Saturday, April 30, 2011

An intriguing insight of captivating cityscape

Works by Prasanata Bandyopadhyay, Rajesh Kargutkar, Buddhadev Mukherjee and Sheetal Gattani form part of a new show at Mumbai based Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. An analysis of their specific work and a perspective on their art practice is offered by Jasmine Wahi from New York in an accompanying essay as follows:

Sheetal Gattani’s work explores the physical identity of the city. Her suite of 10 paintings, Untitled (acrylic on canvas), which formally seem to derive from Abstraction, unveils a more intricate aspect of the city’s cosmetics. It induces a sense of nostalgia that only those who have experienced the cramped and over-priced living quarters of large, old cities like New York and Mumbai would understand.

Buddhadev Mukherjee’s ‘Race’ (henna, ink and watercolor on Paper) and ‘Man With Wounded’ Brothers (henna, ink, dry pastel, and watercolor on paper) probe at the culture of a city and, more specifically, at the idea of mass culture within urban confinement. Beyond the somewhat sarcastic take on consumerist culture, his work explores darker theme of loneliness in the city. A sad albeit bitter paradox of most major cities is that in spite of their large populations, they can come across intensely isolating places for those slipping through the cracks.

A pervasive sense of loneliness is omnipresent in a painting, entitled ‘Seat #32’ (oil on canvas).
Formally, the work ties together varied ideas like cramped space, layering as well as unceasing motion found in the other works in the exhibition. Rajesh Kargutkar’s large sand-colored work, entitled ‘Between The Input and The Output VI’ (gesso and acrylic on canvas), tries to emphasize a very basic yet undeniable physical aspect of the cityscape. His canvas through a series of extruding textural blocks gives a bird’s eye view of an ambiguous city.

The works together offer an intriguing insight of a captivating albeit highly complex cityscape, which must not be missed…

Friday, April 29, 2011

Practical tips to collect contemporary art

If you are keen to collect contemporary art, these basic tips will prove to be handy:
  • See as many artworks of different forms as you can. It’s a highly fulfilling social activity, and by far the best means of developing your eye and sense as a collector. Try and visit as many art galleries– both commercial and public– as possible, apart from taking a round of permanent collections, to develop your critical faculties.

  • When watching art, grasp your response to a particular work. View it from different angles and perspectives and as many times as you feel like before reading the accompanying exhibition notes. This will enhance your critical autonomy.

  • Focus and introspect on your initial response and review the work again. This will help cultivate a more rigorous and deep understanding of personal taste and inclinations. The process will take time and also involve creative energies to appreciate a work of art as possible.

  • Going through reviews, art write-ups, curator essays and research articles is important for o upgrading your knowledge and awareness of the key trends and concepts. Identifying nuances of contemporary practice and getting a grasp of art history are both equally vital. Make an effort to critically engage with gallerists and artists.

  • Become a member of any contemporary art organization or society, to get independent specialist advice and a chance to attend programs on buying and collecting art. Be part of their mailing lists. Attend private views and art show openings, if possible. Serious collectors should also attend art exhibition openings, fairs and biennales, to make sure that they stay tuned to the latest developments in the emerging and established art centers.

  • Don’t be in a rush to buy. Spend requisite time researching, reading, looking and contemplating rather than resorting to impulse buying. Develop an engagement and a solid framework for your future collection, so it becomes coherent in thought and process.

  • When you are thinking of a purchase, don’t just think of the market trends and value. Don’t be afraid of going by your own affinity and liking for a particular piece of work.

10 Questions to ask before buying art

For those who are in a position to afford to possess quality works, arguably the most satisfying way of engaging with them is to cherish them as a timeless treasure. It’s a privilege of enjoying their presence and form a long-term relationship with them as part of your life over time. Buying art is a highly rewarding, refreshing and pleasurable activity.

Before you can decide what kind of art and artists you like, you must set aside preconceived notions and prejudices and approach the art market with an open mind. This will allow you to explore the vast variety of art forms, respond to them, and understand your preferences. The key is to develop perception and vision? Some of the questions you can ask yourself as you set on the artistic voyage as a collector are as follows:
  1. What is your budget? What is the maximum value of one single work you can buy initially?
  2. What is size of work and what is its media/style/form you are looking to buy?
  3. Is the artist emerging artist or a more established one? What is the artist’s academic background?
  4. Who has been the artist’s mentor or idols?
  5. Which are the exhibitions the artist’s work has been featured in recently? Are these solo or group exhibitions?
  6. Is the artist represented by reputed galleries? Has his or her work forms part of a museum or biennale collection?
  7. Who has curated the artist’s shows? Are there any critical writing or reviews about the work? What do they say?
  8. How well are the ideas or thoughts behind the works communicated? Are you able to identify with the artist’s work and practice?
  9. Are the ideas visually appealing and interesting? Do they feel relevant to contemporary times? How economic and effective is this expression?
  10. If there are formal concerns –materials, colors, surfaces, shapes, composition etc. - how do they relate to the core idea of the work and how successful has the artist been in their usage or technique?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Discover the world of art and collecting

The fine art marketplace is a maze of complexly interlinked aspects that are not easy to grasp if you are not well conversant with them. There are works on offer that look exciting and appealing at the outset but have more decorative value and little investment value. Then there are reproductions that seem like original art.

It is important to understand what makes a work unique, and authentic. It makes sense to seek expert advice to recognize and distinguish reproductions or copies from originals. The broader art market is, in a way, an aggregation of several mini-marketplaces – cutting across countries, styles, forms, mediums, artists, and different time periods.

Each work is supposed to have a context. In other words, each artist and his or her works make for their own supply-and-demand equations that influence prices. Key factors like who previously owns it; who's keen to buy the work; which gallery or museum are showing them; and, of course, who's selling them and at what price.

A few things that an aware investor must look into are as follows:
  • One should gather as much knowledge and insight as possible of the artist one is interested in. Grasp finer aspects of that artist’s work.
  • Before you buy a painting, check its provenance. Ensure that the work is in good condition. Art requires careful maintenance.
  • Harbor a clear idea about the timeframe and gestation period for a work to grow in value. If you are looking for quick returns, you should probably stay away from art market.
  • It’s not a domain for speculators. May be you can buy work of an artist who is lesser known albeit with potential. If you buy and hold that artist’s work, you can make good returns over a period of time.
  • Buy art only if you are satisfied with the quality of an artwork and not just the artist.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Basics of buying the right art at the right price

Before you become a collector, it is important to understand the subtle relationship between art, markets and money. Aspects like liquidity, investment options, the different ways of valuing art, and price fluctuations need to be grasped.

Develop an insight on the linkage between art and money, which is as important as the aesthetic aspect. The markets for different types of art vary due to elements like longevity, supply and demand. There are other considerations like how accomplished an artist is, how broad collector base is, trends, and views of influential art market experts that must also be taken into account. These are important components of the art market mechanics that help determine value, saleability, and collectability of artworks over time.

In essence, you need to evaluate the asking price for each work of art. Establish the fairness of the price quoted. Know what to ask sellers to find out basis of art prices. Use price references by tracking an artist's sales history, analyzing relevant price data, and assessing an artist's potential in the marketplace. Also study a bit about the type of art that artist creates and whether it is unique…

On basis of this data, you can negotiate. Prices are flexible and you can certainly negotiate them to pay optimum price for a work of art. Know about payment options, return & exchange policies, consummating sales, documentation procedures, and how to ensure you get what you actually pay for. There is a basic difference between buying at traditional auctions and online auctions that you need to grasp.

Learn about the procedural differences between offline galleries and online auction houses. Study their functioning so that you do not harbor any misconceptions about auctions. Learn online auction buying basics, so that you can buy the right work at the right price.

Artists who form part of ‘Morning At The Window’

A new exhibition, entitled ‘Morning At The Window’ on view at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai is a crisp commentary on the deep complexities, both social and physical, of the teeming city – not a city in particular, but any ubiquitous city. Though all the participating artists belong to India, the breadth of the viewing experience expands far beyond Mumbai’s sandy beaches to explore elements inherent to the very concept of the City and its core.

A curatorial note by Jasmine Wahi from New York elaborates: “It seems too often shows that feature Indian artists are discussed only within the context of the native country, or Indian culture. On the other hand, the works in this show expose the multitude of complexities, controversies, and inconsistencies found in all cities by reconstructing traditional and formalist ideas.

Moving beyond the concrete traits of the city, ‘Morning At The Window’ looks at the main thing that truly defines the city; the people, both the physical presence of bodies and the social spaces that they interact in. It's not simply an homage to the idea of the city and urban space, but an observation of those elements that are intrinsically linked to urban environments. Through manipulations of color, texture, and content each work speaks to a universal understanding of the anonymous city as an entity.

Each of the multi-layered paintings by artist Sheetal Gattani seemingly represent dwelling walls – an apt motif of decay one invariably finds in cities with rather grand histories of both change and re-invention. Her deft manipulation of layered paint as well as texture further drive and derive the sense of urban grit & grime through astute interplay of light-and-shadow. Even works with strong contrast like the painting of stark green & gray overtaking her canvas, are layered with multiple colors and tones, scratched, and re-layered for invoking this touch of drabness yet beauty, which is a unique aspect of her practice.

The conglomeration of ubiquitous objects and images – bicycles, bottles, hangers, mesh cages, chairs and squiggles – in Buddhadev Mukherjee’s work tends to echo a chaotic consumerism often found in areas of fast pace and high energy. Prasanata Bandyopadhyay is a figurative artist who expands upon the city dweller’s psyche in. Rajesh Kargutkar’s works gloss over the more nuanced and sometimes unpleasant aspects one finds in the city to depict only the essential cramming and layering of space within the urban environ.

