ that, in fact, holds the promise of regeneration. We are mesmerized by this woodcut, which, along with the quintessential high horizon line of Soghra’s works, projects both resilience and serenity.

I would argue that Soghra’s work has been reactive in relation to political issues in the past, but now is affirmative of life. This new body of work conveys a deepening maturity and refinement. It has gone from a more declamatory and rhetorical tonality to a melancholia, a sense of acknowledging the wound and inaugurating a process of healing (an island-sized wound is not rendered in fiery red; instead it has a purple underlayer and is anchored in dense vegetation). One clear outcome is that the universal symbols of her earlier phase have been replaced by objects presented in their particularity. Apart from marsh grass, we see rice and wheat fields. It is intriguing to see how a fertile green-yellow chromatic register overtakes both etchings, reducing the red element, with its connotations of blood, agonism and passion in the foreground to a pale shadow of itself. It seems as if black is the new red for Soghra. Not a brooding, impermeable darkness. Rather, a night sky liberated by stars.”

Date 07-09-2021
Courtesy: Courtesy of Soghra Khurasani and TARQ
Copyright: Copyright Soghra Khurasani, 2021