Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hema Upadhyay and Rajesh Ram at Saatchi

Hema Upadhyay and Rajesh Ram draw the viewers’ attention at Saatchi’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’. The latter refers a complex culture, reorganizing and re-branding itself as a thriving new superpower. Purposeful intentions and Lofty ambitions present a wealth of opportunity even while creating dreadful anxieties for the people detracted by their circumstances.

The artist’s sculpture ‘Heavy Load’ made with ingredients like fiberglass, iron, paint has the figure almost bent double with two arms to his right. One hand is desperately trying to hold up his cotton trousers; the other pushes a wire netted sack over his shoulder. On his left side, the bronze figure appears to be holding his ear, listening to the earth with a second hand coming out from behind his head.

The weight appears to be overbearing. His figure, elevated to the statuesque, seems to be crippled by the weight of the consequences of the global food crisis. Objects like vegetables are stuffed into a flimsy wire sack, representing the genuine need for sustenance as global trade. The work celebrates the ordinary individual entrenched in a country suffocating for its numbers.

Hema Upadhyay’s ‘Killing Site’ is done in acrylic, gouache, dry pastel, photograph on paper, aluminum sheets, and resin. The Baroda born and Mumbai based artist employs photography and sculptural installations for the purpose of exploring notions of personal identity, dislocation, nostalgia and gender.

Her work draws on the theme of migration and resultant human displacement. The top of it is based on Mumbai’s dilapidated shanty towns, appearing upside down here. They protrude akin like a canopy over her decorated montage. Miniature cut-outs of the artist standing are there against these elaborate prints - as if absorbed by her social tapestry. Further down, there’s a small naked figure. It appears to be tied and chained in an upright position; a sobering reference to slavery and the social practice of caste inequality.

The upturned slums reference the repercussions and socio-economic inequalities in India, which emerge as a consequence of the relentless urban development.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Husain’s no more an Indian: the media reacts

Renowned Indian (now with Qatari nationality) painter M. F. Husain, went away from his (former) home country to live abroad to escape the various obscenity charges slapped against him. One of India's pre-eminent artists was forced to flee the country. He has now deserted it legally.

"I, the Indian origin painter Husain at 95, have been honored by Qatar nationality," the artist noted above a sketch of a horse, the leitmotif of much of his work. The BBC News reported: “He has been under attack from hardliners Hindus for his paintings of nude Hindu goddesses. Since 2006, the 95-year-old artist has been living in Dubai and in London. They have accused him of hurting their religious sentiments.”

There are nearly 900 cases pending against him in various courts. Husain states that he has been harassed by mobs and his exhibits have been vandalized in India. The Hindu quipped that his ‘change of nationality brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters in independent India's secular history.’

The newspaper added that he did not apply for Qatari nationality; the emirate’s ruling family conferred it upon him. There were huge protests in Mumbai in the mid-1990s after the artist painted a series of nude Hindu goddesses. He even apologized in 2006 for a painting that showed the country as a nude goddess.

The Indian Government doesn’t recognize dual citizenship so Hussain will have to surrender his passport. M.F.Hussain's son Owais told The Gulf News that the process of surrendering the Indian passport would get underway soon. In reply to a question on how his father will react, Owais stated: "My father is 95 years old and life becomes crystal clear at that age."

Summing up sentiments of the art fraternity, the ToI reported: “News of Husain's new nationality created ripples in the art world and triggered anger over the government's failure to bring home the artist.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Satish Gujral's ‘Tryst with Modernity & Tradition’

Veteran artist Satish Gujral’s new series of works, entitled ‘Tryst with Modernity and Tradition’ comprises his recent paintings, drawings, and sculptures. There are over 25 paintings, 10 drawings and 15 sculptures first on view at Jehangir Art Gallery and later at Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai.

The works explore the conflict and synergy, as the artist sees and perceives, between traditions and modernity. They reflect his minute observations, deep experiences and inner thoughts about the opposing and blending forces of tradition and technology. Though innovations and new techniques have become a part of our lives, roots of our culture and traces of past influences are still alive. Responding to this, the artist constructs a new visual and cultural language formed by the co-existence, confluence and contrast between tradition and modernity.

He quips: “I wouldn’t say I am a modernist or traditionalist. I just believe in what I see, and have tried to depict the contemporary man at work and play through an imagery that to my vision represents the physical and aesthetic form of the times he lives in.” In his previous show ‘Time’s Whirlwind’ in Kolkata, he tried to grasp the relationship between man and technology. The two-dimensional images reflected the human struggle to cope with machines and how elements of nature were involved in the complex process. The new exhibit merges that idea with Indian mythology.

