On show until 14 March at Dubai-based Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Beirut-born artist Vikram Divecha’s solo exhibition Towards Opacity addresses themes of dark adaptation, failure, fugitivity, time, loss and darkness. Upon entrance visitors are greeted with a narrow corridor which leads to a photography darkroom immersive installation entitled Gallery 354 (2018), the central focus of the New York and Dubai-based artist’s exhibition. The room, barely lit, takes advantage of visual sensory deprivation and is home to a narration in the artist’s voice.
Vikram Divecha. Google Images search entry Production; Device iPhone SE (A1723); Display aspect ratio 169, 2019. Install view. Oil on Linen. 213 x 120 cm
“My voice meditates on Gallery 354, the namesake hall in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses objects from Melanesia. I literally engage with light, retina and perception to bring to attention the very act of looking, the reception of image and culture and how the self is reflected in these,” explains Divecha. “While the image fails, audio echoes a more deeper and personal history and psyche – my interest here is in the politics of display and capture. Through this work the museum and the camera get intertwined and the birth of photography, anthropology and museums are called into question. The darkroom and the photography process are not just mediums and material, but are employed as metaphors in this installation.”
The artist has introduced a brand new series of paintings at the exhibition entitled Lazy Loading (2019). “Lazy loading is a programming feature that defers the loading of information,” explains Divecha. “I’ve installed these paintings in a single vertical line, suggesting a bottomless scroll, a never-ending pit of information, which also mirrors the vast repositories which institutions such as the Met have acquired over many decades of pursuit.” Noting inspiration from smartphones, the artist mixed pigments to colour-match the monochrome blocks on digital screens, referencing the hyper-efficiency of technology in today’s age.
Vikram Divecha. Gallery 354, 2018. Visitor
“There is a lot to take away from this show,” says the artist. “I am interested in how the gradual adjusting of the hardware of one’s eyes exposes the space of the darkroom. This notion that the human was the first camera and perception is so entwined with the act of looking is an important experience in the show.”
Divecha’s artistic journey was first established in the UAE when he began engaging with urban systems and operations. While navigating through various sectors including art, municipal operations, trading houses and quarrying, his interest for shaping projects using available material flourished. “Rather than expecting the public to participate in my works, I was keen on a reverse approach — that of participating in the public, putting my questions and aesthetic inquiries out there and following what develops,” he shares.
Vikram Divecha. The relationship between wood and sunlight, (Detail), 2018. Scrap pieces from Columbia University woodshop, white marker, laminated plywood, metal frame, Ikea floor lamp. Variable dimensions
The root inspirations for the artist’s works are simple observations and inconsequential encounters. “They could be subtle in nature but are loaded with socio-political context, such as encountering disarranged bricks on the street or in the case of the current exhibit, observing a shift in lighting conditions while walking between museum halls,” explains Divecha. “Deconstructing these led me to areas of research, history, social engagement and a material-based practice. The drive behind these investigations is often to bring invisible structures into plain view, and raise questions about agency, ethics and value.”
Towards Opacity by Vikram Divecha is on show at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai, until 14 March 2020