A nail house is a term that refers to homes where residents refuse to vacate and abandon their premises despite the pressure from builder sharks, thugs and corrupt officials. The guise of re-development, and the lure of a new square foot area, couples with coercion and intimidation. A loner, a family might dig their heels into their stand-alone and crumbling habitats. Eventually, time swallows the grit and determination to hold on.
After a decade-long absence from the usual four-walled gallery space, Anjana Mehra has brought into view an omnibus of a three-part show, comprised of paintings, photographs and a video of the demolition of a two-storied old mansion.
The exhibition, laid out in three commodious rooms of the spacious, high-ceilinged Nine Fish Gallery could be viewed as a form of public art which, in default calls for the accountability of those in administrative power and in control of the frenetic tower/road/bridge building exercises of Mumbai’s superstructure.
Mehra’s library of pictures, is an assembly of locations, of people, statuary, birds, animals and vitrine frontage of shops - a phenomenology of the pavement/footpath of several cities.
Walking and ambling through the town as an athlete would in exercise mode, her shot taking is to freeze fundamentally, a rhythm of survival and collectivity.
Mehra proposes a brooding kind of reflection: the exigency of looking at and negotiating with a ready-focus lens, the sites of the haphazard and fortuitous event, the functional and casual temporariness of the street and footpath occupant.
The stream of images that are replete with happenstance might change imminently. Figure, vehicle, animal, bicycle are subjects in micro worlds of both casual and vital narratives. She brackets off a location, to store a list of alternatives regarding astute picture making in her mind.
Indeed, putting across an alternative to the alternative seems to be her palpable motive. The photographic album, marked often by a blurriness, catches our sense of the everyday interspersed with plucky local idiosyncrasies in the suspension of time that photography delivers so effectively.
The exhibition calls to attention its lyceum-like space, lending its ambience to a monumentality that addresses and problematizes an urban framework — the transforming topography of a city, its skyline, its ever-shrinking and compressing spaces.
What we see on these walls are not reproductions of occurrences - when a building was gratuitously brought down or when the lure of mindless ‘sundecks’ of multistoried ‘heights’ began to proliferate in Mumbai. What we do perceive is Anjana Mehra’s memorials which seem to be born in the depths of floating anxieties – about her artistic predilections and whether there are alternative pictorial means to generate a painting with a forthright statement
Memories flow into the mind space angled and scaled in an endeavour to compile words and meanings related to a consciousness of a global world and the necessity of belongingness; or, on the other hand, the possibility of an acceptance of nomadic living. The Nail House, by Anjana Mehra, is being presented at the Nine Fish Art Gallery, Byculla, Mumbai, in association with Dot Line Space till 15 April 2021 from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm