Bhaba is a multi-disciplinary exhibition created by artist Neha Vedpathak in response to poems by Rabindranath Tagore and Kay Ryan. This presentation at the Poetry Foundation includes a large-scale plucked paper work, installation of handmade stones and a mixed-media garland. Vedpathak has carefully created and selected these works to device a virtual dialogue between the two poets and herself. For this show the artist has chosen to narrow the focus and emphasize on two books namely Particles, Jottings, Sparks by Rabindranath Tagore and Erratic Facts, Kay Ryan’s latest collection.
Particles, Jottings, Sparks is a selection of short poems by Tagore. Written over the span of his entire career, these 200 odd poems were compiled and translated into English (from Bengali) by William Radcliffe and published in 2007. ‘In preparation for the show, I started reading Tagore again, specifically his collection of brief poems. All these poems are almost like Haiku, each poem as a droplet or a spark as suggested in the title. It was easy to draw parallels between these jottings and “plucking”. I see each stroke of plucking as a drop; meaningful and important but part of a whole.'' states Vedpathak. She further says, “Tagore's poems in this collection have a sense of spontaneity and profoundness all at once. I admire so much of his work but the themes that I gravitate towards the most are that of love, longing, yearning, beauty and references
to nature: sky, moon, flowers, desert, etc. I suppose my colors come from there.’
Bhaba is also the title of the 10 x 13 feet plucked paper work created especially for this show at The Poetry Foundation. To create this work, Vedpathak employs “plucking’’, a technique which she invented, where she separates the fibers of the Japanese handmade paper using a tiny pushpin. The resultant paper, resembling a lace fabric, is painted and molded to create an immense floating wall of paper. It has taken Vedpathak more than 600 hours to complete this one work. Vedpathak's practice is fundamentally linked to a deeper understanding of her materials and processes that are innovative, ritualistic and repetitive.
Erratic Facts by Kay Ryan is the second source material employed by Vedpathak. ‘Compact structure of Ryan’s poems, depth without the weight of sterness and whimsy are appealing to me both as a reader and a fellow creative. Also the unexpected themes and rhythms of Ryan’s poetry are intellectually satisfying’ explains Vedpathak. Many of the poems from Erratic Facts rely upon close attention to detail by the reader; closer inspection is essential in viewing Vedpathak’s work too. Vedpathak finds another overlapping interest, their mutual fascination for stones, boulders, science, nature. Stones created by using collected sand and pigment from different locations in Arizona, plant sap
and solar energy will be displayed in a vitrine. These stones/sand sculptures made by Vedpathak blur the line between nature and man-made inviting viewers to consider beyond what meets the eye.
Bhaba endeavors to capture the character, essence and spirit of two extraordinary poets, Rabindranath Tagore and Kay Ryan, as visualized by Neha Vedpathak. Style, structure and context of Tagore and Ryan's poetry are very distinct and unique to each. Yet as a reader of their work Vedpathak finds coinciding motifs and pursuits. The exhibition ‘Bhaba’ represents a cumulation of meditations on the subject of life, longing, separation, nature and the irony of such deliberations.