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Calgary
Sarah Todd
Divya Mehra at The New Gallery
September 28, 2016

Now on display at The New Gallery, Winnipeg-based artist Divya Mehra presents three new works informed by the experience of losing her father Kamal (June 15, 1948 – May 22, 2015) last year. It’s really hard to make compelling visual art – or any art – about death. Death as a subject matter is a minefield of clichés, but also somehow lies beyond language. It suffers from an excess and a lack of signification simultaneously.



Divya Mehra, A civic death (in praise of the threat), thus coherence – of patriarchy, of ancestry, of narrative – is made by erasure and exclusion OR nothing lasts forever, I hope you will consider the sensitivities of Hindus, 2016, tree slab (photo: Karen Asher)

Mehra approaches her loss both head one and from the periphery. Leaning into the idea of the cliché, An honest Man (Even when the value of the object is gone, it is our feelings that keep it going) is unabashedly sad. The wall is literally crying (tears made in part from of healing waters Mehra collected from the Ganga river and the Bow River); the plaster and lath surface, painted dark British Racing Green, bubbles, cracks and erodes as a result. Across the gallery lies A civic death (in praise of the threat), thus coherence – of patriarchy, of ancestry, of narrative – is made by erasure and exclusion OR nothing lasts forever, I hope you will consider the sensitivities of Hindus. This disc of wood is a cross-section of a tree that Merha’s father prayed to that was coincidentally cut down soon after he died. Monuments and ruins are two ways in which humans process loss materially - the slab of tree on the floor functions at once as both.

More pointedly working through the monument/ruin ambiguity is We are obliged to learn life's inevitable lessons and they are not easy (lies are necessary when the truth is too difficult to believe), which consists of a base of a Ganesh statue in which the figure has been violently stolen. This is a monument to absence. Perhaps the most affecting work in the exhibition, the heavy base with a jagged and unceremonious hole where the figure once stood, sharply evokes the breathtaking finality of the death of a loved one. Mehra’s intensely personal and specific approach is effective in that its intricacies stand in relief to the universality of death, loss, and grieving (perhaps the most ubiquitous of all human experience).


The New Gallery: http://www.thenewgallery.org/
Divya Mehra: Its Gonna Rain continues until October 22.


Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.

 

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