The Embryonic Plant and Otherworlds Sonia Mehra Chawla
28 Feb - 03 Apr, 2013 | 10 Chancery Lane Gallery

The suite of works are a meditation on the passage of nature’s cycle and the temporal flow of birth and regeneration. The images are at once generative and sensuous, macabre and degenerate, opulent and awe-inspiring, carrying within them the vitality of the living, and the vulnerability of decay. For philosopher Michel Foucault, "heterotopias" designates real or imagined spaces of escape/departure, transformation, or revelation.

The works explore a world or existence beyond earthly reality: The other realms of existence. With a quality unlike those normal to everyday life, or outside typical human experience. ethereal, mystical , transcendental. ‘Otherworlds’ are explorations of utopias and heterotrophic extensions. Heterotopias, those "other" spaces, are for Foucault " a sort of counter-arrangement of effectively realized utopia," in which "all the real arrangements (of space) that can be found in a society are at one and the same time represented, challenged, inverted and overturned."

These worlds are 'imaginative spaces' in which we work through the hopes, fears, desires, and possibilities that human experience engenders. They provide the means through which we imagine ourselves as part of a world, a universal community. To what extent to do we imagine these other worlds as heterotopias or mirrors of our own experience?

The female form has an uncompromising centrality in the work, where the woman’s body  is at the centre of love, life cycles and decay.  Her body is vulnerable, ephemeral. It is a site of history, memory and transformation, even as it carries out its most mundane chores. The body ‘carries the marks’and is both a terrain of celebration, and a site of debate. The series of works titled talk about transformative experience of the biological imperative. Evolution through dynamic growth and transmutation is fundamental to the imagery. The work reveals a living vitalism depicted through the chaotic excess of layered imagery, multiplicity and complexity through patterning, tracing a dynamic growth of form and prototype from homogeneity to heterogeneity. The images recurrently reveal composite systems and structures both within the body and outside it, mapping the ‘inside-out’, thus making the imagery both sublime and despicable. The dark side of my work primarily concerns the internal mechanisms of visual imagery and how these mechanisms address the mind.

Hybrids of plant, flower, animal, and polyp populate the surfaces with the visual recitation of images that allude to jellyfish, plankton, protozoa, radiolaria, diatoms, seeds, spirillae and various forms of algae. It is within this constellation that organic composites calibrated between ripeness and rotteness exist, blurring the lines between human, animal, plant and object to produce complex emblems of sexuality. Images of beauty and exuberance are infused with a sense of the macabre and both time and space are impregnated with a sense of heightened reality. I am continuously playing with the ideas of sensuous exuberance with an underlying sense of desire and decay, layers within the cyclical layers of life, forms within forms, worlds within worlds.

My practice involves working intimately with various media: painting, printmaking and photography. Working consistently with combining these mediums helps me traverse the limitations of any single medium of execution. What interests me is how a fragmentary component of a biomorphic section reveals the colossal configuration in nature. The imagery is inspired by macro images, microphotographs, documents and diagrammatic representations of human anatomy and of single-celled organisms exquisite in their ornamental morphology, and displaying complex patterns of growth, reproduction, movement and mutability. Within the simple configurations of the single celled organisms, the entire mechanics of evolution is revealed. In the paintings, such microscopic organic forms and macro structures become a symbol of growth, metamorphosis, mutation, transfiguration and purging.

Further, the works highlight that transitory and evolutionary patterns symbolize the arch of nature, the natural order of things…'the browning of a leaf’, and the ‘death of a gardener’. The transition and transfiguration from beauty and desire into death is inevitably, a transformation of sense perception.