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Ranjani Shettar: Exhibition Guide

artwork against a background of plants

Detail of Cloud songs on the horizon, 2023 (c) Ranjani Shettar Courtesy Talwar Gallery, New York New Delhi

Ranjani Shettar’s two-decade-long artistic practice has consistently been informed by the close observation and study of the natural world.

Continually meditating on the subjective unfolding of time in nature, her abstract forms seek to evoke what she calls the “adaptations” or those imperceptible and innumerable processes of change and metamorphosis taking place amid the various species of any given environment. 

Cloud songs on the horizon commissioned specifically for the Barbican’s Conservatory comprises of five suspended sculptures, each of which has been handcrafted by Shettar in her studio in rural Karnataka, India. Working intuitively, Shettar’s approach is embedded and responsive to its own context and surroundings. Gliding above the koi pond is a sculpture carved from a reclaimed teak wood pillar, while each of the components of the other sculptures are first moulded from a stainless steel base and then handwoven muslin cloth is bound to the steel armature, a technique she had adapted from a local crafts tradition. The resulting effect is deeply textural, and Shettar progressively introduces colour. Starting with components accented with lacquer, graduating to those unfurling with hints of colour coming from the root of the madder plant, culminating in an exuberant mix of lacquer, madder and natural pomegranate dye.

Find your way around the Conservatory

Ranjani Shettar conservatory map

Conservatory map

Carefully installed throughout the Conservatory, Shettar has intentionally nestled some sculptures amongst the foliage, to be discovered. All are to be viewed from multiple points, encouraging wandering and exploration. Shettar draws us into the Conservatory, gently persuading us to look at a tree, flower, leaf, plant and to appreciate their own rhythms. To slow down and to recognise the cycles of transformation embedded within each of them; and just like the clouds above us, know that they are always quietly shapeshifting.

Artist Ranjani Shettar working on sculpture

About the Artist

Ranjani Shettar (b. 1977 Bangalore, India) is an Indian sculptor who combines natural and industrial materials to create large-scale installations. She works with materials including beeswax, wood, organic dyes, vegetable pastes, lacquer, steel and cloth, creating immersive environments that are comprised of numerous non-representational forms and are inspired by her observations of the now-threatened natural environs of rural India. Living and working in Karnataka, India, she is known for her focus on nature and ecology. Shettar’s works are in many prestigious museum collections and have been the subject of several solo presentations including at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (The MET) (2018), The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (2019), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2011), The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) (2009), The Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX (2008-9) and The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston, MA (2008).

In the Conservatory with Ranjani Shettar

From the Artist

‘Natural light had to become an active ingredient of the sculpture making, not a passive that would happen later on. I had to consider it as a medium itself.‘
Ranjani Shettar
‘For me, everything is not magnanimous, it doesn’t have to be to inspire me. Little things can inspire.‘
Ranjani Shettar
‘I love the labour that it takes, I love the time that it takes and how wood starts to reveal its secrets slowly. You methodically uncover and shape something in to its final form. ‘
Ranjani Shettar
‘We cannot be separated from our natural surroundings, we have to have that for our species to thrive.‘
Ranjani Shettar

Discover the sculptures

Cloud Songs on the Horizon installation in conservatory


Cloud songs on the horizon, 2023

Image of sculpture: In the thick of the twilight


In the thick of the twilight, 2023

Above the Crest installation in conservatory


Above the crest, 2023

Moon Dancers installation in conservatory


Moon dancers, 2023

On the Wings of Crescent Moons installation in the conservatory


On the wings of crescent moons, 2023

kiran nadar museum of art

Ranjani Shettar: Cloud songs on the horizon has been commissioned in partnership with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA).