Sunday, September 30, 2012

Creating dynamic art with popular digital technologies

Over the past decade or so, Wade Guyton has emerged as a pioneer of groundbreaking works, which explore our changing relationships to artworks and images through the usage of popular digital technologies like the desktop computer, scanner, and inkjet printer. The artist’s misuse, rather purposeful, of these tools to make drawings and paintings leads to beautiful accidents, which relate to day-to-day lives often punctuated by blurred images and misprinted photos on our computer screens and phone.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is now hosting a show, entitled ‘Wade Guyton OS’. Here, OS standing for operating system. Comprising more than eighty works dating from 1999 to the present, it’s the first ever midcareer survey of this New York–based artist. It features a non-chronological design in which the viewer is confronted by staggered rows of parallel walls like a book’s layered pages or stacked windows on a ubiquitous monitor.

On the eve of his show, the artist said in an interview that he never really relished the idea of art classes or drawing. He was brought up in a small place in Tennessee and would prefer to play video games or be seated in front of television.  About a decade ago, he could not find a dealer and hardly anyone paid serious attention to his art. Now the artist is represented by Chelsea-based Friedrich Petzel Gallery, and has renowned collectors keen to buy his artworks, many of which are in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, to name a few.

The exhibit comprises paintings, drawings, sculpture, and photography. It concludes with a couple of spectacular canvases that stretch up to 50ft, He has created them specifically for the Marcel Breuer–designed building of Whitney. The title, ‘Wade Guyton OS’, uses a computer operating system’ common acronym, linking his art to the latest technologies of this ear.

The Whitney Museum of American Art showcase a wide range of twentieth-century as well as contemporary art, with a focus on the living artists’ works. The Whitney collects, preserves and interprets high quality art.

Ravi Agarwal at ‘Newtopia’

Thematic and thought provoking ‘Newtopia’ examines a rich variety of artistic responses in relation to the basic tenets of human rights and provides insight into the complexity and breadth of the subject and how it is bound to a myriad of social, political, economic, cultural, personal and collective issues.

The exhibition, which features four thematic chapters and solo projects is curated by Katerina Gregos. Among the Indian representation Ravi Agarwal is an artist, environmental activist, writer and curator, working with photography, video and installation. His work probes questions of nature, work, and environmental sustainability.

His earlier work, in the documentary format, encompasses nature, labor and the streets, while more recent work has been traversing questions of the self and ecological sustainability based on explorations of personal ecology. He now mostly works with photography, video and installation to often explore the conditions under which people live and work in the "informal" sector of the Indian economy, exposing the consequences, many of them unseen, for the natural environment.

The artist highlights the fact that our shortsighted misuse of the planet and its resources stems from the way we separate our ‘selves’ from nature. Agarwal is also the founder of Toxics Link, a platform for national information exchange on dealing with environmental toxins and finding sustainable alternatives to their use.

Among his major solo exhibitions are ‘Of Value and Labour’, The Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai (2011); ‘Flux: dystopia, utopia, heterotopia’, Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2010/1); ‘An Other Place’, Gallery Espace, Delhi (2008).

His recent group exhibitions include ‘Critical Mass. Contemporary Art from India’, Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv (2012); ‘The Eye is a Lonely Hunter: Images of Human Kind’, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, and Grimmuseum, Berlin (2011/2); ‘Where Three Dreams Cross’, Whitechapel Gallery, London and Winterthur Fotomuseum (2010); ‘Indian Highway’, Serpentine Gallery, London, Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, Herning Museum, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Lyon, MAXXI, Rome, and Ullens, Beijing (2008-12); ‘Still/Moving Image’, Devi Art Foundation (2008); Documenta XI, Kassel (2002).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

An international exhibition of South Asian art

Govett-Brewster based in New Plymouth brings to fore the vitality and dynamism, breadth and depth of new art from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India in its ground-breaking all-gallery show. The gallery houses a permanent collection with a specific focus on art from New Zealand and the Pacific that includes sculpture, conceptual and abstract art.

‘Sub-Topical Heat - New art from South Asia’ is probably among the most in-depth and extensive art projects being hosted in this part of the globe in New Zealand. Comprised of artworks by several renowned names from the Asian sub-continent, it incorporates themes largely driven by the impacts of urbanization and globalization on individual ordinary lives, new trajectories struck within tradition, social and political justice or lack of it, ecological and urban change, myth, gender and curious collective memory.

Artists such as Naeem Mohaiemen, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Bani Abidi, Sheba Chhachhi, independent publisher Raking Leaves, NS Harsha, Imran Qureshi, Sharmila Samant, and Gigi Scaria present vivacious and varied visual languages spanning across mediums like installation, sculpture, video drawing, miniature painting, and photo-media.

The exhibition Curator, Rhana Devenport, also the director of Govett-Brewster Director, emphasizes the group show continues its focus within New Zealand on contemporary Pacific as well as Asian art practice that responds to complex shifts in cultural influence and expression. The venue simultaneously hosts a solo by Bepen Bhana. A designer-writer of Gujarati descent, he is born in Auckland, Aotearoa. His practice looks to examine constructions of Indian identity through the intriguing intersection of Eastern subcultures and Western popular culture.

Here, resplendent with bewildering bindis, the 1970's popular American sitcom family the Brady Bunch has been re-imagined belonging to the artist’s world as a response to concepts of cultural identity in foreign lands. Having completed his graduation with a Doctorate of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2009, he has recently conceptualized a series of billboard & lightbox works in Auckland’s public spaces.

‘The Return of the Phantom Lady (Sinful City)’

In a new series, entitled In ‘The Return of the Phantom Lady (Sinful City)’, Pushpamala N’s iconic protagonist gets caught again in a dark web of murder, intrigue and foul play in contemporary Mumbai.

