Dhara Mehrotra: Exploring Expressions In Nature

By Gunjan Tripathi

Delhi based artist Dhara Mehrotra’s solo art installation ‘Through Clusters & Networks… is the product of the Artist-in-Residence outreach program at NCBS-TIFR, and offers a closer look at how fungi and plants communicate with each other via a “Wood Wide Web”
National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBS) encourages collaboration at every level and the artist-in-residence outreach program was also in alignment with varying expressions of science. The program brings on board artists who work closely with ‘Principal Investigators’ and their labs to translate the science into art. 

Through Clusters and Networks by Dhara Mehrotra
Image : View at the exhibition Through Clusters & Networks

‘Through Clusters and Networks’ exhibition ongoing till 15th February 2019, is a wonderful closure to the 8 months interactive collaboration in between Dhara and NCBS. A graduate from Delhi College of Arts, art and creative endeavours were always engaging for Dhara.

She tells, “Perhaps the choice to be an artist was self-evident for me and there was no thinking about anything else. It all fell into place and the path emerged by itself into a continuous journey ever since. I explore landscape and its inherent ecology, I have always found myself intrigued and inspired by the foliage, ferns, petals, grass, moss, pollen and other aspects of landscape. The idea centers mostly around ‘Cluster and Space’ – to evoke a sense of fluidity and boundlessness of natural world around us.” Dhara tells us about things she finds inspiration in. 

World-Wide-Web |Sphere Diameter 60 cm | Acrylic and pigment on fibre glass |2018
Wood-Wide-Web |Sphere Diameter 60 cm | Acrylic and pigment on fibre glass | 2018

When we asked her why and how nature and ecology started inspiring her, she shares ‘Observing anthills, bee swarms, bird flocks, termite colonies etc. were always fascinating to me. It makes one wonder what drives them to self-organize. Perhaps each cell at molecular levels is pre-programmed and knows exactly its purpose. Our small steps are merely unfolding and discovering intelligence behind nature’s evolutionary miracles.” Dhara talks about her work at the residency and how it was more challenging than her previous works

“I was working around the idea of Wood Wide Web and interconnectedness of the plants/ trees with each other through this fungal network. Working with certain labs at NCBS I came to understand the ‘How and Why’ of these networks. Within a controlled lab environment, scaled down to a petri dish, I observed the building patterns of these structures under the microscope. Towards maybe some understanding of what the blueprint of its intensity and scales in the real woods could be.”

She considers the residency as an immense learning experience. “If at all there was anything close to be addressed as a challenge, I would say perhaps, ‘someone more used to sailing the rough seas of artistic intuition, standing on the steady shores of scientific precision can be dizzying at times”, she adds. 

She further elaborates on her learnings at the unique Art & Science residency “My biggest learning has been to appreciate how art and science, perceived as poles apart to a casual observer, are in fact deeply intertwined. Both are two different languages to express interpretations and perceptions of the world we live in, using different scripts but with the same underlying purpose.”

Dahra Mehrotra - Nest
Image : Nest. Installation by Dhara Mehrotra

In conclusion we asked Dhara her thoughts on the relationship between arts and science, to which she replies “Both Art and Science have same purpose towards pursuit of truth. They are perhaps two different means to the same end. Both represents knowledge and imaginations, art approaches it more subjectively, whereas science is objective.” She also has a few interesting projects around clusters in nature in the pipeline which will be exciting to wait for.