Mirrors, shadows and cosmological explorations mingle together in the layered work of Roshan Ganu, whose work “पौर्णिमा: Gazing Into The Full Moon Night,” is currently on view at the Soo Visual Art Center, in Minneapolis’ Lyn-Lake neighborhood.
Originally from Goa, on the western coast of India, Ganu moved to the United States in 2018 to study at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she now works as an adjunct professor.
Ganu appears as a character in the installations, which also depict an imagined landscape of outer space. She filmed herself in the SooVAC galleries during Navarati, a festival in the Hindu tradition that spans nine nights. Ganu had always wanted to be a dancer, but the lessons were too expensive. When she was a child, she remembers dancing away throughout the festival during the celebrations held at the apartments in her community. “Navaratri for me, was my nine Nights of power,” she says.
Ganu’s voice can be heard in the exhibition, as well as what she calls “sound maps” like the such as of a temple in Goa, plus underwater sounds, sounds from outer space, and other fabricated sounds.
Visitors at SooVAC are immersed in a joyful, colorful night sky, as well as video elements that depict Ganu in a multicolored robe.
Ganu borrowed the cloak from a SooVAC board member, who has an inventory of costumes. It had previously been used in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” When she first wore it, she felt like the person she had been in 2001, dancing around during the Navarati Festival. She filmed the work in colored light of pink and white, as well as purple, which brought out the colors of the dress.
The exhibition is a follow-up to an earlier exhibition called “चांदोबा: A Trip Into The Moon,” presented at Second Shift Studios where Ganu was a resident artist last year. That earlier exhibition took the new moon as its theme, in contrast with the SooVAC exhibition, which uses the full moon as a metaphor for what happens when a period of isolation and longing is interrupted.
Both the exhibition at Second Shift and the current exhibition on view at SooVAC are part of a theme Ganu has long been interested in: isolation as a human condition. Besides the most recent isolation of the pandemic, Ganu acutely felt a strong feeling of isolation in her first winter in Minnesota, in 2018.
“The isolation was very real, and then when the pandemic hit, I was like, Oh, now everyone’s isolated, I can talk about it with people.”
चांदोबा’, pronounced Chandoba, is an affectionate way of addressing the moon in Marathi, Ganu’s first language. It comes from a nursery rhyme that begins: “Dear Moon, have you run away?” It’s about a child who can’t understand why the moon has abandoned her.
“It’s an exploration of curiosity, but also of melancholy and longing,” Ganu says.
Based on the East Side Saint Paul, Second Shift’s residency supports women and nonbinary artists in their artistic practices as well as their careers.
Chris Larson, co-founder of Second Shift, says he was struck by the way Ganu played with scale in “A Trip to the Moon,” as well as the ways Ganu was able to create an immersive environment with video projections and mirrors.
In that piece, Ganu used a mirror to reflect from one space to another, creating motifs of sky, moon and water. “The sense of place got shifted,” Larson says. “The water was on the wall, the window appeared to be on the floor. Your sense of what was stable or what would normally be on the floor was now on the wall or what was in the ceiling that was on the floor. So it kind of shifted your body and the space in a really beautiful way.”
Her time at Second Shift was fruitful, Ganu says, not only because of the support she felt from the Second Shift program and the other resident artists, but she also felt a connection with the neighborhood.
According to Larson, Ganu is the kind of artist who is extremely open. “She calms anybody in the space down and includes them,” he says.
You will probably sense that feeling of calm when you visit SooVAC’s space. Even in its fantastical, otherworldliness, the work invites the viewer into its world to play, and also reflect.
“पौर्णिमा: Gazing Into The Full Moon Night” runs through Nov. 12 at SooVAC. The artist will participate in an artist talk with curator Erin Gleeson on Wednesday, Nov. 2. at 6 p.m. at SooVAC. More information here.