Dia Mehta’s photography stems from the unique characteristics of a place and the mysterious air of architecture and ordinary objects, inspired by her travels. Her graphic work continually captures the elegance, spirit and strength of her subject. ArtCultureFestival spoke to her before she sets out to participate in the inaugural edition of Yinchuan Biennale titled ‘For an Image, Faster than Light’, starting September 9, 2016. She has also been invited for an artist symposium titled ‘Gate of the Sun – Between the Mountain and the River’ on September 10 and 11, 2016 at the Bienalle.
Tell us about your journey and initiation into the world of art.
Shifting between diverse cultures, I developed a sensitivity to the non-verbal.
Core to my work is recognition of the layers of mundane day to day experiences, contrasting and complex as well as the exploration of the process in itself. The images expose the power of vulnerability and the beauty of simplicity, and reveal the creation that is simple – human.
I spent my foundation year at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Photography from The Parsons School of Design in New York. Over the years I lived in Mumbai, Switzerland. London and New York and currently live and work in Hyderabad, India.
Photography as art… How do you perceive the medium?
The question is hard to answer because you’re asking about the creative process. There’s never one thing alone that leads to Art. To quote Ad Reinhardt: “Art is art and everything else is everything else”, I don’t believe that photography is simply a record of reality. The medium also plays an important role in how we interpret ourselves and world around us.
What forms the source of inspiration for you.
Could you please take us through the body of your work, sharing the inspiration sources and mixing of mediums, if any?
As an artist, I focus extensively on photography, with a particular emphasis on redefining everyday images as commonly experienced by society.
My life has been greatly influenced by experiences of diversity and duality in concord of having to exist between them. Through geographic relocation, cultural disparities, religious incongruities, ethnic and gender divergence, philosophical extremes along with intellectual and spiritual aspiration, I’ve grappled paradoxes and learnt to celebrate the moments in between.
You work with, what I understand, Photographic installations. Could you please shed some light on the processes involved, and evolved by you?
As an artist I work with the ‘contructed image’ primarily of intimate public spaces with no physical human contact, cornering you to a contemplative experience limiting us to observe, reflect and experience the basic realities.
Although people are figuratively absent, what remains are images which become models of the memory, experience, and contemplation of these moments. In a world saturated with manipulated or mediated images, my work re-evaluates the potential of the photographic medium. The images do not simply depict the world around us but actively participate in its construction.
All my images are repurposed, created with wasted paper, magazines, newspapers, old card board boxes etc. Close inspection of the image reveals the intricate detail. The process of my work is very calming and meditative. It disassociates me from the virtual world of gadgets, internet, and the frivolous day to day. Due to the intensity and meticulous nature of the process itself, it takes me to a deeper meditative realm, keeping my mind engaged and alert, yet relaxing it. Each colour is found in a trashed magazine and cut into a strip and twirled individually, after which roll is crafted to created a structure and stability to the scattered. Each roll comes with its own text to create a myriad of stories from different cultures, time periods and genres creating a unique environment –a parallel to the randomness of individuals experiencing public spaces.
How did your participation in Yinchuan Biennale 2016 come about?
There’s no dramatic story to be honest, I simply received an invitation letter in my inbox one morning!
Do share a bit about the artist symposium titled ‘Gate of the Sun -Between the Mountain and the River’ that you have been invited to?
The title is a reference to the seminal work of Palestinian writer Elias Khoury whose novel of the same name is without beginning or an end. In the words of the curator, Bose Krishamachari , the concept suggests the end is the beginning, beginning is the end. It builds a myth out of an accumulation of individual voices, which is what we are attempting to achieve through this accumulation/culmination of creative endeavours by artists from different regions with different voices, different perspectives and different standpoints.
What is it that you would like to explore next?
There are several ideas behind my work but all centre on my interest in private experiences in everyday public space.
It’s not space alone that interests me, but certain kinds of spaces. I’m constantly questioning places or social sites where, although we’re surrounded by others, a strange kind of privacy exists.