Critics’ Picks

Jayashree Chakravarty, Earth as Heaven: Under the Canopy of Love, 2017, tea and tobacco leaves, roots, stems, insects, Nepali and Chinese handmade papers, powders of dried leaves, plastic beads, clay, cloth, dimensions variable.


Jayashree Chakravarty

Musée Guimet
6 place d’Iéna
October 18–January 15

In Earth as Heaven: Under the Canopy of Love (all works cited, 2017), an installation in the rotunda of the museum’s top floor, artist Jayashree Chakravarty has visitors walk through a large, fleshy cocoon. The materials she has assembled reveal themselves along the sculpture’s interior terrain: tea and tobacco leaves, roots, stems, insects with intact wings, handmade Nepali and Chinese papers, powders of dried leaves, plastic beads, clay, and discarded scraps of cloth. Outside the cave-like sculpture, large collages of similar material line the walls, unfurling from ceiling to floor.

In Pierre Primetens’s film Jayashree Chakravarty, which accompanies the show, Chakravarty walks Kolkata’s streets to source her materials, from a disused plot of land overgrown with weedy shrubs to the tightly packed paper markets of the old city. Before choosing a particular leaf or stem, Chakravarty runs her hands on the ground. She is apparently indiscriminate: Diseased leaves, torn stems, petals with gaping holes—she places them all in a jute bag.

Like many of Kolkata’s residents, Chakravarty has witnessed the destruction of lush local marshlands by hazardous urbanization, namely, the quick conversion of a local salt lake to the high-rise condo complex simply called “Salt Lake City.” Chakravarty does not merely use nature as her material; neither is the work a metaphor for landscape. It is a landscape in itself, the result of a practice that obsessively gathers what it can from a natural world otherwise reduced to the margins.