When a song becomes an umbrella – Sudarshan Shetty for the Rolls-Royce Art Program
Author: Julian Stalter
In a new work that is part of the Rolls-Royce Art Program Sudarshan Shetty takes a popular south Indian folk tale that is an allegory for artistic expression and the need for everyone to tell their own stories.
They sit like visitors on this beautiful front porch – an umbrella and a pair of shoes. Surrounded by a picturesque house made out of old wood. And - on second glance - one sees the woman in the picture, lying on the couch in the middle of the house – sleeping and dreaming.
Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty takes us into a world full of magic and beauty in his newest work „a song a story“. He retells an old South Indian fairy tale that has been circulating since centuries. From grandmothers to grandsons, from parents to children. Now it is told to us.
Being one of Indias most innovative conceptual artists, Sudarshan Shetty was a perfect fit for the Rolls-Royce Art Initiative. Under the curation of IAM’s Andrea Seehusen, he realised the „a song a story“ work which was shown as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Initative in Mumbai November 2016.
The woman in the middle of the house is the central figure in this magical folk tale. She has a story and a song inside her – but they somehow just can’t get out. A problem very familiar with artists, but also in an ordinary man’s life. But then, when she finally falls asleep, they release themselves from the body and take shape as umbrella and a pair of shoes on her front porch. The woman lies on a beautifully carved couch, clothed in a traditional Indian Sari and watching TV. The scene comprises several elements typical for Sudarshan Shetty. Starting from the carvings, that have been presents in many of his artistical works.
Transience and mortality have been underlying themes in his recent works and he is always interested in playing out the fictional aspect in creating a sense of drama or spectacle and at the same time revealing the meaninglessness involved in doing so.
The work is a two-channel video anchored by two built objects, which have been made from old wood. When presenting the work, Sudarshan said that he liked the thought of new building made out of old materials. And one can see, that the houses, although recently carved, bear in them a sense of mystery and nostalgia, very fitting for an old fairytale.
When a second character, the wife’s husband, is introduced into the story, things start to shift. He thinks the objects on the front porch belong to another man who has been with his wife. Full of pain and distrust he runs away, hiding in a pavilion.
Sitting there in the evening, watching the villages light go out one after another, the man realizes that the objects belong to no other man. On the contrary, they are the dream and song of his wife! Returning to her, he tells her the story. And, here comes the clue, she is as stunned as he is.
A magic story that is masterfully told and shown by Sudarshan Shetty.