Friday, August 31, 2012

Works that stand out yet co-exist thematically

As one can make out, conscious effort behind conceptualizing a new group exhibition ‘A Floating Object’ at Mumbai’s Guild is to extend multiplicity and simultaneity to the collection of works on view. They are not linked by a linear narrative, concept or theme,as a curatorial essay by Renuka Sawhney elaborates, but they are bordered by the walls of the space within which they are simultaneously exhibited.

It adds: “They are also therefore free to activate the space they inhabit, free to associate with other works, as incongruent absurdities in relation to one another, as rhizomatic connections, as interruptions of hierarchies or a discordant strum of poetic logic, unfolding in privately held time or publically and collectively acknowledged time. They provide multiple visions, spaces, and narratives. 

“Furthermore they create open-ended movements that generate transference of consciousness of form and content and the incongruent nature of reality and fictions, and rather than display a fixedity in narrative form, they seek shifting modes through which to travel. As such each artist forms a center, where each work is treated on its own terms and left free to associate with other centers. 

The effort here is also to engage the viewer to view time as a uniquely individual concern rather than a linear structure that runs throughout the exhibition. Though thematically, contextually and in form, are and can be seen as disparate objects, they can also be seen as objects whose established history and place in a canon as being separate from the works themselves, although available to lend context. It is in this co-dependence yet isolation where each work takes on a character and an individuality that allows a viewer to choose their own entry and exit. 

For instance, Zakkir Hussain’s works on paper are apparently inhabited by strange creatures -mutilated, funny, pathetic and evocative, they give off a sense of intense psychological churn bordering on the disruptive.  This violence of vision, thought and internal struggle, manifests itself in bold and disturbing visuals that draw us into a nether world within. Sometimes quiet and at others aroused and bursting outward, serving as a reminder that at a micro or a macro level we have to contend with ourselves.

On the other hand, in Gieve Patel works, the placement of the body in a physical form not only delineates the lingering presence of a body but also informs the landscape and the absence that it may form into and out of. The presence and the absence of a body, its surroundings and the forms it may take, to transfer consciousness, knowledge or simply its own potential for abstraction forms an imprint that resonates with its own unique tonality.

Three hundred years of landscape art in India

Delhi Art Gallery is hosting a comprehensive overview of landscape art in India, entitled ‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’, which documented the evolving form of this genre in Indian art over three centuries – from the late eighteenth century to the recent past, representing artists from all major centers of art production in India. Here are some of the highlights of the grand showcase and its background:

  • Landscape art arrived in India through many traveling European artists who brought the aesthetic of painting mountains, rivers and trees against the sky and a distant horizon – nature as a subject in itself – to Indian art, where it had traditionally only formed a backdrop in narrative-driven, figural paintings.
  • The genre remained popular throughout the nineteenth century with a great demand for landscapes of India both in Europe and among the newly anglicized elite in India. Its popularity began to wane with the advent of modernism and a growing emphasis on the human figure, but several Indian artists, a significant name among them Gopal Ghose, continued to practice the form, now absorbing a wide range of new artistic trends and influences.
  • The exhibition brings together the work of the earliest European artist-travelers to India, such as Thomas Daniell, William Hodges, Edward Cheney and Robert Grindlay, academic realist oil landscapes by acknowledged masters of the form, J. P. Gangooly and Ravi Varma.
  • There is a strong representation of academic Indian art school-trained artists as well from the 1920s-60s who specialised in landscapes – such as S. L. Haldankar, M. K. Parandekar, L. N. Taskar, D. C. Joglekar and S. G. Thakur Singh – and Bengal School’s Far East-inspired innovations seen in the works of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Prosanto Roy, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Indra Dugar.
  • Master printmaker Haren Das, known for his serene, bucolic landscapes of rural Bengal, finds special and substantial representation. Post-independent Indian art and modernism was represented by the abiding landscapist Gopal Ghose, experiments in abstraction by F. N. Souza, K. S. Kulkarni, S. H. Raza, S. K. Bakre, Ganesh Haloi, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar.
  • There is also a rare find – two landscapes by M. F. Husain, an artist not known to have painted landscapes. Other modernist Indian masters too find representation, many with their early works, artists such as Bikash Bhattacharjee and Sunil Das, early modernist landscapes and fantasyscapes of Avinash Chandra, those by Chittaprosad, Rabin Mondal and P. T. Reddy, and Himalayanscapes by Devyani and Kanwal Krishna, and the masterful Bireswar Sen.

Putting Indian modernism in a proper context

Most of the artists who feature in the new international group show, entitled ‘Approaching Abstraction’ at Rubin Museum are renowned for uniqueness of their subject matter and form. Let us take a quick look at their oeuvres and what are the factors that have influenced them:

A few of these artists have been known to been spend time outside their home country. They are attached to some of the more popular Western art movements, something which is quite understandable. Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina Hashmi are renowned Minimalists. The former studied in London in the 1950s, whereas the latter has settled in New York since the late ’70s. 

Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings on graph paper deftly work against the grid, with slanted lines of differing weights and lengths. White-on-white relief prints by her, threaded with silk cord, are perhaps not as abstract in overall approach. Yet they create a sort of loop wherein both paper and string get endlessly self-referential. Another work seems like a spool, whereas one more much like an envelope.

Few of the artists in this show seem to quietly engage Indian culture or spirituality at least on the surface. The paintings done by G. R. Santosh and Biren might be one exception to this. Both are mostly termed ‘neo-tantra’: there’re luminous, interlocked forms, which signify the union of female and male form, whether in embryonic cells’ clusters or some barely abstracted images of coitus.

Meanwhile, ‘Radical Terrain’, the third installment in the series is to focus on the post-independence landscape and is due in November. Unlike the first two shows it is going to include some contemporary artists not of Indian descent.

The show definitely argues for a holistic view of Indian modernism (as opposed to mere superficial surveys of contemporary Indian art that seem to have spread along with discussion of emerging markets). Such kind of undertaking might well include more film and more bits of history, and perhaps a little less of Western art jargon. To judge from this show, modernism here seems most ‘modern’ in form and content when it takes the form of film, especially those in the 1960s when a few private foundations in India along with the National Films Division (NFD) gave grants to some talented painters.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PAG members still hog the limelight

A religiously and culturally diverse cast of eccentric characters, all these artists were all enveloped by the highly charged political climate and cataclysmic conditions of cosmopolitan Mumbai in the 1940s. Each one had his unique approach though they were bound by a common thread of eccentricity and propensity to experiment. As with many of his contemporaries, Gaitonde was influenced by western art and the works of such leading figures as Joan Miró, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee.

Ram Kumar abandoned the stylized figure painting characteristic of his early years abroad (studying in Paris) and developed, upon returning home, a spiritual tie to his native landscape. If captivating color and landscapes were known to be Gade’s calling cards, Bakre chose to experiment with an array of mediums like painting, sculpture and wood carving. The fact that the trio of Ara, Bakre, and Gade failed to attain the international fame as well as glory of M. F. Husain, Souza and Raza is explained in part by the prodigious output of the latter three.

A series of events and exhibitions only help to retain the spotlight on the PAG. For example, New York based Aicon Gallery last year hosted ‘POP’, the first part of an exhibition series featuring works by the Progressive Artists Group members. It focused on a selection of works on paper by Ram Kumar, Padamsee, Husain, Raza and Souza.

They considered the works on paper not just as a window to larger-scale canvases, but rather as fully developed creations in their own right. Through them, they tried to attain experimentation in their iconic pictorial languages. The second part featured a selection of large scale works on canvas.

An exhibition at London based Grosvenor Gallery in 2010 hosted several significant works by the group, so did the Delhi Art Gallery just recently. ‘Continuum’ comprised some unseen gems by the PAG artists in the backdrop of a sustained interest in their works and lives. Many of the important works by these luminaries of modern Indian art were also showcased at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Philosophy and processes of a veteran artist

  • Born in Mayurbhanj, Orissa in 1941, Jatin Das studied at Sir J. J School of Art, Mumbai (1957-62). Among his selected solos are 'Hand-held Space' courtesy Gallery Art & Soul, Mumbai (2010-11); shows at the Artists Alley Gallery, San Francisco; Chelsea Arts Club, London; 'Earth Bodies', Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Delhi (all in 2009); ‘Body and Line’, Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai; a show courtesy ICCR; ‘Charged Figures’, CIMA, Kolkata (all in 2009); ‘Journeys across Foreign Lands’, LKA, Delhi (2006); 1X1 Art Space, Dubai (2006) and Archaeological Museum, Thessaloniki, Greece (2005).
  • His recent major group shows and participations include 'Masterclass', Dhoomimal Gallery, Delhi (2011) 'Celebrations 2011', Kumar Gallery, Delhi (2011); 'Master’s Corner' at Jehangir Gallery; India International Art Fair, Delhi (2010); 'Contemporary Printmaking in India' courtesy Priyasri Gallery, Mumbai (2010); and 'Indian Harvest' courtesy Crimson, Bangalore in Singapore (2009).
  • A recipient of Senior Fellowship, Department of Culture, Government of India (1989-90), he was conferred Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity Italian Government, Italian President Award, Delhi and the D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) by Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar in 2007.
  • The passionate painter seldom thinks of a definitive concept before he starts working on a composition. Very often the process is akin to that of a child groping in the dark, hoping to find an object of desire. According to him, he doesn’t try to explore the theory of his work or fathom the creative process, but for the fact that he simply loves painting. Even his choice of surface as well as media depends on that particular moment or the place and the image he is painting!
  • For example, the paper he utilized for the Cairo ink & gouache sketches reflected the mélange and color of the city, whereas the shades of paint and texture of paper he employed for the African series was tuned to the way of living there. He has explained, “Everywhere, actual human beings are also providing me with images constantly. When I was in Kerala, I painted typical Malayali people. While in Cairo and Africa, I painted the people there.”

