Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tracking a socially sensitive artist’s career graph

Known for his dynamic site-specific installations and scintillating sculptures, N. S. Harsha’s paintings capture our imagination as well, with fields of sparsely detailed, vast spaces and mystical figures.

Born in 1969, he did his B.F.A. (painting) from CAVA, Mysore, and his M.F.A. from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University in 1992 and 1995, respectively. A recipient of the Sanskriti Award in 2003, his major solos include  'Come Give Us A Speech', Bodhi Art, New York  (2008); 'Left Over', Maison Hermès, Tokyo and Osaka, Japan (2008); ‘Charming Nation’, Gallery Chemould, Mumbai and Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore (2006).

His work has been featured in many noteworthy exhibits and collaborative projects, including 'Against All Odds', Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (2011);  'Orientations: Trajectories in Indian Art', Foundation 'De 11 Lijnen', Oudenburg, Belgium (2010); 'In The Company of Alice', Victoria Miro, London (2010); the Singapore Biennale (2006), the 2nd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial (2002), and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Arts, Australia (1999). 

He also worked with Iniva in the 1990s, an institute that creates exhibitions, multimedia, education and specific research projects, designed to focus on the work of artists from culturally diverse backgrounds. ‘Nations’, one of his critically acclaimed installations (Iniva, London; 2009), incorporated several treadle sewing machines, hand-painted flags of the UN members, and multiples of thread. 

The treadle machines were connected by a web of cottons threading from spool to bobbin winder, from wheel to the eye of a needle. They were ornately decorated in gold that read ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Made in China’ – a translation of the original Chinese lettering and graphic flourishes. Each spool held a reel of colored cotton. A national flag was held, under the foot of each machine, as if being worked on. The ordered lines of machinery alluded to a scene of a busy working sweatshop. The people were called to attend to their relationship to mechanized labor, serving global markets, and to their own participation in the very fabrication of national identity.

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