(Information courtesy: Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Technological innovations at world-renowned museums

While adopting technology, challenge for art institutions is not to get caught up in fleeting fads like tweeting. A few including The Metropolitan Museum of Art have done it gradually, starting with its elaborate online timeline of art history almost a decade ago. The handy feature has only grown in popularity, drawing over six million visitors in 2010. The entire website is now undergoing a total revamp to be unveiled publicly at the end of this summer.

Terming what is happening on in the new user-friendly museum technology ‘a frenzy of enhanced creativity, the director of MOMA, Mr. Campbell states” “Every generation ought to find the right mode of communication. If it helps open doors, then it’s a good thing.’’ The new technology developers feel there is nothing like ‘too much information’.

When the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco decided to take its famed Matisse work ‘Woman With a Hat’ off the wall for a conservation studio, an image was posted on Facebook of the frame’s being removed. People thus could see what was happening behind the scenes, according to its digital engagement associate, IanPadgham.

He added:‘It’s obviously about off-the-cuff transparency.” When the museum official was in Paris last December, he managed to track down certain locations where artists represented in its collection had worked. He could find the spot where Man Ray snapped St. Sulpice’s picture. He took a photo from that vantage point and put it up on the networking site along with a web link to the original work. The post was ‘`liked’ by quite a few people and received enthusiastic response asking for more.

The website of Metropolitan Museum of Art now hosts a new attraction, broadly known as: ‘We want people to feel ownership of this museum.” Behind-the-scene staffers like an educator and a media producer can discuss their favorite artworks in the museum collection as part of ‘Connections’. It's a fine balance between scholarly and personal voices, notes the museum’s chief officer of digital media, Erin Coburn.

Museums use technology to attract and sustain viewership

Not so long ago, museum websites were nothing more than still and stale platforms, displaying their visiting hours, admission prices, directions and exhibition schedules. But things are changing with evolving technology, which is opening up new opportunities. Museums are keen to exploit them. Talk to players envisaging with museum technology and the oft-recurring theme that emerges is engagement.

In fact, it’s not so much about technology but more about what the site visitors may bring to the whole equation. The museum owners want people to be a part of the process and feel they are associated with the museum. While institutions have always tried to be welcoming platforms as well as hubs of learning, the social media is transforming them into virtual community and thought sharing centers.

On Twitter or Facebook or almost any museum site, one can find a voice, vote and express views on subjects related to art and archiving. Curators and visitors can freely communicate, to learn a few things from each other. As museum visitors carry their hand-held devices to venues, the scope for interactivity only increases…

There is a caveat, though. The technology is ‘stimulating’, and museums are giving some thought to the quantum of information they provide. New York based The Metropolitan Museum of Art director, Thomas P. Campbell, states: “We have got to keep visitors in a heads-up mode, to ensure that they are looking at art pieces.’’ As new technology and all its advanced tools further change, so do the set of challenges that these museums face!

One among them is how to ensure wireless Internet access in old structures so that tech-savvy visitors can effectively make use of their devices. Another issue is how to keep pace with the constant demands of fast-moving social media and, above all, calibrating how much the general public should ultimately influence what gets displayed on the museum walls.

Advice on collecting quality art

Niche investors are now increasingly looking to employ diversification strategies. They are turning to more eclectic investment and asset classes for their portfolios, keen to explore art as a valuable, collectible asset against other asset classes, such as equities, bonds, gold and real estate. This trend is visibly impacting the dynamic wealth management strategies of investment managers.
  • Try to get a feel of what’s happening in the market in broader directional terms. For this, seek advice of art experts and dealers. Build relationships with leading galleries and online auction houses that sell quality art.

  • Grasp the basics first. Understand how works of art can complement each other. Select pieces that will maximize the overall value and relevance of the art you already own. Initially, you may make some mistakes, but treat this all as part of the learning process in the development of a comprehensive collection.

  • Define what you like in terms of medium, form and subject matter. Learn to describe the kind of art you like most to help dealers pinpoint your collecting tastes. Then they can find works that suits your taste and budget.

  • The art world is full of opinions and information about who's hot, what to buy, and how much to pay. Understand, digest and analyze the specific details. Do your own research and make an appropriate decision. Also, try to learn as how not to buy art.

  • Know common art buying mistakes so that you avoid them. The only way of achieving this is research, research and more research about artists and their growth trajectory in context of the current trends. Knowing how to evaluate information about art and art practices forms the crux of intelligent buying.
By approaching specialists and professional advisors, you can tap the immense potential of art as a rising asset class. They help you to draw precious insight into the market and build an art collection in an informed and knowledgeable way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

‘Wells Clouds Skulls’ at Bose Pacia, New York

‘Wells Clouds Skulls’ marks artist Gieve Patel’s second showcase with Bose Pacia gallery. The exhibit includes new large-scale paintings from his ‘Looking into a Well’ series along with select drawings from his critically acclaimed cloud and skull series. For over two decades, he has been exploring his pet theme of wells. His paintings invariably have revolved the theme.

It has been another significant development in his career spanning across four decades. He started with an in-depth introspection of human figures placed in very tactile and rather unapologetic situations. He has spent an extensive time and energy looking, (here looking is the operative word…) into wells, to suggest a significant maturation in his own conceptual trajectory.

Gieve Patel was able to draw the viewer’s attention to the very basic cycles of life through oft-shocking and thought provoking studies of individuals in all possible levels of Indian culture, in his earlier paintings. A sensitive and deft handling of the subjects prompted issues of quotidian existence and value.

The artist is able to ever more potently explore the cycle of one’s own life by creating a metaphor for self-observation and awareness via the ebb and flow of light, structure, foliage, and sky reflected in his wells. He does so by doing away with the reflected subject/ self from his ‘well paintings’ series.

It is with an inexhaustible drive that he manages to capture those active nuances of observation that mesmerizes the viewer. Patel draws his inspiration from various human situations. He sees a sense of poetry even in the rough situations that humans have to face and his paintings are a manifestation of this.

The common man performing everyday routine chores is a regular facet of his work. His work reveals his proficiency as a keen observer of things around: the clothes, the stances and the postures he encounters. The same are reproduced in his work.

‘We should all support artists who talk about the big issues of our time.’

The news of world-renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s detention on April 3 by the authorities has deeply shocked Subodh Gupta. The internationally acclaimed contemporary Indian artist has urged all to ‘speak out of turn’. His statement published in The Tehelka news magazine is as follows:

“China has been 20 years ahead of India in contemporary art. Some fantastic artists have come out of there. Weiwei has not only been a great Chinese artist, but is also a respectable international artist. When they needed his endorsement for the Olympics, the Chinese government used his talent as a consultant for the Bird’s Nest stadium. This is a contradiction. Weiwei has also been beaten by the Chinese police. In Germany, he spent many days in hospital. In spite of being an international figure, he chose to stay in his country.

India, on the other hand, has very little support for contemporary art. China has a far larger number of contemporary artists and museums. Nobody is thinking seriously about running it and I’m not sure why people who don’t know about art are put in charge of running it. The government doesn’t take help from the private sector. And this hurts our contemporary art. We don’t reach people who don’t already know about art.

At the same time, what India has is freedom of art. We too have our problems, and no doubt MF Husain is the biggest example. The Right Wing can be very powerful in our country. It was incredibly sad that the government which was not even the ruling party excised Husain. This may have been partly because Husain wasn’t that young anymore. He could not come out and fight like Taslima Nasrin. This is one fight we need to keep our eyes on.

There has been very little coverage of Weiwei’s plight and this central fight for artistic freedom in Indian media. Our media is, in general, less concerned with art and artists. Our coverage tends to be home-oriented. But things are changing slowly — art is always a slow thing. Recently, we were in Jantar Mantar to protest against corruption. Not only that, a lot of people came to a three-day function at Alliance Française recently, which protested the wrongful imprisonment of Binayak Sen. It was more than an exhibition or seminar — it was a way to voice a kind of thought.

The job of an artist is to make art. Not every artist can come out boldly and speak out like Ai Weiwei. But for the ones who do, it’s good for them as well as their countries. We should all support artists who talk about the big issues of our time. But sometimes an artist’s work speaks for itself. We have signed a petition for Weiwei and written to the Chinese culture ministry. We are in the same boat as him and we have a big fight ahead of us.

(Information courtesy: The Tehelka)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The success story of India’s prominent online art venture

Almost a decade after having formed his online venture, art entrepreneur Dinesh Vazirani is happy that things have gone the way he had visualized. But it has been a tough journey since he and his wife Minal first embarked upon a bouquet of start-ups dealing in; holistic and alternative medicines (Saffron Soul); design & fashion (Saffron Style), and visual arts (Saffron Art). The art venture bloomed after a successful auction in 2005.

India's first and most successful online art auction house finally made its mark, having arrived survived all the bubble burst and apprehensions about the business model itself. Narrating the turn of events Dinesh Vazirani mentions in The Economic Times interview (India’s art mart mature enough; Manoj Nair): "The aim was to channelize exotic India for the global market. We were looking to tap a market comfortable with online transactions. We wanted to create access points for items normally difficult to find The Indian market in those days was at the mercy of time consuming dial-up connections.”

Thankfully, the venture was supported by venture capitalist Chrys Capital. Gradually, Planet Saffron crystallized into Saffronart simply because of the founder’s background in art. So they decided to focus on a single entity. It wasn’t an arbitrary call. Both of them had studied art and shared a deep interest in the domain. However, the two had little access to the core essentials like relationships with known galleries, and had to grapple with practical hurdles while putting together their collections. Initially, Saffronart failed to source enough works.

In these difficult times, the VC stood by them, prompted them on to go for calculated risks, and create a consolidated venture - a hub stop-shop for modern & contemporary Indian art. The underlying idea was to provide access to good quality art and make the price points more transparent. The rest is history, as they say. Their success story was mapped in a case study courtesy the Harvard Business Review in 2007. And there’s a long way to go yet…

Friday, April 22, 2011

HNIs are turning into ‘investor-collectors’

According, to the latest Cap Gemini & Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report reveals, uncertain financial markets are driving many high-net-worth (HNI) individuals to become ‘investor-collectors’. Their thought process goes beyond the actual simple investment calculations; it's about cultivating and sharing and learning more about a passion.