Contribution of vetran artist-collector Jatin Das

As a little boy in the eastern state of Orissa - famous for its wonderful cloth appliqué wall hangings and exquisite temple carvings - he returned home with brightly lacquered handcrafted toys from bustling village fairs even as his doting grandmother would often indulge him. This is how Jatin Das's journey as a collector began. Not many of his countrymen, he states, share his high regard for craft traditions.

The veteran artist rues how they are destroying their heirlooms and their treasures. They’re opting for the plastic or the synthetic culture, he observes. While his artistic ambitions led him to J.J. School in Mumbai and subsequently to set up a studio in the capital city of India, he still regularly visits his home state to purchase tempting terracotta objects, ceramics, toys and other handicrafts. Of all the amazing artifacts he has amassed, the collectible closest to his heart is the vast variety of pankha (a hand-held fan) sourced from across the world.

The master artist moans the fact that theatre and painting has lost their prominence, if not relevance, over time. Instead of blaming the circumstances or simply giving up, he is striving to bring about a change through the JD Centre of Art in Orissa. This institution formed to encourage both traditional and modern artists in India promotes tribal, folk, classical and contemporary art forms, bringing together painters and sculptors, dancers and craftspeople, scholars and philosophers.

It’s an effort on his part to present the most representative and authentic representations of the various art practices in different corners of the country. Despite official apathy and hurdles he faces, such as lack of funds and archival support, he still remains committed to arouse awareness and interest in the rich craft and art traditions.

In an acknowledgement of his valuable contribution to the field of art and also his efforts to preserve our rich visual traditions, Jatin Das has been selected for the prestigious Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India. It’s a timely gesture to appreciate his achievements during an illustrious career spanning over five decades.

An artist driven by Indian culture and his own sensitivity

Veteran artist Jatin Das is fascinated by the human form. The main concern of his artistic quest is the human predicament. The human figures within the paintings appear to speak their own language.

Throwing light on his painterly processes, he reveals that he seldom thinks of a definitive concept before starting out. He adds, “I don’t paint to a specific theme. It takes its own shape automatically.” As far as the inspiration for his works is concerned, he draws it from whatever he is doing – like even a simple interaction. A painting is something beyond a painter, he explains, contrary to the common belief that it’s a documentary of the painter’s personal life. His paintings don’t essentially have any theme; they are about a journey, but don’t narrate a tale.

His suite of miniature-round painting, entitled ‘Hand-held Space’, was exhibited in Mumbai in 2010-11. It included works done over the last decade. It’s comprised of captivating collections of his canvases that can probably be held intimately and painted!

He had quipped on the eve of his show at the Museum Art Gallery: “I paint human forms - sometimes metaphoric, sometimes poetic and suggestive, other times. The figures are mostly devoid of any embellishments. According to the artist, these figures were always bare from the beginning itself. A woman figure even doesn’t have hands because they are not needed, the artist explains. His paintings of female figures, especially exude a sensuous mood, conveying a sense of the beauty and the intrinsic emotions.

The master artist never forced his daughter Nandita to take up painting or any other career. She had freedom to make her career choices. However, he doesn’t appreciate that Bollywood seems to have taken over most other art forms.  He reminisces that theatre, painting and Hindi films were at the same level back in the 1960-70s. Instead of moaning over the state of affairs, the artist is trying to change things in a small way. He has set up the JD Centre of Art in Orissa. He calls it the only venue that encourages both traditional and modern artists in India.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A show the celebrates material diversity, conceptual complexity and visual beauty of an Euorpean master

A retrospective in collaboration with the Tate Modern in London and the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid is among the largest ever presentations outside of Italy of artworks by the master Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) until now. Organized chronologically, the exhibition spans his entire career beginning with his sculptural works or objects as he preferred to call them, comprised of everyday materials including wood, cardboard and aluminum.

Working in Turin in the 1960s amidst a closely bound community of practitioners that included Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Luciano Fabro and Mario Merz, among others, he established himself as a leading artist of the Arte Povera movement. While he is often affiliated with the moment, this exhibition considers him beyond these brief years. Here are some of the highlights of the exhibition:

Installed in a dense configuration inspired by the original clustered presentation, some of the early works in ‘Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan’ convey the material experiments of the period as well as notions of measurement and chance that the artist would play with and revise.

In 1969 he began exploring notions of duality and multiplicity, order and disorder, travel and geography, and he initiated postal and map works imagining distant places. For the work Viaggi Postali, begun the summer of 1969, Boetti sent envelopes to friends, family, and fellow artists but used imaginary addresses, forwarding each returned envelope to yet another non-existent place. Boetti thus created imaginary journeys for the people he admired.

In other conceptual, mail art-related works made throughout the 1970s, Boetti would use different stamps and arrange them in permutations on the envelopes to compose his art, and send postcards picturing a monument in his hometown from places around the world. The exhibition brings together these and other works related to travel, geography, and mapping, many of which relate to his extensive travels to Afghanistan

Another important aspect of his oeuvre is drawing, which runs as a constant throughout his work. The artist, rather than inventing, would simply bring what already exists in the world into the work; and that everything in the world is potentially useful for the artist.

In essence, the exhibition celebrates the material diversity, conceptual complexity and visual beauty of Boetti’s work, bringing together his ideas about order and disorder, non-invention, and the way in which the work addresses the whole world, travel, and time, proving him to be one of the most important and influential international artists of his generation.

Artists to watch out in the KNMA collection

Some of the highlights of the comprehensive KNMA collection are as follows:

Birth of Blindness (2007) by GR Iranna

G R Iranna’s creations tend to depict pain as an abstract force translated visually in bruised textures and rasping, razor sharp cutting edges. They have always been far removed from an overriding, postmodern logic. Instead, he skillfully employs the idealistic, representative and modernist language of Indian contemporary art.

The artist believes that his artistic approach goes beyond the terms like modern and the postmodern. He has once stated: “My work and my figures are illustrative of the spirit of human experiences - timeless and immortal. My thought process has witnessed a subtle, albeit definite transition, which is a natural phenomenon as part of an artist’s evolution.”

His sculptural installation has 10 naked, blindfolded men in a posture of complete submission. Their overworked bodies are tense with impending torture. The installation is unsettling because of its implicit power dynamic. It was shown at the Aicon Gallery in London with only a short preview in New Delhi two years ago.

Genesis of Kurukshetra (2005) by A Ramachandran
This bronze work by the Padma Bhushan-winner, A. Ramachandran, combines elements of architecture, sculpture and theatre. It’s inspired by the epic tale of Mahabharata. His interpretation is rather unusual, as the title suggests, essentially focused on the genesis. It depicts Kunti and Gandhari orchestrating the tale. Their sons are pawns - the five Pandavas in gold and 100 Kauravas in silver. And with each false move, the mothers would lose them.

Kaayam (2008) by A Balasubramaniam
The Bangalore-based artist was one of the nominees for the Skoda Prize 2011. Though this sculpture (fibreglass, wood and acrylic) was shown at Delhi’s Talwar Gallery a few years ago, it’s worth another look. He is keen to delve into the mystery of creative processes rather and not unduly worried about its outcome. In this work, selfhood is elusive. It tries to capture the absent form of something very essential and obvious just like our own shadow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Highlights of the KNMA collection

Some of the highlights of the comprehensive KNMA collection are as follows:

‘Absence of God VIII’ (2008) by Raqib Shaw

The work featured at the KNMA can be considered a metaphor for his tumultuous childhood in Kashmir. At first, his visually deceptive canvas tends to leave the viewer dazed with its enameled, gemstone-studded surface. But a deeper inspection brings to the fore some gory details of a world (dis)order in a state of near collapse.

The multi-faceted artist is known to employ mix media, such as car enamels and industrial paints coupled with decorative materials comprising glitter and precious gemstones for densely patterned and elaborately layered surfaces that combine an Eastern and Western perspective. Born in Kolkata, raised in Kashmir and located in London for more than a decade, the talented contemporary artist created waves with his ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’.

The erotically charged works courtesy Victoria Miro were inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s 15th century triptych. The artist depicted a dizzying scenario of erotic hedonism, both gruesome and explosive in its debauchery. It was a fantastical underwater world full of mythical creatures populated with hybrid creatures and fusing a wide array of fabulously painted flora and fauna. A work from the series went for a whopping $5 million (around Rs. 22.8 crore) at the Sotheby’s auction in 2007.

