Mahler and Lewitt Resident 2017: Neeraja D
Artist Neeraja D shares the experiences from her month long residency at Mahler and Lewitt Studios, Spoleto, Italy
As I prepared to start my residency at the Mahler-Lewitt studios in Spoleto, Italy, I knew I had the opportunity to spend more than a month in the company of artists and writers and curators. It was both nice to hear Guy Robertson, the curatorial director of the studios, say that I was not bound by any expectations of producing a body of work during the residency. It was one of the many ways he and the studios have been generous in creating an environment of support and encouragement. I did create a body of work during the six weeks and it has started a momentum in my practice, which I was missing since taking up a full-time job in Bangalore.
I was in the old studio of Sol Lewitt, with his drawing table and lamp still in the same position next to the windows. My living arrangements were made in the kitchen-cum-bedroom right above the studio. Most Spoleto residents who had either known Lewitt or had been part of the art community since the seventies, and then later Carol and Eva Lewitt remarked about how that his most favored space. The reason for this brief description of the studio space is not make a hagiographic point. Rather, it is to note the peculiar position a Studio occupies for the artist and the viewer. It is often seen as the site of making, one where the event of art occurs. As an emerging artist who is fast approaching the ineligibility of age for most residency deadlines, I was perhaps more sensitive than usual to both the physical and conceptual space of Lewitt’s studio.
The crucial thing which stays with me since the residency is Ideal X, my solo show in a deconsecrated chapel in Spoleto which came about during the final days of my stay. Although the residency had no proviso for a show, I was fortunate that my work interested the local artistic community and I was invited by the Comune di Spoleto to exhibit in the Madonna del Pozzo chapel. This surreal space, with 14th century frescos still on the walls, stood in dramatic counterpoint to my work on the modern-day shipping container. It was an opportunity to explore how contemporary art sits adjacent to a very conspicuous historical specificity.
I am indebted to the Inlaks foundation and the Mahler-Lewitt Studios for supporting my residency.
All photos are courtesy Neeraja D