Where I Live: Meera Devidayal
For several years, the city as ‘Dream-World’ has been at the core of my paintings. How hapless migrants from across the country get lured into its neon-lit web of seemingly limitless opportunity—without seeing its swampy underbelly. Though the ‘WELCOME’ shining gold from afar turns to rusty iron as they draw near, they manage to survive the ever-present hostility of the cityscape, by living the waking dream of success, in a city filled with promises.
This ability to transfer reality into dreams, the ‘spirit of an urban imagination’, is what turns a sprawling abysmal landscape called a slum into an ‘inner-city village’, pulsating with aspiration, enterprise, resourcefulness, and above all, resilience---albeit in precariously-perched homes created from recycled tin sheets and blue plastic. Interestingly, the structure of these dwellings creates its own style of interior décor. The city is also a space where vastly different lives merge, overlap, enmesh, and get inextricably entwined with each other. The space between these contradictions is what I’m exploring.
The works in this collection grew out of my interaction with people close to home, but living very different lives from mine, who graciously opened their doors to me and my camera. The photographs, digitally printed on galvanized steel sheets, form the base of my paintings, the starting-point for each work. The wild juxtaposition of irreconcilables provides me with a plethora of ‘found’ images and materials---the same recycled metal sheets and blue plastic, newspaper photographs, film posters, stickers, and glitter---which I attempt to turn into a visual metaphor, to prod the viewer into experiencing something he normally sees without seeing, in a different way.
Bombay, January 2009