Sonia Mehra Chawla is a visual artist and researcher based in New Delhi, India. Her artistic practice traverses notions of selfhood, nature, ecology and sustainability. Chawla’s works span across several media like photography, painting, fine art printmaking, video and installation. She is currently a visiting artist and researcher at M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation India.
Sonia’s ongoing project “Critical membrane” is an artistic enquiry into the dynamic, yet fragile depleting mangrove ecosystems of India. Some areas of her research include mangrove biodiversity in India, conservation methodologies, wetland degradation, sustainable development of coastal communities, joint mangrove management in India, transgenic rice plants (containing mangrove genes), microbial activity and role of microbes in mangrove ecosystems, and coastal ecosystem health.
The mangrove belt is the ‘membrane’ between land and sea and is disappearing at faster rates than any other ecosystem on Earth. The ongoing series of work combines and encompasses phases of research, expedition and documentation into comprehensive projects, through a robust interaction with Coastal and Mangrove ecosystems of India. Mangrove ecosystems become an entry point to various enquires: artistic, scientific, philosophical, and metaphorical.
The work explores the deep layers of the human psyche, associations and estrangements with nature and analyses the working of a landscape in flux. The project is an artistic enquiry into the role of nature, the purpose and preservation of life, and the role of humankind as ‘makers’. According to Sonia in this critical moment, it is necessary for us to revisit our concepts of growth and prosperity and question our worldview in order to explore new ways of being and living on this planet.