While rescuing an orphaned schoolgirl, she runs into the underworld and their land grab operations, which stop at nothing. Turning investigator, she tracks the mystery, following and being chased through the principal sites of their evil operations - old film theatres, slums and new glass-faced office blocks.

This scintillating set of 21 color photographs is on view at Nature Morte, Gurgaon. This is her fifth solo show with the gallery, the first being in collaboration with the British Council in 2003.

From 1996 to ’98, she created Phantom Lady or Kismet. The artist’s first ‘photo-performance’ work comprised of 25 black-and-white prints. Billed as a Photo Romance and shot in the film noir style, the thriller starred Pushpamala as not only the Phantom Lady but also her doppelganger, the lost twin sister ‘The Vamp’.

The work acquired a cult status and has been exhibited all over the world, prompting the artist to create its sequel. Shot in seductively rich colors in various cinematic sites of the city, the work was conceived for ‘Project Cinema City’ and exhibited at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

Born in 1956 in Bangalore, Pushpamala N. lives and works in both Bangalore and New Delhi. She did her BA and MA in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University in Baroda after studying Economics, English and Psychology at Bangalore University.

The artist had her first solo show in 1983 in Bangalore and since then has had solo exhibitions in galleries in different cities of India and abroad – including Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Paris, New York, and Chicago. Her video works have been screened in major film festivals all over the world. In 2010 she was awarded a residency to work in Paris and create a series of photographs at the legendary Studio Harcourt for the exhibition ‘Paris, Mumbai, New Delhi’ at the Centre Pompidou (2011).

Friday, September 28, 2012

‘Behold’ and ponder – is what this artist wants

Bangalore-based Sheela Gowda creates her works in laborious processes and uses local materials like cow dung or hair, as evident in a work, ‘Behold’ on view at ARKEN in Denmark. We reveal the specific facets of her work and her evolution as an artist of immense repute as well as credibility:
* The hair is offered by pilgrims in south Indian temples, as an introductory note to her new work mentions. "It is much sought after by the wig industry and exported all over the world. The smaller bits of hair that are not suitable for wigs is sourced by the local industry and woven into ropes which are seen even today in Bangalore’s cityscape, on vehicles, cattle and objects as a talisman to ward off the evil eye."

* She has woven these individual ropes into a continuous length of four kilometers. The contrasting material of fine hair, from people of different age and gender, holding up the hard, shiny metal bumpers expresses both human vulnerability and strength.

* At a broader level, her visual idiom tries to grasp the complexity of the contemporary issues, including violence and suppression, as she works toward layers of meaning even while striving to trim the form to the extent possible, so as the reference or the source is discreetly suggested; not stated literally.

*Among select solo exhibitions that are a testimony to Sheela Gowda’s artistic talent are ‘Postulates of Contiguity’, Office For Contemporary Art (OCA) Norway (2010); ‘Touching Base’, Museum Gouda (2008); apart from shows at Bose Pacia, New York (2006); GALLERY SKE, Bangalore (2004); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (1993); and Gallery 7, Mumbai (1989), among others.

* She has also participated in several significant group exhibitions like ‘Indian Highway’, Herning Museum of Contemporary Art (2010); ‘Textiles: Art and Social Fabric’, MuKHA, Antwerp (2009); Sharjah Biennial and Venice Arsenale (2009). ‘India Moderna’, IVAM Museum, Valencia, Spain ((2008-09); ‘Indian Highway’, Serpentine Gallery, London ((2008-09); ‘Santhal Family’, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2008); ‘Fire Walkers’, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York (2008); ‘Horn Please’, Bern; Documenta 12 Kassel ((2007); and the Lyon Biennale (2007).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi: an ambitious and innovative project

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, as already announced, has confirmed 2015 as a new opening date, Starting October art lovers will get an opportunity to check how the ambitious museum’s permanent art collection is being conceived by investments in new exciting acquisitions.

They all will be the focus of the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art series of lectures. The the second edition has been jointly organized by Agence France-Muséums, the École du Louvre, and the Tourism and Culture Authority of Abu Dhabi. The program is a way of getting the people involved, interested, and also to keep them up to date, apart from sharing some of the museum collection. An official note on the site describes it as the Arab world’s first ever universal museum. Here are some of its major milestones and the idea behind it:
  • Transferring to an Arab country a cultural form born in Enlightenment Europe, its deep sense of identity is rooted in the notions of discovery, exchange and thus education. Its very name affirms the unprecedented alliance between the world’s biggest museum, a permanent place of beauty and knowledge, and modern Arabia, whose exceptional dynamism is at the heart of the contemporary world. 
  • It is not a matter of reproducing the Louvre, or following its scientific itinerary to the letter, but rather extending in its name a generous invitation to a sensitive and enlightened view. The notions of sharing and universal knowledge that prevailed at the opening of the Muséum National in 1793 are thus incorporated into this project.
  • The museum is first and foremost the reflection of a world in which, as Boissy d’Anglas writes, “the whole world is eager to leave its treasures, its rarities, its productions and all the accounts of its history.” - through loans provided for in the intergovernmental agreement, the contributions from a number of French public collections, particularly those of the Agence France-Muséums shareholder institutions: the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay, the Musée et domaine national de Versailles, the Musée Guimet, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Musée Rodin.
  • For the first time in their museum history, these ensembles will often find continuity and unity of presentation, going beyond habitual institutional boundaries. Multidisciplinary, and contemplating the concomitance and correspondence of artistic expressions from different civilizations, the scientific and cultural choices of the Louvre Abu Dhabi will encourage the exploration of new approaches and open new perspectives on French museum heritage.

