Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mapping two generations of artists from Bengal

No other Indian state perhaps has received so much attention of artists and writers for generations as much as Bengal. According to Jasmine Shah Varma, a new collection conceptualized at Mumbai’s Viewing Room along with Patrimonio Gallery is a pointer to the role of artists of Bengal in influencing Indian contemporary art in the practice of sculpture, printmaking, watercolors, and oil paintings.

Also of note is their narrative of the human condition shaped by the historical events in the state, the curator concludes. Late Shyamal Dutta Ray is known as an artist to have added a depth and intensity to the medium of watercolors when the Bengal school of Art traditionally used light and watery colors.

Among the later generations Bikash Bhattacharjee has been prominent for his visual language. His Doll series was a response to violent political strife in Bengal. He made no direct reference in the portrayal of the brutal happenings. The doll was an allegorical trope to give expression to the common man's suffering and helplessness. His portraits are noted for imbuing the luminous force of life yet at the same time making us aware of the foreboding element of death.

While the artists considered belonging to the Bengal school continue to perform reasonably at international auctions, the fact remains that they have not managed to scale the million dollar peal attained by the Progressives. Renowned art writer Ashoke Nag had mentioned in an Economic Times essay last year: “What is really interesting is that most Bengal masters used to once score quite highly at international art auctions, especially in the mid 80s and early 90s. These included noteworthy names like Hemen Mazumdar, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, the Tagores and subsequent Bengal masters like Ganesh Pyne, Somnath Hore and Jogen Chowdhury."

However, as he pointed out, their work seldom reached the dizzy price levels that were effortlessly achieved by the PAG artists. Husain also used to admire many Bengal masters, so there needs to be a better reassessment of the Bengal School particularly in the context of the Indian art’s Indianness.

‘Calcutta Chromosome’ at Viewing Room, Mumbai

Bengal’s political, social and economic history including the intense strife for survival that its people endured during pre-Independence period, especially during  famine and later the Tebhaga movement, right up to the state’s partition, its cultural and literary history is marked with great turmoil. The idiosyncrasies and peculiarities of its people have inspired many creative minds to grasp the human condition.

Several talented artists featured in a new group exhibition at Mumbai-based Viewing Room in association with Patrimonio Gallery share their passion for the home state. What they also have in common is a preoccupation with the psyche of humanity, trying to assiduously portray it.

The collection features two distinct generations: the artists who began their practice prior to Independence and those who have continued to work well into the new millennium. The early generation of artists was greatly influenced not only by India's historical events but also the Western art movements. There was a dying urge to be independent in the domain of art and forming a new creative identity that was tuned to the happenings and trends across the world.

Among them, Prodosh Das Gupta as well as Paritosh Sen, the founders of the first art collective (India Calcutta Group), focused on depicting the life in urban Bengal. They developed an idiom, adhering to the precepts of European Modernism and also their own influences even while doing away with the naturalism and romanticism of rural India.

The prevailing political and social circumstances affected the middle class; the destitute found echo in the works of artists like Somnath Hore and Shyamal Dutta Ray. The distorted human form ably epitomized suffering. Each one carved a unique identity through choice of unconventional mediums, advocating novel idioms and leading a new path for generations of artists to tread upon. Artists from 1960s further delved into the human psyche, focusing more on eclectic and elite strata instead the history. Suhas Roy portrayed beautiful the female visage, whereas Sunil Das painted bulls and horses apart from eerie portraits of women.

A witty artistic intervention that involves visitors

“I was never interested so much in contemporary art, and never also thought of becoming an artist,”

The above remarks may seem strange for a talented artist who is now hosting a show in Europe. Asim Waqif’s ‘Bordel Monstre’ (Monstrous Mess) is on view at the prestigious Palais de Tokyo, Paris. For his first ever solo exhibition in Europe, the artist has tried to give definite shape to the ‘attrition of the world’. He has done so by developing a visual language firmly anchored in today’s urban society.

A gallery note elaborates: “In an atypical space, evocative of archaeological ruins but also of a survival from modernist architecture, the artist produces a deeply committed and witty intervention which visitors are invited to walk through and experience. Reusing bits and pieces left over from earlier exhibitions, the artist creates a structure inhabited by a complex interactive electronic system, reacting differently according to each individual. Visiting Bordel Monstre is thus a unique experience for everyone."

