Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adding a contemporary artistic touch to hospitality

From the basement right to the atrium, the Le Meridien Delhi now offers stunning sensory experiences - be it in the visual effects or the soundscapes like its every other hotel across the world going through a similar transformation. The idea behind the whole exercise is to position the chain as a throbbing hub for creative minds.

The focus on part of the chain’s new owners Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is obviously to offer their elite guests an immersive and holistic cultural experience. For instance, if you take a quick ride up the see-through glittering glass elevator and curiously peep down, the coffee shop in the lavish lounge area will suddenly seem like a captivating canvas – the patterns on the floor appear to exude a surrealistic hue of a cup of espresso or anything your imagination conjures up.

At the recent India Design Forum, some of the brains behind its brand transformation, including the hotel's cultural curator Jerome Sans, and its Senior VP (Design & Innovation) Michael Tiedy narrated the experience. The launch pad for Starwood was ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, a bestseller by Richard Florida, which put the worldwide creative population at not less than 150 million from across the domains of engineering, the arts and architecture.

The Le Meridien sensed a business opportunity there. The group hired Jerome Sans who has curated prestigious art events like the Venice biennale. As cultural curator, he was handed the task of ‘nourishing the brand experience’. Based on the brief, he conceptualized the LM100 program, forming an elite club of innovators and creators from the diverse fields of cuisine, fashion, art, architecture and design. The famous pop art duo from India, Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra, has also been invited to be part of the LM100 club.

This unique, full-fledged experience of a curated hotel is imbibed in every aspect of your stay ‘to arouse curiosity, stimulate and lead on to new creative discovery’, starting with the entry door transformed as a canvas at most of its hotels. The guests get a designed key card at check-in - the signature work of a talented contemporary artist they can carry with them as a souvenir.

‘Utopia of Difference’ by artist Vibha Galhotra

A new solo of recent works by artist Vibha Galhotra entitled ‘Utopia of Difference’ takes place at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. She states regarding her work that it narrates the life of a disordered (or hyper ordered) society, with all the clashes and tensions that contemporary life brings.

“People tend to build walls around themselves as if to create order and borders. I’m interested in showing what goes to happen after we negotiate with so-called realities created through our visual vocabulary,” she elaborates. A new solo show of her work at Jack Shainman Gallery well testifies this.

She has shown her work extensively in India and abroad, including the events like Colombo Art Biennial in Sri Lanka; San Jose Museum of Art, US; Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai; Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Kazakhstan; Gutgasteil of Austria; and Europas Parkas, Lithuania. Her art features in several public collections like Devi Art Foundation; the Saga Art College, Japan; and the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, Italy.

Her new show marks her debut in the city of New York. The series on view includes pieces meticulously made of metal ghungroos that again are intricately sewn, plus new sculptures that continue to make use of industrial, natural and domestic, materials in order to examine sensitive gender and the environment related issues in contemporary society. She employs abstract forms and images of the crammed urban metropolis for addressing today’s radically shifting topography especially of her home country under the palpable impact of globalization and rapid growth.

The artist sees herself as being an integral part of the random restructuring of complex culture, society and geography, and not merely that of a specific region but in context of the whole world. Responding to the environmental changes as well as rezoning of land, Vobha Galhotra looks to embody jungles of steel and concrete leading to the dense urbanization through some unlikely materials. The idea is to draw our attention to the fast-increasing degradation of nature.

Vibha Galhotra currently lives and works in Delhi.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Interaction with works enthuse both artists and viewers

The surprising popularity of a recent unconventional, interactive exhibition goes to demonstrate a fast-rising interest in this particular genre of art, both on the part of the public and contemporary artists.

The New Museum’s Carsten Höller show included perception-bending works of art as a sensory deprivation tank plus a slow-motion carousel that consistently drew more number of visitors than any other event in the institution’s more than three decade long history.

A group of museum-goers as large as the total population of Myrtle Beach, S.C. – just over 30,000 – plummeted down the tubular slide (not less than two-story) after an almost-three-month successful run. Its excited officials estimated the total attendance to be close to 100,000. A spokesperson added: “A demographically and generationally diverse audience was quite keen to take part in these novel art experiences and embraced them all with an open mind.”

A couple of years ago, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s commission as part of the Unilever Series for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern was made up of millions of tiny works - each apparently identical, but unique. Poured into the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds formed an infinite landscape. The gallery decided not to let enthusiastic members of public tread across it. Their interaction with the work was feared to cause dust, harmful to health because of repeated inhalation.

Here in India, noted British sculptor Marc Quinn is preparing to hold a public art project next year. While the outline of this ambitious project is yet to be finalized, the British Council India (head of arts), Adam Pushkin visualizes it as an ‘non-commercial display in a large public space.

Quinn observes that the changes in the domain of art over his 20-year career are invariably tied to how his audiences have changed. He can now easily communicate with a much wider viewer base. In fact, the definition of what an installation or a sculpture is has vastly changed, he points out.

Mumbai's iconic double-decker public transport bus was reborn with giant silver wings in Sudarshan Shetty's recent public art project, drawing a steady stream of curious visitors. The red buses to be phased out soon were elevated from their ‘antiquated fate’ by the artist giving one of them spectacular steel wings.

‘Extra Ordinary’ at Vadehra Art Gallery

New-Delhi based Vadehra Art Gallery hosts a solo show, entitled ‘Extra Ordinary’ by Hema Upadhyay. The new series is an amalgamation of painted surfaces and photographic cut-outs, shots of the Real City encounter imaginary worlds, the artifice of globalization creating a bizarre beauty that holds onto itself through delicate threads.
Regarding her processes and broad themes, she explains, "I like to tell any stories, whether real or imaginative. These are even reflections of one's phobias, shortcomings. The recurring theme in my work is autobiographical. In addition, it is the cathartic factor that becomes the reason to take these objects and convert their ability. My work is cathartic in process."

In the present suite of works, as a press release states, she explores the subtexts of the two disparate words - the ordinariness of an ‘extra’ life that the metropolis offers its citizens. Unlike the overall decorative patterning of her earlier work (often used as a visual camouflage) within which the body/city conversed, fluid design appears at the edges of these paintings, framed within frames of overlapping narratives.

“Fixated at the centre in sombre dark hues of polluted grey and sleazy black, the decaying city emerges out of a bordered beauty. The actual and fictive, imagined and remembered city are evoked through personal and social worlds of the artist; she frames the canvases with the Mumbai skyline seen in picture postcards and advertising lingua and zooms with imaginary binoculars onto real issues of environmental degradation and the apathy that governs our existence,” the statement explains.

The onslaught of metropolitan life and our struggles to preserve our subjectivities gives rise to an ontological insecurity; in the production of cities lies the hidden workings of desire and fear. Through the tropes of doubling and concealment Upadhyay beings together politics and poetics, urging us to understand the darkness of our lived moments, questioning the future of her city that lies threatened with the destruction of its own discovery.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wondrous realm of watercolors

A large cross-section of senior artists from India, including modern masters like MF Husain and other leading names including Akbar Padamsee, KH Ara, Bhupen Khakhar, Laxman Shreshtha, Prabhkar Kolte,Subhash Awchat, Lalitha Lajmi are renowned for their mastery over painting in watercolor. Several others including Papri Bose, Shruti Nelson, Anandmohan Naik and Jehangir Jani are proficient in handling the challenging medium.

It is a difficult medium to work in, yet it’s equally lyrical. Revealing his fascination for it, Akbar Padamsee has once stated about his watercolors on arches paper: "I begin in the presence of a ‘void’; a white sheet of paper and a mind devoid of thoughts. If water is ‘Shakti’ (the feminine form of divine power), and ink is the male counterpoint; the stroke of the brush is the union of the two. With each (stroke) the spaces expand exponentially.

The reverse process starts, at a certain point of infrastructural complexity, silencing the manifested structures in order to release the single unique form that can finally be named; the thought process then starts again, and the ‘void’ gets filled with voices."

This challenging albeit fulfilling medium carries a yielding and sensitive quality that lends to great transparency. Late artist P. A. Dhond was among the most prominent artists who chose the medium of watercolor for his transparent yet fascinating depiction of various moods of nature. What turned the course of his artistic life was seeing Russel Flint’s scintillating seascapes. Subhash Awchat describes watercolors as a very lyrical medium whereas Jehangir Jani is enchanted by is disciplinary demand.

For Prabhkar Kolte, the medium is akin to ‘an extension of my inner being’. He has employed several mediums over a long, illustrious career, but it’s the fluidity in watercolors that lures him the most. He reveals, “It’s more than a medium for me, and helps me best say what’s going on inside me." Of course, even European masters have produced equally exquisite watercolor works.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grasping the Chinese collectors’ mindset

Over the last few years, Chinese collectors are increasingly asserting their presence on international art auction scene. They are dominant in sales around the world, especially that of works by the famous Chinese artists.

Fueled by the economic boom, new consumerist wave and a cultural reawakening, Chinese patrons are now among the contemporary art world's most influential players. Investors or collectors from the nation, whatever you may term them, are redefining the market. As a result, the value of works by several modern masters, such as Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian, Fu Baoshi and Xu Beihong has skyrocketed.

These modern artists’ work is apparently in the traditional Chinese style. Last year, they occupied four of the top ten slots in global rankings in terms of auction revenue, as indicated by Artprice. In the agency’s 2010 list Qi Baoshi trumped Andy Warhol. The former came in at second spot, edging Andy Warhol to third place.