A showcase of works by one of Britain's most significant artists

The ICA presents a new interesting show, entitled ‘Jeremy Deller: Joy in People’. It’s the first mid-career survey of one of Britain's most significant artists.

Known to be rather unpredictable, generative, and vibrant artist, Jeremy Deller has helped to rewrite the rules of contemporary art over the past two decades by putting people at the center of his work. Operating as forums for discussion, display, and social interactions of all kinds, this work is disarmingly democratic in its muddling of class and cultural hierarchies.

The sheer delight the practitioner, who lives in London, takes in various forms of sub and folk cultures—Goth style, Manchester music, pro wrestling, street parades, and historical reenactment societies—transmits itself with a sense of awe at the creativity and zeal with which people resist mainstream values and patterns of consumption.

His work explores compelling social territories, while the artist himself variously assumes the roles of artistic producer, publisher, filmmaker, collaborator, curator, parade organizer, and cultural archivist.

The exhibition represents a continuation of Jeremy Deller's engagement with the United States, which began when he met Andy Warhol in London in 1986. When Warhol suggested that he come to New York, the twenty-year-old jumped on a plane to hang out at the Factory, where he had a revelation about how to proceed as an artist: "you can create your own world, which is what (Warhol) did. It was definitely a moment of clarity. I thought I would try to get by on my wits creatively, whatever that meant."

Deller has made repeated visits to America, which he calls "a massively fertile place...I love making work here." Commissioned by Creative Time and the New Museum, he visited Philadelphia in 2009 as part of the cross-country project, ‘It Is What It Is, in which’-together with an Iraqi citizen, a U.S. soldier, and the remains of a car destroyed by a bomb in Baghdad-he toured the country.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

‘Time lapse’

The Guild Art Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works, entitled ‘Time lapse’, by young and talented artist Prajakta Potnis in Mumbai. She makes the following key points in her statement that provide an insight into her work and thought process:
  • Between the intimate world of an individual and the world outside which is separated sometimes only by a wall there are imperceptible elements that may transgress and affect the psyche of individuals. My attempt is to address social and individual anxieties through the degeneration that happens within the everyday.
  • From decaying vegetables in a refrigerator, which may be genetically modified to cancerous growth on everyday objects, I have realized that the passage of time has somehow always found a way into my work. Objects and spaces, that have a time told testimony to give, often disclose an out of control situation, an outburst that is often result of apathy or neglect, interestingly woven within the fabric of time.
  • When I was invited to show my works in Mumbai and Kolkata simultaneously, I looked at the opportunity to view the two cities through the lens of time, there is a time difference between Mumbai and Kolkata to start with which is not followed, since post independence, according to UTC (coordinated time zones) Mumbai is 1 hour, 2 Minutes and 9.6000000000017 seconds behind the scheduled time in Kolkata .I wanted to explore and unravel such layers only to have a better understanding of both the cities.
  • What intrigues me is while this interlude is veiled, the lapse continues to occur in a way like a slip through the cracks. My past experience with interventions within public spaces, that have been city centric mostly, on local issues such as land grab, water politics have enabled me to experience in first person the loop holes that exist within our warped bureaucratic system. 
  • One can experience stagnation and apathy of a veiled governance as soon as one gets acquainted with it at ground level. I am trying to look at the time lapse that prevails and metaphorically connect it to a systems failures that exits in both the cities.”

‘Evidence’ by Amar Kanwar

Amar Kanwar’s videos examine social and economic inequalities as he moves through conflict zones, documenting arenas of power, violence, and the abuse of nature. To this he contrasts the courage of the individual, the strength of groups, and the energy of poetry. A new show of his works takes place at Fotomuseum Winterthur located in Zurich (Curator: Urs Stahel).

Every main theme is entangled in side themes, augmented by simple yet significant side stages, dissected, and repeatedly questioned. His intense films reveal his search for profound certainties of life, of society, of experience—persisting “evidence” which is encountered and felt. In his films, he addresses social, political and societal issues surrounding the Indian subcontinent, the conflict between India and Pakistan, the abuse and rape of women, and the struggle for democracy.

Two pivotal events in 1984 impacted Amar Kanwar’s early years as a student. One was the orchestrated killings of Sikhs in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 31 October 1984. The other was the Bhopal disaster on 3 December of the same year, when toxic gas escaped from a pesticide plant owned by the American company Union Carbide, killing several thousand people and injuring hundreds of thousands more.

In 2012, he participated in Documenta for the third consecutive year. The exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur presents his major video works, installed throughout seven rooms. Solo shows of his works have been held at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008), the Haus der Kunst, Munich (2008), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2007), the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2006), and the Renaissance Society, Chicago (2003).

He has participated in the Bienal de São Paulo (2011) and in documenta11 and 12 (2002, 2007). A book accompanying the exhibition will be published by Steidl Verlag. As part of his new solo, public guided tour through the exhibition will take place with Petra Köhle and Teresa Gruber in the first week of next month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thought and process of artist Prajakta Potnis

Artist Prajakta Potnis received her BFA and MFA from Sir J.J School of Art, Mumbai, India (1995/2002). Her multidisciplinary work spans painting, installation, sculpture and photography and investigates the porousness and interpenetrability of boundaries and binaries such as inside/outside, public/private, natural/engineered.

Her wide body of work has received immense critical acclaim in India and internationally, having been showcased at various museums and renowned institutions, such as Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2012); Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (2011); Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania (2011); MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome (2011).

The artist’s art has also been featured at Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, Paris, France (2011); HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (2010); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway(2009);  Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Austria (2010); KHOJ International Artists’ Workshop, New Delhi (2009);

She has had a series of solos ‘Porous Walls’, The Guild gallery (2008); Membranes and Margins, Em Gallery, Seoul (2008); and ‘Walls- in- between’, The Guild (2006), to mention a few. The former body of work revolved around and within the four walls of a household where life tends to grow / decay, wherein the “still” walls transform as a veil and also as organic separations between the inside and the outside world.

