Sareena Khemka’s current practice explores urban spaces through dichotomous ideas of construction and destruction, preservation and regeneration, man-made and organic environments, creating transformative spaces and objects that recall historical ruins and geological formations that have the potential for material evolution. Mapping cityscapes through narratives of its past and the future, her preoccupation with building a research-based practice on the subject has led her to work with several mediums that started with drawing and now includes sculpture, found object, sound and light, merging science and technology into her creative process.
Having lived in several large metropolitan cities such as Chicago, Kolkata, Bombay & Bangalore, she is drawn towards the architecture of spaces and its contradictory nature. Through her new works, the artist questions the permanence and temporality of urban spaces, in using objects from the city that are going through forms of ruination and decay by preserving or regenerating them as well as building new ones that resemble modern ruins.
From casting remnants of old architectural capitals that will decay over time and creating relics of its parts, to stones of construction rocks that lie in heaps all over the city, resembling the earth’s crust, her works call on the urgency of preservation while reforming the status of relics, moving beyond nostalgia and despair of lost heritage, re- imagining them as seeds of a new kind of modernity.
Khemka’s fascination with rock crystals began In Mumbai where they were commonly being sold on street corners that reminded her of a microcosm of urban colonies forming specific patterns of organised chaos; they exist against all odds in the midst of cities as fragments of a landscape that was, or a future of what could be, like fossils or the rings of a tree. They emphasise the tumultuous relationship between man-made spaces and what we hold precious to those found in nature. Inspired by those crystals, these fragile environments came into being with Copper Sulphate and alum crystals grown in various shapes and sizes, preserved in resin onto the sculptural surfaces.
Bacteria like rock crystals are microscopic in nature yet have the ability to significantly alter the materiality of a surface; In collaboration with a scientist, bacterial culture has been sampled from the air as well as objects like rusted metal, cement tiles etc., preserved in resin to see how all of these materials interact with each other and change when placed in different environments and temperature changes in the atmosphere, altering the colour of the objects and perhaps even bringing out new forms of growth over time, allowing an evolutionary process to some of the works.
After a year-long investigation into these various material and growth processes, drawing that forms the foundation of the artists process has now started to seep onto all the sculptural forms growing and spreading like a decaying organism on these built broken environments, creating fragmented landscapes.
The artist’s earlier drawings mapped this disorder and chaos of urbanised cities by connecting three-dimensional objects and forms with these geological rock crystals and decaying organic matter, flattening them into intricate patterns and networks. Her current works stem from the same ideas, progressing into a more immersive practice, where Sareena builds layers of complex and unforgiving materials to create intricate forms that come together in a versatile manner that calls for speculation and reflection.