Blue Abstract (1965) by VS Gaitonde
This is rare oil on canvas work by the reclusive modern master. His paintings were invariably described as abstract in nature. Personally, he rejected the tag. VS Gaitonde instead preferred to see them as 'non-objective,' visualizing more as a balanced juxtaposition of colors and texture. He meticulously maneuvered his medium on the canvas with precision, building up pigments to only strip them away and unravel hidden layers of the work.

Revealing his mindset as a painter, he had once remarked: 'A painting is simply a painting - a play of light and color...Each (painting) is a seed that germinates in the next one. It’s not limited to one canvas. I go on adding elements and that's how my work evolves.” It was a kind of never-ending metamorphosis in a canvas, extending onto the next one. As a whole, the captivating canvases displayed spiritual quality and characteristic silence – meditative, eternal and momentous, evoking subliminal depths of emotions.

Painterly realm of Surya Prakash

Known to be a multifaceted artist, Surya Prakash, constantly imbibes techniques and other finer aspects of painterly processes from other senior painters, evolving his own style in the process. Keen to experiment, he has expanded his oeuvre by encompassing newer forms, colors, motifs and styles. In media and surface as well, Prakash continually experiments and furthers his reach, most recently trying his hand at etching.

The principal concern of his practice is the nature in all its facets that he perceives and depicts on canvas in an inimitable style. His semi-realistic albeit meticulous representation of foliage and flowers, are like the skilful impressionists’ works, deftly marked by layered colors and exquisitely rendered textures.

His illustrious career spans well over four decades. He has had several solo and group shows in India and abroad – at galleries in Poland, Germany, Russia, Hungary, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Syria, France, Iran, and the US. The recipient of gold medals from the Lalit Kala Akademi, Andhra Pradesh and the Hyderabad Art Society, he has also received the National Award. Importantly, the artist has been in the forefront of his home state’s art movement, organizing camps and workshops et al.

This immensely skilled impressionist ably captures the picturesque native landscapes in varied glowing hues. There’s something dreamy and idealistic about the way he chooses the colors, the way they are combined and applied to the surface. However, the impressionistic movement was not the only European influence that touched this talented artist’s work. In his series of canvases like ‘Barren Leaves’, one could notice a definite surrealistic force. A Dali-esque feel to the larger than life autumnal leaves delicately floating to the ground is evident in most of his paintings.

Analyzing an even earlier series of works ‘Jargon of the Junk’, one could notice the convoluted metal forms he uses as subjects. In fact, they alluded to the style of the Fauvists and Bacon, and also of Tyeb Mehta.

Works by Sudhir Patwardhan and K. P. Reji at The Guild

An interesting group show, entitled ‘A Floating Object’, as part of the Guild Collection – Series I – 2012 includes works by several talented artists like  Gieve Patel, Gulammohammed Sheikh, K. P. Reji, Prajakta Potnis, Sudhir Patwardhan, Sumedh Rajendran, Tushar Joag, and Zakkir Hussain.

Sudhir Patwardhan’s 1976 oil on canvas work ‘Couple’ seems to refer to the teeming albeit constrictive nature of the Mumbai people, as an accompanying note by Renuka Sawhney elaborates. In it a man and a woman sit side by side, the woman’s torso faces forward while her head faces right, away from the man. The man sits with one hand in his lap and one on the woman’s thigh.

Set within the brooding dark background, which offsets the skin of the couple, the portrait of an intimate space, a dark brooding alienating space, echoing repressive sexuality mingled with discontent and stoic acceptance. The skin of the couple is glowing in some parts of the upper torso, the color of golden beetroots in the sun, while in the lower half, deeper yellow ochre.

A few sections of the skin ranging from vivid green to bruised and darkened browns and rust, suggests decay, and fear. The work is both evocative and deeply disturbing and presents the couple as figures that speak of isolation and familiarity echoing the nature of the human, as an individual and as a part of a whole, constantly negotiating between the sense of the incomplete and the inevitable.

On the other hand, K. P. Reji works usually work as tableaus, with several figures performing acts on/within the same visual plane. The removal of hierarchies, of planes of action effectively removes comparisons of inside and outside. Yet again there is a conflict between the acts of being and the transient nature of being.  More importantly there is subtle friction between the two that also extends to the telling of disjointed narratives, occurring simultaneously on the same plane.

In his works on canvas the line between private and public is deliberately blurred; as such a frame is removed. Just as the walls in his constructions of houses are removed and stripped of their protective measures, so are the protagonists of their garb, essayist Renuka Sawhney points out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aditi Singh's artistic vision and imagination

A recurring theme in Aditi Singh’s work is the anatomy of flowers as part of her cognitive landscapes. According to the artist, a form chooses you a certain moment and it then won’t leave you in peace.

The artist has been drawing flowers for more than a decade and they still continue to intrigue her. They are not commonplace and can only probably survive in extreme climates. These flowers are not for decorative purpose. And as she believes, perhaps that’s what initially attracted her to them, the ephemeral yet tenacious aspect of their enduring existence. However, a subtle shift in scale marked her recent body of her work presented at Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road. Incidentally, the series, entitled ‘Let There be a Heaven of Blackred Roses (2010)’, only brought to the fore her concerns as an artist.

Space is dense, form un-attenuated, and mark making is infinite, dark and textural. According to her, the scale does shift from the intimate to the immense. But the largeness of an image is not decided only by the size of the paper. She had stated in an interview, “I do enjoy playing with dualities/ contradictions. I want viewers to move up close, just to step back, and to have an encounter with the work. In fact, every movement of the body calls for a different mode of viewing.”

As she reveals, the language that one strives to create is merely the beginning of the intriguing discovery process. In drawing them, the artist is only attempting to measure the gap that exists between herself and the form, awaiting the metamorphosis of ‘the One into the Other’. Ultimately, what she is searching for is a space in which the real and imagined, darkness and light, permanent and ephemeral will no more be perceived as contradictions.

She finds it tough to pin down those moments when one actually begins to ‘create’; it’s rather a constant process involving evolution/dissolution. She doesn’t stop making an image once she leaves the studio. In fact, the mind is constantly thinking and imagining, taking things apart, and rearranging. Aditi Singh states to sum up her creative processes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fathoming Santana Gohain’s artistic realm

Born in 1969 in Dibrugarh, Santana Gohain did her graduation (Printmaking) from the Govt. College of Art and Crafts, Guwahati. She then completed a post diploma (Printmaking) from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Vadodara. The artist received a Junior Fellowship, from the Ministry of Human Resource Development. She has taken part in several shows at major galleries across India.

Her solos include a show at Nazar Art Gallery, in Vadodara (1999); ”Harmony” a collaborative show with her husband Ganesh Gohain at The Fine Art Company, Mumbai, “Existence” at The Fine Art Company(2002), ‘Silent Speech’ in Ahmedabad and Vadodara by Alliance Francaise (2004), and Museum Art Gallery by The Fine Art Company(2006), Mumbai. Santana Gohain’s work is in several prestigious private collections in India and abroad.

The Fine Art Company had presented works by the artist in 2010) at Mumbai’s Museum Gallery. The series, entitled ‘Unknown Changes’, as if prompted visitors to participate in the enriching experience of life journey. An accompanying note elaborated: “Change might be the only constant feature of life. It still leads one to untraversed realms unknown and unfathomable.”

According to the artist, it is natural human behavior or tendency to touch, feel and engage with an artwork if it carries tangibility. The viewer then is able to connect with it on an emotional or perhaps spiritual level. She manages to create this element of tangibility on a mesmerizing metal canvas. She does so by involving various finer aspects around her area of work.

Santana Gohain is largely inspired by her immediate surroundings, be it the sounds that emanate from the clogged industrial area just near her studio, to old homes, the curious process of fabrication, natural flame blue color and even the quaint beauty of natural aging of objects, such as doors, metal frames etc that she juxtaposes with her own intense experiences and astute readings on human psychology.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What does drive Sujith SN’s artistic foray?

Evolution of talented artist Sujith S N first has been quite interesting. He first enrolled himself in the Indian army, but soon realized he was not mentally prepared for the regimented routine. His brief stint in the construction industry and also the systematic training left their strong imprint on both the formal tendencies and the themes of his work.Here's a quick look at his journey, philosophy and processes as an artist:
  • Born in Baroda in 1980, he completed his BFA from the Fine Arts College, Thrissur and went on to pursue a MFA in painting at the SN School of Fine Arts, Performing Arts & Communication, University of Hyderabad in 2007. 'The City and the Tower' was his debut show at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai in 2008. Among his recent exhibits are 'Indian Subway' at Grosverner Vadhera Gallery, London (2010); 'Earth' at Gallery OED, Kochi, India (2010).
  • He has been the recipient of the Kerala LKA’s special mention award, 2004; Kerala LKA state award, 2005 and the Merit Scholarship, University of Hyderabad, 2005. ‘Map is not the Territory’, his latest series, denoted urban landscape, its haphazard growth and the resultant deterioration that prompted him to explore the abounding organic architectural forms, springing up in an unplanned labyrinth.
  • An accompanying note to the show courtesy Latitude 28 and Sakshi Gallery mentioned: "Such spaces engender an unease that occupies our mind amid dizzying prospects of unplanned growth, the inevitability of diffusion and the resulting alienation as well as the anxieties of migration – all typical of the murky depths of contemporary urban society. "
  • His choice of medium mostly defines his usage of colors like charred siennas, ochres, grey etc. Elaborating on his experiences of dealing with different shades and his palette, he has stated: “Earlier entering into my work was almost like traversing a tunnel. Whatever bright thing is carried into the space of my drawing, the effect of the work turned to be darkish.”
  • Deft deployment of watercolor medium on paper besides usage of dry pastel, mixed media gauges the intensity of air, light etc that comprises the undertone and atmosphere of event in capture. On occasion he experiments with oils on canvas and photography.