The images tried to echo a certain kind of numbness experienced in everyday living.  While she configured this unpredictable transformations of the walls (like the fungus growing) and objects as a part of human habitation, the artist desired her paintings and objects to be part of these interiors. Thus, her works inadvertently oscillated between ornamentation and aggravation. In a way, her work process echoed a pursuit, which might deceptively invade the human psyche, eluding margins of recreation and passivity.

Art critic Nancy Adajania had elaborated in an essay: “All the world’s a skin, for Prajakta Potnis - a skin that could be the body’s wall against the world, threatened by sudden inflammation; or the epidermis of a room, flaking by degrees and punctured to let hidden electricity spark through. And then there is the skin of delicate conception that turns into the carapace of an apparatus and is subverted by the imperceptible challenges of pearl-like fungus and fizzy bacteria”

Early influences on J. Swaminathan's art and life

After studying graphic art in Warsaw and coming back to India, J. Swaminathan joined a magazine. The Link was among India’s first news weeklies. It was founded by Aruna Asaf Ali along with Edathatta Narayanan. Swaminathan would report on developments in South and South-east Asia, also designing both the cover as well as writing on art.

During 1960-65, the artist widely exhibited his artworks in several solo as well as group shows. Along with  11 other artists, he formed In 1962 the Group called 1890 in the state of Gujarat. Their first and probably only exhibition was held in 1963 when it was graced by poet Octavio Paz, the then Mexican ambassador. It was in fact, inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister, at the Lalit Kala Akademi’s LKA) newly opened Rabindra Bhawan Galleries.

The artist rejected all derivate or prevailing fashionable ‘isms’, especially the shadow of the ecole de Paris on realm of the modern Indian art. As an ex-Marxist could only do, right from the manifesto of Group 1890, J. Swaminathan argued:
  • Art for us is not born out of a preoccupation with the human condition. We do not sing of man, nor are we his messiahs.
  • The function of art is not to interpret and annotate, comprehend or guide. Such attitudenising may seem heroic in an age when man, caught up in the mesh of his own civilization, hungers for vindication.
  • Essentially, this self-glorification to us is but the perpetuation of the death wish, of the state of un-freedom of man. Art is neither conformity of reality nor a flight from it. 
  • It is reality itself, a whole new world of experience, the threshold for the passage into the state of freedom. 
From his initial ‘cave painting’ (canvases done in the early 1960s) he graduated to wall paintings of fascinating folk and mystifying Tantric art. Through the mystical symbol of the sperm, the yoni and the lingam he sought to explore what Philip Rawson, a British critic, termed the ‘Traditional Numen’.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

‘Walls of the Womb’ and ‘Chhota Paisa’

Copenhagen-based ARKEN features works by several talented female contemporary artists from India.

Associations with motherhood
Reena Saini Kallat lives and works in Mumbai. Her ‘Walls of the Womb’ is a personal and autobiographical work. She lost her mother when early and grew up in close contact with her mother’s belongings. The associations with motherhood are carried through the symbolic usage of the red saris collectively forming an intimate space of recollections.

The writing on the saris in braille is recipes from the mother’s handwritten cookery book, made through the process of tie-dye. The ‘braille’ is illegible, and it thus becomes a metaphor of her mother’s own absence. The word ‘sari’ comes from Sanskrit and quite simply means ‘a strip of cloth’. The well known Indian garment is at least 3000 years old, and it has many functions and meanings. Among other things, Indian mothers wrap saris around their daughter’s waists as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.
Indian women and the intimate chamber
On the other hand, Bharti Kher, born in London to Indian parents and now settled in New Delhi, employs the bindi as her leitmotifs. One could imagine that an Indian woman has been sitting here alone in the intimate chamber before her wedding, confessing her secrets, aspirations and desires to the silent walls. Is the room an antechamber to happiness, or is it a claustrophobic cell? Perhaps they are a story of her life so far. What patterns would your thoughts draw on the walls?
Works buzzing with sounds of street vendors
Rashmi Kaleka, another artist from Delhi, works with audio art. Her ‘Chhota Paisa’ (Small Change) (2012) is based on the sounds of Delhi’s street vendors in the early morning hours.  The morning cries of the street vendors from sunrise on are the city’s alarm clock, a cacophony of voices to which the city wakes up every day.

For several years she has sought out the street vendors and recorded their voices. The recordings have been composed into a musical sound collage in collaboration with the Swiss composer Hans Koch. The audio work is accompanied by a video panning shot of the roofs of Delhi at dawn. It’s a beautiful and very moving work in which the artist acts as an anthropologist, capturing and preserving a local, authentic culture about to disappear due to globalization.

‘Transits of a Wholetimer’

New Delhi-based Gallery Espace is hosting a show, entitled ‘Transits of a Wholetimer’, comprising works by late J. Swaminathan, Rightfully considered one of the preeminent Indian modernist painters, he played an major role in shaping a generation of artists, critics, and art historians in India.

The show is curated by art critic, writer and son of the late artist, S. Kalidas, also the director of the J. Swaminathan Foundation. He states of the show: It’s a time capsule from my father’s archives; an art historical display that traces the metamorphosis of J. Swaminathan (1928-1994) from a left-wing political radical to an equally radical artist-critic.”

The exhibition features vignettes from his autobiographical notes, some early drawings, illustrations and sketches from his exercise sketchbooks, family photographs, letters written to him by his colleagues and friends, some of his early catalogs and photographs of works spanning 1952-1964, and some of J. Swaminathan’s works from the early 1960s.