The world of art is slowly acknowledging the prominence of the Chinese art stars. For example, highly talented and controversial contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is the first one from the Asia-Pacific region to receive special commission of the prestigious Unilever Series for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. His sizzling ‘Sunflower Seeds’ made up of millions of tiny works - each apparently identical, but unique - was a spectacle to behold. Equally great things are now expected yet from upcoming Chinese artists.

Events such as ShanghART, founded by Lorenz Helbling, testify the trend. A Swiss national, Mr. Helbling held the inaugural biennale in 1996. He recounted in an interview: When we opened a gallery, there was only one art museum and only one show every few months.”

The scenario has dramatically changed with an explosion of galleries, studios, museums, and art events like ShContemporary. The growing interest in art is marked by institutions like The Minsheng Art Museum, The Rockbund Art Museum, the Zendai MOMA and the MOCA Shanghai.

To an extent, the Chinese regard art not only as a sound way to diversify their portfolios but also as a tested means to project status as they interact with international business executives.

A show of ‘Vintage Celebrity Portraits’

Well before color reproductions and color snapshots became commonplace, pioneering photographer Harry Warnecke (1900–1984) and his associates at the New York Daily News’ photo studio created brilliant, eye-popping color portraits for the newspaper’s Sunday News magazine.

Employing a special one-shot camera of his own design, Warnecke began producing color images for the Daily News in the 1930s by utilizing the technically demanding, tri-color carbro process—the first practical method for color photography. Over the course of three decades, Warnecke and his team photographed hundreds of people in the news, from popular film stars and athletes to military leaders and government officials.

Drawing from the NPG’s collection of large-format, tri-color carbo photographs by from the Daily News Color Studio, a new exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery - Smithsonian Institution in Washington features 24 celebrity portraits from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s including Lucille Ball, Jackie Robinson, Babe Didrikson, Gene Autry, Ethel Waters, Generals Eisenhower and Patton, and comedians W.C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy.

The show comprises color photographic portraits of several noteworthy personalities from the last century or so mostly portrayed in black and white. Lucille Ball is there, and Laurel and Hardy, and Jimmy Durante. An assortment of powerful and maverick military heroes from the era World War II are posed in uniform. Literary as well as sports figures find a place.

Warnecke worked as a photographer for New York’s The Daily News. He understood much early that a newspaper with a color photo in it would enjoy an edge. This was in the 1930s. “He designed and built a one-shot camera that yielded the red, blue and green separations needed for color reproduction,” the exhibition note explains.

An essay by The New York Times writer Neil Genzlinger mentions: “Though various forms of color photography had existed for decades, the Everyman color snapshot was still a ways off, and certainly a color print in a newspaper was a rarity. People expected to see images in black and white, and though movies had begun the shift to color, newsreels and then early TV would define how the public imagined most of the people seen in this show. Many would live and work well into the color age - Durante died in 1980, Ball in 1989 after starring in several color series - but they’re forever black and white to me and others.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

‘Mumbai Gallery Weekend’ initiative to promote art

A new initiative launched by nine prominent galleries in South Mumbai has a very specific and rather localized mission: To attract educated and well-oriented target group aged 25 to 45. The galleries that form part of the project, likely to become an annual event, are Chemould Prescott Road, Chatterjee & Lal, Sakshi, Gallery Maskara, Project 88, The Guild, Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Lakeeren, and Volte.

Together, they are showcasing close to 50 contemporary works of art by some of the topmost established and emerging artists, such as Jitish Kallat, Neha Choksi, Shine Shivan, and T Venkanna. The three-day exhibit is being held in a spacious, specially designed at Taj Land’s End in the western suburbs of Bandra.

Gallerist Arshiya Lokhandwala was among the first to launch a gallery in the secluded suburbs in 1995. After she went to abroad for her PhD, the gallery was shut in 2003. She decided to restart it six years later when she returned but this time, in Colaba because it was closer to the art district - Kala Ghoda and the surrounding areas including Jehangir Art Gallery.

Incidentally, Lakeeren is among the nine galleries heading to the suburbs to draw attention of a new enterprising breed of art collectors-appreciators. She has been quoted as saying in an interview with Riddhi Doshi of The Hindustan Times:
“The suburbs have a very special quality. The people are young, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. They are also willing to learn, and are becoming increasingly interested in art. I am excited about reaching out to collectors old and new, through Mumbai Gallery Weekend.”
Curators and gallerists point to an impending saturation of the art market in island city, along with an increasing realization that a major chunk of Mumbai’s aspirational art buyers from higher income groups have shifted northwards, prompting the south Mumbai art galleries to head to the western suburbs.

It’s the desire to draw new, young and aware collectors from the suburban art hubs that has prompted the move. They are expected to play a vital role in the city’s contemporary art market development.

A joint show by Eberhard Havekost and Manish Nai

The old gets reinvented as something new and the apparently valueless positioned in a space, which frames it with ‘value’ is where German artist Eberhard Havekost and India’s Manish Nai connect. The former’s oil-on-canvas work ‘News’ is the Virgin Mary in a French church - a 14th century figurine - with splashes of red paint splattered all across her face during a restoration project. It represents the ‘representation of the self’.

For Nai, on the other hand, a self-professed studio-based practitioner, the process is wholly the internalization of basic materials. It develops from the usage of jute, he took from his father’s business that went under while the artist in final year of his college studies. The loss sparked his experiment in jute.

He started un-threading jute, and deconstructed it into spaces of both positive and negative, a sort of yin & yang out of a contrast of textures and shades. His densly packed fibers form compressed waves, conveying the sense of subtle in the basic.

The artist gradually shifted to process of working with newspapers. But for him, the form was important, not the base of it. His movement to make objects of value from base objects sans any value grew. Thus his black Untitled work, created out of burlap on view at Mumbai-based Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke is this bewildering burgeoning of the basic. The theme is repeated in another Untitled (2012), a dazzling digital archival print with hand-applied watercolor done on Hahnemühle paper. In effect, it’s a concrete wall.

Alternating Manish Nai and Eberhard Havestock imagery at the venue goes to underline the very significance of the insignificant, the former through medium, whereas his German counterpart through imagery. His paintings are also a play on placement. A crumpled piece of ubiquitous aluminum foil when framed in ‘Selbstgespräch’ (Art Fair Picture II), steals the limelight.

The artist explains: “Everything, which lies behind or after this, is important,” he explains. His ‘Vitrine Sculpture’ depicts the opposite progression, in that it’s a pre-Columbian figurine, which lies dusty, undervalued and neglected in a Costa Rican museum. It achieves value only after being put in the space, which restores its worth.

It jells well with Manish Nai’s mantelpiece sculpture ‘Newspaper Shelf’ made of compressed squares of newspaper trash. The significance of the ‘value of value’, attached to an object, is looked at best through the apparently insignificant and mundane is the compelling understatement for all that turns newsworthy.

Solving mystery of Ghost Subject by Picasso

A Picasso work dated 1904 hanging in New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum depicts a skeletal female figure, her cheeks sunken, her eyes hollow, as she is pressing down with all her possible might on an iron. The work, titled ‘Woman Ironing’, from his ‘Blue Period’, has been considered the institution’s most important work.

It has been one of the artist’s greatest mysteries that conservators for years have known the fact that the ghost of a figure lies beneath the surface - a three-quarter-length view of a ubiquitous man with a mysterious mustache that Pablo Picasso had painted over. Picasso was known to reuse some of his canvases because he didn’t have enough money at that point in his life to buy supplies. According to his biographer John Richardson, it well could be a piece from a previous period.

The Guggenheim’s chief conservator, Carol Stringari, added that though the work has been X-rayed, they haven’t had the resources for analyzing it fully. Still, curators, scholars and historians have speculated over the years about whom that figure might be. Some feel it could be that of the artist himself. Others guess it’s friend and tailor Benet Soler who supported him and whom he had depicted around that time period.

Now a substantial grant from Art Conservation Project of the Bank of America will give the museum enough money and scope to try to find out. It can do scientific research and also some treatment. The mysterious painting will be featured in its ‘Picasso Black & White’ exhibit that opens later this year.

The Bank of America’s global arts & culture executive Rena M. DeSisto, stated that the conservation project started in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in 2010, to restore in 10 countries. Since then it has grown fast, including the curious case of ‘Ghost Subject’ by Picasso.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Avant garde art exudes contemporary hues

Avant garde art, known to set aesthetic trends touch away from the commercial realm, is looking to reinvent itself as cutting edge contemporary art with a slight tilt towards market forces in the spectrum of post-globalized India. A recent report by the news agency (IANS) underlines this fact. Here are the key points that it makes in underlining how Indian avant garde art is getting a subtle market tilt:
  • The history of avant garde in post-modern Indian art dates back to the 1970s with Vivan Sundaram who created his own language away from the mainstream by using a combined artscape of performance, art, design, European avant garde and Indian socio-cultural references, allowing viewers to participate in his art.

  • Art expert Daniel Kunitz recently stated: "It’s cutting edge art which is going on in the world today. We have been playing safe far too long...The attitude is how do we think conceptually beyond this? If artists are not concerned about saleability and were interested in pushing through the conceptual boundary, it would have been avant garde art."

  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ormer director, David Ross has been quoted as saying, "Why art no longer qualifies as avant garde is because of the consuming power of the growing collectors' class. It has made it possible for artists to sell everything to the mass market.

