TUDA MUDA (SAMRRIDHI KUKREJA): "Be gone, bygones"
"BE GONE, BYGONES"
04.02.2022-05.03.2022 / PREVIEW: FRIDAY 04.02.2022 / 18.00-21.00
There are ten charcoal drawings greeting the visitors when entering STANDARD (OSLO) this month. They can even be seen through the windows by those passing by. Rising from floor to ceiling, they make up a staircase. They also make up a rare document - reflecting upon recent years in the life of the Indian artist Tuda Muda (Samrridhi Kukreja). It involves a wedding that got called off. It involves becoming a stranger to yourself and your own body. It involves a journey to the other side of the world.
The charcoal drawings have the artist both making them and modelling for them. If you were to put them in some sort of category, you could say that they are figure drawings. But while they are outlining the human figure in various poses - the way that artists have been doing act drawings for centuries - there is little about these drawings that is providing better understanding of the human anatomy. Every limb is stretched. Every body part is disconfigured. Every feature that the artist would consider a flaw to her body, is exaggerated and brought to the forefront. The staggered marks make these drawings more of a distortion than a depiction.
Accuracy, however, is in this case less a matter of the visual and more of the emotional. The artist was engaged to be married, but found herself more and more frustrated and estranged by how her perceived value as a woman was so much determined by her appearance. Whispers, comments and conversations with people close to her, echoed what she learnt to be the logic of society as a whole. "Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard", as claimed by Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth (1991). "Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact." Breaking her engagement and opposing to this duty to beauty, the artist renders her body with a violent energy that seems to be transforming it from within. It is as if the body is mutating from a disease or shifting shape. That anger has the body turning from human to animal form. Fingers turn into claws. The spine turns into an armour.
On the one hand, these drawings appear as dehumanising self-portraits. On the other hand, they attempt at locating some version of human dignity. And in the process of developing the series and coming to terms with her own body, they are growing in confidence. And approaching what is essential human. They say that charcoal was one of the primary materials used in some of the figurative cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave in France. They date back to 30 000 BC and are indeed some of the first known examples in Europe of humans expressing themselves through art. There are no paintings of complete figures. Rather, the most prominent depiction of the human body is that of a Venus figure, in which a vulva is attached to an incomplete set of legs. It is an enigmatic fragment of a woman's body from a time when human beings were coming into knowing what it was to be a human. Equally so, the charcoal drawings of Tuda Muda are detaching themselves from the natural to be exploring what the notion of 'human' could mean in regards to the body and self image, self worth or self hate.
Or self improvement. Oddly enough, the windows next to the gallery are those of a popular gym, which is offering its own uneasy notion of the natural. The repetitions of the training routine, and attempts at moulding the human body according to an image or an ideal. The repeated marks of the charcoal trying to render a body in opposition to this ideal. The coarse fibres of the paper in meeting with charcoal, resulting in shapes that are both solid and see through. Twisting and turning, like giant flocks of starlings against the sunset sky.
Tuda Muda (named Samrridhi Kukreja), was born and raised in Delhi, India, but now lives and works in Trondheim, Norway. She received her her BFA in Printmaking at the College of Fine Art, Delhi University, and received her MFA from Kunstakademiet in Trondheim. This is her first solo exhibition at STANDARD (OSLO). She is currently also included in the inaugural exhibition "It's Just a Phase" at Kjøpmannsgata Ung Kunst (K-U-K) in Trondheim.
Installation photography: Vegard Kleven