From a distance, the corner of the gallery that artist Mithu Sen has claimed as her own seems inviting. There’s a strip of pink running from ceiling to floor. A lamp hangs low, throwing light on a simple table that seems to have pink photo frames on it. Once you come closer, the work (titled ‘Permanent Past’) threatens to rejig your understanding of pink. This is not the colour of baby girls’ dresses, but a fleshy, gummy pink that’s shining as though slick with saliva. And then there are the teeth sticking out of that surface.
As if that wasn’t creepy enough, you’ll find that between some of the awkwardly-embedded teeth are tiny human figures. Behind these modified photo frames are a set of tools and glass jars that contain powders as well as (presumably false) teeth.
“Permanent Past” looks like you’ve entered the workspace of a demented tooth fairy rather than an artist, and this is a compliment. It’s not every day that an artwork can fascinate and horrify you in equal measure.
Sen is one of the 20 artists who have taken over Chemould Prescott Road for an exhibition titled, Modus Operandi II; In-situ: An Artist’s Studio.
The idea behind it is to allow viewers a glimpse of the processes that bring an artwork to life. Some of the participating artists show you the books they’ve read and the objects that have inspired them. Others show you their tools. Some just show you their work.
Even if you’ve never heard of Aditi Singh, Anju or Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, NS Harsha, Reena Saini Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni or Sheetal Gattani, this show is a delight. With elements on display like a delicate fan of dried coral; pigments used to make a particular shade of colour; perfectly-made miniature bricks; a string of tiny heads; and a newspaper clipping that asks if actor Biswajeet was a “master impregnator”, inspiration is revealed to a fabulous, varied business.
While some participating artists like Anant Joshi, hold back from…