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Interpreting Metaphors in Art: Part II – Dhruvi Acharya

Understanding Her Approach

Based in Mumbai, Dhruvi Acharya is an Indian artist known for her artistically and psychologically intricate art pieces. She targets her research towards the psychological and emotional dimensions of existence for an urban woman amidst a world full of conflict, injustices, violence, gender inequality and natural disasters. She often approaches these troubling issues with underhanded, gloomy cynical humour that also explores the bravery, kindness and hope found in our minds. The result is a multi-layered work of both artistic and mental sophistication.

Dhruvi Acharya  (image source: Instagram)

She believes that, in her projects, she has been building a realm where ideas communicate as much as matter, and people’s images change depending on their psychological conditions. Her paintings focus on the complex, emotional and mental phenomenon of transformation and resuming some intended lifestyle by employing her delicate and grim jokes.

Alone Again by Dhruvi Acharya (Image source: Dhruvi Acharya)

The series of works by Dhruvi serve as evidence of what goes through our heads-–numbness as well as negativity surrounding any attempt to grasp a different state or place. In her universe, speech bubbles and human forms morph to convey the emotions they are experiencing, comic book-style speech bubbles articulate inexpressible feelings, and memory pictures merge layers of paint into a pristine synthesis of past, present, and imagined futures. Acharya has won the 2013 FICCI Young Women Achievers award after gracing the cover of ‘India Today’ in 2005.

“What once was, still is, but isn’t …” by Dhruvi Acharya

“What once was, still is, but isn’t …” by Dhruvi Acharya (Image source: 2016 Installations – Dhruvi Acharya)

Losing someone, their presence, their existence is something so irrecoverable, bereavement and grief being your constant companions. Dhruvi lost her husband Manish Acharya, an actor and filmmaker in an accident in 2010. She explains her loss by a personal soft sculpture monochrome installation named “What once was, still is, but isn’t…” featuring a bedroom.

Installation: Deciphered

In the Chemould Prescott Road art gallery in India in 2019, Acharya displayed her solo exhibition After the Fall. This was achieved by a switch of focus by the artist to 3-dimensional art in the installation after sticking to painting throughout her career. Everything in the room seems to be hanging in the air, to make it feel as though it’s hovering. The ceiling is a replica of the couple’s former bedroom, complete with a bookcase, dressing table, desk and bed. The self-made rug on the floor talks about her loss like a love letter. She wants to avoid creating barriers for people to comprehend her urge to express her true feelings through her words. 

“What once was, still is, but isn’t …” by Dhruvi Acharya (Image source: 2016 Installations – Dhruvi Acharya)

Life-size pieces of furniture made of quilted linen sewn loosely with red thread dangle in the air. The walls are covered in drawings dating back more than two decades, from top to bottom, creating a strange scene that is real but not real. It is like the beginning of mourning, like the onset of grief when bad things start and everything feels beyond one’s control. Only half of the bed is in use, the other half is covered with sculptures that seem like thorns and tears. The room is adorned by drawings resembling crucial moments in their life, quotes spoken by them stitched on book covers, teardrops falling from the windows, and shadows from the photos. Each piece narrates the survivor’s story of loss in its own unique way. 

To sum it up…

Thoughts-I by Dhruvi Acharya (Image source: 2016 paintings – Dhruvi Acharya)

“After the Fall” is to be more of an emotional exhibition than anything else. For the artist—the one telling her own story—the audiences who see themselves reflected back through it; this body of work serves as a healing process. Thus, interacting with each other via art only made them find themselves better as people. Re-imagined through the lens of her perception, it is a deeply internalised tale of sorrow; leaving the space, one carries away the warmth and hurt they felt before together in their own mental box.

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By Soumya Kotian

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