It points out that HNIs are returning to passion investments, approaching them as ‘investor-collectors’ especially with financial markets still in flux. They are seeking to collect things perceived to carry tangible long-term value. Art and other collectibles like coins, antiques or wines are attracting these ‘investor-collectors’ the most. Indian HNIs mostly restrict their passion investments to tangible asset classes as they are wary of sophisticated financial instruments and are more conservative in their investment strategies, it states.

No surprise, wealth managers in India are incorporating art into the HNIs investor’s overall asset allocation decision. There is a perceptible change in the investors’ behavior and mindset. Pankaj Narain, director, head private clients (banking & investments), Deutsche Bank (India) concurs with the fact that HNIs have indeed began spreading their investments to diverse asset classes. Rashid Rana, Jayashree Chakravarthy, Paresh Maity, Arpana Caur, Jayashree Burman and Jagannath Panda are some of the noteworthy names currently dominating the Indian art scene whom you may track.

It is advisable to have a portfolio with both modern and contemporary works as each constituent has a marked potential. You may invest part of your folio in the young and upcoming contemporaries like Prajjwal Choudhury, Rahul Arya, Inder Vir, Anu Agarwal, Nikhileswar Baruah, Amarnath Sharma, Heeral Trivedi, Rahul Chowdhury, Jignasa Doshi, Hindol Brahmabhatt, Jagannath Mohapatra, George Martin, Nitish Bhattacharjee, Prasanta Sahu, Jagdish Chander, and Meetali Singh.

Genuine art lovers and investors can make good returns if their choice of works in terms of works and price point is precise. The process of buying art is more about forming a close personal connection with the piece you wish to acquire.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

‘Manifestations 5’ at Delhi Art Gallery

Delhi Art Gallery’s presents its biannual series, entitled ‘Manifestations 5’ (April 18–June 18, 2011). The exhibition is comprised of nearly 75 works by several significant Indian artists of the 20th century.

The show features selecting works by artists cutting across the last few decades, tracing the journey of Indian art over the time period they belong to, including names like J Sultan Ali, Altaf, Ambadas, Amit Ambalal, K H Ara, Arpita Singh, Ramkinkar Baij, Prabhakar Barwe, Dhanraj Bhagat, Jyoti Bhatt, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Nikhil Biswas, Nandalal Bose, Rameshwar Broota, Shobha Broota, Avinash Chandra, Chittaprosad, D P Roychowdhury, Jogen Chowdhury, Amitava, Prodosh Dasgupta, Sunil Das, Biren De, M V Dhurandhar, Dharmanarayan Dasgupta, C Douglas, V S Gaitonde, Surendran Nair, Gopal Ghose, and Gogi Saroj Pal.

Other artists whose works form part of the show are K Laxma Goud, Satish Gujral, Bimal Dasgupta, S L Haldankar, Ganesh Haloi, Zarina Hashmi, K K Hebbar, Himmat Shah, M F Husain, Indra Dugar, Chintamani Kar, Prokash Karmakar, Bhupen Khakhar, Krishen Khanna, P Khemraj, K S Kulkarni, Laxman Pai, Khitindranath Mazumdar, Rabin Mondal, A H Muller, Badri Narayan, Navjot, Ved Nayar, K C S Paniker, Partha Pratim Deb, Jeram Patel, Sohan Qadri, Rekha Rodwittiya, Ganesh Pyne, S H Raza, Jamini Roy, Prosanto Roy, G R Santosh, etc.

As an introductory note states: “The show is part of the gallery’s biannual series introduced to fulfill the need to present an edited slice from its collection. Its format consists of a single work of each chosen artist which is carefully examined within the unique experiences of his artistic journey. What is exciting is the freedom to select artworks without constraints of chronology, style or subject.”

The gallery has simultaneously released a book, drawing its name from the title of the show (pages: 213; editor: Kishore Singh; price: Rs 3500). For sheer diversity and vibrancy of the works on view, the show is a must watch!

‘B.Prabha - From the Album’

‘B.Prabha - From the Album’, a selection of works by the late artist, will be on display at The Viewing Room, Mumbai (April-May 2011).

Charting out her career, a press release mentions: "Born in the village of Bela, near Nagpur in Maharashtra in 1933, she studied at the Nagpur School of Art before moving to Mumbai to complete her graduation from the Sir J. J. School of Art. This is also where she first met artist and sculptor B. Vithal whom she later married in the year 1956. She came to Mumbai as a struggling artist, with a few rupees in her pocket and initially sold some pieces of jewelry to earn some money.

She started working at a time when India had few women artists; her inspiration was Amrita Shergil. She was moved by the lives of rural women, and over time, they became the main theme of her work. She began to experiment and moved from modern abstract forms to more decorative watercolors. Her paintings cover a wide range of subjects, from landscapes to social issues like droughts, hunger and homelessness.

Her first exhibition, while she was still a student was the start of a long and successful career as three of her paintings were acquired by eminent Indian scientist Homi J. Bhabha. Since then, her works were shown in over 50 exhibitions in India and abroad. In 1993, her solo show ‘Shradhanjali’ in Mumbai was dedicated to her late husband B. Vithal.

She received several prestigious awards. Her works find place in a number of important collections like the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi, reminding of her verve and vivaciousness as a highly talented artist. A significant component of the artist’s sensitive body of work was her sincere attempt to immortalize the plight of women in her country.

On her canvases, she immortalized the fisherwomen of Mumbai.B. Prabha’s graceful elongated figures of pensive rural women, with each canvas in a single dominant color still continue to mesmerize art lovers.

(Information courtesy: The Viewing Room)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A versatile artist peeps into the inner recesses of wells and minds

A self-taught artist dedicated to multiple professions, Gieve Patel has imaged a sensitive and acute awareness of the human condition throughout a 40-year painting practice. Sourcing inspiration from the quietude of nature and the pulse of the city, his work articulates a mature, restrained balance between figuration rooted in realistic naturalism and the freedom of painterly abstraction. His drawings, paintings and sculptures encompass an array of themes, though the content remains deeply human throughout.

In an accompanying note to his retrospective exhibition at Mumbai's Gallery Chemould in 2010, critic Kamala Kapoor has mentioned: “Gieve Patel has long drawn and painted the ordinary, in terms of the everyday, and also the extraordinary, in terms of deprivation and dispossession in a way that draws these features out, in a way that might never have been particularly noticed before.

"That the 'action' inevitably side-steps despair, is among the many strengths of the artist's works where, instead and exploitation of emotional consequence, the protagonists with their calculated awkwardness of figures, often go on to acquire a strange dignity along with a retrieval of lost humanitarian significance and a sense of social and spiritual identity. “

Analyzing his ‘Wells’ series, renowned art critic Ranjit Hoskote has stated: “In his paintings of wells, Gieve Patel shifts into a freer, more lyrical and even abstractionist gear: mirror and womb, archetypal world-navel and tunnel into inner space, the well is a site of revelation for Patel; we look over its ledge into a vision of the cosmic, held in counterpoint by a miniature geography of stone, root and slime. This general account must not lead us to regard the "Wells" series as being either idyllic or generic: each well is distinctive, animated, disturbing, and no less a portrait for portraying an object rather than a human being.

Along with three books of verse and three plays, he has written extensively about contemporary Indian art and, until recently was also a practicing physician.

What makes Gieve Patel’s revisit his favorite theme?

The senior artist has said, of his ‘well paintings’ series: "From boyhood onwards, I have never been able to pass by a well without looking into it. But it was only at the age of 50 that I first attempted to make a painting of this experience. I believed at that time that one or two paintings would be sufficient to cover the ground. However I found that the subject was inexhaustible.”

Explaining what makes him to revisit his favorite theme, he adds: “There was always another version waiting around the corner. It seemed that I could happily paint as many different paintings on this theme as an actual well itself will change almost from hour to hour depending upon the changes in the light and the reflected sky. Also, of course, the construction of each well and the vegetation growing from the sides will differ. Eventually, these wells have been pointers to me of congruence between outer and inner realities."

Born in Mumbai in 1940, Gieve Patel is a practicing physician, an artist, a poet and a playwright. Selected exhibitions include the Menton Biennale, France (1976); ‘India, Myth and Reality’, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1982); ‘Contemporary Indian Art’, Royal Academy of Art, London (1982); ‘Contemporary Indian Art, Grey Art Gallery, New York, 1985, ‘Coups de Coeur’, Halle Sud, Geneva, (1987); ‘The Times of India - Timeless Art’, Mumbai, (1989); and ‘Crossing Generations: Diverge’, Mumbai (2003).

Gieve Patel's poems have been widely published, and his plays have been published and performed. Patel is a recipient of Woodrow Wilson and Rockefeller Fellowships. His paintings are in public and private collections in India and in other countries, including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; the Jehangir Nicholson Collection, Mumbai; the Museum of Modern Art, Menton, France; the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Response of women war artists to conflict

‘Women War Artists’ is a new exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, London. It redresses the tendency to view and perceive blood-filled conflicts and battles typically, through the eyes of men.

The show seeks to explore the emotional experiences of women in challenging wartime right from the First World War to the contemporary times. It features art by names from Dame Laura Knight, renowned for her paintings of the Nuremberg trial, to Mona Hatoum, a Turner prize nominee.

Focusing on intense works by sensitive and socially aware women war artists encompassing different eras from the 1900s to the recent Kosovo conflict, the showcase highlights the renowned museum’s excellent collection. It deftly explores an artistic response to conflict. The artists come across as eyewitnesses, commentators, officially commissioned recorders and as participants, at times.

‘Women War Artists’ illuminates both the possibilities and constraints faced by female artists in war time. It’s a perfect opportunity for revisiting key moments in the last century or so of a turbulent history of war and conflict, especially that of Britain, through from a largely universal, and seldom explored perspective. Featured artists include Anna Airy (among the first officially commissioned artists during the 1st World War), Linda Kitson, Dame Laura Knight RA and Frauke Eigen.