An accompanying note by the proud son-curator’s mentions: "He was fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s famous saying “My life is an indivisible whole”. So in his work, too, he completed the circle as it were, by returning to doing the kind of work at the end of his life that he had started out doing in the early 1960s. To trace the arch of his oeuvre, as it were, this showing also has some examples of his later paintings from the two most well-known stylistic periods of his life-'The Bird Tree Mountain' series and the Tribal/Folk inspired abstracts.

Resonating with his Tamil ancestry, the exhibition loosely observes the aham-puram demarcation of Sangam literature where aham the ‘inner space’ (themes of home/ women/ love) contrasts with puram the ‘outer space’ (themes of the city/man/heroism)”.

From the ’70s onward, he was an important figure in the Indian art scene. He held 30 solo shows and also featured in several influential group exhibitions. The artist served in several organizations and committees of the Government of India including the ICCR, LKA, Crafts Museum, and Festivals Of India. In the later part of his career, he returned to the tribal wall painting style that he had explored in the early 1960s.

J. Swaminathan breathed his last in 1994.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Talented photo-artist Anup Mathew Thomas

Anup Mathew Thomas works with photography to engage with narratives that are inherent within the context of his site of work; the stories, though instinctively local often reverberate within a more inclusive context. Much of Thomas’s recent work draws on the cultural history of Kerala.

His previous body of work at the GALLERYSKE in 2010 drew on the cultural history of Kerala. ‘View from Conolly’s Plot’ constituted a series of disparate images that tracked various contemporary social phenomena ranging from the increased visibility of the European-returned entrepreneur to the visual practices of a popular religious television channel.

Henry Valentine Conolly was the District Magistrate and then the Collector of British Malabar. He was instrumental in setting up the first teak plantation in the world, a part of which still exists in Nilambur. Conolly set this up in the1840s with the help of Chathu Menon, the Native Sub Conservator, to ensure the steady supply of teak for the growing British demand. The research and initiative during this period resulted in many teak plantations around Nilambur.

His ‘Well basically this is about Thomas Jacob’ was a photographic project on Mathew Thomas’sfather. He lives in Kottayam, Kerala and works for a newspaper. The photographs in this work are a selection from a body of work produced over a period of nine months; most of them shot in Kerala, the others in Tamil Nadu and the United Kingdom.

In 2012, his work was part of the group show ‘Generation in Transition’ at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2011, the same show was exhibited at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland. The artist’s work was also shown at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, San Francisco in a group show, titled ‘The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India’ (2011).

The same year, the show traveled as a solo exhibition to the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo. In 2010 he participated in Docu Tour, curated by Bose Krishnamachari at Gallery BMB, Mumbai. In 2009 the artist’s work was part of the show Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie, in Arnolfini, Bristol and ‘The Self and the Other–Portraitures in Contemporary Indian Photography’ at the Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporaneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz (2009-2010) and the Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona (2009).

‘Hereinafter’ at GALLERYSKE

Anup Mathew Thomas creates photographic images that depict events - both personal and specific in nature. In the process, he asks larger cultural questions. His work is often presented as prints as well as digital slideshows.

‘Hereinafter’, his new solo show just took place at Bangalore-based GALLERYSKE, It captured complex themes like death, objects that are reminiscent of the past and the need of preserving bygones. It was comprised of 15 images that captured subjects, a few inanimate, within the context of his home state Kerala.

Adopting a form of storytelling, he uses conventions to document the objects complied and preserved by others.The set of works by the talented artist offers a mix of visuals - old, battered typewriters in a frame, and also superannuated cameras for motion picture in another. There are plaques to remember those who had passed away. He brings together compelling images of crime scenes, and the staging of a funeral, to portray the human aspect of the inevitable loss and death, and also its importance from the angle of social culture, and dealing with the aspect of preservation of legacies, so to say.

The title alluded to terms ‘afterlife’ and ‘hereafter’. There’s much more to it than the theme of death; its arrangement peels away peculiar layers of meaning that are diffused in aspects of memories, their preservation, and the understanding of mortality.The centre piece of ‘Hereinafter’ was ‘Preparations for Karthikeyan’s Post Mortem’, standing touch away from other pieces of the solo show, in a mostly empty room at the venue!

An artist note informed viewers about an elephant, which succumbed to an accident, causing mass protests and public scene that led to its burial. The central chamber houses two more pieces – ‘Staging at Nedumbarakkadu’ and ‘Boards of Konthuruthy’, delineating the three stages he focuses on, namely: the past, the present and the aftermath of death.

Equating art with human right

Be it the right to life, security, liberty, and education; be it that to free thought, opinion and conscience; be it the one to be treated humanly; this is a subject that  influences and touches public discourse firmly and permanently. More than six decades after the Declaration of Human Rights, it still gains as much importance, including the domain of art. Here's how...
  • A major international contemporary art exhibition, entitled ‘Newtopia: the State of Human Rights’ is dedicated to the subject. It takes place in six cultural institutions and in public spaces in the historic city centre of Mechelen, until 10 December 2012. The exhibition looks to contextualize the subject of human rights in present-day Mechelen: it exhibition precedes the opening of the Kazerne Dossin Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights.
  • Tracing artistic responses to human rights issues, the exhibition charts the development of the human rights movement and its evolving discourse, paying particular attention to the emergence of new human rights discourses and the 'rise of human rights' since the 1970s, and looks at their current state. It includes work in diverse media by more than 70 international artists of different generations from across the globe. Many of them come from countries and regions where human rights have been – or still are – a particularly contested issue; half of the artists come from non-Western countries.
  • Newtopia will also feature a rich peripheral program, including film, literature, music,  as well as conversations with artists, creating an appropriate framework in a city rooted in the humanist tradition of Erasmus and Thomas More. It also extends its reach geographically, with a satellite solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar, at the ING Cultural Centre on the Koningsplein/Place Royale in the heart of Brussels, until 10th December 2012.
  • Newtopia will take place in some of Mechelen's prominent cultural institutions, which include: Cultural Centre Mechelen, Oude Mechelse Vleeshalle (Old Meat Market), Museum Hof Van Busleyden and  Lamot Conference and Heritage Centre. The solo presentations are shown at the Academy of Fine Arts, at the Scheppers Institute and in the public space: a mural at Hof van Busleyden and a video-proejction on the city hall.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