A graduate in architecture, Asim Waqif (born 1978) who now lives and works in Delhi, has a practice turned as much toward art as design, but always closely linked to town planning and policies for the use of public space. Demolition, deconstruction, the in-between stage are central to his installations, created in situ, whether it be on a river, or a piece of derelict land. His works are backed up by long research, the notion of context being of crucial importance in his practice. Asim Waqif tries to mix tradition and technology, in a gesture that is poetic, but not devoid of risk.

Formerly working as an architect, he felt constrained while designing within the formal confines of an office, and hence began producing avant-garde installations about seven years ago. For his latest dazzling display, he has employed an array of unconventional materials, weaving debris – such as discarded wood panels, wiring, plastic waste, metal and dry waste — into an elaborate, interactive sculpture.  Many of his previous artworks have comprised video, sound, sculpture and dance.

Friday, December 28, 2012

An artist who interprets changing life values

Working with ideas, which are highly personal, simultaneously representing the shifts and complex changes occurring worldwide, highly talented artists from the country are treading new paths that blend the historical past with the present, strike a balance between fact and fiction, fuse old and new identities, and raise socially relevant issues during a challenging period of societal flux. Justin Ponmany is one of them.

His creations largely owe their origin to the dynamic cityscape undergoing a constant metamorphosis, presenting its inhabitants a new set of challenges, and keeping them on their toes. To remain grounded in a city defined by flux, to put it bluntly, implies constant reinvention and adaptation of self.

The artist digs into the turmoil of the city life in this context, to seek inspiration and motivation for his painterly act. He ably captures the struggles of the ordinary beings through a contemporary and astute aesthetic. The street is oft-repeated metaphor for panning out self-images of a commuter in transit or trapped in a traffic jam, marking a moment of repose; a temporary rupture of the pervasive speed, shaping the world by sheer force.

He interprets living values to depict the changing cultural climate and also to project the city-state - the skyline and structures, with inbuilt plastic cables and wires. The artist even opts to distress surfaces of his canvases, creating gritty portraits drawn from day-to-day life. He prefers to work on and with definite documentary evidence contained in the print media and photographic images. As part of his painterly processes, the same undergoes many upgrades.

Employing unconventional modes and methods of expression, Ponmany ably conveys his artistic concerns. Using photo images as a basis of his work, he imbues the surfaces with resin, plastic, printer’s ink, holograms and salt to conceive his typically rugged stylistic effects. He also makes use of traditional acrylic paint, charcoal and smoke. The slick holographic media often coats the canvas, purposely sanded and worn away, akin to the scarred urban landscape of India.

Merging social churning with the personal experiences

Artist Jagannath Panda’s deceptively simple visual imagery consists of linear drawing and/or a rendered form or two that appear to float on the surface. Though his drawings are realistic, he refrains from offering a direct reference to the subject’s existence. On occasions he employs tracing sheets, silver foil and thread, to emphasis the reality of the material he uses. Color plays a limited albeit vital role of highlighting form.

His realism tends to believe and reside in the existence of Fantasy. In a single creation, he within the high rise apartment blocks of the burgeoning India can posit the existence of stylized gods, apparently culled from the old palm leaf manuscripts of his home state.

Assemblage and Collage get divorced from their Surrealist patrimony. His subject matter and ideas are often sourced from the events that unfold around him. As part of his creative churning, the commonplace object acquires symbolic stature, representing aspirations or even rigid dogmas.

Environmental and social issues greatly concern this socially aware artist. Elaborating on his art practice, he mentions: “I’m aware of the fragility of coexistence and also the fact that physical and emotional spaces sometimes act like quicksand.” The ironies of life visible in his surroundings greatly interest him and the unanswered questions arouse his curiosity.

Acting as both mirror and memory, they store preconceived meanings and reflect a contradictory reality that has always intrigued him. He keenly observes the highs and lows of a fast changing society and expresses them either on canvas or other media, drawing on the ambiguities of contemporary life. He states, “You can understand life in many different directions, and that is what I want to paint.”

