Earth Songs for a Night Sky is a multi-faceted project by Ranjani Shettar (b. 1977, Bangalore, India). Drawing from her environment in rural India—with changing skies, monsoon rains, and lush vegetation—and employing traditional materials such as teak wood and indigo pigment, and techniques of carving, dyeing, and lacquer, Shettar has created hand-carved wood sculptures, a multi-part piece that wraps up the gallery walls, and an ethereal installation made of thread and wax. Occupying two rooms and the staircase of the original Phillips House, the project is conceived in dialogue with Wassily Kandinsky’s artist’s book Klänge (Sounds)—which features 56 woodcuts and was published right after he had made his breakthrough into abstraction—and Klee’s late paintings in the Phillips’s collection, including Arab Song (1932), Efflorescence (1937), and Figure of the Oriental Theater (1934).
"Sharing with Klee and Kandinsky a visible spirituality refracted through their respective cultures and centuries, Shettar grounds her imaginative sculptures in organic materials crafted into shapes that evoke nature."
Washington City Press
For Shettar, the connection between her work and Kandinsky’s book and Klee’s paintings is more metaphysical than visual. As she says, “I relate to the surreal and abstract qualities of both Kandinsky’s poetry and images. In Klee, I find a formal and thematic playfulness that I strive to achieve in my own work.” Undeniably, what the work of the three artists have in common is a tension between the material world and spiritual aspirations, observation and introspection, and the act of seeing, making, and reflecting. Shettar lives and works in the Shimoga district of Karnataka in South India. Her artwork has been exhibited and collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; among others.