Zooming on social changes with her lens

Dayanita Singh first studied graphic design at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. She later attended a course in a photojournalist at International Center of Photography (ICP), New York. On returning to India in the late 1980s, she started photographing for newspapers and magazines, collecting visual evidence of social injustice.By the early 1990s she was aiming her lens more and more at her immediate surroundings, no longer at ease with her journalistic approach.

Her body of work on the eunuch Mona Ahmed was based on a journalistic assignment, though it represented a critical point at which she opted to take a new course as a photographer. Mona prompted a series in which the photo artist's relationship with the subject was of immense significance, both directly and indirectly. The same could be said of her ‘I am as I am’ (1999).
This again was an intimate series portraying girls in an ashram in the holy city of Benares.

Dayanita Singh also shifted course in terms of the photographic form by switching from her 35mm & medium format 6 x 7 camera to a Hasselblad camera. Its square format made her to observe and snap her protagonists more slowly and precisely, with greater emphasis on composition, cropping, detail and light. The period was marked with the series ‘Ladies of Calcutta’ (1997-1999) and ‘Privacy’ (2002). What we saw was India’s lesser-known facet, one of post-colonial prosperity and of well-to-do women in their comfortable homes, surrounded by traditional Indian symbols.

She started to work in a growingly free and associative manner with ‘Go Away Closer’ (2007). People were emphatically absent from her recent ‘Blue Book’ (2008) and ‘Dream Villa’ (2010). All these transitions of her oeuvre are mapped in the new retrospective exhibition. A retrospective show of work by the internationally renowned Indian photographer took place at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam a couple of years ago.

Elaborating on her oeuvre, a curatorial note stated: “The artist is known for the highly expressive and poetic quality of her photographs, whose incidence of light and visual construction are so meticulously composed that they result in a comment on society and her own past."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

‘Idea is the Object’

D'Amelio Galleryin New York just hosted its major summer group exhibition, entitled ‘Idea is the Object’. The show brought together seemingly disparate works and practices, allowing for a dialogue in real space in which individual artists' experiences and objects may find multiple points of connection with each other and the viewer.

It featured work by a diverse group of artists, relying on a highly experiential approach to their environment, mining the world around them for inspiration.

Curated by Pavan Segal and Tracy Parker, the show comprised several emerging and mid-career artists from Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Oslo, San Francisco, Tel-Aviv, and Vienna. Among them were Guy Ben-Ner, Andy Boot, Candice Breitz, Andreas Eriksson, Sharon Hayes, John Henderson, Jacob Dahl Jürgensen, Henrik Olai Kaarstein, Deborah Ligorio, Mitzi Pederson, Amalia Pica, Kathrin Sonntag, and Mateo Tannatt.

They were chosen to participate because of the essential role that experience plays in their artistic practices. Some actively seek out experiences with people and different environments throughout the world as a driving force for the creation of their work while others have a delicate and connected approach to the materials that they take from their surroundings.

Influenced by the writings of philosopher John Locke, the exhibition took its cue from his belief that ideas originate from one's experience of the world and the materials within it. An accompanying note elaborated: “Quite simply, ideas are the objects of thought. These ideas are then the impetus for the production of (art) objects that are placed into the world, perpetuating the formation of new ideas and allowing for this creative cycle to proliferate and continue.

It added: “The notion of producing art born out of experience is implicit in contemporary art practice, and is generally understood on an intuitive level. Because of this implicitness, less emphasis is placed on an ‘experiential approach’ to art-making as an organizing or unifying theme among artists. Idea is the Object seeks to resist chronological, medium based, or geographical classifications in order to draw attention to the essential role that experience plays in facilitating the production and understanding of art objects.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Defining the core of artist K Laxma Goud’s practice

K Laxma Goud’s life and art is marked by a strong belief in his core values. He has gone against the long-held presumption that an artist can only succeed market by producing large-format painting. In this post, we try to define the core of his art practice:
  • K Laxma Goud has staunchly stood by the sketch-line that connects the crude physicality of his characters to their more delicately and subtly exposed psyches. His works of the late 80s period are more geometric and playful in nature. Their contours are fuller and his line persists - more resolved and more mature.
  • A recurrent theme with him has been that of the erotic - projected as a powerful element of male and female sexuality. According to the artist, 'there’s eroticism hidden in nature itself. Humor, vitality and earthiness emerge as he transforms the characters of his work – a man into goat, and a goat into woman. His simple imagery conveys an idyllic reality, slowly getting obliterated by rampant urbanization.
  • The artist’s raw and vivacious portrayal of men and women exude the rustic, albeit fascinating Indian ethos rather than stressing upon any specific individual identity. They are imbibed with energy, which reverberates through his strokes and teeming textures.
  • Apart from his exemplary narrative ability, Laxma Goud's skill and sophistication in dealing with pencil or paintbrush are simply remarkable. An eye for meticulous detail and precise incisiveness marked by hatched lines has been his forte. Gradually, the figures have turned softer, seemingly more introspective.
  • His practice is largely centered on the rural environment recreating landscapes from his formative years as if perpetually frozen in time and memory. His more recent lush landscapes done in vivid colors reminiscent of his jovial youth spent in lusty rural settings of his home state. Like most of his work, these are executed in miniature format in order to let the viewer engage directly with his work. The innocence, simplicity, bright color, fascinating flora and fauna suggest the bucolic naivety.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spotlight on a reclusive progressive

Born in Amravati in the state of Maharashtra in 1916, Hari Ambadas Gade did his graduation (science), though he was fond of drawing since childhood. Reminiscing about the formative years, he had once stated: "When I was a child I was fond of drawing. But I also had a compelling interest in science and mathematics. I therefore went on to qualify for the master's degree in Sceince." Since he couldn't find a job, Gade joined a school as a teacher. It was in Jabalpur, where he went for his Bachelor of Educator examinations, that the artist began painting landscapes.

Initially, he painted some exquisite landscapes. Later, his sensitive mind was touched and affected by the slum life he witnessed across Mumbai and the abject poverty the people around lived in, diverting the course of his art journey to reality from abstraction. The dirty slums, poverty and the state of life recurred as a motif in his works.

However, he did not fully abandon landscapes, and would travel frequently to different parts of India, traversing Kerala’s lush greenery, the deserts and palaces of Udaipur, and the dense forests elsewhere. Indeed, Gade’s landscapes are a precious treasure to cherish. He also did a wonderful series on monsoon greens.

He opted for an unconventional style, and rebelled against the set norms of academic art, imposed by the British education system, as most PAG members did at that time. He came in touch with S.H. Raza, who provided him with precious inputs. The talented artist started off by primarily painting watercolors. However, he gradually switched to painting oils on canvas. Gade made use of the palette knife as well as brush to finish his paintings. He had his exhibition in Mumbai in 1947, and a year later at the annual Bombay Art Society show.

The artist was invited for a show in Paris, and at Stanford University in 1949. His works were exhibited at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 1954. As several art critics have rightly pointed out, his art practice stands on a solid intellectual platform and his works reflect a unique streak, wherein color is of great importance, and form happens to be only incidental. Hari Ambadas Gade passed away in 2001, but left behind a rich treasure-trove of work.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Milestones of a master artist's career

One of India's most evocative and profound artists, VS Gaitonde left a distinct mark on the canons of contemporary Indian art. Painters Paul Klee, Joan Miro and Wassily Kandinsky as well as the philosophy of Zen Buddhism were among the major influences on him as a painter.
  • Born in Nagpur, he studied painting at Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai (1943-48). A hardcore non-conformist, he consciously stayed away from any distractions to his identity as a painter, and preferred to remain a solitary figure. Although briefly associated with the Progressive Artists Group (PAG), VS Gaitonde held his own identity. In terms of approach and beliefs, he was quite unlike MF Husain, his ‘more famous’ contemporary.
  • Among his major solos are ‘An Abstract Vision’, Pundole Gallery and HEART, Mumbai (1997); apart from shows at Willard Gallery, New York (1965); Gallery’ 63, New York (1963); Graham Gallery, New York (1959).
  • Among the major displays of his work are 'The Progressives & Associates', Grosvenor Gallery, London; 'Black and White', Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai; 'Masters of Maharashtra', LKA collection at Piramal Gallery, Mumbai (2010); 'Bharat Ratna', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; ‘'Progressive to Altermodern’', Grosvenor Gallery (2009); ‘Expanding Horizons’, Traveling show by Bodhi (2008-09); 'Moderns', Royal Cultural Centre, Amman, Jordan courtesy LKA, Delhi; 'Multiple Modernities’', Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA; ‘Freedom 2008’, CIMA, Kolkata (2008).
  • The honors he won during an illustrious career included Bombay Art Society award (1950); J. D. Rockefeller III Fellowship (1964-65); and Padma Shri from The Government of India (1971). He won the top honor at the Young Asian Artists' Exhibition in Tokyo (1957).
It is interesting to peep into the processes and philosophy of one of India’s legendary artists of his era. Vasudeo S. Gaitonde transformed basic elements into carriers of spiritual introspection that turned his works into mystifying masterpieces. The reclusive artist did not relish the limelight and banished everything he considered irrelevant to his identity and passion as a painter.