The Imperial War Museum celebrates the remarkable achievements and experiences of women war artists and considers their importance through this exhibit.Key works by different women artists are seen through the prism of their own reflections and life tales that reveal the unique challenges they have faced, demonstrating the enormous diversity of their bold responses.

The museum offers a unique coverage of global conflicts, especially those comprising people and army of Britain and the Commonwealth. It seeks to encourage, the understanding of the modern war history and ‘war-time experience’. It spans a wide range of activities at its main London venue as well as at its four different branches. ‘Women War Artists’ is a step ahead in its agenda to relook the history of wars and learn lessons for the future…

Chinese buyers crave for their own artists and art

Art from China is in spotlight with a major private imperial Chinese porcelain collection in the West is on the block in Hong Kong courtesy Sotheby. There are over 75 lots on offer from the famous Meiyintang collection owned by Swiss businessman Stephen Zuellig’s family.

As NRIs in case of India are driving the rush for contemporary art within the country and outside, so are the Chinese buyers rooting for the art of their great republic. Chinese masterpieces, acquired by Western collectors in the past, are entering the market in appreciation of their aesthetic and monetary value. The Business Standard columnist Barun Roy in a recent essay takes note of the ‘second cultural revolution’, describing how the art drain is reversing, at last.

The expert observes: “The new generation of Chinese possesses the money and also has the interest. Buying art is not only good investment but also a sort of spiritual activity to them. So, while they don’t mind spending huge sums to buy back their home country’s art, they are equally keen to buy, say for example, contemporary artworks from elsewhere in Asia or Impressionist masterpieces from Europe. This new-found albeit not unexpected interest has made the Chinese art a major force in the international market and turned Shanghai, Beijing and HK into global art hubs, like London and New York."

According to Artprice, China topped most other international markets last year in terms of fine art auctions, accounting for over 30 percent of the sales, ahead of the US, the UK and France (just about 5 percent). With such a huge appetite for art, it isn’t really surprising that four of the world’s top 10 artists last year on basis of auction revenue were Chinese. Qi Baishi (1863-1957) even managed to outrank Andy Warhol. Owning a Qi Baishi, considered a path-breaker in a rather traditional Chinese cultural milieu, is now a Chinese collector’s dream.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Artist L.N. Tallur’s quirky take on his new collection of works

Talented contemporary artist from India L.N. Tallur hosts a new show, entitled ‘Chromatophobia: The Fear of Money’’ at the New Delhi based Nature Morte. Following is the artist’s take on his works for the exhibition.

Chromatophobia is an abnormal and persistent fear of money. Sufferers experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. They worry that they might mismanage money or that money might live up to its reputation as "the root of all evil."

Turbulence is a state where rhythm is lost. A seed sown with a wish for “momentum” grew up into a greed for “speed”. A speed that has never been seen before brought excitement!, Enjoyment!! And finally, a fear about the very speed we opted for! The result: Chromatophobia – Fear of Money.

Treating Chromatophobia involves an invasive procedure that involves “bringing the rhythm back”, while maintaining the vitals in a stable condition under local anesthesia. Time is a crucial factor in bringing the rhythm back. The “process of ageing” that involves “time” is the only prescription that can control the speed and bring the lost rhythm back. This may involve some minor side effects like “survival of the fittest”.

An e- folktale: A Solution to the Global Economic Crisis
In a small town on the southern coast of France, the holiday season was in full swing, but due to rain business was slow. Luckily, a rich Russian tourist arrived in the foyer of a small local hotel. He asked for a room and gave a €100 note to the man at the reception counter. He asked the hotel owner if he could see the room before occupying it. The owner agreed and gave him the key to the room. The Russian guest took the key and went to inspect the room.

In a hurry, the hotel owner took the banknote and rushed to his meat supplier, to whom he owed €100. The butcher took the money and raced to his supplier to pay his debt. The wholesaler rushed to the farmer to pay €100 for pigs he purchased some time ago. The farmer then gave the €100 note to a local prostitute, who gave him her services on credit. She quickly went to the hotel, to pay for the room she occupied earlier to render her services.

At that moment, the rich Russian tourist came down to the reception and informed the hotel owner that the room was unsatisfactory and took his €100 back and departed. So here is a debt free town, whose future looks “as shiny as a polished coin…”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's fight for justice and freedom of expression

Just a couple of days before his ‘disappearance’, China’s most controversial artist in the recent times, Ai Weiwei, spoke out to German broadcaster ARD about surveillance and harassment from police at his Beijing studio. He protested the fact that ‘people with different voices and minds are being put into prison.’

Describing the intense scrutiny from the authorities, he revealed: "There are two cameras at the main entrance, my telephone is tapped. Every message that I post on my microblog gets censored. Over a dozen policemen visited my place. In my opinion, it’s purely nuisance!" This was his last public interview before being stopped by officials at the city airport.

He proclaimed: "The country in many ways is almost like the middle ages. The control over the flow of information is like the time before the Enlightenment. Writers, commentators and artists are detained when they reflect on democracy, reform and reason. This is the (harsh) reality of China.

Ai is among the most prominent victims of the country’s crackdown on dissent after being detained earlier in April. Western powers and artists’ groups have demanded his release, but his whereabouts is still not known. The outspoken artist deplored the lack of freedom of expression, stating every bit of news is controlled by the Ministry of propaganda.

“The only thing I can do is go on the Internet. But my name is a sensitive word on the Web in China. It cannot be shown on Chinese sites. Unless I am left with absolutely no other choice, I won’t leave since I belong here.." he vowed, insisting that he wanted to stay on. He depicted his role as a dissident who has leveraged the power of web, especially Twitter, to communicate and engage with China’s young people.

Ai Weiwei's ‘Sunflower Seeds’, the Turbine Hall installation at Gallery Tate Modern, is on until May 2. The building has turned into the site for demonstrations in support of the artist. Major international exhibitions of his work are due to open at Lisson Gallery and Somerset House in May.

Why art is a preferred option for elite and wealthy investors?

Art 'remains a popular investment option for wealthy in the UK during tough economic times marked by a period of low interest rates and economic worries', a recent BBC News study mentions, quoting from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) survey.

Rics spokesman Chris Ewbank explains: "The art and antiques market remains a strong performer for buyers looking to invest in more tangible assets to guard against the uncertain economic picture." The trend of investing in ‘emotional assets’ is getting stronger with investors, having suffered from the global crisis, returning to objects ‘closer to their hearts’, which also provide some protection, liquidity and a decent ROI. As investment advisors explain, when you talk to people about a thing they understand, they love and also relate to, you are infusing positive emotions into investing.

Explaining the development, The Forbes news story (The Passion Portfolio: Investments of Love) elaborates: “With a turbulent market and a whole new generation of investors who equally value the ‘experience economy’, passion investing is experiencing a strategic resurgence. Whether it's 16th-century art, precious gems or Swiss watches, they are now adding collectible assets to the portfolios not only as a means of diversification, but also as a way of holding the things that they love the most.”

The report quotes Bernard Duffy of the London based Emotional Assets Fund as saying: "A clear convergence is happening between the realms of collecting and investing." Underling the strength of art market in this context, Philip Hoffman, the London based Fine Art Fund Group CEO, mentions, "It’s not highly speculative or trendy if you understand what you’re doing.

Over a 10-year period, if you’re buying the best, it is possible to double, triple, or even quadruple your investment." The trend now transcends geographic boundaries, with markets like the Middle East also showing more interest. "In countries like India and China, investors have historically had a higher predilection to hold tangible assets like gold, gems, jewelry and art - both as hedges against inflation and investments," explains New York based art advisory firm Artvest’s cofounder Michael Plummer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cities as a metaphor for artists

Cityscapes, busy streets, lifestyles people in the metros and their moods are nudging the idyllic countryside out of the teeming canvas of contemporary Indian art. Many artists who start off with pristine nature and lavish landscapes slowly move on to abstract studies of human forms and cities. However, now they reveal that the complex textures and shades of life and emotions in cities and the amazing architectural variety are giving them an array of creative options.

Haridwar, Kolkata, Varanasi, Mumbai and New Delhi - the venues of historical and political contrasts – form the core of artist Paramesh Paul's work. He meticulously chronicles their settings in the light of histories and events they are primarily associated with. Mumbai, for example, is painted in the backdrop of the 26/11 terrorist attacks, whereas Varanasi comes across a vivacious vision on the river Ganges.

The soul of city of Kolkata is captured in its temples. On the other hand, the capital is represented by multiple layers of history. The exposition, ‘Reflections of Quaint Cities’, has just been unveiled in the capital city earlier this week. Similarly, evolution of New Delhi is the theme for captivating compositions by more than 20 artists in ‘Developing Delhi’, a show curated by critic Suneet Chopra.

"Not the planners, but the laborers decide how (and in which direction) the city should grow. We’ve captured the different perspectives of the city by several artists, including those from the US and China. The exhibition has a non-celebrity element. The artists have turned to ordinary people to document its journey."

Artist Gregory Thielkar from the US has been in India for last eight months on a scholarship, and is recording the Grand Trunk Road Project history with photographs, sketches and how own narratives about the road. For young Satadru Sovan, ‘the city and the enveloping cyberspace fuel creativity’. He depicts gothic colonial buildings and youths discussing their habitats through social networks.

A retrospective of Ram Kumar’s works

A retrospective of veteran artist Ram Kumar takes place at Aicon Gallery, London. Art historian Partha Mitter has stated that the ‘common thread’ that binds modern Indian art is ‘the insistent return of the figure, the country’s perennial subject, set against the backdrop of abstraction.’ One of the most long-standing and seminal exceptions to this norm is Ram Kumar.

