For an artist who developed an early interest in waste material (such as chipped off pieces of marble) at his family stone carving facility, Rajasthan-born Prashant Pandey’s latest work repurposes a totally different substance. It is the holy ash sourced from Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, one of the 12 such sites in India that has a powerful ellipsoid as its presiding deity in the form of Shiva.
But Pandey’s untitled installation, which is made to hang from the ceiling like a scroll or a tapestry, does not represent a particular god or religion. In his work, we see nearly 1,000 glass slides that have ash smeared all over them. The slides are then inscribed with thousands of symbols and drawings.
What should one make of this artwork that does not have a direct reference point? According to the artist, the exhibit takes the form of a manuscript, which signifies the rebirth of experiences that were once alive but have now been forgotten or discarded.
As I walked around the installation, while being mindful of its fragility, I felt a sense of stillness in the section where the artwork was displayed. Was it the ash? Or just my state of mind as I looked at the work? I couldn’t tell.
The installation was part of a group show, ‘Shadow Lines’, at New Delhi’s Shrine Empire Gallery.
Featured image courtesy Shrine Empire Gallery website: Untitled, holy ash on glass slides, 2019