A constant yearning to strike a balance between tradition and modernity is evident. Indian gods and goddesses have been projected alongside the machines. The gods are dangling from the levers of machines, teetering on the brinks and dancing on their truncated parts. The hallmarks of his oeuvre - fragmented imagery, vibrant colors, and meticulous attention to detail - are visible. In a way, his subtle message of ‘evolve, sans letting your roots die’ comes to the fore in ‘Tryst with Modernity and Tradition’.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Krishnaraj Chonat's take on the ravaged Nature and environment

'My Hands Smell Of You', Krishnaraj Chonat’s new exhibition, is an effort to explore the complexities that exist between ‘us’ and ‘our’ environment, to investigate the inter-connectedness of all facets of our life and to identify the implications of our everyday choices, with an emphasis on aesthetics as a counterpoint to alarming statistics.

An accompanying note to the show at Bangalore based Gallery SKE mentions: “Nature and the tourism industry in our commodity culture are among the fastest growing economic forces. This has not only greatly transformed our whole understanding of the world but has also informed our attitudes towards other cultures and peoples, often creating tiny worlds within us.

“There is also a homogenizing effect shrinking these worlds, leveling out our cultural sensitivities and differences, as well as standardizing our experiences. Resistance to this homogeneity plus a craving for ‘real’ experience, if one, is also catered to by this industry, that our ability to transcend such leveling perhaps lies in our own gaze; the dominant image of ‘nature’ as a resource and an object of beauty to be contemplated. Yet, standardized images of this ‘mother’ in pain, ravaged, haunts us more than what they intend to present. One could then argue that this is as much an aesthetic crisis as it is social, cultural, economic or environmental.”

The artist explains:
“I have attempted to posit a tenuous embrace between the pressures to progress fast in a technological and consumerist fashion resulting in these mountains of waste and a desperate cry for slowing down. To see through a ‘forest’ of wires and ‘mountains’ of waste, to smell the last gasping breath of red earth still exuding fragrance; to create an affect through tangible forms and olfactory stimuli that I hope will resonate with the audiences for long, because after all it seems like Art is perhaps our last resort for being human.”
The artist uses a wide range of materials such as electronic waste that identifies itself as a ‘spillover’ of the economic boom we’ve witnessed and one that has increasingly led to an environmental crisis today.

An exhibition of artist Ratnadeep Adivrekar's recent works

Bangalore based Crimson – the art resource – presents recent works by talented artist Spelling out the spirit of his practice, he states: “Art as whole inspires me. Importance of art in nurturing self-discovery and progression drives me. The idea is to record and reflect my journey with personal historical and local references. As an artist I like to play with origins and improvisations. Obscuring the identities of the artist depicted and questioning the relationships with art.

Visual culture is growing as an effect of globalization especially seen in the cultural and political dynamics of 'postcolonial' societies. He adds, “I am in a nomadic position with all the cultural baggage. Search for profound existential meaning. A jigsaw of fragments where the answer/end result is unknown."

His father’s achievements and recognition have been a constant source of inspiration, albeit bringing with it an added sense of responsibility, for Ratnadeep Adivrekar. Interestingly, he initially wished to do ‘something different’, and opted to join the science faculty. However, the shift was short-lived, as the love of art running deep in his veins prompted him to turn to painting again. He won the Bendre Hussain Scholarship in 2002 and received the Maharashtra State Art Award in the same year apart from securing National Scholarship by Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (2001).

Outlining his artistic motivations, he has noted: “As an artist there is a constant process of re-examination - to dig out the roots for identity. I try to reconstruct sublime personal and historical memories that fade in and out of my work. I am interested in the way a painting can portray the existential human condition by showing an instantaneous chronology comprised of all coexisting events of one's life. I try to unify the painting by composition of several images into a whole that manages to be organized and messy, arbitrary yet peculiarly logical.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A preview of Art Dubai 2010

Art Dubai 2010 will have over 70 galleries from nearly 30 countries and an extensive program of collateral events such as the Global Art Forum, special projects curated by Bidoun Projects and the Abraaj Capital Art Prize.

Art Dubai has now become the essential meeting place for collectors, art professionals and artists from across the Middle East, South Asia etc, setting the business of art within a context, which is intelligent, stimulating and relevant.Of the galleries taking part in Art Dubai this year, nearly up to a quarter are taking up a fresh angle. They are doing so by creating specific artist-focused stands that will include the work of only a select few.

The new artist-focused arenas will let collectors and visitors at Art Dubai to witness a progression in a their work over time, creating a sense of depth and meaning than a random snapshot of too many artists at a time. Single- or dual-focused galleries include pieces from modern Egyptian and Indian masters like M. F. Husain and Adel El Siwi apart from upcoming artists from countries like Korea, Chile, Peru, Spain etc.

John Martin, Director & Co-Founder of Art Dubai has been quoted as saying:
“The single artist-focused stand gives both established and novice collectors a more broad understanding of how an artist’s work has progressed. Galleries taking this approach at Art Dubai have opted either for well-known Indian and North African painters for whose work there is an existing appetite, or artists from the Middle East and beyond who warrant more regional and international interest.”

According to him, Art Dubai with its single artist-focused representations will offer enthusiasts a cross-section of work, which highlights the depth of international and regional work today. He added: ‘This new trend by our participating galleries also points to the relative maturity of Art Dubai as the Middle East’s longest-standing fair.”

Grosvenor Vadhera, London, will represent the legendary Indian painter. M. F. Husain’s paintings have played a major role in bringing work from South Asia to the international spotlight. Several of his milestone pieces will be displayed, showing a progression of his work over six decades as an artist. Art Dubai will also include works from The Chemould Prescott and The Guild from India.

Friday, February 19, 2010

‘Faith Matters’ and ‘School’: Subodh Gupta’s twin shows

‘Faith Matters’, a new significant series by Subodh Gupta, is included in a parallel exhibit program along with Ukrainian artist Serhiy Bratkov at Kiev based PinchukArtCentre. A curatorial note mentions: “The exhibit presents the finest examples of the international art that bridge the national identity and tackle global challenge.”

Both artists come from different backgrounds. For this project, the two though, have worked on a common theme. The artist duo depicts the changes cultures undergo in today’s fast-paced world. If Bratkov’s including photographs and installations reflect the life of Ukrainian society in the post-Soviet era, Subodh Gupta’s paintings and sculpture installations map the shifts occurring in the national cultures in the context of the modern world’s life.

Along side this show, the London based gallery, Hauser & Wirth, presents his solo ‘School’. A striking work by him comprises 45 brass stools paired with his trademark steel thalis. It’s designed to create a breathtaking environment. Importantly, he has included an object with personal significance in the new set of work at Hauser & Wirth. A curatorial note explains: “The stools in ‘School’ are cast from his father’s low wooden seat. The brass version of this traditional item bears his initials in the corner.”

Both shows are a major milestone for this internationally established artist who has carved a niche for himself for his versatile oeuvre that incorporates painting, sculpture, installation, photograph, performance and video. He is known to employ the techniques of French conceptualist artist Marcel Duchamp, endeavoring to elevate the ready-made into a meaningful art object. He thus transforms icons of everyday India life into the monumental art works.

In the process, the artist produces an act of displacement, referring to the cultural, social and economic changes experienced by contemporary society. He constantly explores art’s capacity to channel the effects of expansion, displacement and translation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

‘HomeLessHome’ at Museum of the Seam features Hema Upadhyay

Renowned artist Hema Upadhyay features in an international collaborative exhibition ‘HomeLessHome’ at Museum of the Seam. The art institution located in Jerusalem features five artists, who investigate the relationship ‘between the private home and the state’.

A curatorial note to the thought-provoking show notes: “The home is seen as something ‘natural’, as a space dominated by needs, which are of no interest to the designed public space. Its interior is identified as a private, safe space, beyond the reach of legitimate intervention of the state. At the one end is the home that assumes the existence of an autonomous subject residing in it, separated from the public outside, and whose contours delineate the space into which the political (or the public existence) cannot invade.

“At the other end is the rejection of the individual's right to ‘domesticate’ the space or the expropriation of the citizens’ right to create a ‘homey’ sense of belonging, intimacy and identity defined by place.” The demolition of homes is an extreme expression of this tendency. The idea is to study the formal and functional similarity existing between the private home and the state.

They thoroughly investigate the uneasy relationship between the two spaces, the two spaces that enables the definition of both as ‘home’ (the national home), and the underlying difference between them, traditionally placing the latter in the political sphere and the former in the private (or natural) sphere.

The subtle or apparent difference is brought out in backdrop of the traditional placement of the home as the ‘other’ of the political - containing what has been removed from it - thus defining the contours of the political, it may not trespass. In essence, ‘HomeLessHome’ seeks to highlight those places where the distinction between the political and the private gets blurred.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Portraying transient nostalgia and a sense of dislocation marks Hema Upadhyay’s practice

Hema Upadhyay primarily employs sculptural installations and photography in her endeavor to explore notions of gender, identity and dislocation in her art. Combining various dissonant elements, the artist evokes a lingering sense of transient nostalgia transcending any specific place or time.

She personalizes it through self-portraiture, unveiling an imaginary landscape to facilitate an interaction with both fictional and the fantastic. In essence portraying transient nostalgia and a sense of dislocation marks Hema Upadhyay’s practice. The idea is to chronicle the individualized perspective of a larger phenomenon of migration and displacement.

Explaining this aspect of her art, she has said, ”Living in the city that churns desires, I juxtapose two different mediums, namely Photography and Painting. Self-image, essentially functions as a resistance-mechanism, projecting insecurities of rootless-ness and dilemmas of existential crisis in a big city.”

This facet of her art at some level jells with the broader theme of a new group show at Museum of the Seam, Jerusalem. The works on view attempt to deal with the sanctification of the home as an enclosed, secure and homogenous space on the one hand, and its total deconstruction as a private space, on the other hand.

Hema Upadhyay’s paintings portray the idea of ‘home’ as one bringing a sense of dislocation in the process of violently displacing people. They jell with the core concern raised by the participating artists including her map contours of the private and the national home as something, which needs to be constantly redefined, in spite of the difference between them.