Although he, like many Indian as well as Pakistani artists who studied art in Paris, returned with a semi-figurative style drawing on post-cubism, he chose to abandon the figure and worked almost exclusively around the abstract cityscape – its intensity conveying urban alienation - a motif unique among his contemporaries at that point of time. This move took place in a series of works inspired by the holy city of Benares, variously rendered as an amalgamation of textures and shades, or as the art scholar notes, ‘the colorful city reduced to stretches of clay, sand & sky.’

In the 1960s, the artist witnessed another marked shift in his practice, this time moving away from the cityscape, towards the peculiar natural abstract landscape. Increasingly his paintings would be comprised of forms that were detached from his earlier conventional figure-ground relationship that coalesced in the middle distance to allude to a landscape. This changed focus on the abstract landscape, driven by Benares, led him to pursue it, for the rest of his career, almost exclusively.

Pure abstraction is rare in the paintings of Indian artists, as a press release notes. Many of them, who did experiment with abstraction, soon went back to the figure to some extent. Ram Kumar's paintings, tough to place within the more simplistic narratives developed around modern Indian art, demands something most of his contemporaries cannot; a very private and contemplative viewing experience.

They are less about transcendence and present themselves as the vivacious visual encounter between viewers and the paintings. The evolution in his work continues to set him apart from other artists of his era.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Artists from Iran offer a perspective on the country’s socio-political and cultural landscape

‘Regarding Iran: the apparent acquiescence of conceptual poetics’ is the title of a show curated by Shaheen Merali that takes place at The Guild, Mumbai. The participating artists are Amin Nourani, Farideh Lashai, Barbad Golshiri, Mohammad Hossein Emad, Mitra Tabrizian, Peyman Hooshmandzadeh, and Shirin Neshat. Their aesthetic inventions offer a great probability for an inquiring viewer to develop a clear understanding of issues pertaining to the country and its contested place in the global order.

It’s the third exhibit of an ongoing curatorial project that thus far been executed in two countries. The curator has worked for ‘The Stalking of Absence’ at the Tokyo Gallery and with Kunsthalle Brot from Vienna for ‘The Promise of Loss’, to present works that investigate and provide an account of Iran’s volatile situation.

For The Guild show, the artists’ creations from within and without Iran is showcased as a medium scale group show. The research for it involved both remote conversations and studio visits, finally curating the works for the first ever comprehensive presentation of work from Iran in India by these talented contemporary artists who work in Iran, as well as in England and the US.

Much of their work is widely found in the International arena of a visual culture affected by a sense of longing and belonging that permits specific identity politics conclusively inflected and wrapped in assemblages, on basis of an ethical position that is encased within a poetic distance. The curatorial position has taken into consideration the following observations:

1. Curating any ethnic or regional domain, including that of the country, is made tougher by its sophisticated, cultural palimpsest, the region’s traditions and also its people; although it’s still vital, even perhaps pertinent, to evaluate its specific cultural and aesthetic developments.

2. Historically, Iran is of ontological importance. In its present constellation, the country has suffered many problems and endured different challenges circumstances facing challenges from biased nations and religiosities, which combined with its inner reactive epithet, makes for a pertinent set of conditions that enables the production and sets down both the role and rules, of aesthetics for them to function, till now, within a curtailed freedom.

A closer look at the art market’s inner workings

Going beyond the clichés and common presumptions about art and money, a new book by Noah Horowitz takes the discussion to a more fundamental level. His ‘Art of the Deal’ examines the intricate relationship between the contemporary art market and the value of its objects. The author tackles more 'immaterial' genres that, in spite of their popularity in galleries and biennales, probably receive far less attention from auction houses and collectors: video and 'experiential art' (installations, performances or any form, which focuses on experience and social interaction.)

An introductory write-up to the book mentions: “The Prices of works have been driven to almost unprecedented heights. Conventional boundaries within the art world have collapsed. The author takes a look at the globalization phenomenon and its impact on the art world, evaluating the changing face of the business, giving the clearest analysis yet of how investors speculate in the market and how new art forms like installation and video have been drawn into the commercial sphere. By examining these developments against the backdrop of the deflation of the art bubble in 2008, he demystifies the process of collecting and investing in today's market.”

An art historian and art market expert, Noah Horowitz is also a member of the faculty of the Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York and director of the VIP Art Fair, the first-ever exclusively online art fair. According to him, art market is not much different from other international markets, when it comes to behind-the-scenes activities and investing tactics involving a network of an investment consortium of collectors, art museums around the world, dealers and auction houses, with art buyers completing the chain.

All the players can work together at times to transform little-known works into gems. This process is possible because the art market fuses two contradictory aspects: on the one hand, huge sums of money involved; on the other, objects with no tangible, easy to assign value as an asset. The author deftly underlines the 'experiential streak' that drives the global art world, even while demarking the boundaries between prestige buying and investment in art for sound financial returns. He exposes the contemporary art market’s inner workings, explaining how this unique economy came to be, how it functions, and exactly where it's headed.

‘BRIC 2011’ auction

Phillips de Pury & Company is hosting ‘BRIC 2011’ auction featuring works by renowned artists from Brazil, India, China and Russia. The evening & Day auctions features 203 lots with a low estimate of £7,280,500/$11,657,566 and a high estimate of £10,865,500/ $17,397,883. The Evening sale features 38 works with a low estimate of £5,917,000 /$ 9,474,325 and a high estimate of £8,933,000/ $14,303,556.

Following the excellent results for the first ever BRIC auctions in 2010, which highlighted the international demand for the best and most exciting art from the fast growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, Phillips de Pury & Company now hosts ‘BRIC 2011’. As a press release mentions: “Numerous world auction records were achieved last year for Komar & Melamid, Vladimir Yankilevsky & Osgemeos; with outstanding results for Erik Bulatov, Ai Weiwei, Liu Wei, and Zhang Xiaogang.

This is testament to the rich variety, quality and diversity of the art, design and photography offered during these sales. This year’s BRIC sale will focus on artists with longevity and appeal as well as emerging new talent. The sale will offer collectors the opportunity to learn about and buy into these diverse markets in one sale room with a compelling, edited selection of the best available works.

“With this auction we aim to show the new strength and depth of the Contemporary Art Market in Brazil, and the continuing upward trends of the Chinese, Indian and Russian markets.” Henry Allsopp Worldwide Director, Curated Sales and Exhibitions. The auction catalogue highlights the ‘diasporic’ and ‘global’ character of BRIC focusing on collectors, artists, curators and taste makers from each individual country, featuring interviews with Catherine Petitgas from London, Sylvain Levy from Paris and Dipti Mathur from Saratoga, who have allowed their private homes to be photographed for the first time in BRIC’s editorial giving unique access into their collections.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Works by Subodh Gupta and Rashid Rana at ‘BRIC 2011’

Two key artists whose works are included in the Phillips de Pury & Company's ‘BRIC 2011’ auction highlights are:

Subodh Gupta's 'There is always cinema (IV)', 2008 (£200,000-£300,000)

Subodh Gupta is best-known for his sculptures made from accumulations of everyday objects such as antiquated machinery and stainless steel cooking utensils. In this work, an old door found by the artist has been cast in brass and then placed beside the original, suggesting that even the most banal detritus can reveal an exotic or precious concealed identity.

Raised in the rural area of Bihar, the artist calls on his own life experience to express the harsh contrasts typical of a country in which the simplicity of rural culture and increasing urban globalization exist side by side. By translating these experiences into art, he confronts the viewer with formal simplicity laced with a complex web of references. Echoing equally in this clever, beautiful work are art historical references to the ready-made, to minimal art with its seriality, and to appropriation art.

Rashid Rana's 'Veil IV', 2007 (£250,000– £300,000)

His ‘Veil IV’ depicts five women, each anonymous, standing side-by-side in serial succession. The shapes of their bodies blur beneath the voluminous folds of fabric and facial expressions and sentiment are deliberately effaced by the veils. Each wears the chador, hijab and niqab; and while the colours may vary as do, barely perceptibly, the height of those underneath, there are otherwise no individual characteristics by which to identify the subjects of the photograph. The subjects of the photograph, though, are two fold, as anyone aware of Rana’s work will know.

On a macro level, five Muslim women, bodies fully obscured; on a micro level, hundreds of Western porn stars, limbs splayed for the camera, and anyone with access to the internet and a computer. Rana here exposes the hypocrisy of Western thought, whereby thousands of women are also suppressed and rendered faceless whilst wearing nothing at all: porn stars, the erotic oil of the billion-plus dollar adult industry machine.

Bharti Kher’s work to form part of an international auction

As part of Phillips de Pury & Company s ‘BRIC 2011’ auction catalogue, curator Joseph Backstein writes on seven of the most exciting contemporary artists from Russia and an interview with Thukral and Tagra illustrates the New Delhi-based artists who emerged from a graphic design background to become contemporary Indian art’s most exciting young duo. From China featuring Zhang Huan, primarily a performance artist and one of the artists to emerge from the “Beijing East Village” commune and Gautier Deblonde photographs artist Yang Jiechang in his studio preparing works for his major exhibition in Rennes in May.

Phillips de Pury & Company's ‘BRIC 2011’ Auction highlights for India include ‘Invisible People’ is a large pentaptych created by Bharti Kher in 2006. The work consists of five separate reflective aluminum panels layered in a plethora of felt bindis of varying shapes and sizes. The spot of vermilion on the forehead, long a marker of Indian, specifically Hindu identity, appears here in its modern incarnation: a piece of adhesive fabric, available a variety of colors, shapes and combinations to suit every dress.

A mark of identity, the bindi has become a leitmotif in Kher’s vocabulary. Used as a material to articulate and animate her intentions, the bindis act as a medium, much like paint or clay, but with an inherited narrative creating a second skin to her works. The artist addresses a number of sensitive issues like class and consumerism, and draws on her personal experiences to reflect on these.

