When Chandana Hore explained in her statement that her art was “a quest to find a secure space for my own body... feminine... ravaged... pained... scarred and undefeated...” you could sense exactly what she meant for it’s a felt truth. Because the mortal coil is the concrete form of a person’s being, and of her becoming over time. Through the seasons. Nature’s seasons and life’s. Each mirroring the other as what she called the “inner truth” is distilled from dross, inessentials.
This is the body she dwelt upon in her recent show at Galerie 88, the face, the eyes. The strident yellow of the skin, the ungainly sag of the flesh, the reflective pause in the eyes. Her art, she said, was her way of “celebrating mortality”. The process of ageing. It was thus a narrative of resilience that she unfolded before the viewer in oil and watercolour.
But there was, undoubtedly, a quiet melancholy suffusing her untitled works which probably indicated that the wracking emotions of her younger years had been resolved in a transcending gravity. It didn’t seem, though, that life itself had been rejected by a wounded sensibility. Rather, it was a sensibility that could meditate upon loss, love, pain and transience having absorbed it all. Not with a cold eye, but a deepened awareness of life as an experience to cherish. Even when it meant coming to terms with aloneness. Solitude.
You could sense this solitude in several oils as their protagonist — presumably the artist herself — sought companionship in potted plants and pet fish. Or allowed the white of the eye to just spill onto the skin, suggesting a brimming-over. Hore’s “celebration”, then, wasn’t about relishing life but gaining a stoical composure through living.
This composure, a strangely withdrawn demeanour, persisted in all the women she portrayed, even when they were shown together as each other’s support. The work to cite was narrow and horizontal, with a younger woman holding what seemed like a cigarette and leaning sideways under a gaze of tender compassion from one older, possibly the mother or a mother figure. The sombre tone of voice could have tipped over into sentimentalism had it not been for the welter of smudgy, impasto strokes that marked the oils, creating a certain psychological density.
The watercolours were lighter, with dappled patches that left much white surface free to breathe and gave the images a dreamy evanescence. As though these were floating across from a treasured, if somewhat wishful, past. When releasing paper boats was not just a ritual of play but symbolized a brief season in paradise. Too brief, indeed, before bottles appeared in one of the watercolours, perhaps medicine bottles. To register a chastening acceptance of age and ailments.