Let there be light: Tanya Mehta's illuminating ideas on perception
The concept of “coincidentia oppositorum” or the “coincidence of opposites”, sits at the heart of a new solo show by Tanya Mehta, whose new media works relate to “the notion of non-duality”. Mehta, who works with fine art prints, lenticular prints and animated light boxes, explores “differences between human perception and reality through the understanding of non-dual opposites”. In an email exchange, she spoke of the scientific nature of her works.
Tell us a little about the lightboxes, as a choice of form.
The mediums play a very deliberate role in the concept of each artwork, and the overall theme of the show. Using portals, circular imagery and various infinitely looping mediums to depict the infinity of the universe, I aimed to explore the narrowness of human perception, through what we define as opposites — but are, in reality, unified.
The lenticular prints are an interesting choice of medium too. Is there a story behind these choices?
I chose lenticulars primarily because I could house two opposing artworks and concepts in one frame and thus unite them in form and ideology, as well as physically.
The artwork Real and the Imagined, for instance, represents a constant looping between the mind’s eye and the physical eye — a process that is continuous and neverending for most of us. Besides the obvious allure of movement, lenticulars also allow me to play with depth; thus, in an artwork like Life and Death (where each state is nested within the other so that they form an endless loop to the point of infinity), I was able to use the medium to physically portray the depth of that point that they both ultimately sink into.
The light boxes also allowed me the same freedom of housing two concepts within what is traditionally one still frame, but I chose them for a different reason. Both the artworks in the form of light boxes — Join the Dots and From the Pale Blue Dot — are meant to cast aside the imperfection of our human capability (which the rest of the show explores) and instead look forward to the wonder and progress we are capable of.
The front screens for both works are simpler — what one would see with one’s naked eye, representing the everyday mind. But once the backlight comes on, it’s a completely different story. They show the power of human imagination (Join the Dots), which ultimately leads to scientific exploration (From the Pale Blue Dot), which, in turn, nudges us forward to understand more than we did yesterday, helping us ultimately transcend the narrowness of our perception.
The medium thus allowed me to (literally) shed light on the wonder and magic of what is possible when we choose to be our best selves.
Would you think of the works as fantasyland dioramas?
All my work is created not with individual stories in mind but instead with unfolding concepts.
I explore the gaps between our different constructions of knowledge – philosophy, art, science, the metaphysical – and I aim to find bridges in those gaps. ‘Fantasy’ or ‘fantasyland’, then, is a tricky label.
Fantasy assumes a launch from reality into the improbable, whereas this show aims to dig deeper into reality to reveal an essence. For some people, that exploration could be confused with fantasy as they both involve escaping our everyday to find something more. It is not that the imagination isn’t of great importance to this process.
It’s simply that, conceptually, the show is not based there. Aesthetically, it demands a flight from the everyday, to convey our limitations as human beings.
How critical is the aspect of lighting? And how scientific are these works?
In all my shows, lighting plays a crucial part because when you use the amount of colour I do, the whole work can change depending on the kind of light it is seen under. In the lenticular works, light was an important element in how the two works could merge to form one.
In Happiness and Sadness, for instance, the rolling movement of light had to be tested precisely. I wanted each emotion to form a wave as you walked past, and that was only possible by using a darker, more morose blue light (with thunder) for sadness and a more warm and engulfing yellow light (with sunshine) for happiness.
The process was more complicated for the light boxes. The choice of material was the first step. We needed something that could let a lot of light pass through the layers of material while maintaining opacity to hide the back screen when only the front light is on. The colours on the front screen needed to be muted, as otherwise the back screens would be distorted when the backlight was turned on. Luckily, this limitation fit into the concept of the works.
Once both the works had been created (back and front), the process of trial and error began. Precise colour correction and contrast were a must. Once I had my final light boxes made, we needed to test all those samples against the intensity of a particular LED light, and only then were we able to produce the final artwork. So, all in all, pretty scientific!
At Gallery Sumukha, Jun 24 to Jul 29. Mon-Sat, 10.30 am-6 pm. Details: 22292230.
Read the full interview on indulgexpress.com.
— Jaideep Sen