She is particularly known for her appropriation of the motif of bindi, a red dot on the forehead of married women in India, that’s looked at as a curious fashion accessory in the West. It appears in her work as a central motif, conveying a range of connotations and meanings whilst transforming surfaces and objects. Her life size sculptures of animals (deer, elephants, hyenas, etc) done in fibreglass explore her interest in kitsch. They demonstrate a witty and sarcastic side of her creation. Her art practice encompasses digital photography as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

‘Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior’ in the US

'Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior' is a significant show that takes place at Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, USA.

Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior is among the first major museum exhibits to focus on Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s three major deities. Over 170 paintings, sculptures and ritual arty objects between the fourth and 20th centuries provide a brief survey of the then Hindu art styles and an examination of god-worshipping traditions.

Known as a gentle god, Vishnu is recognized in paintings by his blue skin, reflecting his calm demeanor and his associations with the natural elements of sea and sky. A very interesting figure in his primary form, the complexity of his character becomes evident when the deity assumes new forms, or avatars, in order to save the planet from various dangers. Vishnu’s ten avatars, comprising Rama and Krishna, are a pointer to the multiplicity of ways one can envision and interact with the divine force. The exhibit is accompanied by an illustrated catalog from Mapin Publishing.

A curatorial note to the exhibition elaborates: “Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion. It was first codified in the country around 1000 BCE and has been practiced there since then, perpetually absorbing new approaches and beliefs, even while continuing to recognize the older traditions’ sanctity. Each of the three important Hindu deities—Vishnu the Preserver, Devi the Great Goddess, and Shiva the Destroyer - is believed by his worshippers to be solely responsible for creating as well as maintaining the cycle of life, and also to be a portal to ultimate salvation.”

To his contemporary worshippers, Vishnu is the ultimate embodiment of light, truth, and power. He is a formless entity well beyond human comprehension. Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior is organized thematically, opening with ‘Images of Vishnu’, an exploration of his fundamental traits, introducing the god in his primary form—human in shape through some exquisite sculptures in material like sandstone, granite, bronze etc; and in aesthetic - from simple to intricate carving.

The mystic of powerful Hindu god explored

The mystic of the powerful Hindu god explored is in a show, entitled ‘Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior’ at Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, USA. Here is an introductory note to the show:

Following the introductory ‘Images of Vishnu’ section, the exhibition moves on to an expansive section devoted to the god’s avatars. Although these figures share some of Vishnu’s characteristics, they are limited manifestations. Less glorious, with finite bodies, they sometimes display human weaknesses and are usually mortal. When Vishnu descends from the heavens in the form of an avatar, it is as if he were reaching down with his hand: the hand may be Vishnu, but it is not the god in full.

Hindu texts differ on how many times Vishnu’s avatars have come to Earth. These are explored in ‘The Avatars of Vishnu’. This section begins with an introduction to the avatars as a group, shown in objects ranging from a two-sided stone plaque from the eleventh century that includes images of the ten primary avatars; to an early-eighteenth-century pendant that, although only about two inches square, also depicts the ten avatars; a fragment of a seventeenth-century textile made of dyed and undyed silk; and a variety of sculptures and watercolors.

‘Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior concludes’ with ‘Worshipping Vishnu’. Here, watercolor images of worshippers and the places in which they pray to Vishnu or his avatars, as well as a selection of ritual objects, provide an overview of some of the many Vaishnava rituals and sectarian traditions. Highlights include exquisite miniature objects made for use on domestic altars, including a gold throne and a silver and gold swing, both from around the nineteenth century.

‘Worshipping Vishnu’ ends with a selection of objects from the modern era. Ranging from a twentieth-century papier-mâché pageant mask, to a selection of early-twentieth-century popular religious prints, to a pair of Bollywood posters, these demonstrate the enduring popularity of Vishnu and his avatars, as well as the ways in which Vaishnava traditions continue to evolve with the introduction of new media and new trends in devotional practice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Archiving memories and nostalgia

A host of digital archiving initiatives are underway to preserve India’s art & visual history. The process has acquired a new meaning in the modern era of information explosion marked by a vastly networked and interconnected society. The issue is how would really this play out in the future?

The Internet is not always a reliable source of information owing to lack of authenticity and accuracy of data hence recording and meticulously storing our legacy becomes even more critical. Archiving denotes the custodianship of collective memory, as an expert point out. But who will gather and legitimize it? These concerns are equally relevant to the domain of art. Today, archiving is broadly related to it in two ways—one, as a subject for all artists to work with; and two, as a discipline vital for preserving the knowledge of practice and history.

The Hong Kong-based Asia Art Archive (AAA) recently did a project to digitize critic Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram’s personal archives. This was the institute’s first such project in India, involving Kapur and her artist husband that took almost a year. According to a researcher with AAA, Sabih Ahmed, plans are underway to digitize many other personal artists’ archives.

The Sundaram/Kapur archive of modern & contemporary Indian art comprises rare exhibition catalogues/ brochures over five decades; slides of roughly 4,000 works; the critical writings and lectures etc. Most of it will be digitized and hosted publicly for free access. According to Sundaram, their archival material is currently Delhi-specific. However, it also includes a lot of what came to the capital city from other parts of the country.

Something as basic as an invitation card to a show printed years ago packs a valuable ancillary information and detail. The visual texture of it does inform your brain, as the artist notes, drawing attention to the kind of printing, and the graphic five decades ago… A keen researcher, writer, or historian will see vital clues in some ephemeral material. And from the detail one may construct memory and fathom history.

Apathy to archiving in the domain of art

A symposium along with an event ‘Another Life: The Digitised Personal Archive’ of Vivan Sundaram and Geeta Kapur was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in February.
An exhibit held earlier this year at LKA in Delhi, entitled ‘Against All Odds: A Contemporary Response to the Historiography of Archiving, Collecting and Museums in India’ was another recent example of archiving as a theme. It was comprised of photos, sculptures, installations, paintings, and new media works by several leading contemporary Indian artists.

A fine blend of fantasy and fact was in evidence in the show. According to its curator Arshiya Lokhandwala, the title denoted the fact that art practice and artists have survived and thrived in India against all odds, in spite a poor maintenance of running museums, archives and public art collections.

Sarnath Banerjee, in spotlight for his graphic novel ‘The Harappa Files’, states that he sees himself as an archivist who authors his reality but who also records. Another instance is Bose Krishnamachari’s ‘LaVA: Laboratory of Visual Arts’ that comprised his personal library of audiovisual material and books, DVD players, lifted whole—shelves etc.

Subodh Gupta’s installation presented in all its grimy glory was another apparent jab at the bureaucracy. Other works explored the deeper link existing between memory - individual and collective - and different ways in which they can be preserved. Pushpamala N.’s tableaux ‘Motherland: Where Angels Fear to Tread…’ was inspired by museum dioramas. She termed the work as an ‘archive of images of Bharat Mata or Mother India

The show was interpretation of archives, the whole process and its form as opposed to the content. A very stark comment was Vivan Sundaram’s ‘if one were to fall’. For him, the idea (behind private archives) is to inform a certain location as well as a historical period that transforms it into an island of data. The crux of such initiatives is to remove the prevailing apathy to archiving in the domain of art. A beginning has already been made…

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pooled art assets is the new trick for funds

Art lovers have long considered themselves to be belonging to a more elite category than stock market speculators. Now though, their worlds and identities are apparently colliding with a new segment of financial entities worldwide keen to sell shares in pools of artworks, according to media reports.

It makes for a real odd combination. Many investors favor transparency, dealers generally prefer secrecy. If the former are tilted towards asset gathering, art dealers rely on exclusive holdings. As the prices of major works have gone up, niche portfolio managers are bringing out art funds, hoping their underlying works and shares will both appreciate in value.

What makes art experts a touch nervous is the fact that these funds bear similarities to opaque investments like asset-backed securities and derivatives that suffered during the global financial crisis. Bang in the middle of this debate are proponents, such as the art research firm Skate's, looking to legitimize the emerging trend by influencing new art investors.

The pooled art assets’ transparency and valuation are two key issues that impact art securitization. Thanks to volatile stocks and bond market, wealthy overseas investors are turning to tangible assets like art. Alert financial firms are capitalizing on that shift of interest. Through these funds, investors can own artworks sans the large fees and taxes generally associated with full ownership. A few money managers promise returns as high 20 percent.

The domain, with roughly $300 million in assets, is small albeit fast growing. The theme behind these art funds is rather simple: A group of big investors put up funds to help a money manager purchase paintings. Smaller investors will buy ownership units, their values tied to the underlying art. For the privilege, they are asked to pay fees of 5% of the assets and 20% of the profits.

It’s a private market! When an investor wants to cash out, he or she has to trade the stakes. This is a historically unregulated arena. Some experts feel that art funds, popular in markets like India, Russia and China, will draw the wrong element, keen to keep money out of bank accounts.

Talented contemporary Indian artists in ‘Concurrent India’

‘Concurrent India’ at Helsinki City Art Museum in Finland along with Kulturhuset, Stockholm features works by Archana Hande, Chitra Ganesh, Gigi Scaria, Hema Upadhyay, Nalini Malani, Pushpamala N, Reena Saini Kallat, Riyas Komu, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Thukral & Tagra etc. Their key themes include the status of women and the life of the weakest members of society or of those detached from it altogether.

Chitra Ganesh highlights alternative lifestyles and figures omitted from official histories and mythologies. Pushpamala N terms her photographs ‘photo romances’ that she herself stages and directs. The figures in them are based on popular imagery. Sheba Chhachhi has snapped images of holy female ascetics across India for close to a decade.

Reena Saini Kallat highlights in her art the fates of individuals, while simultaneously addressing the traumas of entire communities. Her installation ‘Preface’ shows the preamble of the Indian constitution in Braille (to underscore the constitution’s promise of equality). The text projected on the book was made from frozen donated blood samples.

