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b. 1957, India

Sheela Gowda Biography

Sheela Gowda was born in Bhadravati, India, in 1957. She studied painting at Ken School of Art, Bangalore, India (1979), pursued a postgraduate diploma at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, India (1982), and earned an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art, London (1986). Though trained as a painter, Gowda expanded her practice to sculpture and installation, and has since also incorporated photography. Drawn to common local materials such as cow dung, incense, and kum kum powder (a natural pigment most often available in brilliant red), she makes process-oriented works in the idiom of Post-Minimalist abstraction that are activated by their materials’ ritualistic associations.

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And Tell Him of My Pain (1998/2001/2007) is a cascading installation of draped red cord. Gowda made this material by pulling over 250 meters of thread through sewing needles, then binding it with pigment and glue. Terminating in a clutch of glinting needles, the cord’s color and snaking arrangement both attract and repel, as softness gives way to severity. For Darkroom (2006), Gowda collected used tar drums from road construction teams to build a shanty fort. Despite the rusted patina of the repurposed metal, the small but well-designed structure, complete with columns, evokes a classical grandeur. Once inside the cramped interior, the viewer is treated to a representation of a starry sky in the form of a ceiling pricked with holes. Thus the work fuses confinement and limitlessness. It the case of the latter, the artist substitutes an illusion of the cosmos, which is not to discount the spurious value of the fake, but to emphasize the power of imagination. From domestic labor to public works, Gowda reflects on internal contradictions: home can be both secure and oppressive, tradition can be inspirational and restraining, industriousness can be innovative and destructive.

Gowda has had solo exhibitions at Venkatappa Art Gallery, Bangalore (1987 and 1993); Gallery 7, Mumbai (1989); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (1993); GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2004, 2008, and 2011); Bose Pacia Gallery, New York (2006); Museum Gouda, Netherlands (2008); Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo (2010); Iniva, London (2011); and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2013). Notable group exhibitions include How Latitudes Become Form, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003); Documenta 12 (2007), Indian Highway, Serpentine Gallery, London (2008); Making Worlds, Venice Biennale (2009); Provisions, Sharjah Biennial (2009); Paris-Delhi-Bombay, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011); and Garden of Learning, Busan Biennial (2012). Gowda lives and works in Bangalore.

Source: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Sheela Gowda Featured Artworks

Private Gallery by Sheela Gowda contemporary artwork
Sheela GowdaPrivate Gallery, 1999Cow dung, lamination sheet, watercolour on paper, plyboard and wood (2 panels + set of nine water color paintings)
78 x 42 x 42 inches
Thomas Erben Gallery Contact Gallery

Sheela Gowda Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Arrested Views at Thomas Erben Gallery, New York
7 April–9 May 2009 Group Exhibition Arrested Views Thomas Erben GalleryNew York

Sheela Gowda Represented By

Sheela Gowda In Ocula Magazine

S. Alice Mong Ocula Conversation S. Alice Mong

S. Alice Mong became the Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center in 2012. Prior to joining the Asia Society, Ms Mong worked for almost a decade in New York, where as Director of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) she was responsible for transforming MOCA from a New York Chinatown institution to a leading national museum. Ms Mong...

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Richard Armstrong Ocula Conversation Richard Armstrong By Anna Dickie, Hong Kong

Our definition of “world” has so far been largely Europe and America. That is changing even today as we go to the Middle East.

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June Yap Ocula Conversation June Yap

Launched in April 2012, the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative charts contemporary art in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia is the Initiative’s inaugural exhibition. Initially shown in New York, (22 February–22 May 2013), the...

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Sheela Gowda In Related Press

Indian Artists Look Westward and Homeward, at the Queens Museum Related Press Indian Artists Look Westward and Homeward, at the Queens Museum 14 June 2015, New York Times

In 1997, Jane Farver, the farsighted and much-loved American curator who died in April in Venice, put together an influential exhibition called “ Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora ” at the Queens Museum. It was one of the few surveys of its kind in the United States up to that time, and Ms. Farver was...

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