His personal experiences, both as a rural inhabitant and as a migrant, represent his imminent projections about the not-so-distant future, having their origin largely in the contemporary and related phenomena of mass exodus, urbanization, and the resulting dislocation of life. He also looks to explore several of most fundamental dichotomies inherent to individual and societal psyche, intensely pondering over ubiquitous conflicts we knowingly or unknowingly confront on day-to-day basis.

As part of his constant creative churning, the commonplace object acquires symbolic stature, representing aspirations or even rigid dogmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

‘The Great Bare Mat’ by Raqs

Raqs Media Collective works have reached Boston. Their fall exhibit ‘The Great Bare Mat & Constellation’ at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum includes new works divided in two separate gallery installations. The first one features a carpet - a surface so as to stage conversations, featured at the feet of a two-fold 17th-century Japanese screen drawn from the collection of the museum.

The Delhi-based artist collective’s works engage with urban spaces as well as global circuits, welding an edgily contemporary and sharp sense of what it persistently means to lay claim to the curious realm from the street life of Delhi. It, at the same time looks to articulate an intimately lived relationship with both myths and histories of rather diverse provenances. Their work formed part of the 2012 Frieze Fair.

Raqs follows its self declared imperative of 'kinetic contemplation' to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures. According to Shuddhabrata Sengupta, a lot of their work is rooted in terms of its context in New Delhi.

‘The Great Bare Mat’ is inspired by two exquisite Han bronze bears in its collection, mat-weights from China, which served to weigh down carpets for debaters to sit and discuss. Woven by a team of Bulgarian weavers, the carpet flaunts a repeated motif that indexes the Great Bear’s constellation against a bewildering background of essays, conversations and signals between three PCs of the artist collective.

Another installation, a press release elaborates, is a silent, looped video projection that transforms, through a series of subtle alterations, the many photographs and film stills they recorded while in residence at the museum a couple of years ago. The images of the projected video reflect onto an adjacent gallery wall, where a luminous array of shiny metal surfaces mirroring distinct narratives create a crescendo of accumulated visuals in the mind of the viewer.

The Great Bare Mat & Constellation is made possible in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A precursor to the 5th India Art fair

The 5th edition of India Art fair will be held from 31st January next year until 3rd February in New Delhi, the capital city of India. For its 5th edition, the fair has many plans and ideas to present a comprehensive survey of the contemporary Indian art – developments and trends that have marked its rise on global scale. What are the highlights of this grand event set to take place in another month’s time? Here’s a quick check:
  • Founded in 2008, India Art Fair is among the country's premier international art fairs. It acts as a platform for modern and contemporary art in the Asian region. Over its four editions, the fair has attracted more than 260,000 visitors from India and around the world, making it among the world's most attended art fairs and highlighting the growing potential of this emerging market.
  • The art fair has a diverse program that includes a three day Speakers Forum, Art Projects, Performances, Book Launches, Curated Walks, an art bookstore and much more. The 5th edition of India Art Fair to be hosted at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds (Okhla) will bring together 106 exhibiting galleries form 24 countries, presenting over 1000 of the most exciting artists from across India and the world.

  • An interesting mix of India and international galleries participating at the fair make it the perfect melting pot of the dynamic Indian art scene. Among its key features are custom built venue, designed and conceptualized for the fair; an enhanced schedule of exciting collateral events: new international partners; and Speakers’ Forum, among others.
  • YES Bank's association with India Art Fair is part of the Bank's Retail and Wealth Management initiative. Showcasing a range of modern and contemporary art by over 1000 artists, this edition will feature around 100 galleries from India and across the globe.
As always, its organizers are committed to enhancing its scale and the quality of art on offer with the aim of delivering an enriching art experience to the visitors.

A glance at IAF organizers

The art collector base of India is fast increasing. A large majority of them look forward to events like Art Expo India and India Art Fair, two among the country’s widely attended and popular art fairs. Both are s building on their popularity and scale to capitalize on India’s fast-growing economy so as to cater a large base of HNIs (high net-worth individuals). We take a quick glance at of India Art Fair organizers, who are responsible for making it a major success.  

