– Autumn/Winter 2009

Sheela Gowda and Christoph Storz in conversation with Suman Gopinath

Suman Gopinath

Sheela Gowda, Drip Field, 2009. Installation view, 9th Sharjah Biennial. Photograph: Christoph Storz and Sheela Gowda

I first worked with Sheela Gowda in 2000 when I co-curated the exhibition 'Drawing Space' with Grant Watson.1 She was one of three artists in the exhibition; her work was called And Tell Him of My Pain (1998), a version of which was shown in documenta 12 in 2007. The work had all the elements that Gowda has since become known for: her process-oriented and labour-intensive installations, her subversive use of everyday materials to convey serious political views, and the performative and ritualistic qualities that inhere in the production of her work.

What follows are excerpts from a conversation that I had with Gowda and the artist Christoph Storz, to whom she is married, which took place at their house in Bangalore at the end of May, a few days before they left for the Thessaloniki and Venice biennials.

SG: Sheela, you began your career as a painter, after studying at the Ken School of Art in Bangalore, the MS University in Baroda, Santiniketan in West Bengal and finally at the Royal College of Art in London. However, it was in the 1990s, when you were back in India, that your visual language began to change. You began experimenting with materials that were in a sense 'political' in character. It was around the same time that there was a break from medium-specific art practices and an internationalisation of contemporary art in India. Christoph, you had already moved to India from Switzerland by then; perhaps you could describe some of the changes that you saw in the art world, and more particularly in Sheela's own practice.

CS: I would begin by saying that Sheela's

  1. In collaboration with inIVA, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Beaconsfield Gallery, London.