‘Solarum Series I’ and other works by Bharti Kher

Among the prominent sculptures on view in the exhibition of works by Bharti Kher at London’s Parasol unit is ‘Solarum Series I’ (2007–10). It’s a 9-foot-tall fibreglass tree, its branches covered with hundreds of what seem, at a distance, to be golden autumnal leaves of extreme delicacy. On closer inspection, one sees that these leaves are actually miniature, waxy-looking heads of various fantastical creatures.

Also on show is her ‘The deaf room’ (2002-2011), a sculpture made of dark glass bricks. It is seemingly a strictly aesthetic minimalist work, but when one learns the origin of its bricks it begins to reveal its feminine bias and a wealth of symbolism. The barely translucent dark bricks are made from melted glass bangles, those that Indian women traditionally wear in multiples on their wrists.

The merest hint of the radiant glow of bangles only becomes apparent when the bricks are exposed to light behind the gestural clay build of the work. The deaf room, 2002-2011 stands for the absence and memory of a woman, in an emptied room. Finally, Warrior with Cloak and Shield, 2008, a life-size fibreglass figure of a woman adorned with exaggeratedly huge stag’s antlers, is part of a series of hybrid half-human, half-animal figures, which again testifies to Kher’s non-abidance mind and unflinching imagination.

The exhibit is accompanied by a comprehensive publication that includes several insightful essays by Parasol unit Director/Curator Ziba Ardalan, art critic and curator Gayatri Sinha, and Tom Morton, curator, writer and contributing editor for Frieze, alongside an interview with the artist by curator and writer Aveek Sen. It will be distributed internationally.

Bharti Kher, born 1969 in London now lives and works in New Delhi, India. She has shown internationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Most recently, she featured in the First International Biennale of Contemporary Art; at Mystetskyi Arsenal in Kiev, Ukraine; in Paris–Delhi–Bombay at Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2011; in ‘21st Century: Art in the First Decade’, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; ‘Tokyo Art Meeting: Transformation’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and in ‘Susan Hefuna – Bharti Kher – Fred Tomaselli: Between the Worlds’, Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland, (all in 2010). Her latest exhibition in London is supported by Priya & Cyrus Vandrevala and Jolana & Petri Vainio.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

'The Escape! Resume/Reset’ and ‘Allegory of the Endless Morning’

We take a quick look at the artists and their works featured at ARKEN Museum based in Copenhagen:
The renowned artist duo, Thukral & Tagra. has made the installation, titled 'The Escape! Resume/Reset’ especially for the exhibition. You step into a kitschy, poppish universe with pastel-colored carpets, graphically patterned wallpaper, a chandelier and paintings in loud advertising colors.

On the floor stands a group of rebuilt airplane seats upholstered in Indian materials, which you can sit in. There are cabin luggage and iPads with entertainment for the flight in the back of the seat in front. In a style all their own, the two have created a domesticated airliner.

They invite you on a mental journey where you can dream your way to exotic climes in the safety of the sofa. The work is a game, a kind of dream machine inspired by the longing to get away of young Indians, but for us it is a setting for meditating about how we live our lives between the local and the global.

Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat's billboard painting, titled ‘Allegory of the Endless Morning’ was specially created for the exhibition. It takes its point of departure in a panoramic photograph that he took one morning in front of a local railway station in Mumbai. In the painting a myriad of destinies is portrayed. Do they live in hope, pain or joy?

Mumbai is one of the world’s largest, most densely populated cities, with a population of around 21 million if you count the suburbs. In certain neighborhoods around 120,000 people live per sq. km. In Denmark’s most densely populated area, Frederiksberg Municipality, just under 11,000 people live per sq. km.

Every sixth person in the word is Indian. As the artist states; "The highly populated city of Mumbai, where I live, is almost a theater where the codes of daily existence are pushed to the extreme and this continually percolates my practice."
(Image and information courtesy: ARKON)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

India! Art On The Move

A one-day conference is being held at ARKEN Museum of Modern Art located in Copenhagen next month.  The speakers at the important event, ‘India! Art On The Move - Contemporary Art & Migration’, are Gayatri Sinha, Anne Ring Petersen, Mieke Bal, Suketu Mehta, and Stine Høholt, among other distinguished names.

Introduction to the event
An introductory note states: “India is one of the countries in the world with the highest rate of migration. Today, 25 million Indians live in more than 100 countries in all the continents. Human mobility is taking on more and more complex and dynamic forms and is thus breaking down traditional notions and concepts of home, belonging, cultural identity and cultural memory. Its main issues are:  
Contemporary Art: going beyond Local and global
What analytical tools should be brought into play when art becomes ‘glocal’ – that is, relates simultaneously to a local and a global aesthetic? How are the cultural effects of migration and globalization represented in ‘global’ contemporary art? 
Trans-cultural art curating from India
How can we develop new curatorial models for showing art from different cultural spheres on the global art scene? What kind of discursive and conceptual framework can we work with and what are its potentials and challenges? In connection with this special conference, the museum is going to publish a thematic issue of its research journal that focuses on the subject of migration & contemporary art practice.
The conference background
On 26th October 2012, on the occasion of ARKEN’s exhibition ‘INDIA: ART NOW’, the museum is holding this conference. It’s organized by ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with associate professor, dr. phil., PhD, Anne Ring Petersen, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen. The conference will take place at the museum venue located just 20 km south of Copenhagen.