Determined to take the fair to new heights
Neha Kirpal is the Founder and Fair Director of India Art Fair which she started in 2008. Over the last three editions, she has grown the art fair to new heights, expanding it both in scale and scope. Under her direction, the last edition of the fair drew in over 128,000 visitors from around the world, making it one of the most attended public art fairs in the world. She has over a decade of experience in the creative industries, marketing and event management both in India and the UK, which has helped her gain an intrinsic understanding of different markets and also develop a truly global perspective for her current and future businesses. Neha Kirpal currently lives and works in New Delhi.
Knowing the intricacies of art fair activities
Will Ramsay: After leaving the British Army, Will Ramsay founded a gallery in 1996 in London, then an art fair business which now encompasses Affordable Art Fair, Pulse Art Fair, Art Hong Kong and now India Art Fair, which he is very excited about! Will runs 17 annual art fairs, in London, Bristol, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Singapore, Hong Kong and, last but certainly not least, Delhi! The Affordable Art Fair has been selected by CoolBrands as one of the 500 coolest brands in the UK.
Actively involved in the fair’s macro-management
Sandy Angus: He was born in India where his family had lived for over 80 years. He is Chairman of Montgomery Worldwide an internationally renowned group of exhibition organizing companies with offices and events on all 5 continents. Montgomery were involved in creating art fairs in Los Angeles and London and currently run the World Photography Organization, which puts on the Sony World Photography Awards. A collector of contemporary art and a founder shareholder of Art Hong Kong, he is actively involved in the successful hosting of India Art Fair as a shareholder which he regards as completing the circle of his family's involvement on the sub-continent.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Two faces responsible for the success ArtTactic

A world-famous research agency, ArtTactic is known to offer a unique and comprehensive 360 degree holistic view of the art market, including both emerging and established markets, apart from additional creative domains like photography and design, and the fast-expanding Art Finance industry. It provides in-depth market analysis, podcasts with respected industry insiders, bespoke research, plus an education program. Here are the two faces responsible for the success of the institute:

Anders Petterson
A leading authority on the art market, his focus is particularly on the modern and contemporary emerging art markets. He is the Founder and Managing Director of ArtTactic Ltd, a London-based art market research and advisory company set up in 2001. He previously worked at JP Morgan in the Investment Banking division, responsible for debt capital market and structured products for banks and corporate industry.

He worked as an independent Research & Evaluation consultant for Arts & Business in London between 2002 and 2007, and has been involved in a number of large research and evaluation projects in the cultural sector. He is lecturing on the topic of ‘Art as an asset class’ for CASS Business School and Sotheby’s Institute in London. A Board Member of Professional Advisors to the International Art Market (PAIAM), he is also a founding member of the Art Investment Council (AIC).
Jeffrey Boloten
He is Co-Founder & Managing Director of ArtInsight. Following a business degree and a background as a solicitor, Jeffrey graduated from the publishing programme at Harvard University, followed by directorships with international publishers, including Penguin Books. He then graduated from City University, with an MA in Arts Management, focused on the development of the art market. Following posts at the Tate, and as General Manager of a London art college, Jeffrey Boloten co-founded ArtInsight in 2004.

A frequent speaker and lecturer on the global art, and art investment markets, at international art fairs and conferences, Jeffrey Boloten is the Course Leader of the Art & Business semester programme at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. He is a Founding Member of Professional Advisors to the International Art Market (PAIAM).

'Renaissance to Goya'

A new exhibition at British Museum brings together prints and drawings by Spanish and other important European artists who worked in Spain from the mid-16th to the early 19th century. Many of these works have not been on public display before.

Starting with works of art by 16th-century practitioners working in and around Madrid, the selection chronologically progresses to incorporate works from Spain’s glittering ‘Golden Age’. Turning to the next century, works by Francisco de Goya, and many of his contemporaries like Giambattista Tiepolo show how drawing and printmaking thrived during the period.

According to the Prado director in the Sixties, Francisco Sánchez Cantón, the major Spanish artistic streak or temperament tilts more towards the mesmerizing magic of color rather than the sheer discipline of drawing”. A few others have consciously contrasted the emotional, lusty realism of Spanish art with the Italian Renaissance’s idealising classicism – for, only the latter essentially relied on the meticulous intellectual pursuit of deft draughtsmanship.

The new exhibit, like the recorded evidence for stark Spanish drawings, begins in 1563 – quite long after artists like Michelangelo had given up their chalks – with a plan by Philip II to construct the spectacular El Escorial monastery-palace complex, just north-west of the Madrid city. The Spanish kingdom was still nascent, unified merely a century earlier. Philip had just recently established the city as its capital.