This is because the political may invade the home, and the private home can become politicized time and again. Her works echo the theme; they depict often to ‘home’, not as an abode of security, but to voice sense of desolation felt by hapless people wanting a root and roof, but being forced pushed out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is bigger the better for collectors?

Is bigger the better, asks The Business Standard art columnist Kishore Singh in a recent essay who notes that there’s something to do with scale, which challenges an artist.

According to him, no matter how exquisite some of the small works might be the best works are their grandest, most representative and hence priciest when they are also the largest.” Sighting some of India’s seminal art works like Husain’s ‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna’, Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Celebration’ (It was the first painting to fetch a record over-Rs 1 crore price tag at auction) and ‘Santiniketan’, Souza’s ‘Birth’ (which again set a record as the late artist’s highest grosser after it was picked up for Rs 10.5 crore at an auction). This goes to show that size does matter.

The writer notes: “A large size has the possibility of being dramatic, for an artist a large canvas becomes far more challenging to execute since it is easier to spot flaws on that scale. Artists hence treat large paintings with more than just caution. These are imbued with immense possibilities, and offer simultaneous possibilities in content, or style, or medium, and achieve a much more dramatic impact in the bargain.”

The point is not so much what they prefer as what really collectors want. Most of them (collectors) to begin with, choose small works to test the waters). They then graduate to slightly larger, or safe-sized works. But if the argument of investor returns, an inescapable part of buying art, is considered, it’s also true that even while you can get modest returns on smaller works, the larger works will return better gains.

The art expert asks: “Does this posit the old argument of art being priced by the square foot as a measure of price? Expectedly, large ones will cost more than smaller canvases. But this cannot be compared on the basis of square foot to square foot, largely because price is a measure of merit. There’s little gainsaying that the former are better able to collate the strengths of an artist.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Establishing correlation between top incomes, stocks and art prices

The researchers-authors from Tilburg University, Luc Renneboog and Christophe Spaenjers along with William N. Goetzmann of Yale School of Management investigate the impact of stock markets and top incomes on art prices.

Employing a long-term art market index that comprises data on repeated sales right since the 18th century for their research document ‘Art and Money’, they demonstrate how equity market returns - both same-year as well as lagged - have a significant bearing on the price level in the art market.

The three financial experts with a keen interest in art come from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The basic purpose of their research document is to explore the link closely.Explaining the connection, they state: “Over a shorter time frame, we also come across empirical evidence that a rise in income inequality may well lead to higher prices for art, in line with the results of a numerical simulation analysis.

Finally, the results of Johansen co-integration tests strongly indicate the existence of a long-term relation between top incomes and art prices.”The researches reveal: “When the buying power rises, this can be expected to result in higher art consumption, and thus to a higher level of price in the art market.” How does one test that proposition in practical terms? To prove their point, the researchers look at stock market returns as a proxy to measure the wealthy individuals’ buying power, since they are the ones who buy art.

The three together created a price index for art spanning the time period 1765-2007, taking into account prices for the British market, since the country has been the prime center of the art market for most part of the period. They then related the index to the rise or fall in equity prices.

The comparative findings pointed to a strong correlation between the movements of the art market and the equity markets returns, something hardly surprising! To sum it up, the significant study concludes that it is ‘the wealth of the wealthy’ that pushes up and drives art prices, a phenomenon closely linked to stock swings.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Overview of the pluralism in contemporary art courtesy Bose Krishnamachari

Mumbai based Gallery BMB presents a group show, entitled ‘Her Work is Never Done – I’ curated by Bose Krishnamachari.

The exhibition features works by a host of talented artists, such as Charmi Gada Shah, Dia Mehta, Aishwarya Laxmi, Alison Byrnes, Leena Kejriwal, Nandini Valli Muthiah, Gitanjali Rao, Blank Noise (facilitated by Jasmeen Patheja), Nisha Ghosh, Poorna Rajpal, Shilpa Chavan, Sonia Jose, and Nivedita Deshpande.

A two-part exhibit, Her work is Never Done, focuses on the works of ‘young and sometimes emergent’ women artists. However, it does not attempt to present a comprehensive or representative selection of female artists practicing in India today. Instead, the show looks to celebrate the rich heterogeneity by showcasing an overview of the diverse pluralism in contemporary practices.

The show brings together the work of a young breed of contemporary artists who are making art in today’s global, politically-charged environment. These are artists who are not afraid to confront the realities of gender-biased socio-cultural mechanisms. They are keen to challenge calcified conventions and subvert stereotypes.

These artists are working in a post-digital environment where new media has effected far-reaching changes in visual perception employ a plethora of styles. Their practice is firmly rooted variously in architecture, graphic design, fashion, mass media and activism, and its stubbornly refused to be boxed into any reductive categories.

Located in the heart of south Mumbai, Gallery BMB presents groundbreaking exhibitions of the very best of international and Indian contemporary art. It has already showcased many international artists of the highest caliber. These international artists, along with outstanding emerging Indian artists, are part of BMB’s dynamic program.