The museum was opened in March 1996. Since its establishment ARKEN has worked towards enhancing the quality of all aspects of the museum's affairs, and since 1997 is firmly established among its peers in the national and international circle of museums.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Presenting the various facets of a legendary artist’s milestone works

For decades, critics have observed that Andy Warhol exerted an enormous impact on contemporary art, but not many shows have actually explored the full nature or extent of that influence.

A new significant exhibition explores the multifaceted impact of Andy Warhol by displaying his work alongside examples by sixty artists across three generations at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Through approximately forty-five works by Warhol alongside one hundred works by some sixty other artists, ‘Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years’ juxtaposes prime examples of Warhol's paintings, sculpture, and films with those by other artists who in key ways reinterpret, respond, or react to his groundbreaking work.

What emerges is a fascinating dialogue between works of art and artists across generations through five distinct sections namely ‘Daily News: From Banality to Disaster’, ‘Portraiture: Celebrity and Power’, ‘Queer Studies: Shifting Identities’, ‘Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality’, and ‘No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle’.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is considered as a defining figure not only of the famous Pop Art movement of the 1960s but of a whole new entire cultural era. He worked across a vast range of media like painting, print-making, drawing, photography, sculpture, film, TV, publishing and performances.

For record, Jose Mugrabi, a powerful Israeli collector, owns probably the world's biggest collection of Andy Warhol’s paintings almost 800 of them. No other art buyer has capitalized on the iconic artist’s appeal than Mr. Mugrabi. Dealers and auction houses can rarely sell or buy a Warhol work sans his knowledge and intervention in form of active bidding.

His paintings and prints of movie stars, soup cans, the US Presidents and other American icons made him one of the most celebrated artists globally. Throwing light on his aura, critic Robert Hughes had once written: '''Painting a soup can is not a radical act in itself. What was actually radical in Andy Warhol was that he adapted the very means of production of soup cans to the way he produced paintings, turning them out en masse - consumer art mimicking the process and also the look of consumer culture.''

Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years

A new international museum show at The MOMA explores the various key facets of Andy Warhol’s life and art. It’s structured in five thematic sections as explained below:

Daily News: From Banality to Disaster
This section explores Andy Warhol's engagement with the imagery of everyday life, his interest in items of consumerist American culture in the 1960s, and his keen attention to advertising, tabloids, and magazines. It also examines the connection to later artists who also appropriate objects from the supermarket or the department store or share Warhol's fascination with disaster or death, including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Ai Wei Wei.

Portraiture: Celebrity and Power
This segment looks at the artist's engagement with portraiture to illuminate contemporary artists' continuing interest in the issues of fame or infamy in the age of the tabloid. Here the best of Warhol's notable portraits of celebrities are paired with contemporary examples by Elizabeth Peyton, Karen Kilimnik, and Cindy Sherman. Andy Warhol's practice of society portraiture of the 1970s, as well as his artistic engagement with political figures, is explored here through links with the work of artists who take this practice in new directions.

Queer Studies: Shifting Identities
Another major category of works looks to outline Andy Warhol's importance as an artist who broke new ground in representing issues of sexuality and gender in the post-war period. This section also strives to represent a new openness toward different varieties of queer identity that his oeuvre ushered in, largely through work by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Peter Hujar, Christopher Makos, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Catherine Opie.

Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality
It explores the legendary artist's formal strategies and groundbreaking use of pre-existing photographic sources, often endlessly repeated in grid patterns; his appropriation of art history; and his interest in abstraction.  These works are grouped with Pictures Generation artists such as Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman for their uses of appropriation, or with contemporary painters such as Christopher Wool, whose patterned painting Untitled plays with all-over abstraction and seriality in Warholian ways.
No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle
The last and defining division examines Warhol's interest in artistic partnership through filmmaking, magazine publishing, music, and design. Also foregrounded is his fascination with creating environments that envelop the viewer entirely. Warhol's frequent use of decorative motifs, such as flowers, are part of this practice, and are contrasted with similar work by artists such as Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami.

Monday, September 17, 2012

‘In Search of True Painting’ of a legend

Throughout his career, legendary artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954) expanded the ambitious boundaries of his practice. By continually repeating a string of images in pairs and trios, sequences, and series, he engaged into a dialogue with his previous works so as to, as he himself had mentioned, "push further, deeper into true painting."

Right from early pairs like ‘Young Sailor I and II (1906)’, followed by ‘Le Luxe I and II’ (1907–8) through a trio of works - from his memorable stay on the Channel Coast to various studio scenes from Venice done in 1946–48, he is shown analyzing another recently finished work before graduating to one more with the same core theme and thus, in the process, devising innovative, at times radical, artistic solutions to problems such as exactly how to portray light, select colors, manipulate perspective, and handle paint.

His practice that involved repetition of compositions dates well back to the 1890s. Starting as a bright academically trained fellow, he was accustomed during his studenthood to copying the paintings of old master. This practice happened to supply Matisse with both a methodological background and a conceptual basis to work with repeated images. The artist strove to grasp contemporary art trends through constant experimentation with different methods and styles.

How better to get conversant with the weaknesses and strengths of Signac and Cézanne, for instance, than to arrange a captivating still-life composition and then paint it twice, firstly in the unique manner of the original artist (‘Still Life with Purro I and II’, both done in 1904; The Phillips Family Collection & private collection).