  • America is a melting pot of several cultures. All these cultural references came together to make a distinct mix that bent set rules to create something new. In India, when the symbols and values of the great traditional arts heritage collide with the different constructs of neo art, it forms cutting edge avant garde expressions," Ross elaborated.

  • Artist Arpana Caur concludes by stating: "Every day, when I paint, I think it is avant garde because it is new. I sometimes have blood in my work - and by sticking to my blood, I think it's avant garde. "

‘Blind Poet and the Butterflies’ by C. Douglas

Senior artist C. Douglas showcases a new series of paintings that stems from his long-standing engagement with both philosophy and poetry, to go with his visceral commitment to core practice. It’s between philosophy (love of knowledge) and poesis (making in the poetic sense) that this body of work may ultimately reach consummation with the very materiality of painting.

A part of the Art Chennai initiative, the significant art show exposes us to the paintings by the sensitive artist that represents his return to Cubist-inspired serene spaces, with several layers deepening the density and depth of the compositions.

The internationally recognized artist has for several years lived and worked in the world-famous Cholamandal Artists’ Village, a popular artists’ commune just on the outskirts of Chennai. Along with the peaceful setting there, his thought processes have been greatly influenced by philosophical and literary exploration, encompassing Lacan, Eliot, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Milton.

From the vast bibliography of scholarly texts he extracts and weaves the fabric of his fascinating art. His new series, entitled ‘Blind Poet and the Butterfly' combines the mysterious metaphors of the blind poet with the seeing butterfly. Blindness here though doesn't symbolize a physical handicap, rather a revolt against the autocracy of the eye - denoting a way of viewing beyond what gets physically registered on our mind. Conversely, butterflies are carrying the images of eyes on the back of their wings to deceive and deter predators; so where the poet tends to feign blindness, the beautiful creature feigns eyes.

The series recognizes the intrinsic instabilities of language alongside that of the gaze. Blending both text and image, using the word ‘word' repeatedly, his works illustrate the limits of language as a mode of communication, and how it actually operates within the larger fabric of boundless context and reference. He recognizes it as built on a system of peculiar arbitrary signs and symbols, concluding that ‘meaning' is not something fixed, but a protean entity forever being formed and reformed set in the crucible of contemporary society.

‘Blind Poet and the Butterflies’ by C Douglas continues till 30 March at Focus art Gallery, Chennai.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Steins' Collection and lessons for collectors

Gertrude Stein, her two brothers Leo and Michael, and Sarah (Michael's wife) were all patrons of modern art in Paris during the first few decades of the 20th century. A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art unites about 200 works to demonstrate the impact that the Steins' patronage had on the then artists and the way the family could disseminate a new standard of eclectic taste for modern art.

A generation of keen visitors to recent developments in the domain of art were introduced to the Steins' Saturday evening salons, in particular the works of their close friends Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, long before they were on view in prime museums.

Beginning with the art Leo Stein collected after he arrived in the city in 1903, including prints and paintings by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The exhibition tries to trace the evolution of the Steins' languid taste and also examine the relationships formed between the family’s individual members and their artist friends.

Even while focusing on works by Picasso and Matisse, the exhibit also includes paintings and sculptures as well as paper works by a host of artists like Maurice Denis, Juan Gris, Pierre Bonnard, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Manguin, Marie Laurencin, Elie Nadelman, Francis Picabia, and André Masson, among others.

‘The Steins Collect’ is rather fragmented with flashes of brilliance. It comes to the Met by way of the Paris-based and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It casts these influential American expatriates as visionary art patrons, whose social networks and tastes shaped Modernism.

But ‘The Steins Collect’ is also clear-eyed about the persisting divisions within the collectors’ family, the shifting alliances and competing egos. It provides some candid biographies of individual members of the Steins family.

Buried within some of the anecdotes are vital lessons for collectors. From Sarah and Michael: Treat the artists you love like family. From Gertrude: “Buy the people of your own age. There are always good new serious painters.” And From Leo: A limited budget is an excuse to be creative.

Localized practice, universal concepts

An interesting show, entitled ‘State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970’ offers an in-depth survey, probably first of its kind. of Conceptual art and related avant-garde activities in both Northern and Southern California during a pivotal period in contemporary art.
‘State of Mind’ features works by sixty artists and collectives, some of whom now internationally renowned, including Ant Farm, John Baldesarri, Chris Burden, Lynn Hershman, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler, Ed Ruscha. Organized thematically, the exhibit brings together artists whose works are seldom seen together in an effort to underscore their related interests.

The exhibition also tries to offer a fresh perspective on the development of Conceptual art in California. Organized as part of Pacific Standard Time, it showcases over 150 artworks, including installations, photographs, videos and films, artists’ books, apart from extensive performance documentation.

The showcase demonstrates the critical role that California artists played in the development of Conceptual art and other new genres. The most enduring legacy perhaps was the diversity of early California Conceptualism that impressed upon succeeding generations a broader understanding of what art could be.

The place attracted creative minds seeking alternatives to traditional modes of art making. Incidentally, the state was emerging as an incubator for social change and a youth-oriented counterculture. If New York represented tradition, California stood for the future. The distance from the New York art press, commercial galleries, and art museums provided artists with a greater sense freedom, allowing them to experiment. They challenged the very definition of art, the role of the artist, and the art world’s academic and institutional structures.

Key aspects or tenets of contemporary practice like collectivity, ephemerality, the merging of art and life, body-oriented performance, social interaction and political commentary – all appeared in California Conceptualism and related practices during this formative period. These factors still continue to influence artists even after over forty years.

'State of Mind' is co-organized by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) and the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA). It’s co-curated by Constance M. Lewallen, and Karen Moss.

LM100: A non-conventional approach of curating eclectic experiences

LM100 is a community of creative experts and cultural innovators, conceptualized by Le Méridien. Curated by Jérôme Sans, its members are chosen from the vast fields of art, architecture, cuisine, design and fashion, described as the chain’s passion points. This group of mixed generations and interdisciplinary artistic fields will grow naturally in order to keep the dimension of dialogues, discoveries and creations.

Developing eclectic experiences

LM100 members work towards developing eclectic experiences for its hotels worldwide through offering their creativity for Le Méridien projects and interactive initiatives, or proposing other established or emerging talents that reflect the brand’s core values of Chic, Cultured discovery. They work collectively to define these values, and to transform Le Méridien hotels into creative hubs.

A non-traditional marketing approach

It’s also part of Le Méridien strategy of engaging in a non-traditional marketing, curated initiatives and experiences in the area of culture. The LM100 programme is not just a marketing initiative -- it involves creative individuals curating original experiences that show the established and the known from a different point of view. These talents will interact with each other, energizing the brand’s initiatives, and playing an active and a unique role for the brand.

They are more than individual talents - they are a group, a family: LM100. It’s a family of international creators that are reinventing The Paris-born chain of hotels with the vocabulary of their challenging experience, as it undertakes an arty brand transformation to draw the creative people to its fold, and establish a new identity for itself.

An immersive cultural experience

From the basement right to the atrium, the Le Meridien Delhi now offers stunning sensory experiences - be it in the visual effects or the soundscapes like its every other hotel across the world going through a similar transformation. The focus on part of the chain’s new owners Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is obviously to offer their elite guests an immersive and holistic cultural experience.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Overview of auction process from a domain leader

The leading auction house, Saffronart, is going to add more categories and products to its fold. In a detailed talk with Pradip Kumar Saha of The Mint, its COO Nish Bhutani made insightful observations about the art market, emerging trends in it, online auctions and users’ mindset. Here is a quick recap:

Buyers profile:
  • The buyers could be successful entrepreneurs. That could range from people running huge corporations or running small but very successful businesses. There are certain business families and senior partners from private equity or law firms plus senior executives in large corporations. Roughly, 60% of the customers come from India. And around 80% of our overall buyers are of Indian origin. Hong Kong, Singapore, Middle East, the UK, Europe, those are the major countries.

  • In India, there was a strong boom between 2004 and towards the end of 2008 when the industry, like most others, was hit by the financial crisis. Subsequently, there was a dramatic impact on the market. But the market has recovered quite well since then. It hasn’t recovered uniformly, it has done quite well for the modern artists, but for some of the younger contemporaries, well, they haven’t performed that well.

  • The art market, in general, has performed differently in different parts of the world. For instance, in some countries, it has outperformed the equity markets over the last few years. Unfortunately, in case of India, they have lagged the equity markets post the financial crisis. But for the longer term, I think the prospects are great. And this is the time to start collecting.
Trends in Indian auction market
  • One of the trends in the industry is that a lot more people are growing comfortable with buying in auctions, particularly in online auctions. In smaller auctions, with lower price ranges, and the new format of auctions in which there is no reserved price, more people are participating. The other thing that the art market needs over time is a broader customer
    base so that it is not reserved for the elite few and more and more people can participate.

  • More Indians are starting to collect art that is not Indian. You know, in every culture, we see people first start collecting art that belongs to their cultures and, then, over time, they diversify to other cultures. For the Indian art market, that time has come.

‘Develop your own taste and buy art from a credible source.’

