Neha Vedpathak
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Certainty of Uncertainty
The desert landscape of Arizona felt like a homecoming for Indian-born artist Neha Vedpathak, whose practice is grounded in a meditative approach to natural materials including soil, handmade paper, and turmeric. “It’s a remarkable thing to connect the mind-freedom that is available to us in this particular landscape,” the poetic master of the subtle Richard Tuttle has said of the Western landscape. Underneath its surface bareness and desolation, the desert rewards careful, patient observers with unparalleled beauty. The heightened awareness and fullness in absence evoked by its open expanse is brought to an urban gallery setting in Vedpathak’s installation Certainty of Uncertainty.

Viewers are enveloped in an earthy 10 x 20 foot sanctuary of packed, pigmented soil walls with soft sand underfoot. The room is dramatically lit and contains simply a hand-made stone and suspended plucked-paper garland, the latter slipping in the Painted Desert’s colors and adding levity to an otherwise grounded space. Terra cotta panels encapsulating visitors are made of soil and sand devotedly gathered by Vedpathak, and they contain lush layering of bumps and crevices in an endless array of bronze, Siena, umber, tan, hazel, and brown tones. This rich coloration lends Certainty of Uncertainty a weighty presence but the installation’s limited elements allow the eye to focus on the graduations in color and
texture in the earth.

Whereas Land Artists in the early 70s confronted the American West’s vast expanses by incising, interjecting, and altering the landscape with rigorous geometric man-made structures, Neha Vedpathak’s Certainty of Uncertainty embodies the contradictory urge to humble her viewers before the desert’s visual magnitude and power over the senses. A wandering mind is occasionally called back to quotidian reality by the installation’s sound component: the ticking of a clock, soft hammering in the distance, telephone ringing, chalk scribbling on a blackboard, or thumping of a runner’s feet. Vedpathak invites viewers to negotiate a personal point of contact, and serendipity of individual relationships is certain to result. (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)