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Artist Profile3
An artist who explores the overlapping biological & technological realms
Rohini Devasher’s works explore and bring to the fore boundless possibilities contained within nature; both the practice and the imagery mimic processes, where organisms are born, breed and multiply. A heightened sense of complexity is created through multiple layers and recursion. The artist draws upon and morphs diverse elements of the botanical, zoological, human, and mechanical realms; machine, animal, flesh, plant, basically different elements - organic and inorganic – that all combine to fashion a hybrid with obscure antecedents. The outcome is somewhat unclassifiable, a category unto itself. Principles of growth, its rhythms, patterns, and tensions form core of her primary artistic concerns.

Key areas of contemplation and discovery to her remain pattern recognition and pattern formation within organic form and an understanding of the universal underlying structure within nature’s complexity. She elaborates: “In the scientific realm, as the rate of genetic modification accelerates, the boundary of form and function blurs and these chimeras become more of a possibility of what could be.”

Born in 1978, Rohini Devasher completed her B. F. A. (Painting) from the College of Art, New Delhi, in 2001 and did her M. F. A. (Printmaking) from the UK’s Winchester School of Art, in 2004. She has exhibited her works widely across India and internationally, in Korea, London, the US and Basel. ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ at Delhi based Apeejay Media Gallery, and at Project 88 gallery is a significant series she has worked on recently. Among the important awards and residencies she has won are the INLAKS Fine Art Award and the KHOJ International Residency that she describes an exciting experience offering her a chance to interact with contemporaries from various disciplines and geographies and providing an insight into their ideology and practices.

According to her, for artists, isolation from the cultural sphere or from peers is detrimental to creativity and genius Isolation (beyond what may be essential) prevents them from interacting with each other, as it keeps them from accessing resources that are available already. She adds. “At its worst, Isolation fosters asphyxiation and closure to change. Establishing forums and a social framework for discourse among artists is as important as providing them space to live and work.”

Her ‘Bloodlines’ has just been featured at The Hong Kong International Art Fair 2010, courtesy Mumbai’s Project 88. The work that enlivens ‘a warehouse, full of impossible monsters…’ takes a cue from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who put forward this intriguing idea in his document 'The Blind Watchmaker'. Exploring the theory of cumulative selection, it presents a curious family tree of constructed artificial evolution. Explaining this unusual piece of art, the write-up states: “It begins with seven forms. Each ‘parent’ form is the result of a gradual construction of an intricate skeletal structure made of individual, manually placed layers of video. The original footage comprises video feedback that occurs when a loop is created between a video camera and a television screen or monitor.”

And what does it lead to? An astonishing array of spatiotemporal patterns spontaneously emerges from the feedback system. Many of these intricate patterns actually correspond to those exhibited by chemical, biological and physical systems. The curatorial essay adds, “Each ‘parent’ breeds a set of progeny that, in turn, produces offspring of their own. These forms also echo deep-sea, single termed organisms like Radiolarians and Diatoms distinguished by their unique and intricately detailed porcelain-like exoskeletons. The video installation and drawings collectively initiate a dialogue between the spontaneous generation of pattern within the biological sphere and the technological realm.”

In fact, she has been trying to explore some ideas put forward in Goethe’s Botanical writings in which Goethe’s search for “that which was common to all plants without distinction” led him to evolve a purely mental concept of the archetypal plant. This archetype, when translated into art by some of his followers, resulted in what one writer has described as a ‘botanists’ nightmare’ consisting of all known leaves and flowers combined around a single stem. For example, in her debut solo, entitled ‘Breed’, the artist engaged artistically with Goethe’s idea of the archetypal plant.

This archetype or ‘Urpflanze’ describes’ - one basic form that manifests in the multitude of single plant individuals - harbors the potential for endless transformation, by which manifoldness is created out of oneness. What results is hybrid organics that float in a twilight world between imagined and observed reality…forms in constant flux, in a state of continuous transformation. They could be denizens of a science-fictional botanical garden, specimens in a bizarre cabinet of curiosity or portents of a distant future.

In her quest to define the ambiguous space between science and art, imagined and observed reality, Rohini Devasher continues to experiment with different mediums, such as digital prints, drawing and video. Each of them brings something unique to each work and consequently carries with it an uncharted territory to explore.