A popular online platform for arts and collectibles, Saffronart has conducted auctions in Indian art, Western art, fine jewels, books, watches etc. In an interview with Pradip Kumar Saha of The Mint, Nish Bhutani, the company COO offered some valuable insights into online auctions and precious tips to collect art:

Concept of online auction:
  • There are major advantages of online auction like the convenience it provides in terms of location or the time zone of the people participating in an auction. You can have a lot more people participating across locations and various time zones.
  • The other big advantage of this model is that one can provide a lot more information to the prospective buyers in order to make them more aware and confident about their purchase. Also, prices are updated in real time as the auction goes on, so the participants would know in case the bidding value rises.
  • The other thing that one needs to understand is that the artists we feature should not be undiscovered or at the very beginning of their careers. They should be artists who have sort of established themselves in the primary market. Next, we look at the condition of the artwork.
Tips for someone starting to collect art:
  • To start with, do your research, do your homework. To understand what you like and don’t like. Also, understand where the artist is coming from. What their background is, and their thought process while creating certain works of art.
  • Second, seek advice and information from various sources. One can visit the galleries and speak with the gallerist. One can also go to various websites and read about the artist. Then there are independent art advisers as well who can help out if one is serious about building a collection.
  • Buy from a credible source, and not just from anyone. Because you don’t know whether that person has checked the authenticity of the artwork or evaluated the conditions properly; whether there has been any restoration work done on that particular work of art. So it’s safer to go with an established gallery or auctioneer.
  • O should develop one’s own taste. Of course, that will only happen over time. Because art is a very subjective thing, so what one person likes may be not liked by someone else. And finally, take good care of your art collection.

The Maastricht art fair 2012

An installation of not less than 20,000 cascading milky white LED lights, which shimmer and shine, form the highlight of the Maastricht art fair courtesy a collective of art dealers to mark this popular European Fine Art Fair’s 25th anniversary.

The fair has transformed itself into a major art and antiques fair from a relatively small-scale beginning. As part of the silver jubilee celebrations, there will be several initiatives, including art discussions and stunning art displays as follows:

  • The event offers a vast collection of Flemish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, French, German and English paintings, prints and drawings from the 13th to the 19th century.

  • Old Masters' works can be seen at TEFAF. Private collectors and professional art buyers make TEFAF a fixed date in their diaries. Major museums come to TEFAF to find works to add to their collections.

  • TEFAF Modern takes up a quarter of the fair and offers classical modern and contemporary art. Around forty-five top dealers present a cross-section of 20th and 21st-century art from around the globe. This is where you will come face to face with masterpieces by Renoir, Picasso, Poliakoff and Kandinsky.

  • There are sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs and video installations at at TEFAF Modern. Big names like Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning and Rothko are there. But you can also be surprised by contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Francis Bacon.
American artist Leo Villareal’s computer-controlled work ‘Cylinder II’ changes over time, resulting in varied movements and patterns of light all through the day; some slow, some are fast; the lights first get dim and then suddenly bright.

They shimmer and oscillate. The intriguing installation against a black backdrop is a dramatic addition to the fascinating festive floral arrangements, the signature of this popular annual fair. Mr. Villareal explained of his work: “I take Pop materials and then infuse them with a whole other layer. Some of the patterns in it are rather chaotic; a few others are more ordered.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Public Art App for the subway system collection

For last so many years one of New York City’s most underrated ‘public art’ museums has also, ironically, been the one with the most visitors by far, roughly millions daily: the subway system.

For two decades 1985, the Arts for Transit program courtesy of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has commissioned permanent works by artists - both lesser-known and well-known for the commuter rail system and also the subway. But locating these, in a system that can feel like a lab-mouse maze at sometimes, has never really been easy.

So the transport authority started working with a Portland- based mobile software company several months ago. It has just announced its first ever licensed app to act as a guide to the hundreds of permanent works throughout the stations, and to a dozen more or so in the Metro North as well as Long Island Rail Road systems.

Are you keen to find Robert Wilson? Well, he is there in Coney Island. Doug & Mike Starn? Head to South Ferry. Is it Maya Lin? Try Penn Station. You can find Vito Acconci at two different places, including the Yankee Stadium station in the Bronx, where his ‘Wall-Slide’ (2002) makes the station look as if it’s transforming itself into an unusual archaeological dig.

The MTA Arts for Transit director, Sandra Bloodworth, states the app is yet a work-in-progress – will provide information either by artist featured - abstract painter Al Held, illustrator Yumi Heo, Elizabeth Murray, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol Lewitt or by subway line.

It also offers maps some of the major stations and guided tours, along with video-audio pieces about each artist and his or her work. (It can well be synced before moving into mobile phone dead-zone stations or interactively employed with location-based help at most of the above-ground stations and those wired.) According to Ms. Bloodworth, art really does something (special) in an unconventional setting like the subway, giving a touch of dignity to your journey, carrying the whole collection right in the palm of your hand.

An artist in an eternal search for the indefinable

Veteran artist Sakti Burman, believe it or not, has been envisioning the retrospective, now being hosted at New Delhi's Lalit Kala Akademi for over five long years.

He had to spend a lot of energy and effort in collecting all the works he had done over the last fifty years for his retrospective, entitled ''The Wonder of It All', with the help of Dadiba Pundole and Sharan Apparao. And it wasn't easy at all as he had spent major part of his life in Paris before he came to the capital city of India in 2009. Finally, the efforts have fructified, as a kaleidoscopic view of his illustrious career is open to one and all!

A benign dream-like feel is evident in Sakti Burman’s captivating canvases, as if oblivious to grim realities of today's world engulfed by violence, poverty and conflicts. They exude a serene sense of peace and joy. The artist explains: “The grief and miseries are all there, but I harbor a hope that they might disappear one day. Ultimately, hope is the only thing you can hold on to and continue living.” It’s this optimism he brings to the fore in his work, underlining the positive side of life.

Engaging with serenity and grace, he creates a soothing sense of tranquility in his compositions. His practice revolves around recreating and recasting existence of humanity at different spaces, places and times.

Along with painting done in oils and watercolor, he has produced several enchanting graphics including an album of 16 limited edition lithographs illustrating the famous work, Gitanjali, by Rabindranath Tagore. After dabbling for a while (in the early 1970's) with wood carving, he produced a substantial body of bronze sculpture a few years ago, bringing to fore his versatility and keenness to experiment.

Working in his Paris atelier previously and now in India, Sakti Burman has always been in close communion with his unique painterly world, in an eternal search for the indefinable.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Highlights of Asia week 2012

Asia Week New York 2012 is a collaboration among Asian art specialists, 5 auction houses, and 17 museums and Asian cultural institutions in the metropolitan New York area from March 16-24, 2012. Here are some country-specific recommendations for the event courtesy The New York Times.


The signal event for Japanese art is the Japanese Art Dealers Association fair (Fletcher-Sinclair mansion, 2 East 79th Street). Devoid of booths, this is less a fair than a collaborative exhibition of some 120 works that range through numerous mediums and about eight centuries.

Mika Gallery will show a large and splendid 17th-century Edo period Buddhist mandala, a result of many, many wood blocks. Erik Thomsen will contribute several screens, including a gold-leaf-ground, richly colored Rimpa-style rendition of the four seasons.

Koichi Yanagi has a spare presentation of rarities, including a 14th-century star mandala and the expansive ‘Landscapes of the Four Seasons’, a pair of six-panel screens in ink and gold by the 17th-century master Kano Tan’yu. Further excursions into Japanese screen painting are possible at Erik Thomsen.


There are several outstanding exhibitions of Chinese material, but the emphasis is changing. J. J. Lally, arguably the dean of New York Chinese art dealers and especially known for his extraordinary exhibitions of ancient bronzes, has shifted his attention this year to rarer metals.

Chinese ceramics receive lavish attention from two private dealers who serendipitously do business in the same building. Eric J. Zetterquist is celebrating his 20th anniversary with a display of Song and Tang vessels reflecting his characteristically impeccable taste.

More Chinese ceramics can be glimpsed in “Magnificent Obsessions” at Kaikodo. The thirst for Chinese bronzes may be slaked by Galerie Christian Deydier of Paris.

South Asia

One highlight of Asia Week is the trove of extraordinary objects with which the London dealer John Eskenazi almost annually reshapes and refines knowledge of the glories of South and Southeast Asian art.

Contemporary Asian art is an increasing presence among the riches of Asia Week. Chambers Fine Art in Chelsea is participating for the first time, with a show of the wizard of cut-paper technique, Wu Jian’an.


Kapoor Galleries present a large marble Jain tirthankara (an enlightened being not unlike a Buddhist bodhisattva) from 12th-century Rajasthan . The gallery’s dazzling display of Indian paintings is worth watching.

‘Terrestial Bodies’ at 1x1 Art Gallery, Dubai

A group exhibition at Dubai-based 1x1 Art Gallery, curated by well-known art expert Gayatri Sinha, features works of art by Anju Dodiya, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Mithu Sen, Shibu Natesan, and Jagannath Panda.

It underlines a significant aspect of the globally shining contemporary Indian art: the way several mid career and highly talented artists have easily accomplished the making of (bodily) forms. They have tackled issues of feminism as well as post structural thought, informed by Indian modernity. They’re the products of the global art residency, and many museum and gallery shows, as well as the intense activity that forms core of the thriving Indian art scene.

The artists on view represent a segment of leading artists who have emerged from different schools of thought and practice. In their paintings and sculpture, the human body, its parts and its gestures extends into multiple spheres, of aspiration, desire and narratives of the self.