A world-renowned artist couple of India

  • Subodh Gupta has been greatly fascinated by ubiquitous stainless steel utensils used in Indian kitchens. He belongs to the new generation of artists who study and project the Indian identity on a global level. The mass-produced utensils like Steel lunch boxes or thali pans used in rural parts of India have played a major role in his creative processes. These utility objects project an ambiguous symbolism: whilst they are used in most households daily, they are seen as exotic and representative of the country’s culture in the West.
  • Emblematic of the proletariat’s soaring aspirations, the unique path India has been following towards globalization, and the distinct place it now enjoys in the contemporary world, the ubiquitous items tend to take on a new connation in his canvases. He harnesses these hybrid associations, allowing them to quietly resonate in the viewers’ mind.
  • On the other hand, Bharti Kher’s practice revolves around pangs of dislocation and transience, involving an autobiographical examination of identity. The evocative, deeply personal and layered images explore issues of tradition, identity and multiplicity. Her unique perspective and approach facilitates an outsider’s ethnographic observation of urban India - class and consumerist streaks - adding a new dimension to it.
  • Part of her immense international appeal is probably the highly developed sense of narrative, she exudes as an artist. While addressing a number of sensitive issues like class and consumerism, she draws on her personal experiences to reflect on these. The artist is known for her appropriation of the motif of bindi, a red dot on the forehead of married women in India, looked at as a curious fashion accessory in the West.
  • Using the bindi as her leitmotif, she spins engaging narratives via the exploration of personal space, identity and consumerism confronting traditional Indian society. The tiny red decorative dot with ritualistic significance serves as a means of transforming surfaces and objects. It brings to her practice a wide range of connotations and meanings in context of both historical and contemporary time frames.

Deciphering distinctive vocabulary of VS Gaitonde

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924–2001) formed his own distinctive vocabulary, leaving behind a profound influence on the generation of painters to follow. Infinite in their binding spirit and immense deliberations, his captivating visions and intensely poignant images gripped the viewer’s imagination.

After traveling New York in 1964, he was exposed to trends in American post-war art. This was when he started using a roller and palette knife, doing away with a brush. Revealing his mindset as a painter, he had once succinctly remarked: 'A painting is simply a painting - a play of light and color...Each (painting) is a seed that germinates in the next one. It’s not limited to one canvas. I go on adding elements and that's how my work evolves.”

It was a kind of never-ending metamorphosis in a canvas, extending onto the next one. As a whole, the captivating canvases displayed spiritual quality and characteristic silence – meditative, eternal and momentous, evoking subliminal depths of emotions. His paintings, invariably constructed with intricate layers of texture and color, were built around minimalist compositions.

They reflected his quiet vision of the vast universe, as he carried on with an almost ‘Zen-like’ restraint and resoluteness. We are referring to a master artist, who almost singlehandedly pioneered and established non-objective style of painting in modern Indian art.

His work has been prominently featured in a series of prestigious group shows at Metropolitan Pavilion, New York (2001); ‘Millennium Show’, Nehru Centre, Mumbai (2000); Singapore Art Museum (1997); Fine Art Resource, Berlin (1997); Gallery Le Monde de l’ Art, Paris (1994); Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1988); Geneva, Switzerland (1986); Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C; MOMA, Oxford, UK; Royal Academy of Arts, London (1982), Northampton Museum, UK (1960); ‘Young Asian Artists’, Tokyo (1957), among others like Deuxieme Biennale International de Menton, France (1974).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Works by Tushar Joag at The Guild show

Tushar Joag terms himself a public intervention-artist, who employs a captivating combination of satire with an acute sense of the ecosystem within which his chosen subjects – the objects both man made and organic - participate. Fiction, fantasy and fabrication abound in his work but also underscore the appropriated mythologies that lend themselves to molded formulation.

An accompanying essay by Renuka Sawhney elaborates: “He draws from comic book figures (superheroes), from the farce of authority (postboxes), from practical concerns to quixotic ones (Shanghai Couch), but more often than not they come together to form composites unconfined by the outer edges of the possible.”

In ‘Pests’, one of his works on view at The Guild, as part of a new group show, he creates a fantasy, which plays with reality in such a manner that the former can easily be taken for the latter, but which also tends to recall visually the vision of filmmaker/director, Guillermo Del Toro mixed in with a healthy dose of farce. As the essay points out: “Bulldozers with wings populate the skyline, humming one thinks, in anticipation of the planned bulldozing of the building at center of the image, which for its part is trying in vain to escape. The skyline of Mumbai in the background flickers between the leaves and flowers that cover the base of the building in the foreground.

“The building façade forms a face with its balcony acting as a stretched out mouth, and Mickey Mouse ears cap off its roof. The addition of Mickey Mouse ears to the face of the building recalls the world of Disney which, in the words of John Berger, ‘is charged with vain violence. The catastrophe in this case: its demolition.

“The tilting tower –at the other end of the building, turns into a symbol of the ineptitude of construction, echoing the tower of Pisa, and more specifically the older (Victorian) construction that is particular to the architecture of pre-independence Mumbai. New construction looms in the background. The building balances itself on its two hind feet, which in this case, seem to be taken from the feet of the four lions of the Ashoka Stambh.”

Facets of engaging works by Prajakta Potnis

If the works of Sumedh Rajendran and Tushar Joag, as essayist Renuka Sawhney mentions (‘A Floating Object - The Guild Collection – Series I – 2012’ at The Guild, Mumbai) , indicate an awareness in the inorganic, a playfulness, and a willingness of the inorganic, the manmade - to conjoin with the organic, where the conflict is oft times, not couched in overtly antagonistic terms yet has wider implications that stem from without rather than from within the organic - in Prajakta Potnis’ works there is no escaping the implication of the contact between the organic and the inorganic.

The three postulate together, the transference of consciousness from organic matter to inorganic matter that is physical and material, the ordered organic and the unexpected eruptive/disruptive fractures of unstoppable mutations/growth, and the absurdity and inevitability of such mutations.   

There is clearly a brooding quality to the still life photographs by Prajakta Potnis. In a confined space, we are given access to the private life of a vegetable while it ruminates its mortality. The frame of the still life – the inside of a refrigerator - partially darkened, serves as a room, a private space - while the subjects of the still life – a cauliflower, groups of tomatoes - form portraits. 

But there is a duality inherent, as Renuka Sawhney underlines, in the shelf life of a vegetable in a refrigerator and the growth of other bodies (organic) that attach themselves to the vegetable as it sits in hibernation. The time element between portraiture (eternal) conflicts with that of a living thing (transient) within a space intended as a tomb. Amidst these frictions, the irrepressibility of growth in whatever form (seeping, crawling, gestating and perhaps encroaching) becomes a nefarious action; a hidden act of survival in mutated form.

In the artist’s case, the battleground is a private affair carried out within the confines of the organic body, where the action occurs in terms of change and violence within the body, at a microscopic level, rather like the faces of George Condo’s portraits, where the interaction between subject and environment entombs itself on the face of the subject by way of organic growth that is just below the skin, pulling the face in a grotesque parody of court jesters. It’s the growth reaction that sets off a melancholy in the environment, as Renuka Sawhney rightfully highlights.

Deciphering Sumedh Rajendran artistic realm

Sumedh Rajendran’s works  tend to exude a fluid,  sensuous yet a rather jarring version of reality quite at odds with itself –isolated and multifarious- playing on space, open yet well within the confines of form, with the absence of an obvious grounding element, instead indicated by the malleability and fluidityof the materials used. In his sculptures and collages , form creates - even as it morphs with the inorganic - a fluidity that is indeed powerful though precarious. Sculptures fabricated within collages or mounted on the wall attest to the fragility of form in space.

The gaps between each material, whether of white background space – usually a wall - or in the case of free standing sculptures, are the breathing nodes of his works. It is through these nodes that his works speak of the incongruence of the objects he assembles, as well as the weight of the material they are fabricated in. His figures are weighted forward and backward to others. They are melded together to sometimes lean on each other. All this occurs without a firm back grounding, and this particular mode activates the space around these figures.

It activates a longing for support, alongside the subtle fear of falling over, but more importantly it activates in return the figures and objects. In this particular work, Sumedh Rajendran activates the space by creating a distant horizon, a looming set of mountains across whose plane the figure of the man and dog, conjoined together are placed at center. The figures are linked to the mountains in the distance by a winding thin line of road.

In one of his essays, Ranjit Hoskote has stated, “The objects assembled together to form ‘Final Call’ , although they are developed around the friction between incongruous entities fused together, are deliberately engineered: they are signs of the complex and interdependent life that this planet leads, where every participant in the existential process likely imperil every other.”

It’s the absurdity and the incongruence of the objects used and the material that catches our imagination. Rather than illustrating a specific idea, its function is to startle us with the authenticity of the actions inherent in the associations between material, object and space, and the depth of the artistic images formed.

