Eccentric Structures / Intimate Worlds: Chemould/SHIFT | Vinita Mungi

10 March - 23 April 2022

Celebrating the exuberance of life, Vinita Mungi’s sculptures manifest as a series of biotic playgrounds. Their surfaces – meticulously glazed and often coated with candy-coloured slips –feature soft curves, folds, and asymmetrical forms that are inspired equally by limitless patterns in nature, socio-political concerns and formal visual enquiry.  


Mungi renders ideas of fluidity and spontaneity at various scales, with labyrinthine arrangements informed by the bodies of tree-trunks or branches. Their surfaces are colonised by oblong shells, sea sponges, tubular mushrooms, and miscellaneous organic matter, speaking explicitly of co-existence. Occasionally framed by windows, punctured holes and other openings across the structures’ façades reveal their hollow nature and provide diverse viewpoints into fantastical interior chambers. The underlying elements we see here seemingly split and sprout in constant mutation. Built with clay – a product of the interaction between natural elements – and fragile in their materiality, these representations highlight notions of resilience through symbiosis and adaptation, while demanding closer engagements of Mungi’s rich details.   

Mungi’s biospheres are multi-layered, multi-storeyed, and multi-textured – their gouges, incisions, bulbous swellings, and densely-populated spiky protrusions manufacture undulating topographies. Teeming with suggestions of fecund female forms as well as phallic symbols, these details imbue the works with sensuous qualities. By highlighting the normalcy of such carnal, bodily imagery within the natural world, the sculptures invite reconsiderations of broader issues surrounding markers of sexuality and notions of vulnerability.

Initiating dialogues between positive and negative spaces, naturalism and abstraction, the miniscule and macroscopic, Mungi’s works ultimately challenge various dichotomies to visualise a utopian world. Often constructed as independent parts designed to fit perfectly into each other, they divulge her laborious process while meditating further on larger ideas of totality, permanence, and permutation.


- Pooja Savansukha


About the artist

Vinita Mungi (b. 1995) is a Mumbai-based artist, who received her BFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2017. Confronting western-centric perspectives that her training was largely informed by, she began looking at artists, activists and poets belonging to the Post-colonial feminist movement as a way to introspect upon her own identity and orientations in the world. These meditations, combined with a rigorous and intimate engagement with her medium, inform her explorations of relationships between bodies and objects, daily life, and intimate spheres.


Laden with ecological representations – that recall her time spent close to nature while growing up in the Nashik district in Maharashtra – as well as intricate architectural structures, her works are interspersed with abstracted bodily and genital forms. These aim to conjure a world where “one’s chosen or existing gendered, sexual identifiers are as commonly present as plants, flowers, or buildings.” Through this attempt at normalising and liberating sexualised imagery, Mungi summons reconsiderations of our approach towards gender and identity politics in contemporary society. Consciously loaded with rich details and vibrant colours, her arresting works also direct attention towards looking beyond what meets the eye. Invoking a greater sense of vigilance, they endeavour to make us critical of seemingly innocuous yet regnant and male-dominated ideological constructs that have been rendered ubiquitous for generations.


Mungi’s works reflect a close and considered relationship with clay that lends itself to tactile engagements and bears memories of process in final manifestations. Working dexterously with this malleable and inherently organic material, she creates three-dimensional maquettes, which are then transformed into larger, finished works. Exercising complete control while determining the form of her sculptures, she surrenders to chance when it comes to awaiting the outcome of the firing process. While her technical prowess and artisanship are self-evident through her intricate works, Mungi manipulates and pushes her medium to consider formal, conceptual and socio-political concerns.  


Beyond sculpture, Mungi also relies on portraiture as a technique to further her interest in empowering individuals – usually transgender / hijra women, who have typically been marginalised in society.


Vinita lives and works in Mumbai, India.

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