  • Chittrovanu Mazumdar represents a dovetailing of late modernism with sculptural installation. He uses light, dramatic atmosphere and a theatrical mise-en-scene to stage his work.
  • Shibu Natesan works in an apparently photorealist style even as he compels the viewer to search his painting and locate in it psychological meaning.
  • Anju Dodiya’s narrative painting invariably involves aspects of her self, and set out a psychological template of womanhood.
  • Mithu Sen who teases out shades of surreal meaning from forms, creates veiled meaning through visual provocation.
  • Jagannath Panda completely alters scale and injects an element of imaginative play in his interpretation of the natural world.
In each of the artists the narratives and readings are multiple and complex. Their engagement with a rapidly globalizing India, and how the country locates itself in the growing city, is one of the sub themes. In the process partial stories, memory and the free associations of the mind come into play. ‘Terrestial Bodies’ well amplifies this fact.

A staunch feminist expresses herself through art

Regarding her position as a staunch feminist, Rekha Rodwittiya quips she has instinctively been one, reasoning she has invariably identified with those who are marginal or marginalized.

Encapsulating her art practice, she mentions: “There are certain things within the history and the currency of life that get absorbed into an artist’s vocabulary. My work displays a consistent involvement with the human figure as a leitmotif to embody man’s predicament. I’ve also made a conscious choice to engage with the delineation of the female figure over time.”

Sakshi Gallery arranged an exhibit of her paintings in 2008 to celebrate the five decades. Aptly entitled ‘rekha@fifty’, the show was an assertion of the artist’s commitment to what she has consciously structured as the grid, encapsulating the essence of her life and existence. Her works were presented as a gift of celebration to her audience, with the underlying message of living life with passion. The mixed acrylic & oil works attempted to set right the seesawing tilt of male/female inequality.

The artist has once stated: “You cannot remain on the periphery of an issue you identify with.” However, there is a tender side to her personality as well. Trying to retell stories we carry with us, she brought to the fore in her 2006 series an amalgamation of truths and desires, memories and histories - the residues of experience that define our existence.

Her body of work, ‘Once upon a time…’ alluded to both collective and personal territories she inhabits, the yin and yang of he existence, as she put it. However, these paintings were not sheer illustrative stories about her personal life. In keeping with her broader concerns, they explored the life cycle – a sort of homage to the ancestry of womanhood, transforming the presence of her persona into its emblematic representation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Raza’s iconic work at Sotheby's auction finds no takers

When the curtains came down at a high-profile Sotheby's auction in New York, the art world was left baffled after a major work by SH Raza did not find any takers. ‘Village With Church’ was estimated to fetch Rs12.5 crore and it was taken for granted that the painting would be grabbed right away. That wasn’t the case!

The wonderful oil-on-canvas done by the artist in 1958 was a matter of much hype ahead of the sales since it came from the late John D. Rockefeller III and his wife Blanchette’s art collection.

No wonder the work going unsold did raise many eyebrows, leaving the art world puzzled and grappling for reasons. The price estimate on higher side was not totally unexpected, given that his ‘Saurashtra’ fetched Rs16.42 crore ($3,486,965) in 2010 at a Christie's auction, making him the priciest modern artist from India (the work was bought by collector Kiran Nadar).

But perhaps the latest development is an indicator that, pricing of works on the upper end of the estimate in a struggling art economy is not the best idea - even if it’s the work by a bestselling veteran whose dedication, genius and market credentials are unquestionable.

Raza is one of the finest abstract painters of his era owing to his rich compositions and colors. He paints with élan and vigor. It’s only because of the uncertain economic condition the work didn’t find a buyer, Yashodhara Dalmia was quoted as saying. Incidentally, she is the author of a comprehensive book on the Progressive Artists Group to which Raza belonged.

For record, 84 works were sold at the Sotheby’s auction - at prices below that set for SH Raza's. The late MF Husain apparently led the pack, with one of his works bought for Rs1.2 crore. As an antidote to his vintage work going unsold, Raza's ‘Jalashaya’ fetched Rs1.2 crore, whereas a 1972 work by Jagdish Swamithan got a winning bid Rs1 crore.

Analyzing the sales, the Sotheby's head of sales of modern & contemporary Indian and south-east Asian art, Priyanka Mathew, was quoted as saying: “While we’re disappointed that the Rockefeller Raza did not sell, we’re in discussions for a private sale.”

Asia week sales courtesy Christie’s and Sotheby’s

Leading contemporary Indian artist Sayed Haider Raza’s most significant artwork, ‘Village with Church’, once proudly owned by John D. Rockefeller III, is set to be auctioned at Sotheby`s, New York. It’s estimated at $2 million, according to the auction house.

One of the most significant paintings by the veteran artist ever to appear in the market is the major highlight of Sotheby’s March 2012 Asia Week sales. John D. Rockefeller III had purchased the painting from the landmark 1958-59 show, entitled ‘Trends in Contemporary Painting In India’ at the Graham Gallery, New York. It remained in his collection until 1994. It symbolizes the apex of SH Raza’s early period.

Director of Sotheby`s in India, Maithili Parekh, was quoted as saying: “Rockefeller and his wife befriended Raza in the early 1960s while he was at Berkeley as a visiting professor at the University of California, following which he was invited to NYC as a recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship."

According to Parekh, John and his wife Blanchette were among the earliest champions of Modern Indian painting in US. Their support and patronage were key to introducing the artworks of the Progressive Artist`s Group (PAG) in the US.

Thomas Keehn, the then Rockfeller Foundation representative, who lived in India and struck a close rapport with many artists organized ‘8 Painters’, a show of the PAG group works in New Delhi in 1956. It also featured ‘Village With Church’. This exhibit later expanded to a major show 'Trends In Contemporary Painting In India', the first of its kind held in the US.

Among other highlights at semi-annual Asia week sales are Bronze Buddhas, hanging scrolls and a trove of captivating carved rhinoceros horns featured on the TV show ‘Antiques Roadshow’. Also on offer are ceramics, ancient calligraphy and furniture pieces, estimated at over $100 million by both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Look out for South Indian Chola bronze group of Somaskanda and selections of Himalayan bronze sculptures as well as Indian miniature paintings drawn from private collections.

Asian art, now a key driver in the global art market, has witnessed strong activity in the recent times, and demand for it is further growing, among Chinese collectors in particular, even outpacing the once-dominant Impressionist & modern category. Christie's Asia sales a year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peaks and crests are inevitable to an investment cycle

Considered an authority on art auction data analysis, Professor Michael Moses once stated: “There are several inherent beauties associated with the act of collecting art - the beauty of the object, the excitement of the hunt, the joy of meeting and talking to people, and the diversification potential of art in a portfolio.”

On the other hand, celebrated art collector Charles Saatchi had famously remarked: “I never think too much about the market. I don't mind paying three or four times the market value of a work that I really want…” There’s a lesson to be learnt here: Peaks and crests form inevitable parts of any investment cycle, but a piece of exquisite art continues to hold its value and beauty.

In spite of a perceived lull in the market across all asset classes, there is every reason to include art in an investment portfolio. “You might think you can’t invest in fine art, but is very much an asset,” affirms Prof. Moses, adding that because it is non-correlated with financial markets, art constitutes an alternative asset which mitigates risk.

As the financial dimension of art gets institutional backing, it will capture the attention of the masses as an investment opportunity. Once the importance of art as investment seeps into the public psyche, it will set in motion the economic triggers to reaffirm our broader artistic and cultural infra-scape like never before. Popularizing regulated art funds with the general public also holds the key.

Once a sustained flow of factual data and credible valuation criteria are established, the framework of institutionalizing the art asset will gather momentum, hastening the nascent art revolution of contemporary India driven by the momentum of public participation. Against the backdrop of the evolving art scene and the marketplace, an aspiring collector-investor needs to initiate and immerse oneself in the process of acquiring works that exude diversity, reflect current trends, as well as hold in terms of beauty and value.

Documentaries on India’s legendary artists

A new series of screenings focuses on the life and works of legendary artists Amrita Sher-Gil and M.F. Husain, among other illustrious names.

On the other hand, ‘Amrita Sher-Gil’ is a documentary of B.D. Garga that traces the artist’s life journey, starting with scenes from around the Danube river, Budapest, where she was born. It makes mention of her early inspirations, her visit to south India in the 1930s and meteoric rise to achieve international fame before her tragic death, at a young age of 28, in Lahore.

Her early works reflected the academic style she was trained in. She simultaneously experimented to represent the non-western body in her paintings. An admirer of artist Paul Gauguin, the influence of realism was palpable in some of her works, particularly in the time period between the two world wars.

Exuding a joie de vivre, her practice was gradually characterized by a sense of melancholia, even while eyes firmly fixed on the timelessness of a pretty object. With ‘Three Girls’ (1935), she visibly switched to a flatter, more modern composition from the academic, realist style of painting.

Santi P. Choudhury’s half an hour long film, entitled simply ‘Husain’, shows the master immersed in a project to illustrate the mythological epic Ramayan and translate it into contemporary images. In between shots of him filming local enactments of the epic, the film also tries to shed light on the artist’s effort to infuse his own cultural readings and interpretations into his ravishing renditions.

The well-made film moves on to explore the probable origins of the modernist’s paintings on Mother Teresa, his unbounded fascination with horses, inspired in part by Italian artist Marino Marini’s stylized equestrian statues, and his predilection for the exciting pop culture. It focuses on a series, which he had created in memory of the legendary artist Pablo Picasso after his death in 1973.