Henri Matisse's exploration of such style sparked off the creation of his first real pairs. In them, neither work is wholly indebted to any other artist. After his return to Collioure in the 1906 summer, he depicted a fisherman in a work, which has all those hallmarks of his own subtle expressive Fauvism. Later he executed a fresh version of the same composition on a similar sized canvas, employing flat color and deformation this time to build a dramatically different effect (‘Young Sailor I and II’, both done in 1906; Collection of Sheldon H. Solow and The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

All these landmarks of his career are effectively documented in a show slated to be held later this year at the New York-based The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Summing up Indian art scene

Today internationally renowned artists from India like Bose Krishnamachari, Riyas Komu, T.V. Santhosh and Iranna G.R. depict are rooted to their own culture, yet their work is of universal nature. They strive to act as a link between what constitutes Indian-ness in the context of contemporary art and today's 'global' community.

In the backdrop of India’s rich and ancient cultural history, there is also now a growing and deep appreciation of a new era in Indian art. Young talents such as Vivek Vilasini and Vibha Galhotra deftly allow dismaying elements to seamlessly act. Those like Akhilesh and Manish Pushkale explore latent emotions by way of linear contours whereas George Martin P.J. and Chandra Bhattacharjee let elements of Pop art skillfully intermingle with super-realism and expressionistic abstraction.

Even as we provide attention to each individual artist and his or her growth trajectory, we must also pay attention to the overall scenario and how it’s shaping up. In spite of a promising future, for now the rather narrow and constrained collector base remains a cause of concern for Indian art market, which still has some way to go compared to other emerging markets. Sale totals of Russia and China are almost 4-5 times more than what art sales here are generating. The two have had a massive state investment in building cultural infrastructure like something India lacks.

Though our art scene has vast potential and scope, what it requires is both private and government support. Also, people need to be made more knowledgeable and better informed about art processes, and philosophy, themes and mediums. This cannot happen overnight; it will take time.

Highlighting this aspect, senior artist Atul Dodiya feels lack of serious discourse is sad, though he is heartened by the fact that the increasing curiosity about art is encouraging, which can be met with programs that will involve the masses for education, awareness and appreciation. Thankfully, a more mature and aware collector base is coming to the fore, slowly but surely.

To conclude, Indian market is in a nascent stage compared to other developed art markets. However, it’s only a matter of time before it grows and attains its own unique identity.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Experimentation defines the spirit of this celebrated artist’s work

With her imagination, innovation and restless spirit, Anjolie Ela Menon continues to experiment with newer forms, materials and ideas. This tendency to try out things can be attributed to her adventurous spirit nurtured by a father in the army and a husband in the navy.

The celebrated artist recounts having moved house 30 times, at least! One of the foremost artists of her generation, she reminisces in an interview, “Our family lived almost all over (India) since my father was a surgeon in the Army. Whenever he would get a new house, we would all rush to check the number of trees it had. He would make tree houses and we would eat in them. My mother loved taking us out on picnics.”

Experimentation has always been at the heart of Anjolie Ela Menon’s art. She is among the first Indian artists to do kitsch and experiment with computer/digital painting. She has done sculptures from Murano crystal, a type of Italian glass. She has also tried out painted objects, ‘the opposite of installation art’, even while dabbling in oils.

It’s noteworthy that an itinerant life has resulted in some truly interesting aesthetic and practical choices for the innovative artist. For example, she happened to come across masonite, sheets of pressed wood fiber sometimes employed as packing material, which made her works more convenient to lug around, too. She has worked with several such offbeat materials, leading to painted works on found ‘junk’ objects like castaway old wooden furniture, cupboards, suitcases and trunks.

Anjolie Ela Menon has worked on several ambitious public art projects, including the most recent one at Mumbai’s Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport, a true tribute to this versatile artist’s spirit to experiment. Summing it up, she has once stated: "I was instrumental in bringing art down from its high pedestal. Most people approach it with a sense of awe. I wanted to break that. I was a karma-yogi as far as experimentation went. I never simply thought of the fruits of my labor."

Art world headlines dominated by China and India

China and India were in news with The New York Times covering a major exhibition of Indian art that made ‘a rare stop’ in the country. Clare Pennington mentioned in an elaborate news report: “For the past half-century, China and India, the world’s most populous nations, have been uncomfortable neighbors.

There is no quick fix for these deep-seated problems, but there are murmurs of a widening dialogue between the two nations, at least on the cultural front. And as with the Buddhist scriptures millennia ago, paintings covered in bindis, sculptures crafted in the furniture markets of Mumbai and miniature cities bent from the metal of India’s scrap heaps have traveled east and moved into the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, one of the most prominent contemporary art museums in China.”

A traveling exhibition, ‘Indian Highway’, was produced in conjunction with the Serpentine Gallery in London. It features 29 artists and 130 individual pieces. This is the largest show of art from India to ever make it to China, where any display of culture from India is rare. From 2006 to 2008, the Arario Gallery here and the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art each held a group exhibition of Indian artists.

Between those years Arario sold 30 Indian works valued at a total of $2.5 million to Chinese buyers, but interest from Chinese collectors then appeared to dissolve. Artists and museums hope that “Indian Highway” will rekindle the flame. Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones, directors of the Serpentine Gallery in London, said the exhibition was not meant to showcase differences between the strengths of India and China. But perhaps that was inevitable in any dialogue about the two nations.   

In spite of the art world’s enthusiasm for such cultural exchanges, the exhibit provoked mixed reactions in the country. Relations between the world’s most populous autocracy and its largest democracy are marked by competitive anxieties. In parallel to an economic fight, a military arms race is also occurring. The media in respective nations weigh in quite vocally. Some in China were concerned by the fact that the Ullens founders, Guy and Myriam Ullens, were apparently shifting their interests to Indian from Chinese art.