The various different influences on the budding Goya are cited here, to add give context to his astonishing rise. The fact remained that he possessed extraordinary imagination, humanity and vision as an artist, defying all contextualization. Still, it is fascinating to witness the progress to the ‘Disasters of War series’ (1810-15) from prints as early as ‘Blind Guitarist’ in 1778.

The show has its own peaks and troughs - lesser draughtsmen to go with the in between fine ones. At the beginning, one might have wished a deeper look at the impact the expulsion of Muslims from Spain (keen papermakers) had on the drawing in the country then. Yet, this is a very engaging display, worth watching for the works by Goya alone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Abir karmarkar’s core artistic concerns

Artist Abir karmarkar’s critical concern is depiction of flesh in all its materiality and corporeality. Working with a mixture of readymade or found images including his own images and other photographic references from personal and archetypal iconography, he reuses and transfigures them, manipulating them to make them relevant to the intended artistic output in oils on canvas. The artist takes advantage of technology to juxtapose these images in his work that mostly show two personas residing within a single body.

The images, carrying a touch of eroticism, come with a touch of melancholy and accentuate the feeling of isolation, which is inherent in his creations. An amalgamation of photographic and painterly techniques, they depict his alternative ego, ‘the feminine being hidden within me’, as he reveals, “I look to blur boundaries between the feminine and masculine, by questioning such notions.” His compositions incorporate an unconventional subject matter that he portrays in his own inimitable style. His photo realist images - sharp and edgy, sensual and satirical - are as real as a picture, but as phantasmagorical as a quirky piece of art.

The Baroda based artist employs an innovative technique to narrate an imaginary autobiography on the canvas. He explains, “I create a virtual reality, a sort of parallel world, to explore my ‘other’ self, and convey or question certain prevailing concepts and notions related to sexuality that I find odd and unjustifiable.”

He pays minute attention to detailing, color and lighting in his works that portray a different shade of sexuality with a hint of intimacy and eroticism. He says, “To some extent, I dramatize or magnify the core concept, but the idea is to get to the root of it, and not to provide a shallow representation.

It’s part real, part fictional and part autobiographical. One cannot demarcate the boundaries! I am neither propagating any ideology nor passing any message. I merely articulate my viewpoint through my works. As an artist, I am more concerned with enhancing the visual, conceptual quality of my works.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Three of India’s emerging talented practitioners

While referring to India’s emerging talented practitioners, another name that invariably crops up is that of artist Navin Thomas. The introspective and innovative creator is known to experiment with an array of forms and mediums. For example, at an unconventional residency program organized by KHOJ art organization, he was one of the sound artists invited to experiment with their medium.

Driven by a visual world, a whole new world of sensorium was opened up in front of viewers. Other than his preoccupation with voice culture, automation, and sleep cycles, the artist is known to keenly explore the mesmerizing sound worlds of different organisms. He often draws his inspiration from the sudden element of surprise in order to arrive at something unexpected and keep the viewers engaged. The deliberate merging of exterior stimuli with inner thoughts is a strategy that he skillfully employs to achieve this.

On the other hand, Amarnath Sharma often depicts caricatured scenes drawn from daily life. Elaborating on his artistic process, the artist mentions: “I work in a photo-realistic mode. I draw different images from ubiquitous urban locations and lives to reposition them in a new context. They together tell a totally different tale with an element of surprise to it.” The images and the inputs, which he grasps through a multitude of sources like magazines and television, act as a starting point to most of his works.

Weaving these images and references into a combined meaningful output forms the core of his complex process. A mere photorealistic rendering without any artistic agenda does not interest him. He recreates and relocates the known and the imagined visual references, filling them with alternative meanings. His compositions, largely figurative, comprise ubiquitous characters, sometimes larger-than-life. The artist looks to create a paradox on canvas by juxtaposing contradictory or supplementary images. He says, “I perceive and portray reality in such a way that the viewers get to know a hitherto unexplored side of it.”