Hema Upadhyay recounts stories in which a person is searching for one’s place and roots. In the works ‘Killing Site IV’ and ‘Sleep–Dream–Sleep’, threatening mood and violent horror combine with the beauty of traditional Indian ornamentation. The recurring themes in Nalini Malani’s oeuvre are the oppressed status of women, war, economic exploitation and the environmental degradation, whereas Shilpa Gupta's art revolves around terrorism, human rights, religion, social classification and resultant insecurity. Archana Hande’s ‘’ makes a quirky comment on the marriage institution worldwide.

Gigi Scaria explores the connections between urban location and social class. Riyas Komu’s works contain a strong political message. Terror, war, chauvinism and exploitation form their core. The installation ‘Escaped! …while I Was Cooking’ by Thukral & Tagra is about bitter disappointment and sad fates. Vivan Sundaram’s practice takes a stand on environmental issues as well as on behalf of the disadvantaged. The sculptures of Valay Shende bear a resemblance to luxury goods, yet their topic is the everyday worries of people in an urbanizing India.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A solo show by Rashid Rana

A solo show by Rashid Rana at London based Lisson Gallery highlights large-scale photographic works that he considers ‘unpacking abstraction’. From a distance, they appear akin to richly textured, patterned abstract compositions. However, on closer inspection, each of them is revealed to be formed from thousands of smaller context specific digital images that offset the perceived serenity of the larger image.

His works revolve around a subtle simultaneous exploration of media and identity – both bound by a sharp political edge as he satirizes pop culture and looks to reinterpret varied elements of art and cultural history. It deals with everyday issues encompassing a wide range of themes from urbanization and popular culture to faith and tradition. His new media projects are a visual commentary and parody of socio-political scenarios.

The artist often employs video installations and still photography. A case in point is his series of composite photomontages in which each main image is constructed out of countless smaller photos of diametrically opposite subjects. The viewer confronts a moment of sudden withdrawal after moving closer to the picture when one becomes aware of the many miniature images that constitute the larger one. He does not like to be tagged as a photographer, sculptor or video-artist. He explains: “I trained as a traditional painter, but I like the freedom to use any kind of medium. I don’t like hard divides.”

As part of his new show, a photographic sculpture ‘Books’ (UV Inkjet print on aluminum) features images of books layered on blocks that themselves resemble books. It both maps and manipulates the distance between idea and object, representation and reality. Here the artist challenges our understanding of three-dimensional forms through the use of pixilated imagery. The shift between two and three dimensionality is further explored in a large-scale stainless steel cube sliced through with a photographic mosaic of image fragments.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fathoming A Balasubramaniam's practice

A Balasubramaniam's work leads to exploration of boundaries between personal and cosmic dimensions, and between tradition and modernity. Formally it combines light and shadow. It’s both amorphous and contained, comprising metaphors, which allude to a belief in the cyclical nature of things.

Hailing from a small village in Tamil Nadu, he received his Bachelor’s degree (fine arts) from the Government College of Arts, Chennai (1995). In 1998, he joined EPW Edinburgh to study printmaking, after which he pursued his passion for the genre at Austria’s Universitat fur Angewandte Kunste in Wien (1998-99). Moving onto a wider canvas, his art seamlessly moves from rusty rural life to awe-inspiring international experiences – a juxtaposition that has let him absorb contemporaries trends even while staying true to his roots and imbibing traditional values. For example, several relief monoprint, comprising one made of alphabet soup, formed part of his first solo in New York.

From a purely Indian ethos and perspective, it seems as if he has managed to outgrow the confines of his context, and move beyond the rather strict formalism of the modernists. For instance, his work at a recent show in Kolkata ('Symbols and Metaphors', CIMA gallery) was a lucid, lyrical celebration, which clearly relished aesthetic imbalance, even while challenging our ways of viewing. Each physical work is akin to a journey that prompts us to retrace the artist’s steps. What you are ultimately left with is not just the physical boundaries of work, but your spontaneous reaction to it wherein the negative space within an excavation results in a corollary.

‘(IN)Between’, his critically acclaimed show of works on paper and sculptures, included of intriguing installations ‘Kaayam’ and ‘Shadow of a Shadow of a Shadow’. While both excavated the unseen and the invisible, the latter in particular revealed the presence of something elemental, and culminated a long process for him in imparting mass to the ephemeral and bringing to the fore the non visible. ‘Kaayam’, on the other hand, reflected on the absence of something very essential, to add to his oeuvre of attention-grabbing works cast from the artist’s body. It negotiated the thin layer of skin, setting apart one’s own being from everything else. The rigid walls yielded to confound and amuse the viewer in ‘In Sounds of Silence and Gravity’, whereas ‘Energy Field and Link’ seemingly tried to defy the rules of nature.

Pros and cons of getting identified with a particular subject or style

Is that a section of buyers don’t really want and like their chosen artists to experiment too much? This is the issue that often draws contrasting responses. The Business Standard columnist Kishore Singh tries to tackle the subject in one of his recent columns.

Artists, as all of us know, tend to get closely identified with the subject matter that they paint, sculpt or install, he rightly points out, and barring a few exceptions, they mostly work in a certain identifiable content and style. He cites the example of artist Subodh Gupta, whose name invariably alludes to steel utensils. Then there are Shuvaprasanna’s crows, s H Raza’s bindus, FN Souza’s grotesque nudes and heads, Sunil Das’s snorting bulls and Thota Vaikuntam’s Telengana beauties.

In essence, each artist is associated with a certain image that the collectors find closer to their heart. The writer describes this phenomenon as ‘banking on familiarity’. Just to extend the argument, he gives more examples by stating Fawad Husain is known for his erotic satire put in domestic settings. Then there is MF Husain known for his legendary horses, or artist Jayasri Burman very much famous for her goddesses. On the other hand, you can separate Rameshwar Broota from his peculiar ode to the masculine torso. When you refer to Manjit Bawa, what strikes more than anything else is his popsicle colors and serene Sufi imagery.

The examples are literally countless. Bikash Bhattacharjee is popular for his surrealism, whereas established contemporary artist Bharti Kheris quite appreciated for her usage of bewildering bindis. Paresh Maity is identified with his haunting seascapes, and Rekha Rodwittiya fort those iconic female figures. When you think of Arpita Singh, her concern and affinity for the fragile feminine world holds you. The writer essentially argues that the association is too strong to be challenged.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The fear of the unknown in collecting

Can an artist fight the popular image and identity that makes him or her familiar and comfortable with the collectors? This is an important aspect of creativity that art expert Kishore Singh deals with in a recent essay.

Mostly, an artist won’t be allowed to stray too far away from his or her fidelity with a subject matter by two important elements – first, the gallerist, and then the buyer (who may be either a collector or an investor). The former tends to reflect popular demand and often will ask for works of art, which have previously gone well with buyers. To put it in practical terms, if it ain’t broken, why take a risk of tinkering with it! On the other hand, buyer can commission artists to create a work in their more identifiable mode.

There are a couple of reasons why a collector would want to opt for the familiar - that instant recognition for his or her work and name is similar to a social badge of honor, but the other, when that work is not recognized in spite of the premium paid for the signature, can get rather embarrassing. The art expert highlights the mindset by stating: “What’s the point of having paid so much of a premium if one has to explain the deviation in that artist’s style, and then be ticked off for having made the wrong choice?”

So is that really ‘wrong’ choice for an aspiring collector (who wishes to be acknowledged and appreciated for his quality ownership) also the wrong option for any investor? Familiarity with a theme or style might work better (Husain’s horses etc) in the short term. Buyers- whether they are investors or collectors - are put off by the fear of the unknown, and understandably prefer a tried and tested path that is more familiar and safer.

However, in the longer run, it’s the distinctiveness, and most importantly rarity or novelty that will impact prices positively. Hence, a Subodh Gupta work sans utensils may make the grade and turn into a talking point. The uniqueness of a work defined by its innovation ultimately becomes a distinguishing quality of it.

What makes artists averse to experimentation?

The question to be asked is whether an intimate and almost inseparable identity with any particular subject matter can get detrimental to the interests and evolution of an artist - besides also perhaps being claustrophobic?

Taking a cue from this interesting point of view, Kishore Singh argues that artists are more than anything else meant to constantly re-invent themselves! However, when they become too strongly bound by an image or get identified with a particular series or style, they then end up coming back to that very subject or style, again and again!

He then goes on to add: “It’s true that artists often go, or even grow, beyond their initial string identities. However, their signature style again compels them to re-visit what tends to be their distinctive stamp: hence Krishen Khanna, who has painted a wide array of everyday subjects and characters, is extolled for hisfamous ‘ Bandwallah’ series, Atul Dodiya turns a chronicler of his city of Mumbai, and Thukral & Tagra, akin to travel agents, may often find themselves rooted in the peculiar universe of migrations.

Discussing pros and cons of getting identified with a particular subject or style, the art expert explains: ”This in part, might be a fascination with how something can be used to create multiple images, or to see how their own views might have changed — which is how Subodh Gupta constantly returns to his world of utensils, though, admittedly, with less success than before.
In this context, it is pertinent to note what Satish Gujral has stated.

According to the legendary artist, one’s style becomes one’s identity. However, it cannot and should not be stretched beyond a particular point. He reveals, “Novelty challenges the mind; it makes you think. One can discover new things every day, everywhere. The acceptance of one style only nudged me to find something I had not as yet experimented with, one that may refresh my excitement. Personal excitement is what I seek to get out of my creativity.”

Of course, this holds for most artists. Yet there may be certain compulsions that prevent them from doing so…

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sotheby’s contemporary Chinese art auction creates new records

A triptych oil painting by a popular Chinese artist fetched a whopping $10.1 million in a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong, a record price for a contemporary work from China.
A total sale worth a $54.8 million of contemporary Chinese art was marked by a packed auction room with ferocious bidding for over 100 artworks. They belonged to the collection Belgium’s collector Baron Guy Ullens, acquired by him over several decades.