Blurring boundaries between an art space and a commercial gallery venture, BMB houses a unique bookshop with a dedicated reading area and onsite café. Its holistic concept is to be a truly interactive space and act as a cultural hub that connects people from different walks of life with art.

Friday, February 12, 2010

War and global terrorism remain the recurring themes in T.V. Santhosh’s work

T.V. Santhosh is known for his propensity to charge his large sized canvases with figures in contoured and compromising positions. The artist, like many of his politically motivated contemporaries, picks up pivotal episodes from recent history and renegotiates their appearance with a shock-bulb of violent energy, which eclipses the work.

The sensitive artist often borrows from news images but in representing them through negative colors in his works, suggests otherwise hidden implications to be surmised. His effort is to project the truth amidst the barrage of images in media to present alternative narratives. He elaborates: “It’s not easy to distinguish between factual representation and distortion of facts. What is projected may not be the whole truth. And it can be subjective. I strive to formulate a language capable of capturing notions of reality.”

Employing the themes of war and global terrorism, the South Indian artist paints in lurid greens and shocking orange, recreating the effect of a color photographic negative. His paintings of impending doom, a world at the brink of an atomic end, are intentionally more apocalyptic than cathartic.

His oil on canvas, entitled ‘Tracing an Ancient Error’ on view at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (The Saatchi Galley, London), is an illuminated work of what seems to be a bearded man lain out, revealing his chest, holding onto something resembling a thread. An image from recent news events, the artist through it captures this scene and reinvents its value as a piece of anonymous and charged history.

In another oil on canvas, Stitching an Undefined Border, T.V. Santhosh has switched positive for negative colors. In this work, an aged man appears to be operating a machine in a confined space, standing tall against the projector on a table. The artist riddles the surface with wisps of illuminated light, which fall over the image like uncontrollable energy or an explosive force.

A new solo by acclaimed artist Anju Dodiya

‘Necklace of Echoes’ is the title of a new solo by acclaimed artist Anju Dodiya. This exhibition features a suite of self-portraits. They all have been cast in the mode of suffering.

Lying beneath the intricate paraphernalia of both art-historical and autobiographical citations, which are invariably associated with her work, she chooses to reflect on two basic and opposite conditions in her paintings - selfhood wounded, and one armored against hurt. In the present series of her works, Anju Dodiya keeps her citationality to a bare minimum. This allows the true theme to emerge.

The work exudes the artist's subjectivity, which is trapped by its own constructs, gushing for burst and aching for release. The new paintings as if evoke a thumri singer’s melancholia, with blood clotting into artifacts and sombre song reverberating with the echoing sound of shattering glass.

The artist meditates on the sinister versatility of the ornamental necklace that has repeatedly appeared in her work as an ambivalent motif. It connotes honor, adornment and talismanic value. It also suggests greed, humiliation and death. The necklace is projected as both armor and noose - an abacus of sin that drags the wearer down to perdition.

Art critic and author of the catalogue essay, Nancy Adajania, notes: “The poisons of avarice and aggression are released through a ritual bloodletting in 'Falling Glass', with the artist's doppelganger restraining her with a neck-lock. For Dodiya, painting is a martial art: in 'Promise', she balances the torsion of creativity with the traction of pain, maintaining this unsteady equilibrium even at the risk of appearing retro-romantic.”

The painting epitomizing this suite is 'Finger Necklace'. The accompanying essay elaborates:
“It is named after the tragic hero of the Buddhist parable of Angulimala, an aristocrat's son who was made to believe that he would achieve divinity if he killed a thousand people and wore a necklace made from their fingers. In Anju Dodiya's version, he could be an artist making an inventory of all the little suicides involved in sending art-works into the world, the self-mortgaged against fame.

"Or he could be a contemporary terrorist, lured with the promise of paradise into killing innocent people. The artist, masquerading as Angulimala, points towards 'self-forgetfulness', the ability to pour one's personal anguish into the larger suffering of humankind, so achieving a momentary transcendence.”
The exhibition takes place at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In his new series, Jitish Kallat plays with extreme scales and proportions

Jitish Kallat’s ‘The Astronomy of the Subway’ is on view at the Haunch of Venison, London. The ambitious exhibit is spread across seven large rooms of this prestigious art space with enormous works that range from 7 to 28 feet. These incorporate video, sculptural installation, photography and paintings.

Following his critically applauded show at Haunch of Venison (Zurich) in 2008, he returns to the gallery with the full range of his visual vocabulary.

Elaborating on the works, a curatorial note states, “A video projection shows x-rayed foodstuffs powerfully projected onto a dark celestial space. They pour into view as asteroids, stellar formations, planetary clusters and nebulae, whereas in a sculptural installation, a miniature crowd of rioting figures happens to scatter across the floor. The viewer’s height exaggerates their scale, as if seen through a telescope’s wrong end."

Another intricately treated sculpture piece comprises oversized black lead kerosene stove. It carries more than a hundred images culled from the porch of the VT railway station building. The decorative architectural friezes incorporate several images of animals all devouring each other and also clinging onto various foods.

Viewed together on a single sculpture, this sprawling mass is not unlike the daily grind of survival this porch bears is always witness to. In his large paintings, the body is deftly abstracted into ink blot formations. Its stretched muscles and dripping fluids become receptacles of urban trauma.

In ‘The Astronomy of the Subway’ the artist tackles his foundational themes of sustenance, survival and mortality as palpable in the contemporary urban environment of the city of Mumbai, He offsets a vivid, hand-made aesthetic with meticulous digitized renderings of streets almost fit-to-burst.

In this major international solo show, Jitish Kallat has experimented with extreme scales and proportions to create some highly dramatic works.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Facets of Probir Gupta’s intense art practice

In his suite of works showcased at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, a group show of contemporary Indian art on view at the World-renowned Saatchi Gallery, all the intriguing facets of Probir Gupta’s practice come to the fore.

In ‘Anxiety of the Unfamiliar’, his figures seem to have transformed into beetles laid out as dreadful corpses. Man, machine and insect intertwine into incomprehensible forms. A series of miniature negative portraits of men beneath these grotesque figures are at the epicenter of significant episodes in India’s politically charged history.

‘Anxiety of Unfamiliar I’ (Acrylic and iron oxide on canvas) recalls Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’. The unsuspecting protagonist of the short story finds himself transformed into an insect. Two robotic insects are painted side-by-side in an outline of bright yellow and muddy brown. Transparent in their appearance the larger one is made of a multitude of intricate limbs rooted to a robotic spine, which forms the anatomic shell. The shell holds this dissected insect together. Beside it is a smaller insect. Falling from the top of the canvas, it has within it an animation of acrylic figures at the crest of a mountain under a pitched flagpole wrestling with an unsettled, hazy sky.

His portrait of the Bene Israel Family is a thoroughly engaging examination of the past. Under British rule, many of the Bene Israeli community rose to prominence and thrived on the new opportunities sanctioned by the British. It appears to be far from a resolved painting, as the figures soften into the canvas and seem to merge into the background. It displays the artist’s examination of identity and social history.

In ‘This Is Not A Pipe’ (Acrylic and oxides on canvas with stretched vinyl), Probir Gupta references René Magritte. The space lets open endless possibilities. Multi-layered forms rest on top of one other. For the artist, the subject of multiple narratives lies in a series of beaming portraits, floating pipes, a map of India broken up into its regional details and a naked figure contorted in a well-intentioned pose.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Z2O Galleria in Rome hosts Archana Hande

Talented artist Archana Hande makes her European debut with a solo exhibition in Rome, at Z2O Galleria.

She is particularly known to employ video, painting, photography and the new media in her diverse range of work. Her new series ‘All is fair in Magic White’ can well be defined as an epitome of the ideas that have always been the focus of her work over the last ten years or so.

Archana Hande lives and works between Mumbai and Bangalore. The significant shows she has participated include 'Farewell to Post-Colonialism', Triennial of Guangzhou, China (2008); ‘Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art’, Switzerland (2007); and ‘Art Circus’, Triennial of Yokohama, Japan (2005).

She plays out the intersecting roles of activist, facilitator, interventionist, and art maker with consummate ease. Her diverse interests have prompted the artist to draw upon a variety of resources. Several of her projects exhibit an involved collaborative and participatory spirit. She has developed and based her creative output on the core theme of identity: racial, class, cultural and religious identity in post-colonial India. This in-depth research finds its echo in her new body of work.

A curatorial note states:
"The series is a perfect narrative and stylistic synthesis. The artist in her work uses an etching technique to narrate the story. Using technique of the block print she intends to create a sense of continuity with the craftsmanship referenced in the story. She has engraved the scenes of the story on 120 individual wood panels to impress them on 18 canvases.

" She completed the process of this work by hand painting. A ten minute animated video acts as a background to the canvases in which the particular traits of the few characters that make up the story are outlined with a touch of irony.”
These are three women belonging to the upper class of contemporary Mumbai and a craftsman from the slums of Dharavi who weave together a curious tale.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An artist’s projection of a landscape as haunted memorial passage

To begin with, Rajan Krishnan’s works were more realistic and more direct, featuring landscapes typical of his hometown’s topography. While his early life experiences and fond memories of a remote village in his home state Kerala deeply influenced his early works, the sentimental nostalgia gradually gave way to a more critical and hard hitting cynicism, as he started to note the overwhelming and irreversible transitions occurring in his environment.

His hyper-realism draws from a sense of one’s shared inherited histories and the subjects may range from childhood ‘memory’ of local vegetation to imaginary landscapes. Keen to experiment and innovate, his sculptural materials/ constructions are often an extension of his paintings.

Explaining his evolution as an artist, he states, “More recently, I began to become aware of the impact wrought by the forces of change upon it. Both the disintegration of natural decay and destruction caused by the manmade development have hit it simultaneously and unsettled it. More than any outward scar, what this does is leave behind a massive lesion within...”

