Reena Saini Kallat
Hyphenated Lives (Sham-rose) - 2016 gouache, charcoal, ink and electric wire on deckle - edge handmade paper 40 x 27 in.
Hyphenated Lives is a re-imagining of fantastical mutations within the natural world, where new hybridized species of birds and animals, trees and flowers otherwise foregrounded as national symbols and proclaimed by nations as their own, symbolically get combined, with the hyphen serving to unify the otherwise conflicted nations they represent. Reena Kallat felt the need to turn to species other than the human race to tell us how to share the planet, where the existence of one depends on the other or the disappearance of one species affects the other adversely.
One of the motifs in the making of these works is the electrical cable. These conduits of contact that transmit ideas and information, bringing people together, become painstakingly woven entanglements that morph into barbed wires like barriers. Such explorations into ideas of independence and interdependence, directed at our individual conflicted selves and our relationship with others as neighbours or as nations, prod us to think of the many bonds and borders that make our complex existence.
Although she has been working around these ideas for several years, the work she showed at Campbelltown Art Centre, Sydney in 2010, titled "Two Degrees" can be said to be the starting point for this series, where her longstanding interest in the relationship between countries politically partitioned but historically related was furthered with attention to natural resources, that are often the root cause of conflict and contestation between divided countries such as India and Pakistan, Ireland and UK, Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea, Macedonia and Serbia, Austria and Hungary, US and Cuba. What usually begins with the sharing of common waters of rivers that run between borders of countries, often leads to the partitioning of the rivers; whether it is the case with the River Indus between India and Pakistan, the Rio Grande that flows between the US and Mexico, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basin between Bangladesh and India or the Jordan river between Palestine and Israel. In the drawings, you’ll find conjoined images of trees stemming together at the roots with one half growing into the banyan tree while the other into the Deodar tree, the national trees of India and Pakistan or the national bird from Israel, the Hoopoe combined with the Palestinian Sun Bird. The conjoined forms perhaps allude to nature's defiance of the artificially imposed, man-made divisions on the ground, as poetic provocations from the past or a proposition for an imagined future when indeed they may reunite.