Another noteworthy artist of his generation, the 1961-born Chandra Bhattacharjee completed her studies at Kolkata’s Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship and got a gold medal in 1986 from the Rabindra Bharati University. His compositions are largely influenced by traditional tribal or rural themes owing to his deep associations with communities like ’Santhal’. His paintings exude a textural quality reminiscent of mud walls of the remote villages. The artist has had several solo and group exhibitions of his artworks in India and internationally, in South Korea, Tokyo, Toronto Singapore, and New York.

‘Subliminal Metropolis’ at Latitude28

A new show at Latitude28 in New Delhi includes the works of Shanthamani M, Preksha Tater and Julien Segard (a French artist). The three artists explore the different possible ways to represent architectural spaces – ancient, urban, or psychological.

The three artworks at the venue look to play with a peculiar geometrical architecture as well as an organizing grid so as to deconstruct it. The idea is to build an eternal play existing between a formalistic space’s representation and its collapse into what perhaps can be seen as a mental landscape.

In her piece, Shanthamani Muddaiah tries to address ancient Western antiquity. The artist harks back to its eccentric iconic mythologies/images for examining and reforming them with charcoal, described in the accompanying note as a particular and rather charged sculptural material.

In her centerpiece of the show, titled ‘Black Mirror’, Muddaiah focuses on the pillar’s architectural structure. Six huge columns made of charcoal infiltrate the exhibiting space and alongside sculptures of urns. The idea is to build an imagined, nearly disrupted archeological city site. The apparent gaze towards the Western culture’s heritage is somewhat ambivalent; it represents, on the one hand for the artist one of the origins of knowledge and it’s worn out by the passage of time, at the same time, no longer holding a claim to our understanding of world around.

The pillars tend to signify both decay of human glory as well as its pathos, collapsing under multiple narratives and inclusive forms of knowledge that overshadow ancient grandeur gradually. Her frozen, heavy sculptural works of a fast-deteriorating antiquity juxtaposed with s dynamic drawings by Julien Segard (of deconstructed contemporary metropolitan areas) give way to immense city-scape drawings of an array of recycled materials.

The images invariably originate from satellite views of many cities in India and France (Paris, Marseille) with which the artist shares a biographical relation. The image’s unity is dismantled, almost detached from reality – as if abstracted as well as reconstructed anew. The bird's eye point of view is deftly infused with the proximity of his very own personal-mental explorations and experiences in the urban spaces to generate an extremely vibrant perspective shuffling.

Last but not the least, space in Preksha Tater’s works as processed formations of complex psychological relations does not refer to any specific locations.

'Subliminal Metropolis’ is curated by Anne Maniglier.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

‘Vistaar’ of a vibrant icon, sacred in its symbolism

Mumbai-based Art Musings presents a solo show of the veteran artist, S H Raza. Entitled ‘Vistaar’, it brings to the fore how his work is suffused with mystic aspects of Hindu philosophy.

In the course of a career spanning nearly seven decades, he has dedicated himself to a quest for vital forms that convey his earliest memories of landscape and cosmic expanse, language and silence. The circle or ‘Bindu’ has become more of an icon, sacred in its symbolism, and placing his work in an Indian context. It’s now more of an icon, sacred in its symbolism, and placing his work in an Indian context.

To Raza, painting is akin to the meditative practice of japa, the fully –engaged repetition of a mantra, until it is deepened and concentrated into a pathway of energy. Working with basic forms such as the point, the circle and the concentric diagram, he has pursued a pictorial japa as a means of approaching the deep sources of the self.

Raza studied painting at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai (1946- 48). One among the founder members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, he went on a scholarship in 1950 to the Ecole National des Beaux-Arts in Paris till 1953. The world-renowned artist has participated in various landmark exhibitions including the Venice Biennale, 1956; Sao Paulo Biennale, 1958; John Moore’s Exhibition, Liverpool, 1958; First Triennale, New Delhi, 1968; Salon De Mai, Grand Palais, Paris, 1989, International Bienniale e Dakar, Senegal, 1992, and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 2000, among others.

His art lends itself to such a quest for intensity: the compass of its scale meets the eye in an intimate encounter; the linear stroke, the chromatic pitch and the unspoken sound explode, not at the distance set by the frame, but within our minds. In his favored vocabulary of motifs, alongside cosmic references as the bija or seed, the bindu or focal source, the divya-chakshu or inner eye, and the kalpa vriksha or cosmic tree, the artist also dwells on the twinned nagas, the interlocking serpents emblematic of regeneration, and the yoni, the locus of the female principle.