His painted realm alludes to an altered landscape owing to occupation and subsequent desertion of manmade settings. Instinctive and incisive images of the talented artist depict the rapid disintegration of a serene landscape, caught in a long time warp; a landscape in transition; one he has traversed for long.

His works, which represent a post-agricultural landscape, are quite often fragmentary visions of a dry, sterile landscape. It appears to be an echo of a bygone era that once throbbed with life. There is an unmistakable dark side to them. When idyllic representations are subverted by his artistic perception, the landscape turns into a site of haunted desolation. In alluding to the curious crisscrossing vectors of space and time, the landscape clearly functions as a memorial passage: a recollection of things both imagined and witnessed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chittrovanu Mazumdar: An expressionist painter

Chittrovanu Mazumdar terms himself as an expressionist painter and describes art as a private act. To him, his art practice offers him the space and access to freedom; everything he conceives can move, transform, and dramatically turn around to become something else.

“There are structures and systems one follows up to a certain point but then gradually gets out of them,” is how he sums up his intriguing art process. Born in Paris, Chittrovanu Mazumdar could access two contrasting cultures from his early years. His vast range of references incorporates varied inputs from his upbringing in Paris and Kolkata coupled with a range of reading in English, Bengali and French.

He studied printmaking and painting at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. The artist received a gold medal at the Government College of Art, Kolkata. Of course, his art education started much earlier, as his father was one of the established avant-garde artists of his time.

His works were showcased at The India Art summit, 2009. He created a series ranging from large mixed media works in difficult and diverse mediums such as wax, metal, tar, light and photography. There were a few digital works of landscape and figurative imagery with wax and tar on mild steel. The artist was quoted as saying: “The blueprint for these is the cohabitation of opposites.”

According to him, the core idea was to juxtapose mythical reverberations of black & white by employing ‘light-hungry’, night-dark tar and also the trays of light, which feed those depths, simultaneously reflecting off them. His video, entitled ‘Sleep’, carried out the subtle interrogation of the surface wherein the depths unpredictably erupted through cracks in an apparently seamless skin. His more recent works are born as much out of his earlier conceptual/ literary engagements with cryptic suggestions diverse cultures offer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reena Saini Kallat and Bharti Kher at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

Reena Saini Kallat’s preoccupation with the plight of the socially marginalized is evident in her ‘Penumbra Passage’ (Canine Cases) at Saatchi Gallery show of contemporary Indian art. Like a dated museum piece, the work seems to carry a provocative, albeit subtle social-political undertone.

The artist works in a number of mediums such as painting, video, installation and photography. Her ‘Penumbra Passage’ uses images sourced from the Internet. They are painted onto canvas. Hung above display vitrines, these are portraits of ordinary people set in ornamental frames. The stained color, which forms by their mouth resembles, the shape of the PoK (Pakistan controlled part of Kashmir), referencing disputed territory and constant conflict.

The velvet dusty cases below the portraits comprise miniature marble carved weapons arranged to resemble an open mouth. Reena Saini Kallat shows how violence has historically been legitimized under aesthetic garb of the means of destruction. It pays an unsettled tribute to the dead.

Relocating to Delhi after studying art in Newcastle, Bharti Kher looks to explore cultural misunderstandings and social codes through her practice. Likening herself to the well-intentioned ethnographer investigating her culture, she delivers a forceful reinterpretation of modern India.

In her ‘Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Pudding’ (Fiberglass and plastic), a domestic hoover is covered in garish animal skins. These are the kind of inventive hybrid creations that the artist has made unique to her works. Her sculptural works appear incredibly surreal in their construction.

Bharti Kher’s ‘An Absence Of Assignable Cause’ includes bindis employed on fiberglass. It is partly inspired by artists like Francisco Goya, William Blake, and Hieronymus Bosch. Unable to find sufficient scientific documentation about its anatomy, she invented the appearance of the blue sperm whale’s heart for her work. The artist has decorated the enormous heart and protruding veins and arteries with different colored bindis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Understanding architectural and social metamorphosis of a metropolis

In her new series, entitled ‘City Wakes Up Inside Me’, Nayanaa Kanodia tries to grasp the architectural and social metamorphosis of a metropolis. It apparently conveys the importance of the city heritage and history in the context of our daily existence.

The series just showcased at the Mumbai based Museum Gallery points to the ramifications of unplanned and haphazard development, causing grave damage to our heritage. In essence, ‘City Wakes Up…’ is an effort to understand the metamorphosis in the architectural and social make-up of a metropolis – a microcosm of our world at large.

Her paintings are charged with deceptive simplicity coupled with a mirthful lyricism Elaborating on them, renowned art critic Ranjit Hoskote has mentioned that that waking life and the life of dream flow together in her paintings. She does not treat art as a universe separate from the concerns of ordinary life. In fact, life and its eccentricities prompt her to paint.