The screenings take place at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Entry fee is Rs. 10 for Indians (Rs. 1 for children and students).and Rs. 150 for non-Indians.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bewildering Benares captured on canvas

The Art Alive Gallery presents eminent artist Manu Parekh's work in Benares at its Gurgaon venue. It’s his first major solo show held in the capital city of India in over six years.

Manu Parekh first went to the holy city of Benares in the throes of an artistic crisis and traveled the Ganges by boat, all the while observing the life of this ancient city at various times of the day and from various perspectives.

Later, he got off the boat and climbed the ghats; here he saw the temples and the people conducting private rituals in common spaces. Flowers, festivals, faces and rituals all became fodder for his work.

These repeated visits gave his practice a new direction and his works visual coherence and intensity. It allowed him to imagine a modernity that embraces the everyday life in India?s provinces. Faith presents this body of work from the perspective of a painter engaging with vernacular religiosity and spirituality as well as from the perspective of Benaras as a place that has shaped the subjectivity of many modern artists in the twentieth century.

Organized into four sections, the exhibition begins with ‘Glimpses from a Boat’ that has his virtuoso modernist, landscapes of Benares, which the artist developed along his journeys on the Ganges. The paintings are richly hued explorations that depict the his experience of the corruption, beauty and sheer force of Benares, an antique city in which there are many shadows formed between the light and the darkness.

The second section, titled ‘Transformed Stone’, celebrates the hopes and desires that humans bring to objects they deem sacred. If landscape is the transformation of natural scenery into cultural artifact, then Manu Parekh’s paintings specifically render the simultaneous elevation and domestication of the sacred.

‘Repeating Forms’, the third section, uses the concept of repetition, a process which has long fascinated him, to arrive at something profound about making art and revisiting familiar visual tropes and places over an extended period of time...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

‘Water & Earth Trans-formations’at Vadehra

New Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery hosts a new solo, entitled ‘Water & Earth Trans-formations’ by artist Chameli Ramachandran.

The exhibition, curated by Ranesh Ray, takes cue from an earlier show and publication called ‘A Confluence of Distilled Essences’ (body of most recent work from 2009-11) that captured the impressions and expressions of art practice, which reflected the blending of two cultures into a single entity personified in her.

The document encapsulated streams of an unusual background that merged influences of her illustrious father Tan Yun-shan and Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan. Her father came to live there in 1928 from China. The distinct traits have been ingrained in her as an individual and also in her work. Born in Santiniketan, she studied at Patha-Bhavana as well at Kala-Bhavana at the Visva Bharati University.

She received her Diploma in Fine Arts & Crafts, followed by a Master's Degree (Ancient Indian History & Culture). She moved to Delhi in 1967. Apart from a series of solo shows, she has participated in several group exhibitions in India and abroad. Deeply influenced by Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry, songs and paintings, which resonate with the beauty of nature and wonder of being, surface in her work.

No surprise, she draws immense inspiration from the magic of nature. Her poetic and sensitive works communicate an affinity with the surrounding nature and captures many hues of its beauty. In a way, ‘A Confluence of Distilled Essences’ takes forward ‘Water & Earth Trans-formations’ in which ,Chameli Ramachandran portrays her meticulous impressions of the natural world’s larger realms she has entered, marking a new phase in her art. While illustrating her remarkable past, the curator articulates her transforming perceptions and perspectives resulting in her present creations done in Chinese ink plus watercolor works on paper.

These remain her favored mediums of expression, though her areas of contemplation have changed. She senses vastness; observes ‘Water and the Earth’ formations, and traverses ‘Trans-formations’.

A long-term vision and insight help track current market trends

Investing in art is invigorating, educative and exciting. It’s largely about spotting the potential early in a budding artist. This may also be subjective since each collector, art buyer or researcher would tend to identify with a particular style of work and would fancy it even from the investment angle.

Art appreciation is a separate subject altogether, albeit vital to investing in art. Increasing activity of prominent auction houses, galleries and art institutions has laid the foundation for a solid secondary market, which buyers can easily access. Art is now viewed not only as an object of pleasure but also as an attractive asset to hold. This shift of strategy is largely being driven by the fact that art is drawing the valuation it thoroughly deserves.

You can get started by visiting art sites, galleries, art events and fairs, where a good selection of artists can be viewed. This will give you an idea of the kind of art and artists you relish. Once you have fine tuned your tastes and grasped your favorite art themes, you may revisit the works. It may even be worthwhile to meet the artist. If this is not possible, read his or her interviews, statements and track the respective career graphs to understand their way of thinking and working.

It is possible to track a particular artist’s growth in terms of market valuation by comparing past and prevailing prices for his or her works. If a certain artist is commanding a higher value compared to that in the past, it’s obviously because of genuine popularity and demand. This creates the limited supply situation for quality works of art that tend to command a higher premium in price.

Broadly speaking, you should devise an acquisition strategy based on inputs from experts as well as your own intuition. It’s imperative to have a long-term vision and also an insight to track current market trends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An artist who blends film-making, advertising and poster designing

Originally from the advertising world, after working with several leading ad agencies, Prasad Raghvan gradually started making posters - an organic expression of his love for cinema. His poster on Hitchcock’s birds won an award at the Cannes and also British design & art direction.

As is evident, he is more driven by the title than the content of the film. Titles that leave scope for rich visual interpretation, such as ‘Knife in the water’ prompt him to imagine and interpret the meaning and theme of the film.

In his work ‘Decalogue’, referencing Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ten-part film cycle about the Ten Commandments, there were ten life-size figures with attire that revealed their professions, all standing against a wall with their faces covered by scarves and their hands in front. It seemed as if they were all standing together to face an identification parade. In the video just opposite them, an interrogation was taking place.

'One+Plus Gold', was his first ad film directed and shot with a low-cost handycam. It won him an award at the New York Advertising Festivals & Asia Pacific’s 'The Work' Awards. After moving to Saatchi & Saatchi, he spent his creative energies on films with tight budgets, albeit unusual scripts.

He has won several awards for his brilliant conceptualization and execution, including One Show, New York (Design 2003); Cannes Lion (Films, 2004); Cannes Lion (Poster, 2005); British Design & Art Direction (Poster, 2005). Keen to experiment and always open to newer ideas as well as influences: the Bauhaus roots, the stark typographic elements, almost mathematical grid, black & white photography etc.

Interpreting the textual, visual and contextual codes of world cinema, his versatile oeuvre skillfully blends the varied expertise in film-making, designing of posters and advertising. His fascinating film posters, which combine image and text, encapsulate the essence of a broader statement and deftly deflect the core narrative to a new layer of meaning.

Unique ‘Post-Poster Art’ by Prasad Raghvan

His keen interest in appreciation of cinema, film-making and designing of posters coupled with his background in advertising has resulted in a unique art practices that blends finer points of different domains.

On the one hand, driven by his fondness for international cinema, and on the other hand, his deep interest in the aesthetical and ethical foundational structures spelt by the universal philosophy propagated in the religious texts like Bible, Prasad Raghvan’s work can also be treated as an independent enquirer’s proclamations, which make ‘religious allegory as a succinct secular process of sociological inquiry into our greed and annihilistic relationship with nature’.

Born in 1968 in Kerala, Prasad Raghvan completed his graduation in graphic design from the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram (1987- 91), and then underwent an apprenticeship with his elder brother, also a graphic designer and artist, for a year and a half. In 1992, he joined in MAA Bozell as a visualizer at their branch in Kochi, and subsequently moved to the New Delhi office.

A couple of years later, he joined the ranks of Contract Advertising as Art Director, putting his skills and imagination to good use, to conceptualize catchy ideas. At this point of time, the talented yet untapped (poster) artist in him discovered Federico Fellini, serving as a major source of inspiration. This apparently was the starting point of his enchanting passion for cinema. He moved to O&M in 2000, when he started working on ad films and the occasional documentary, to explore the medium.

Going a step further in his cinematic quest, he started compiling a library of international movies, opting to leave Saatchi & Saatchi to launch a film club, ‘a:door'. The short-lived experiment nudged him towards the field of poster designing, inspired by critically acclaimed films, their timeline and histories. The core idea was to manipulate their textual, visual and contextual codes for a renewed perspective and purpose.

The referential points served just as pointers to build a sense of affinity and familiarity with the referred, instead of publicizing the 'product', and rather to create a parallel dialogue amid viewers with both intended and aspired histories.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Art Chennai extravaganza

The second edition of Art Chennai this time around was bigger and better. The event was held with much enthusiasm and fanfare.

T keenly awaited citywide art extravaganza was just held amidst the city's wide open spaces. Unlike the inaugural edition, confined to the city's galleries and hotels, this year the celebration of art was spread across beaches, IT parks, restaurants, MRTS stations and malls in Chennai.

Sanjay Tulsyan, convener of the event was quoted as saying in The Hindu news report: “We thought, why not take art to more people this year? The idea is to introduce art into different atmospheres so that more people connect with it, and art doesn't seem as intimidating anymore. We want to make people and corporations realise the importance of public art spaces. Our cities and infrastructures are growing; why isn't public art?” he asked.

There was an eco-friendly project stretching along one kilometer of the famous Marina beach. Five different artists from across India created pieces from environmentally friendly materials, interactive art, which changed with the wind & the tide.

Art, including — painting, sculpture, installation, photography etc was on display at many popular city locations like Burgundy, Amethyst, Spaces and so on. There was a huge installation and other pieces, which came to the city after traveling to fairs and festivals all across the globe..

