Shanti Gelmi explores the complexities of human connection and identity with a focus on the intangible elements which direct, manipulate and normalise behaviour in societal structures. Driven by the issues she faced early in her life, where she was pressured to deny her Indian cultural heritage to assimilate into Australian culture, Gelmi seeks to understand difference. Through drawing, cutting and making, Gelmi creates a unique visual language representing the ordering of biological, environmental, cultural, societal and emotional linkages of experience and memory into schemas, or mental layers, of existence.
Absent Presence is an immersive drawing and sculptural installation which uses form and structure as a metaphor for interconnected memories and experiences. Through the act of cutting and debossing the Cinefoil, an industrial aluminium, Gelmi creates and enhances shadows, giving them agency by allowing absent influences a more tangible presence. Cinefoil is designed to absorb light and deny shadows, echoing the denial of cultural heritage Gelmi has experienced. Through the process of manual debossing, an intricate and time-consuming task, Gelmi claims ownership of the material, giving it structure through flexible transformation. Gelmi’s work suggests that the way we think and feel may be based on information we do not question or feel powerless to change.