Faithfully Yours?

‘Faithfully Yours?’ is a group exhibit of art photography – March 8th – 17th, 2013 at Arpana Caur Academy of Fine art and Literature, New Delhi.

About Faithfully Yours?I pick up my steps, nourish my faith and get started on a journey that I have made almost every living day/moment of my life. It’s the one between faith being broken and restored over and over…but I never get too far. I walk on this thin line of belief that keeps fragmenting and reforming…

To know more about the exhibit, see the link below:

https://ambikasethi.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/faithfully-yours-a-photo-art-texhibition/

Review: excerpt from Asian Age: – http://www.asianage.com/arts/acts-faith-through-photographic-lens-407 – “Ambika Sethi’s work stands out for its sheer presentation where she put together all the images on canvases mounted in stretchers of varying thicknesses and sizes. The imagery too covers the complete gamut…” – Alka Raghuvanshi – Art writer, curator, artist.

A review by Radha Kauria:

Ambika Sethi’s montage in the photo exhibition “Faithfully Yours” stands out from the other artistes featured in the form of the exhibit—by choosing not to frame her photographs in the usual frames, and instead mounting them on solid squares makes them more accessible to viewers. While the work of most other photographers was marked by an emphasis on the fragmentary, each photo “standing alone” as it were, in the case of Sethi’s exhibit, while each photograph was uniquely in its own right, and a beautiful fragment in itself, the technique she uses knits them together into a coherent whole.

A larger story, the larger picture of faith as we experience it in the fleeting moments of everyday life emerges from her work. While one is immediately struck by the more obvious forms of faith, which perhaps is also the author’s intention (given their bigger size and the vivid streaks of orange and red which mark them), it is the smaller, more ordinary, black-and-white photographs which ring out with the music of a life filled with faith. The haunting picture of the whole playing marbles, juxtaposed with marbles that are cracked up, signifies a faith that is broken, or alternatively, a faith which is strengthened through the experience of brokenness. The detail of the daan patra and the godown of a temple take us “backstage” into the lives of those for whom faith is as much a profession as a lived reality. This feeling of going backstage also strikes you on seeing the images of the Goddess Durga in a state of semi-construction, the disarray of the workshop all around the multiple statues, again giving a window into the marketing, the political economy of faith in India.

Most poignant are the images with humans, a young child resting his head on its mother’s capturing the innocent faith of childhood, two friends faithful to each other holding hands, secure in the knowledge of the others’ trust, and the desperate grasp of a dying woman on a railway track, reaching out to her equally impoverished friend in the hope, the faith of redemption from death. Qurikily enough, Sethi cleverly introduces a wonderful photograph of a dog sitting in a car, gazing out with immense canine longing at something unseen out of the frame. This photograph captures the best of her art—intelligent, witty, haunting and sensitive at the same time. Sethi manages to evoke the conventional popular understandings of the dog as a faithful animal, but does this through a photograph which has a canine burning with longing. By evoking longing through a non-human, she manages to lead our understanding of faith deeper than the other artistes: for what is faith if not longing bolstered by hope?

Other images such as a tiny green shoot doggedly shooting up from within the cracks of an otherwise unforgiving concrete, and an open lock lying within a dusty alcove convey the resilience of faith and the reward of finding the key to our searching questions. In steering clear from a simplistic, monolithic understanding of faith, and in making her photographs more solidly, sensuously present to the viewer, Sethi also raises question about the role of photography as an art, its function as an art form, in today’s world which is saturated with photographs and digital images. Most importantly, by weaving together disparate experiences from her life, which evoke a range of emotions such as hope, security, longing, comfort, growing and discovering, she expresses the rich variety of what constitutes faith-experience, leaving the viewer with a deeper sense of what it means to have, or indeed “keep the” faith.

Radha Kaupria is an independent writer, historian and researcher. She can be reached at – radhakapuria@gmail.com

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