(Courtesy: An essay by Renuka Sawhney to ‘A Floating Object - The Guild Collection – Series I – 2012’ at The Guild, Mumbai)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Art a good place to put money?

Painting the global art market ‘miracle’ in glowing colors, Mike Collett-White of The Reuters mentioned in a recent report: “The appetite for the most precious treasures is there for all to see. The value of private deals is even more staggering. At a time of recession, euro zone crisis, financial markets uncertainty and stagnating growth, art prices can be mind-boggling.

Yet major auction houses are relying on a growing segment of super-rich collectors London to New York and from Beijing to Moscow who view paintings as status symbols, objects of beauty, or investment tools - or a captivating combination of all three. When returns in other investments are so meagre, experts say art is as good a place as any to put your precious money. Individual collectors aside, another major factor behind the boom has been institutional buyers, most notably the Middle East and in particular Qatar, stocking up on art.

The European Fine Art Foundation valued the art market at 46.1 billion euros in 2011, up 63 percent from 2009 when it slumped. Areas of it are mostly driven by a finite supply of great objects, which will always be looked for and hence, at the top end, the prices will only get greater," stated an expert.

In another news report, The Asian Age writer Nivi Shrivastava stated: “Indian art enjoyed its best time some years ago. But post the global meltdown, appreciation for all the finer things in life, including the Husains and Razas was also affected. With the gloom persisting, there have been a few attempts to help art appreciation at least.

To sum it up, when returns in other investment classes are unsatisfactory, experts assert that art is as good a place as any to park your precious resources. However, this is not a market for those looking to make quick money, but ideal for committed collectors, willing to wait for longer term.

Not a scenario ripe for quick gains  

Top market players are focusing on quality in order to target discerning buyers. However, this is not a market for those looking to make quick money, but ideal for committed collectors, ready to pick precise works at attractive prices. Here’s a quick round-up of the art scene as recently reported by top news publications and agencies:

Heena Khan of The Business Line underlined the fact that in spite of poor economic growth and faltering stock markets globally, art markets remain buoyant. The resistance offered by them to the fiscal crisis can be attributed to the phenomenal rise of the Asian art market. In 2008, when the investment-driven art market crashed, 70 per cent of the Indian art market was led by contemporaries and only 30 per cent by masters. Now, it’s 90 percent masters. Also, what we’ve at present is a slowdown where people can plan their purchase. Art is a limited edition product. It is a buyer’s market, so it is bound to appreciate,” quipped Ajay Seth of Copal Art.

For Tunty Chauhan of gallery Threshold, the bygone phase was an aberration, but the current dull stage is a corrective measure. “It will eventually churn out quality work. And artworks won’t be selling purely on the basis of names,” the gallerist was recently quoted as saying.

So what are the factors that will draw collectors and investors to Indian art? Apart from the investment angle, in sheer aesthetic and thematic terms, Indian art is drawing the global attention. Economic growth and urbanization coupled with the increasing intervention of cutting-edge technologies have dramatically altered India’s socio-economic landscape over the last couple of decades.

Socially sensitive, talented contemporary artists highlight this irony through their practice placed in a global context.  Their themes are intimately linked with the local ethos and they tactfully assess the impact of globalization and other pressure points for drastic change in a society still heavily reliant on tradition.

Is art market gaining momentum?

Despite adverse global conditions, the Indian and international art auction scene gradually gathered momentum, to maintain its positive bias thus far in 2012. Here is a quick recap of two recent media reports that highlight this aspect:

A new generation of buyers emerging!
  • A sort of ‘curious dichotomy’ has gripped the auction market, marked by a sudden boom in sales art at record prices even as global economies, including those in the US, Europe and India register a slump in growth, observed The IANS news report, pointing to a new generation of buyers showing interest in art and auctions. “It’s opening up their purse strings to acquire rare and high quality artworks.
  • A quality consciousness seldom seen before is driving auction markets worldwide even as new segments of buyers - private archives and collectors - have emerged,” it added. According to Christie's international director (Asian Art), Hugo Weihe, the collector base for South Asian is gradually expanding.
  • The phenomenon is an outcome of the caution exercised by buyers after the price bubble burst, after the economic slowdown in 2008. The old masters, modernists as well as contemporary pioneers continue to command steady prices in the art auction market that is still ruled by masters like Tyeb Mehta, Raza, Souza, Manjit Bawa, MF Husain, Ram Kumar, Anjolie Ela Menon etc and legends like the Tagore brothers, Jamini Roy, and Nanadalal Bose.

  • Georgina Maddox mentioned in The India Today report that the first auction of this monsoon season had some interesting results, referring to outcome of Asta Guru Modern Indian Art, the Mumbai-based online art auction house. It indicated a few interesting trends, including a new record set for the renowned Bengal School modern artist, Hemen Mazumdar (Rs 5.3 million for ‘After Bath’, an oil-on-canvas).
  • However, it was the late Tyeb Mehta's Untitled work, (oil-on-canvas; 1969), which easily led the pack; it went for Rs 3 crore. Veteran artist S.H. Raza followed him, his ‘Akriti-Prakriti’ (oil-on-canvas; 1997), fetching Rs 2 crore. The news report elaborated, ”The second interesting fact is that a new record was established for Hemen Mazumdar (1894-1948).
  • "This is a good price for Mazumdar's work and it indicates that tastes are moving more towards old masters and classically beautiful works, People don't want to put up paintings of skeletons and grief in their living room," Vickram Sethi, the director of Asta Guru Modern Indian Art, was quoted as saying.

A close link that the art and corporate world share

There are corporate entities that use art for the purpose of flaunting their wealth. The former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, often boasted about the David Hockney in his plush office. Sometimes, artworks are used for enlivening the drab work environment.

Art insurer and collector Robert Korzinek wants the office premises to have a stimulating environment. This is achieved with a trove of contemporary artworks by Grayson Perry, Gavin Turk and others. The aim is to stimulate staff, and the guests.

On the other hand, industrialist Alexander Orlow adorned the lifeless walls of his factory in the Netherlands with cheerful abstract works, inspired by ‘joie de vivre’, to encourage his workers. This was almost half a century ago. Later, British American Tobacco took control of the firm and shut the factory. BAT sold over 160 of the works this March at auction for more than 13.5 million euros.

It was in the 1970s that Deutsche Bank of Germany started collecting art. The bank now has a trove of over 56,000 works, by artists like Joseph Beuys, Nan Goldin, Jeff Koons, Lucian Freud, and Henri Matisse. These paintings are proudly displayed on the main office walls across branches in close to 50 countries.

In this context, an interesting new report ‘Will tough times trigger corporate art selloff?’ by AP writer Jill Lawless had tried to establish the link between the art and corporate world – both in good and bad times. According to the writer, corporations collect and invest in art for various reasons. Turning a profit is perhaps the least important of this. Some major companies like to see backing talented artists as a way of fulfilling corporate social responsibility, or philanthropy purpose - artworks can be lent to galleries and museums for special shows. However, with things turning gloomy, many businesses are turning to art to keep afloat.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Figuring abstraction in Indian art

‘Approaching Abstraction’, a new major group show of Indian art at the Rubin Museum, puts a peculiar Eastern phenomenon in a Western mold. It doesn’t work always, but there’s still much to be learnt from this effort. It will help to let go of the Euro-American thought that abstraction is a sheer formal phenomenon; in fact, it can also act as a rupture in narrative in Indian modernism.

The show is the 2nd in a series of three consecutive exhibits on the stream of Indian modernism, especially of the postcolonial period. One among them, ‘The Body Unbound’ closed in April 2012. It focused primarily on the years after India’s independence, in 1947. The show included mainly figurative art. 

However, the current exhibit takes us into the 1960s and ’70s. It finds Indian painters selectively albeit gradually moving away from the defining figure, on canvas and, at times, in experiments with the medium of film, through strings of some loosely connected images - not exactly nonrepresentational but, perhaps having been severed from their seemingly original contexts. One can state, this certainly break with more traditional Indian art.

Quite a few of the artists on view started their careers primarily as figurative painters; For instance, V. S. Gaitonde gradually cut down on the human presence in his artworks to just a set of black stick figures peeping on a horizon (as can be seen in a loan from the MOMA) and then entirely did away with it, ultimately. The overall transition to abstraction from figuration though, is not presented as a mere linear progression, something we’re more familiar with from Western art.

Outwardly, the installation, organized by a curator for the Rubin Museum, Beth Citron, can feel choppy. There are works that hang in 13 clusters of one or two artists each, on walls that are painted in a bevy of curiously contrasting colors. They are featured under subtitles, such as ‘Formalist Abstraction’, ‘Abstracting the Everyday’, and Lyrical Abstraction’.