The star lot of the auction was Zhang Xiaogang's 1988 work, entitled ‘Forever Lasting Love’. It depicts half naked figures in an arid landscape filled with mystical symbols. It went for HK$79 million, over double its pre-sale high estimate. The sales price was higher than that paid for a canvas by Zeng Fanzhi (2008) of $9.5 million and a series of huge gunpowder works done by Cai Guoqiang, which fetched a similar price tag in 2007.

The Sotheby’s auction almost tripled the pre-sale estimate. Importantly, all works were sold. Sotheby's Asia chief executive Kevin Ching was quoted as saying: "This (sale) represents the whole spectrum of contemporary Chinese art. And I think everyone would feel proud to be able to possess a piece of that history, process and a part of that special vision."

Zeng, Cai and Zhang are considered among a vanguard of contemporary artists from China whose subversive early works were enthusiastically embraced by Western critics and collectors, driving a frenzy in the market prior to 2008. Experts stated the latest results were partly owing to Baron Guy Ullens's position as a Chinese art visionary. Ullens and his wife Myriam set up the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing for promoting Chinese avant-garde art globally.

The successful sale could definitely provide a symbolic and sentimental boost for the market. A collector, who attended the sale, mentioned this successful event as part of a recovery process, informing ‘the prices were too high’. New individual records were also achieved at the auction for Zhang Peili and Geng Jianyi for their works.

Politician-painter Mamata Banerjee’s new series of works

Here is a politician who has hit upon an artistic intent to raise funds. Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee canvases are up for grabs.

A large majority of her new series of works – priced in the range of Rs 2 lakh – have found many willing buyers, raising her status as an artist. ‘Banglar ma’, which depicts the mother figure, is the costliest work at Rs 12 lakh. Introducing her, artist Shuvaprasanna asserted that never before had a politician as tied up as Mamata Banerjee came up with such a large body of work. The idea is to raise funds for her party’s poll campaign.

The exhibition, entitled ‘25 Hours A Day’, takes place at Gallerie 88, Kolkata. The 98 paintings on view are her ode to joy. They not once show the tense political situation in the state. Instead of form, not perhaps her forte, she here opts o expresses herself through an exuberant palette. ‘Mamataa’ has spread a riot of colors to create these paintings. These are hyperactive Catherine wheels in yellows, pinks, blues and greens that she has painted.

Fields full of kaash phul or kans grass come alive on the canvases. In some paintings, pearly greys are effortlessly contrasted with purples and greens. Trees in vivid viridian sprout, umbrella fashion. She makes her mark as a natural, uninhibited painter with assured brushstrokes. She has passion and dreams that have been depicted in her creations.

Though she is not formally trained, the politician-painter has a natural instinct and flair for art. Her usage of color points to her aesthetic sensibility. There is an unmistakable sense of harmony in her new paintings. In an earlier exhibit, a dominant motif was the goddess Kali. This time the female form has turned softer and tender.

As if to distinguish her political persona from her creative self, the firebrand West Bengal politician signs her paintings as ‘Mamataa’ with an extra ‘a’. She has reasoned: “Just like my works, my signature also is guided by instinct.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

‘Ascending Energies’ at Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi

A 9ft high sculpture of fibre-reinforced polymer, of a person astride a spinning wheel, flaunting metal rings that bear his hands down; installations of polymer and metal, are among the works that comprise his new solo show, entitled ‘Ascending Energies’ at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.
Satish Gujral spent the whole last year monitoring workers who molded the new sculptures, bearing a stamp of his imagination.

Incidentally, Satish Gujral’s most recent suite of paintings, drawings and sculptures, entitled ‘Tryst with Modernity and Tradition’ on view at Jehangir Art Gallery and later at Cymroza Art Gallery in Mumbai was a peep into the interplay of tradition and modernity. It amazes the veteran artist how the people have taken to modern way of living, even without forsaking their religious beliefs and traditions. Indeed, age and subject are not a hindrance to his artistic sojourn. The crux of his creative energy and philosophy lies in his spirit to constantly innovate.

In different periods of his life, varying concerns have driven him. During the post-independence phase, he depicted the human tragedy inflicted on either side of the borders. The pathos attached with the cataclysmic chain of events was reflected in his work when he first started painting. He studied art at the Mayo College in Lahore (1939-44) and Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai (1944-47). A chanced meeting with Octavio Paz changed the course of his career, leading to his selection for a scholarship to Mexico in 1952.

Keen to work on new ideas and tread an unusual path, the zestful octogenarian still relishes experimenting with different mediums and diverse themes. His fourth solo in the last five years or so, collates his recurrent themes, comprising the confluence of varied human, animal and mechanical forms. The sculptures in bronze and polymer - some with a steely, blue finish or tinge of brown, feature men entwined with machines and animals to denote mutual enslavement. He explains, “The association between technology and man interests me. The relationship that they share is fascinating.”

Enduring silence and going back to it…

Satish Gujral is a living legend, who continues to experiment, create and mesmerize viewers. Painter, sculptor, muralist, architect and graphic artist-all rolled in one.

His hearing was affected due to an accident at the age of eight. To withstand and overcome the pain, he spent hours reading poetry by Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz that became an integral part of his art and life. During this period, the artist came close to his brother (Mr I.K. Gujral) whom he had described ‘a part of my being’. Forced to endure a haunting silence for 65 long years, he had an (cochlear) implant to retrieve his hearing power.

Recounting the painful process, he had stated: "Silence can work both ways. It will make you doubt the depths. On the other hand, it will make you listen to yourself.” A medical expert he visited in Sydney for the implant was not convinced about the patient’s stamina and readiness to take it at this age, and cautioned him about facing a cacophonous world he wasn’t accustomed and used to, but he still wanted to have it!. Once the hearing came back, the artist was excited. For a brief while, he relished the experience. Soon he almost felt miserable…

Satish Gujral was immersed in a world of his for too long, searching alone for life around like a blind man that suddenly got disturbed. As he once explained only the way he could, “Every face, a blind man has an idea; he might think of an ugly woman as beautiful. Then if you bring him his sight back, it will uproot him from where he has lived.” Something similar happened to him, when his hearing came back so he finally decided to remove the implants. However, he did not regret the experience. It gave him no new vision for what he had lost. He realized it (the silence) was a true gift and not a handicap or a curse as he earlier had thought.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Prajjwal Choudhury’s artistic concerns

The artist’s socially sensitive oeuvre is primarily marked by its harking back to a particular concern. He touches upon the theme of a capitalist society driven by a consumerist attitude. It seems as if he is protesting the way we deploy and easily discard everyday objects. Ubiquitous items like bottles and matchboxes that form the core of his creative process carry little value in our eyes.

At another level, he is perhaps trying to underline our tendency of taking everyday objects for granted. Prajjwal Choudhury starts of his quest for the unusual from such ubiquitous objects like matchboxes to carve his captivating creations. His art moves beyond the confines of canvas or sculpture and rather attempts at framing within his aesthetic space, uncanny phrases and visual assortments of the byproducts of recycling.

Apart from ‘India Awakens’ in Klosterneuburg (2010); other significant shows he has featured in are at the 12th Harmony Art Show (2006); International Print Biennale, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (2005);; 77th All India Art Exhibition (AIFACS) at New Delhi in 2004, apart from a group exhibition at M.S.U, Baroda, 69th All India Art Exhibition at Academy of Fine Arts (Kolkata), and 47th National Exhibition of Art in the same year. Among other shows are 18th All India Art Exhibition, Nagpur (2003); Two Men Show at Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (2002), also having featured in a group show at the academy and the 3rd Eastern region Art Exhibition, Kolkata.

For instance, his series ‘Drift’ at Project 88 in Mumbai (2008) had works, which were a mockery of the beauty that a consumerist attitude aspires for, in actuality. On the other hand, his work that formed part of 'Re-claim, Re-cite, Re-cycle' (Bose Pacia, Kolkata 2009; curator: Bhavna Kakar) analyzed and documented artistic imaginations and representations of recycling. Its latent idea was to perceive the process as an all-pervasive phenomenon, encompassing nearly every aspect of modern life - right from our desktops to the writing pads and bottles.

Jitish Kallat’s ‘Stations of a pause’ on view at Chemould

Economic growth and urbanization coupled with the increasing intervention of cutting-edge technologies have dramatically altered India’s socio-economic landscape over the last couple of decades. Socially sensitive contemporary artists from the country highlight this development through their works and practice in a larger global and personal context; their themes, intimately linked with the local ethos, expertly assess the impact of globalization, causing drastic change in a society still heavily reliant on tradition.

This element of dynamism is evident in a series of events and exhibitions. One of them is Jitish Kallat’s ‘Stations of a pause’ on view at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai. It showcases a wide range of his practice that addresses the themes of sustenance, survival and mortality in the urban environ.

Most noteworthy of the works on display is a 750-part photographic work ‘Epilogue’ narrates a very personal story, tracing his father's life through all the moons he saw. Measuring his lifespan with around 22,000 moons in 63 years; the image of a waxing or waning meal replaces every moon, denoting the life cycle as periodical rotations of fullness and emptiness.

It all started almost seven years ago, when the celebrated artist created a work ‘Conditions Apply’ that traced the seven phases of the moon with the image of a roti, mystically morphing the metaphors for themes of life, time and sustenance. Last year, he conceived ‘Conditions Apply 2’ that again referred a lunar cycle’s format. He quips in an interview, “It prompted me to think about life as cycles of both fullness and emptiness, and also ponder on my father’s life.”

On the other hand, a 7 part lenticular panoramic photo 'Aspect Ratio' includes all seven colors of the rainbow and the image of a ubiquitous Mumbai street that flicker, and flip, as a viewer walks past it or even moves in front of it. A new series of paintings ‘Untitled’ (Stations of a Pause) represents candid imagery of the ubiquitous Mumbaikar. Simultaneously, his ‘Traumanama’ (gouache, tea-wash, spray-paint) forms part of 'Watercolour' at Tate Britain.