The second edition also attempted to become more inclusive. A photography contest, for instance, was held in association with Travelling Lens and the Goethe Institut. Art students were roped in through the student connect program. Their selected works were on view at galleries.
The art seminar was converted into a full-fledged conference at Taj Coromandel on March 16- 17, with national and international curators, artists and collectors participating.

An exhibit by visiting galleries, entitled ‘The ‘Boutique Art Fair', was on view at Taj Coromandel, plus ‘Art Residency', another highlight of the festival, featuring 25 artists.

A documentary on a doyen of contemporary Indian art

As part of its proactive public diplomacy outreach, the external affairs ministry has decided to don the mantle of filmmaker. It has done so with the recent premiere of a special documentary, entitled 'A Brush With Life', on the life of master artist Satish Gujral who overcame various physical challenges to emerge as a stalwart of his era with immense contribution to contemporary Indian art.

The movie is commissioned by the union ministry with support of History TV 18. It’s conceived by Sujata Kulshrestha associated with Wide Angle Films. It traces the evens in this internationally famed sculptor-painter’s life - as a young boy in Lahore to his attaining glory as a multi-faceted artist, having worked with a vast range of mediums and material.

It captures the artist and the person hit enduring a tough phase having been robbed of his power of hearing, through his freewheeling expressions on canvas, interviews with family members, admirers, critics and footage of India’s freedom struggle and subsequent partition that greatly influenced his practice.

Elaborating on the venture, the joint secretary (public diplomacy) in the external affairs ministry, Navdeep Suri, was reported in the media as saying: “"The ministry has been making films for the last three decades or so to project India in various interesting and diverse ways. But very few are actually aware of it. We are making special efforts now to dub them in all the UNESCO languages and hosting clips on YouTube."

The movie also brings to the screen the colors, grandeur, perfection and lyricism associated with his art and grand architectural design. It subtly explores his evolution as a rebellious young artist with immense affinity for dark paintings to a matured practitioner after his marriage. He has been quoted as saying in the movie, "My marriage to Kiran changed my whole outlook toward life."

Incidentally, the ministry has forged a partnership with the Public Service Broadcasting Trust for making films, which will reflect the spirit and ethos of India abroad.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Art sales and sentiments show a marked improvement

Collectors worldwide are fervently participating in a series of Indian art auctions, making them hugely successful, to establish its global potential. They are treating the major sales as an opportunity to acquire some of the very best contemporary and classic works on offer, set to appreciate in the future.

The apparent shift of power from the western world to Southeast Asia has been starkly evident at the various international art fairs over the last few years. A greater influx of buyers from the erstwhile Soviet Union and Asia marked these events. With their newly acquired wealth, collectors/ investors from Brazil, Korea and India are out there in full force.

Art sales in Hong Kong and Dubai have climbed up, too. Dubai’s throbbing art scene is reaching a new peak. Art is the new business trend there, as investors are looking at safer alternative investments beyond stocks, currency, gold, and property, in today’s volatile market. It’s just the beginning of a booming period of unprecedented art investment.

A section of buyers remain wary, though. Seasoned collectors in Europe and the US, still seeking potential bargains, represent a bit of skepticism prevailing out there. But they are facing greater competition from new enthusiastic Asian bidders more willing to splurge. In a way, it’s the clash in attitudes - one cautious, the other giddy - has created an unpredictable marketplace!

Though investor confidence in the art market is still a bit circumspect, the interest has certainly returned. What’s interesting is that investors/ collectors aren’t really rushing in to buy with the herd-like mentality typical of the pre-2008 phase. Those drifting back into the market appear determined to control their investment. This time they are asking the right questions, such as:

What are long-term prospects of the art market? How much should one ideally invest annually? Who can act as an impartial guide in the investing process? How is short-term liquidity situation? How to get rid of weak assets to acquire blue-chip artists? How does one enhance the value of portfolio?

A sensitive artist’s intensely personal commentary

The artist is constantly looking to evolve new forms of expressions and add fresh perspective or dimension - a form of twisted metal, an old signboard, an unusual curved surface, a molded back etc. The frames of his canvases are not mere defining boundaries, but rather integral elements of the overall work. In fact, it’s the frame or the found object, which inspires him at times to paint.

Sensitive, albeit subtle in his portrayal of both real and imagined realms, Sunil Pawal’s canvases express the feelings he harbors deep inside on personal as well as social aspects - politics, religion, human relations, and responses to current situations. His immaculate work prompts you to pause, think and reflect. Akin to a sculptor who adds and subtracts upon the surface of a piece of art, layers of color are built and also scratched out.

‘Soliloquies: Notes from the drawing book’, a thought-provoking body of works just hosted at the Mumbai-based Gallery BMB, depicted the chaos, confusion and complexity of urban life. His latest suite of works, incorporating five different drawing series is his spontaneous reaction to the ostensible ‘progress’ and its impact on our lives as well as immediate surroundings. Apparently upset by the nagging reality, he moans the sorry state of affairs after more than six decades of independence.

Elaborating on the concept, an accompanying note stated: “The hypocrisies of present day society in the name of development, the ancient social & religious cruelties, the never ending corruption, the fanaticism and the various other turpitudes; one just cannot escape from reality of our everyday life. This is an attempt to bring a form to all that unsettles you, all the fragmented expressions - affected by hundreds of questions. This particular feeling of your own observation of reality you want to express in some ways- is a kind of a monologue or rather soliloquy.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mapping Sunil Padwal’s art journey

One of the top artists of his era, Sunil Padwal seeks inspiration from every aspect of everyday life, all that is even mundane - work in progress, pollution everywhere, fast changing skyline, noisy traffic, homeless people and animals stuck in today’s concrete jungle. The social schism makes him restless and prompts him to probe further and pose pointed questions in a continuous quest of convincing and lasting solutions to our lingering problems.

The artist worked on line drawings during his formative years. (He only recently started showing them.) Initially, illustration was his forte. He excelled in his professional stints as a visualizer, a graphic designer, and as an illustrator. The diverse roles he played came in handy when he finally took up art full-time.

Spotted by ardent art loving businessman Harsh Goenka for his unconventional style, the young and talented practitioner’s first solo drew critical acclaim. There was no looking back after that as he gradually established himself as an artist wit sensitivity and versatility. Born in Mumbai in 1968, he did his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Applied Art) from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art.

Apart from several solo shows, his work has been featured in many group exhibitions, including 'At Walden Pond', Gallery Beyond, Mumbai (2011); 'Paper Tongues', Exhibit 320, Delhi (2011); 'Public Enemy Number 1', Exhibit 320, Delhi (2010-11); 'The Way We Are', Mon Art Gallerie, Kolkata (2010); 'Deep In Black', Galerie Muller and Plate, Munich (2009); 'A Sorrowful Mystery-Jesus Christ', NGMA, Mumbai (2000); 'Indian Contemporary', Visual Arts Centre, Hong Kong (2000); 'Flashback, Flashforward', a RPG show in Mumbai (1999); 'Fifty Years of Freedom', NGMA, Mumbai (1997).

Among his select participations are 'Master’s Corner', Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai; India International Art Fair, Delhi; ‘Contemporary Printmaking In India' courtesy Priyasri Gallery; 'Evolve’, Tao Gallery, Mumbai (all in 2010), and 'Harmony Show', Nehru Centre, Mumbai (1996-2000). A recipient of the Communication Artist's Guild (CAG) Award (1990), he was also the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Harmony show in 1998.

Monday, March 12, 2012

India Art Market Information

Tushar Sethi

The Global art market is 2011 was very strong. The most expensive painting ever sold and a new world record for art was the Cezanne that sold for US$ 250 Million. More than 1600 paintings sold for more than US$ 1 Million. 43% of the global art market sales took place in Asia. 12400 artists hit new personal auction records. Thus overall the global art market was 20% stronger than 2010.

The Indian Modern Art Market has held on to its prices in the last quarter of 2011. Two paintings were sold over 10 cr and three more were sold over 5 cr. The upcoming march auction of Sothebys has a Raza with a lower estimate of US$ 1.5 million which will result in another Record for this artist. The second half of 2012 will see prices move in a strong and positive flow for the moderns and for the contemporary artists. One will see many new younger artists hold strong ground in 2012 and this shall result in a new following among collectors for these artists. Husain, Raza and Souza are looking the strongest in 2012. Other artists to look out for are R Broota, Manjit Bawa, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Badri Narayan. Tyeb is not expected to go up as last year saw a huge jump in price levels. Ram Kumar is the artist to currently buy as he is very undervalued as compared to the other masters. The market will be much stronger from March onwards.

Tushar Sethi

Best Selling Auction Artist - 2011
2011 saw a shift in the top three artists. The total value of paintings sold in auctions was topped by MF Husain who had a total sale of a little under US$ 10 million (Rs 50 Cr) in auctions, with a total number of 105 paintings that were sold in auctions. This was followed by Tyeb Mehta a little under US$ 8 million (Rs 40 cr) with 13 lots coming up in auction in 2011. The most expensive painting sold in 2011 was by Tyeb Mehta that sold for a little under US$ 3 million (Rs 14.4 Cr). Raza is ranked third on the list with a total value of US$ 5.4 million (Rs 27 cr). This was followed by Souza who last year was ranked in second position this year fell to fourth position.