The visual rendering of an artist’s nostalgic diary

  • Artist Paula Sengupta’s family migrated to West Bengal India in 1947 against the blood-filled backdrop of Partition, India and Pakistan were born as two separate nations. Consequently, a third nation was born after yet another battle of liberation – Bangladesh, in 1971.
  • The artist recounts: “My parents (and I realized mine) ancestral homes lie in what is today Bangladesh - my father's in the village of Batisha, perilously close to the border with the Indian state of Tripura; my mother's in the village of Kalia, a small distance from the Benapole border with Kolkata. Kalia appeared to still be a predominantly Hindu village.
  • "The ruins of many grand homes still remain as testimony to the glory that the village had once seen. The house in Kalia was left to the care of an old family retainer at the time of Partition. For three consecutive years after that, some members of the family continued to return annually for the Durga Puja. It was finally abandoned when the village Muslims broke in and disrupted the ceremonies. The family was allowed to bring nothing from the homestead.
  • “In January 2008, then in my fortieth year, I crossed the border to Bangladesh for the first time. I experienced an odd sense of alienation and belonging all at once, and an irrepressible desire to return. I returned in June the same year, traversing this incredibly beautiful and troubled nation from Chittagong to Benapole, as the summer turned to monsoon and the magnificent rivers rose in spate even as I crossed them.”
  • Her ‘Rivers of Blood’ at Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road was the visual rendering of a diary that the artist wrote documenting her travels through Bangladesh - the story of countless families displaced by the Partition, perhaps the single most significant event in the history of the Indian Subcontinent. To render this diary, she appropriated the nakshi kantha, a quilting tradition from Bangladesh. She initially simulated the style in the drawing and etching mediums, but later turned to embroidering on found Colonial textiles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

‘Signs & Symbols’ and “Space Light Art - A Film Environment’

Drawn from the comprehensive holdings of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, and photographs in possession of the Whitney Museum of American Art, ‘Signs & Symbols’ sheds interesting new light on the development and evolution of American abstraction during the extremely critical postwar period of the mid-1940s until the end of the 1950s.

An accompanying note elaborates: “Many artists active in this period often overlooked - Will Barnet, Charles Seliger, Mark Tobey, and Forrest Bess, among others - developed abstract works that remain distinct from many of the concerns that were associated with the canonized Abstract Expressionists, incorporating large-scale canvases as well as gestural brushwork.

Instead, as the write-up adds, the exhibit has on offer a more nuanced narrative, which is focused on the figurative and calligraphic ‘signs and symbols’ evident in much of the highly controlled artworks from this time period and included in the show. In many of the cases, the inspiration was drawn from specifically American sources, seeking to foster a national aesthetic quite distinct from European Surrealism and even Cubism.

These investigations formed a key foundation for a following generation of artists - including Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns - who later chose to incorporate highly individualized systems of signs into their work while sticking to distinctly American subject matter. ‘Signs & Symbols’ is organized by Donna De Salvo, the museum’s chief curator.

Simultaneously, another ongoing show includes one of the first multimedia projections made: ‘Oskar Fischinger’s Raumlichtkunst (Space Light Art)’, a re-creation of his multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and recently restored Los Angeles-based Center for Visual Music. Radical in format, its display of abstract shapes and colors produces, according to Fischinger, ‘an intoxication by light from a thousand sources.’ Another exhibition to watch out for at the museum is Yayoi Kusama’s depictions of seemingly endless space, a focal point of her artistic career.

Her ‘Fireflies on the Water’ (2002)- with its carefully constructed environment of lights, mirrors, and water - is a great example of this kind of installation, a work in the Whitney’s collection, is being shown through September 30, 2012.

Is India becoming a focus point for the international art market?

Indian art is collected primarily by western art collectors/ institutions and at local level, Peter Sumner, the Indian art specialist at Phillips de Pury, had rightly observed. He stated: “There are talented and young artists who have strongly established themselves on the international art scene. Their appeal lies in their unique ability to document the socio-economic changes in the modern ‘globalized' India.”

For example, in ‘Untitled Eclipse' put up for sale at BRIC sales, Jitish Kallat created a billboard sized canvas reminiscent of the ad billboards in the major Indian cities. The orange sunrays offered the backdrop to smiling children, to point out the way to a bright future for India's new generation. Though malnourished, their smiles betray a darker existence, a reality in which they are unlikely to benefit from the social and economic progress, only widening schism between the rich and poor.

On the other hand, Subodh Gupta in his work transforms everyday objects into recognizable trademarks, which reflect the great changes taking place in India today. It’s this pointed social commentary collectors and buyers identify with, relate to and recognize. Apparently, the market is now getting more discerning. Masterpieces and quality works have grown in demand, reaching high values thanks to the growing affluent Indian middle class. There is a better appreciation of art among new breed of collectors. In effect, buyers are looking to acquire works more from a collection point of view than sheer investment purpose.

Explaining the extent to which the market for contemporary Indian art has grown and whether it has lived up to expectations and the hype, Peter Sumner had revealed: "After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations. Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, Europe, the UK, and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick grasp of the Indian art market scene

Most market participants expect a positive development in the second half of 2012, indicating the overall optimism that prevails in the Indian art market. Here’s a quick grasp of the Indian art market scene
  • As has been rightfully observed, it's the Asian artists and buyers that are keeping the international art market afloat. Fueled by the strong economic parameters, the growth in this dynamic region has been accompanied by an increasing interest in more traditional Indian art forms, as well as the continual growth of modern and contemporary art, mentions a recent report in The Independent, UK.
  • In fact, 2011-12 has proved to be a satisfying phase on the auction front for Indian art, despite the prevailing pessimism. Leading players focused on quality works, to target the more discerning buyers/ collectors. There is a rising international attraction and appreciation for the quality works of Indian and South East Asian artists.
  • According to art market experts, demand from Asia continues to lead the global recovery of the auction market and to drive the growth.' Experienced market players are focusing on quality works in order to target the discerning buyers’ category. Incidentally, most top lots at prominent sales are dominated by traditional and modern art.
  • Top quality art with stellar provenance and in good condition finds buyers in India and world-over.  Artists with strong international backing and visibility like Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta seem to have greater scope and speed of recovery.
  • Progressive modernists, such as FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Raza and Husain are also witnessing good demand. The depleting number of senior artists after the demise of Jehangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain and Sohan Qadri - is prompting the slow ascent of a second generation of talented young contemporary artists, mentioned an interesting IANS news report.
  • With prices having reached attractive levels and with the economy set to grow faster than the western economies, providing an impetus to stable and tangible asset classes, now is a perfect time to get into contemporary Indian art.

What is the driving point for market: art or commerce?

As art forms have gradually diversified - video art, photography, performance art, and installations - so have their locations and audiences, mentioned a recent insightful and interesting editorial piece in The Times of India publication. While, discussing whether the blurring of line between art and commerce is justified, it made the following points:

The contemporary Indian art market has transformed beyond recognition in the last decade. Gone are the days when artists would dig a lonely furrow, or scan an uncertain future, scouting around for patrons and money. Today, India's vibrant art world is ready to compete with the best in the international arena. That's because commercialization and branding have acted as catalysts for creativity.

Globalization of the art market has propelled our artists on to the international stage. Exhibited and sold in foreign markets, their clientele has widened in an internationalized art collection scene. Their works find takers in top galleries and auction houses, alongside items from emerging economies like Brazil or China. In this exciting background, artists like T V Santhosh, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat or Subodh Gupta have transgressed artistic boundaries, experimenting with forms as well as material.

In India, exhibitions and fairs have taken art out of museums and to the masses. Breaking down barriers between 'high' and 'low' art, such events have popularized art among the general public. Once seen as esoteric, the art world's being opened up and democratized. The culture of acquiring artwork too is no longer limited to the privileged few. Moreover, even tribal art and artisanal traditions have gained from the push of commercialization, which has brought them to the attention of appreciative buyers. Why, then, view art and commerce as mutually exclusive?

With affordability being the bottom line in a volatile market marked by extreme swings in the last few years, once viewed as a dilettante's passion or an elitist fad – contemporary Indian art is now firmly entrenched in the popular imagination.

MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta

Karen Rosenberg of  The New York Times  has done an exhaustive review of the Indian art group show at The Rubin Museum of Art. Here’s a quick glance at the way he portrays MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta:

Three of the artists - MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta - are each represented at the Rubin by a painting and a short film. Generally the films outshine the paintings, though prolific artists like Husain are not well served by a single canvas.

M. F. Husain (1915-2011), one of the most celebrated modern Indian artists, has a more lighthearted way with film in ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’, which won a Golden Bear Award when it was presented at the Berlin Film Festival in 1968. It opens with Husain, brush in hand, introducing the film as a set of “unrelated moving visuals juxtaposed to create a total form, a total poetic form, very integrated.”

The camera then darts impulsively through the Rajasthani landscape, taking in palatial architecture, river bathers, schoolchildren and curiosities like an open umbrella marooned on a rocky cliff. The film is a peripatetic experience in a similarly peripatetic show, which could have benefited from some more historical context. As it is, you will need to venture into the reading room or consult the timeline on the Rubin’s website.

Line has a different function in a painting by Tyeb Mehta, part of a late-1960s series in which strong diagonals cut across the canvas and through flattened figures in an explicit reference to Partition. It’s a dynamic, unsettling work, and Mr. Mehta’s film “Koodal” is even better; with its cows headed for slaughter, crowds massing at Gandhi’s funeral, and the gyrations of a self-flagellating dancer, it will leave you off-balance.

