PRERNA SM JAIN
The bustling city life has come to a standstill. Empty roads, absence of the daily humdrum, and a prolonged lockdown has created a sense of exasperation. The changed cityscape is portrayed in the work of artist Chetna. This minimalist prefers using only her first name. Her works are a combination of lines and thread that deconstruct the cityscape to arrive at its essence and what it represents. Like so many of us who wish to follow our passion, Chetna left her job at a business intelligence firm when she realised that her heart lay in art. She applied to art colleges, only to realise that their requirements were different from her stylistic approach. She then enrolled in Amity University’s Fine Arts Graduate course to get some formal training.
After that she studied for her Master’s at College of Art, Delhi. Chetna says, “I was a specimen in the College of Art because I could see people coming with their friends and saying, this is the person from Amity. Really, girls or boys would come and just point at me and say that she’s the one.” That, however, only fuelled her passion and determination, as she ended up executing 200-300 drawings that year. Today she has had her work exhibited in several prominent shows and art fairs, including the India Art Fair. Her work has been widely appreciated. A curator once called her “the upcoming Zarina Hashmi”. Chetna’s preferred medium is paper. She enjoys its adaptability as she uses it in 2D, 3D formats and even makes objects with it that can be worn. Her language is of lines rendered in geometric and minimalistic style, which she uses to deconstruct a city map or cityscape via ink/ thread or other experimental materials. The reason she uses black-and-white cityscapes is, she says, “When I was travelling from Noida to College of Art (Delhi), it was almost a one-and-a-half hour journey each way, during which you were often stuck in traffic. That just crept into my work. I started making rough drawings with lines. I would do traffic signals in an abstract way. Eventually it started getting sharper and cleaner.”
Another reason was that the city map itself had a “beautiful composition”, she says. But, ever since the lockdown, Chetna has been able to access her studio just once, that too, by “sneaking in”. She says that all she is left with is a little paper and some ink. Chetna’s work since the lockdown reflects her state of mind, which is that of being confined to a 10 x 10 space instead of her comfortable studio. She says that post the second extension of the lockdown, she felt like she had gone into a “dark tunnel”. “My work also started to look like that. The world looked like a square. I dissected the square, played with it, and one after the other I made 21 drawings, all of them speaking of the same confinement,” she says. City life is never easy, but under this lockdown we have probably started appreciating it a bit more. Chetna’s black-andwhite works give a fitting hue to our current mood. Probably after the 1st of June, we might see the city through a more colourful filter and use those old maps again.