VS Gaitonde

Auction Sales - 2011
The world art market was lead by China for the second year in a row. This year the total art sold in China in public auctions amounted to 41% of the total global auction trade. The figure jumped 10 percent from last year. The biggest fall was seen in America that lost the 10% difference. The rest of the countries were more or less constant as compared to last year. India still playing a very small role in global art trade with less than 0.5% of the total auction trade taking place in India.

Auction Sales Turnover worldwide
2011 was a very good year for the global art market. One saw many records being set. The world wide annual auction turnover for artworks was twice as much as compared to the year before. If one looks at the graph, the turnover was actually more than what took place in the boom in 2008. Looking at these figures it is clear that the interest level in art worldwide has grown and has crossed the levels of the boom market. The start of 2012 has also been good world wide. One expects this figure to rise 15% this year. Thus the worldwide growth of the art market is extremely strong.

Courtesy The Arts Trust

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Amazing art display at Anupam Poddar’s home

The sprawling multi-family compound located in Gurgaon that Anupam Poddar shares with Lekha and Ranjan Poddar, his parents, living in the downstairs wing; and his brother, living across the undulating lawn, marks a confluence of art.

The walls of his study are plastered with Pakistani artist Rashid Rana’s red plates, depicting rotting meat. The collector quips they seem like landscapes or nudes. Another painting there is by Vivan Sundaram; it’s his ode to late Bhupen Khakhar—is much nicer.

Also hangs in the vicinity a painting of Tyeb Mehta. It’s perhaps the lone sedate, if beautiful, piece in his home. Opposite it, a low-slung metal sculpture by Sakshi Gupta tends to rise up & down, giving a feel as if the earth was breathing. It occupies almost half of the bedroom floor space.

Right in the centre of his dressing room lies an elongated, mechanical penis, which swivels back and forth - a whimsical work by artist Sudarshan Shetty, whose moving tables and hammers have nearly taken over the living room. Anita Dube’s sculpture of human bones by spreads across his dining table.

Analyzing Anupam Poddar’s love for art, The Mint writer Shoba Narayan mentioned in her column some months ago: “He collects edgy, risky and offbeat works by artists whom the world of art will hear a lot about. Poddar, industrialist G.P. Birla’s maternal grandson, makes it a point to change the art display in his spacious home once every year, or two at least.”

And what the writer got to see was merely a portion of his vast collection of contemporary art. In fact, much of it either is in storage or constantly travelling with some exhibition. According to her, Delhi collectors will tell us the fact that Anupam Poddar is a market maker. He will buy artworks he loves, but will also ensure the artists in his collection are rising stars. Many of the young artists and designers Poddar and his mother have discovered over the years are now marquee names in their fields.

A series inspired by lyrics from the Beatles

Trishla Jain’s works were recently on display in Mumbai after having been showcased in the capital city of India earlier this year.

Her exhibition, entitled ‘Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies’, underlined how she has put her creativity to optimum use. In fact, she has been painting the age of seven. In spite of no formal training in art, she has received critical applause with her whimsical, provocative and spontaneous paintings.

Her artistic style and approach is very versatile. This reflects in the fact that she can employ various bold and deft brush strokes as well as impasto techniques while working on wallpapers, and Shakespearean words in order to convey a subtle artistic message.

Her recent series of works was inspired by famous lyrics from the Beatles. even as the artist foraged through the peculiar past - as timeless as the Bhagavad Gita and as recent as Eminem - to compose curious collages of comments. It was a warm display of candy pop colors, of a flurry of words, glorious paints, curios and interesting ideas. It reflected her personality itself: a bundle of contradictions that juxtaposes sauciness and serenity, deep thought and joie de vivre.

Trishla Jain likes to label her paintings and installations as 'found art', but what dominates it is the jovial juxtaposition of the unusual. Cut-out frames actually framed nothing specific, and lime green furniture bore serene sepia-tinted imagery.

Artimus Tiger pondered even as a hobby horse rocked, a jewelry cutouts’ collage spilled across a table, cutting down conspicuous consumption to 2D - the timeless remark ‘I’m the highest truth; I’m the greatest peace; I’m the grandest love’ drifted round inside a triptych, and ended with the ultimate realization, ‘I am’. Were they simple comments? Pointed critiques?

What marks ‘Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies’ is her more assured strokes, and more confident motifs.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Art as a quest for answering self-posed queries

Taking a cue from the pressing concerns of today’s assertive, astute, aware and equally sensitive Indian womenfolk – both urban and rural, several talented female artists produce work that reflects the changed gender mindset, echoing subtle shades and nuances of the self, social and cultural, from a universal perspective. No surprise, they are leaving an indelible mark on the global art scene.

Like their clan, they belong to the new globalized world with an ever-expanding horizon, are keen to voice their views on issues pertinent to their status and progress in the contemporary society. One among them is the highly talented Meetali Singh, an artist tuned to the changing times, who has charted her own course.

Her work tends to embrace the viewer with several images emerging from the defining one to fill the entire surface, arousing a curiosity amidst the uncharted narrative that depicts journey of a restless mind, searching for complex answers to riddles posed by life. It strives to relate the conscious and the unconscious, building a continuous homogenous harmony.

Meetali Singh’s oeuvre is essentially a reflection of an artist’s mindset and thought processes - treading a territory between sheer imagination and real-life emotions. Hence the images are mostly surreal and dreamy in nature – akin to capturing swings of a pendulum. She tries to grasp the movement and the moods of the surreal zone between two extreme poles.

Realistic figures set in an unrealistic or imaginary realm set the tone for of phantasmagorical visuals. The need to demarcate the space on the visual surfaces for the real and the fantastic is evident. The artist sums up her practice to say: “I try to paint my inner emotions. Taking up art was not an easy choice, but I was committed to art and was determined to overcome all barriers. It has been a long journey for me personally, from Benares to Baroda where I arrived to study. My paintings are a reflection of my desires, my aspirations and my feelings.”

In essence, to her art remains a constant quest for answering self-posed queries.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What makes collecting and creating art exciting?

In an insightful column published a few months ago, The Mint writer Shoba Narayan mentioned of various fabulous facets that make the process of creating and collecting such an exciting process. Here are some of the interesting points that she made in her essay:
  • Art isn’t a brand, but today’s art world has started treating it as such. Yet, there is a fundamental discomfort about this collision of the artistic and commercial worlds. This is the reason she would even pose the query: Is Anupam Poddar for real or is he is a fake?

  • Had Poddar been a Mittal, you’d expect him to buy a portfolio or company that will triple in value; you’d expect him to have only commercial interests at heart. Well, art is different. Underneath all the crap and the hype, underneath the publicity machines and the gallery openings, underneath the rigged auctions and the rabid collectors, art is pure, noble even.

  • It is the human species’ most ancient and necessary impulse. Underneath all the crap and the hype, underneath the publicity machines and the gallery openings, underneath the rigged auctions and the rabid collectors, art is pure, noble even.

  • It is the human species’ most ancient and necessary impulse. Witness the Ajanta and Ellora cave paintings or the pre-Columbian sculptures. Hordes of cave people beautifying their dwellings for no other reason save to express themselves. Art springs from this romantic world view.

  • As an artist, you may be associated with the most commercial galleries in the world; you may have morphed into a market-savvy sculptor who knows how to play the game and speak the jargon. But in the beginning, before the galleries and attention, you were a lone, struggling artist, trying to make visual sense of your world.

  • This then is the fundamental tension of the current art world. We expect our artists to be ‘successful’ in commercial terms but we also want them to be ‘pure’ and free of commercial desires. We hold artists to a different standard than we hold, say, a private equity player. We hold the people associated with the art world to be somehow more real,” she rightly pointed out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Traversing ‘Comfort Zones’

It’s probably the most ubiquitous shape of the post-middle age female that the artist finds in her country: It’s the mother’s body, a body, which wears the all-encompassing dress of motherhood. It’s also a comfort giver’s body; one located beyond the set norms of sensuality, one made (a)sexual through the protocols of ‘motherhood’, a body confined to giving unconditional love now , this body of the mother that defies usual commodification of femininity or sheer fetish objectification of spiritualized beauty. It's a form too stark.

Here is an artist clearly fascinated by her mother’s body, a body that refuses to tire; refuses to let go of the monumentality of its presence. Saggy breasts, fleshy belly, heavy thighs and thick hips,come together to form this uncompromising shape of the woman, as part of a showcase at Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi. The artist Anoli Perera from Colombo presents her new series at the venue.

She honed her art skills at the Visual Art School of Princeton for Continuing Education, New Jersey; and Studio Three, Santa Barbara City College, California. Among her selected solos are ‘Quveni: 'The Queen of Lanka’ (2011); and ‘Goddesses Descending’ (2003), apart from participations in a number of group shows over the past decade.

The artist traversing ‘Comfort Zones’ in a series of paintings and sculptures, mentions in an accompanying statement, “Sutured and marked with pain and pleasure through its many phases of fecundity and left alone to stand silently observing the life/lives she procreated go beyond her grasping to find their own destinies. A sense of loss overlays her presence, and that loss is not totally her own. It is also a loss for the comfort giver and loss for the comfort taker.”

Her monumental presence anchors one to a sense of belonging, and even from a distance her gaze still holds the power of scorching scrutiny. Even if this monumental form might seem passive, it certainly is not. It churns numerous memories and it instills guilt in me for all the comforts I have enjoyed and the nostalgia I feel now for those moments in her embrace, the artist elaborates.