Akbar Padamsee’s 1964 painting ‘Untitled (Bird in Landscape)’, with its deadeningly repetitive use of the palette knife, does not excite. But his animated film ‘Syzygy’ (1968-69), made with the help of a fellowship from an Indian foundation, finds an enlightened middle ground between math and art. As tightly constructed as a proof, it first lays out his principles of abstraction in a sequence of graphs and charts and then furnishes numerous examples in the form of elegant, Mondrianesque line drawings.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vijay Shinde’s transcendental journey of abstracts

A new solo show, revolving around the mystical theme of 'PRAKRUTI' by artist Vijay Shinde takes place at Mumbai-based Tao Art Gallery.

Elaborating on the theme, an accompanying note states, “What prompts him to do abstracts is the mystic element involved in them, and the subtle sense of expression and the intriguing relationship that he can establish with the space on canvas through abstracts. Born in Kurduwadi, Maharashtra. Studied arts in J. J. School of Arts, during academic days, Vijay Shinde was strongly influenced by Paul Klee, he is also influenced by M. F. Husain and has shared space with him. Vijay considers him as his guru.”

The artist’s new series of work is mostly executed and mounted in a diptych format. The pattern by which Nature/Prakruti is represented is part of a comprehensive vision of emergence and evanescence. Pain and joy are not discrete or mutually independent sensations.

They are occurrences that are transcended in a concept of transition, at once keen and congruent. Shinde does not distinguish between inner and outer Nature, between the environment as the physical world out there and the mental image of that environment within each and every individual. It is the tension, the transition, the exchange, and the resonance between these two modalities that energize and define our reality, the essay reveals. “The key agent in this exchange of energies is the image, and this space between is precisely the place in which Shinde’s work operates.”

Summing up the spirit of his new series, Vijay Shinde mentions: “Our whole culture is based on a dualistic, exclusive, adversarial approach. Some say the intellect is superior human function, others say we are emotional beings. For me, however, the point is to try to connect these two essential elements so that they are put in balance, such that one doesn’t dominate the other.’ The viewers who come in to experience the work have to receive it with their whole body, not just with their intellect or not just with their eyes and that they will do so whether they are conscious about it or not.”

The exhibition continues till 21 August 2012.

Rubin Museum hosts Indian art in a group show

A few of other artists who feature in the group show, entitled ‘Approaching Abstraction’ at Rubin Museum are mostly those who have been known to been outside India, their home country. They are attached to some of the Western art movements, which is understandable.

Two of these, Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina Hashmi are renowned Minimalists. The former studied in London in the 1950s, whereas Ms. Hashmi has settled in New York since the late ’70s.  Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings on graph paper deftly work against the grid, with slanted lines of differing weights and lengths.

White-on-white relief prints by her, threaded with silk cord, are perhaps not as abstract in overall approach. Yet they create a sort of loop wherein both paper and string get endlessly self-referential. Another work seems like a spool, whereas one more much like an envelope.

Few of the artists in this show seem to quietly engage Indian culture or spirituality at least on the surface. The paintings done by G. R. Santosh and Biren might be one exception to this. Both are identified as ‘neo-tantra’: there are luminous, interlocked forms that signify the union of male and female form, whether in embryonic cells’ clusters or some barely abstracted images of coitus.

“Radical Terrain,” the third installment in the museum’s series, centers on the post-independence landscape and is due in November. Unlike the first two shows it will include some contemporary artists who are not of Indian descent.

In the meantime this show argues for a comprehensive look at Indian modernism (as opposed to just surveys of Indian contemporary art, which seem to have proliferated along with talk of emerging markets). Such an undertaking might include more film and more history, and a little less Western art jargon.

To judge from this group show, modernism in India seems most ‘modern’ in content and form when it opts to take the form of film, specifically those made in the 1960s. This was when the National Films Division (NFD) in India as well as other private foundations offered grants to some of the talented painters in the country.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two celebrated artists and their creative sojourn together

  • Indian cataclysms have shaped Atul Dodiya’s work and so the explicitly political concerns without, descending into social realism, as an essay in International Herald Tribune mentions, turning the spotlight on his wife, Anju Dodiya, whose ‘quiet, sometimes whimsical play on the self- portrait seems to eschew the noise of the city’.
  • Tracing their journey, The International Herald Tribune writer Somini Sengupta, had mentioned: “The couple, who met in art school here 20 years ago, are among a generation of contemporary Indian artists who chronicle the gestalt of an India on the boil, offering both mirror and commentary on issues ranging from its exuberant economy to the kitsch and disquiet of its daily life. If she burrows into the private, Atul Dodiya questions the blurred line between public and private. The shutter paintings are sometimes deeply private on the outside, loud and boisterous on the inside.” 
  • He often quotes from the recesses of both Indian and Western art traditions. The history and culture of his home country plays a significant role in constructing the barrage of images that inform his oeuvre. A multitude of references populate the works, pointing to their vast preoccupations that encompass a whole range of issues.
  • His canvases embrace issues ranging from exuberant Indian economy to the garish kitsch and disturbing disquiet of daily life. Driven by intellect, intensity and ideas, he continues to experiment with many forms. The artist’s striking imagery has invariably been packed with a stirring swirl of motifs: Bollywood, film stars, political icons, Hindu mythology characters, and so on.
  • Anju Dodiya’s practice, rooted in the figurative and immersed in Oriental traditions, incorporates images as a vehicle of storytelling. Figures tend to appear in isolation or besides a few props. Ground is only indicated by the weight implied in the exaggerated folds of the voluminous garments worn by the characters, and also by possible distortions of perspective. Figures are depicted in exaggerated movements and their balance is unstable, being always in motion.

A successful creative partnership

Figures on captivating albeit complex canvases of artist Anju Dodiya are also very expressive, suggesting a diverse range of feelings. When they wear masks, her characters underline ideas of role playing, narrative and intention beyond aesthetic accomplishment.

Her keenness to experiment and challenge the conventional was evident in a superb site-specific installation at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodora. In her lavish ‘Throne of Frost’, minimalist charcoal and watercolors contrasted with the usage of richly textured fabric, succinctly capturing the opposing forces of power and destruction, wealth and decay. The palace inspired her images like a woman weighed down by an embellished box and a lonesome king.”

On the other hand, those intrinsic, albeit ignored uniqueness of humdrum shop shutters first inspired Atul Dodiya for his works at Tate Modern’s ‘Century City’ show, more than a decade ago. The painter then worked on laminate board and the roller shutters. Evoking the jostling imagery of Mumbai’s streets, he mixed autobiographical portraits with those of well-known Indian personalities.

The talented and socially sensitive artist’s canvases allude to everything - from the eccentric everyday India to high art elements from all over. They embrace issues ranging from exuberant Indian economy to the garish kitsch and disturbing disquiet of daily life. Indian cataclysms have shaped his work and so the explicitly political concerns without, descending into social realism. The striking imagery has invariably been packed with a stirring swirl of motifs: Bollywood, film stars, political icons, Hindu mythology characters, and so on.

How does the couple jell as artists? Providing the answer, Gayatri Rangachari Shah of The New York Times points out, “Though they are often compared to each other, Mr. Dodiya and Ms. Dodiya also tackle their work differently; she has a focused and linear creative process, whereas the former bundles myriad references in quick bursts of energy.

"They say criticism and feedback from their spouses is vital to their practices. “In the final analysis, we are lucky because artists want to talk, with total understanding, strong support at home — and who better than your spouse as your first trustworthy viewer?” as Atul Dodiya quips.

Atul and Anju Dodiya

Atul Dodiya’s practice alludes to everything - from the eccentric everyday India to high art elements from all over. Launching his career with a rather straightforward and cleverly deadpan realist approach, he switched to the fragmented and multi-layered approach from the literal one in the mid-90s.

Conscious of history and its moorings, Atul Dodiya’s rich oeuvre sharply reflects his deep knowledge about past and the present - immediate surroundings, the turn of events and relevance of ancient religious traditions.  His vivacious albeit impactful visual commentaries on what vexes his home country incorporate all the ubiquities that can be easily found around.  A widely acknowledged leader of his generation of artists, he tends not to be attached to any signature style, a specific medium, or a singular cultural reference.

Part of his potent pictorial language can be attributed to his to adoption and usage of the vocabulary of Western contemporary art.  Edward Hopper and Jasper Johns, Mondrian and Robert Rauschenberg have been among his earliest artistic influences. Deeply touched by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and conscious of historical perspectives, he tries to re-contextualize his message through his paintings.

Anju Dodiya, on the other hand, is an accomplished watercolorist, who likes to describe her art as originating from ‘an intense inner world, often celebrating the tragic.” It tends to follow a sort of prescribed practice. The self is often at the center of her practice that looks to explore various possibilities within it.

Her references emanate from the realms of literature, cinema, fashion, and so on, but invariably with a marked tinge of self reference. She is also influenced by Persian and Indian miniatures, European tapestries from the Middle Ages, Renaissance Art, Classical Chinese and Japanese Painting, and different modern and contemporary artists, such as Antonin Artaud, Robert Rauschenberg and Francesco Clemente.

Rather than creating pastiches with images and ideas from all these sources, she uses them, as well as stories from different literary and mythological narratives, and, of course, her own fantasies, to explore issues of identity and self-examination.