The artist strives to depict the society caught between traditional values and modern way of life. Her paintings deal with the arising dichotomy we are faced with in our desperation to preserve our roots, traditions and identities.

A sense of nostalgia pervades her works. In one of her earlier shows, she portrayed peculiar professionals slowly fading into oblivion and who would no longer be a part of the changed cityscape. Ordinary people, their joys and sorrows, and their economics of survival intrigue the artist.

Her work reflects the idiosyncrasies of people, objects and places around. A plethora of decorative details seep into them, wherein compositions are rendered in flat surfaces and tangents that seem almost textured, woven and embroidered with rhythmic patterns.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Collecting is all about defining one’s core objectives

India on the global art market is still new phenomenon. A majority of Indian art buyers have probably been in the domain for not more than a decade or so. Obviously they are in the process of learning about art and collecting.

In this context, an essay on the secrets of successful collecting focuses on aspects like concentrating on a chosen few artists vis-à-vis diversifying your portfolio. It has been penned by Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing and co-director at the Aditya Birla India Centre, LBS (London Business School). Based on his experience, the writer offers a valuable piece of advice, advocating s that one should be clear about one’s objectives of collecting.

The writer mentions: “If you buy art as an investment, diversify the portfolio. In contrast, a collector is driven by passion. With Jamini Roy, quintessentially the Indian modern artist I view myself as a custodian more than the owner of his works. The artist’s absorption of tradition and its subsequent transformation into the modern get demonstrated in the ‘widow’.

“The sweeping lines that encompass large areas of fast filled in flat bright color come from the Kalighat paintings. Yet the lines demonstrate the mastery of brush, the sophistication, and above all his genius and magic. Painted probably in the 1940s, it has what every art collector covets: rarity, quality, and content. The work is part of the country’s heritage, and the market value of the works is rather irrelevant.”

Secondly, the big idea in collecting art is to ‘limit’ yourself, and only then can your portfolio become something worthwhile. Elaborating on the concept, the writer states: “Unrelated paintings by different artists would be interesting, but not really unique. To make it a meaningful, the collection must be more than the sum of its parts. Its uniqueness is decided by the quality of the core concept.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peabody to celebrate art from India

Art experts from Peabody Essex Museum were recently in India to meet senior officials of the ministry of culture. They also visited the NGMA, the LKA, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, and the National Museum, in Delhi to get a sense of how works are presented in India.

About 50 works of Indian art from the museum are slated to find their way into the art arena this year courtesy this world-renowned art institution. The works to be showcased in India will be from the museum’s rich post-Independence collection. Peabody, which is the largest holder of Indian art in the West, including Europe, is specifically known for its collection of works from colonial times to the present, spanning 200 years. It boasts of masterpieces by S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, Manjit Bawa, Rameshwar Broota, and Atul Dodiya, among others.

Also in the pipeline is a new show, ‘Of Gods and Mortals, Traditional Art from India’ in the museum premises. It will bring out how art is treated as an integral part of day-today life. An accompanying note states: “The importance of paintings, sculpture, textiles and other art forms comprises two basic categories, one related to religious practices and the other to the expression of prestige and social position.”

This new installation of works from the museum’s collection of Indian art will feature approximately 28 pieces, principally representing the 1800’s to the present. Incidentally, PEM just concluded a significant show, ‘ReVisions: Indian Artists Engaging Traditions’. It presented 14 noteworthy contemporary works like Jogen Choudhury and Ravinder Reddy, exemplifying their diverse source of inspiration. It must be noted that the museum's collections are among the finest of their kind, showcasing an unrivaled spectrum of art and architecture from across the world.

G.R.Iranna’s ‘Ribbed Routes‘

G.R. Iranna’s new series, entitled ‘Ribbed Routes‘, comprises his latest sculptural works that address some pressing issues pertinent to our times.

His profound work transcends the boundaries of time and space. Many of his paintings depict pain as an abstract force visually translated in bruised textures. The figures often have a tranquil sacredness or detached beauty that point to another reality. His recent artworks are all visions of resistance. They are the result of his attempt to break away from his own mold and reflect his urge to tackle many contradictory demands those of society as well as his own.

His new body of work at The Guild Art Gallery generates a gamut of emotions – agony as well as relief, despair and hope! In ‘Peace and Pieces’, a sculpture that forms part of it, the act of Buddha attaining freedom from the perpetual cycle of life and death is envisioned as the moment to desperately claim the body that is a symbol of peace. The idea is to create an allegory of our troubled times. The artist has sandblasted the fiberglass sculpture to resemble the monumental sculptures of ancient and medieval art history.

His ‘Still Saddled’ is slightly different from other works in terms of the message and medium. In it a life-like donkey lies on his side, his entire body shaking with the effort to breath. A large black box strapped on his back is ubiquitous of the search device, as though it can resolve all the mysteries of a crime or an accident. The beast is dying under its burden. It exudes a silence of distress .

Akin to a pointed social commentary, G.R. Iranna’s ‘Ribbed Routes‘ exposes us to the blatant truth of our times.