His images are improvisations on an essential theme: that of the mapping out of a metaphorical space in the mind.

Friday, December 21, 2012

‘Devoid’: A quest for abstraction

Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris presents a series by Mithu Sen on the eve of her first solo in France. In line with some of her most emblematic artworks, here she repeats a visual idiom very much characteristic of her sculptures and drawings: a frank femininity’s eroticism and the unveiling of an intimacy, which makes us touch uncomfortable; the inanimate objects’ reactivation in order to generate a confusion of identity – whether emotional geographical or sexual, apart from an insistence on depiction of the body as a material, organic entity and on dissection and isolation of its parts as peculiar pictorial motifs, alongside.

A curatorial note explains: “With her disturbing shadow theatre installation, she sheds light on her darkest imaginings and confronts us with her personal world: a procession of finely cut-out forms – animals, objects, bits of dismembered, disjointed bodies and nightmarish visions. As a storyteller, she confronts us with our own subconscious and takes us with a subtle dark humor on a journey of initiation into the city of Paris. By presenting us revisited pop icons of our immediate environment seen as an outsider, her installation is the critical diary of her three weeks residency in Paris.”

The shadows, fading memories as well as perceptions of the land the artist encounters, immaterial traces, layers and also fragmented parts represents a response to the blending of two different time zones : the history of her experiences, memories of the city and the present duration. Here she makes the shadow theatre profane by manipulating the effigies in her magic artifact and deceive our perceptions.

With ‘Devoid’, she takes further strides in her artistic quest for abstraction, not forsaking a bit of her droll impertinence or the insubordination of her apt and precise line. ‘Bareness is the void’, she explains, ‘but a void after there has been a presence: a withdrawn existence.’ By inviting viewers to experience the immateriality of the voids of hidden light and the fullness of projected light, the artist rules out any kind of passivity and the viewer acts as a dynamic support for disseminating these shadows, and a mobile actor of these active forces.”

Playfully working around social and personal concerns with

Subtle sprinkling of humor adds a light-hearted touch to Mithu Sen’s artistic quest to examine the political, social and fundamental aspects of our identity. The playful and serious images that she often depict of the intimate lives of men form the core of large-scale drawings, accompanied by sound installations. In essence, she studies the different possibilities we harbor of self-perception and the way our identity and development is influenced of society.

Known to be a multi-faceted artist, she puts to use a wide range of media, such as sculptural projects, drawing, collage, objects, video works, and installation. Her drawings often extend into installation and other mediums in order to explore the elision of audio- visual experiences. Engaged in general issue of gender in postmodernism and with the subjective experience of sexuality and fragile femininity in post-emancipation, her visual narrative is often autobiographical. For example, her ‘Myth U’ showcased as part of ‘Myth – Reality: Constructing Cult-u're’ at the Mumbai based Guild Gallery, is a self portrait.

It suggests ‘how friends/people like to read/see/write/call me...though it is funny but it has an inner psychology that drives’s how people spell/ed my name...’, as she puts it. “When the self portrait blurs into the viewers’ eyes, they don’t necessarily dig into my personal lives; they rather make a new journey relating (to) their own life, perspectives, and they put their own portrait into that void and become that very subject into that whole event. It becomes their own (auto)biography.”

Apart from the Skoda Prize, she has received YFLO(FICCI) Young Achievers Award (2008); Kunstmuseum Bern Residency, Switzerland (2007); Bose Pacia Artist in Residence, New York (2006); UNESCO Ashburg Scholarship for Brazil (2005-06); Lijang Studio Residency, Yunnan, China (2005); Khoj International Artists Residency, Delhi (2003); Junior Fellowship from Union Ministry of HRD (2000), and AIFACS Award, Delhi (1998).

Prompting viewers to explore ideas and meanings of 'self'

Considered one of the most dynamic and innovative art practitioners of her generation, Mithu Sen stands for the new wave of talent in contemporary Indian art.

Born in 1971 in West Bengal, she completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree (painting) from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, and later, joined the Glasgow School of Art for a postgraduate program on the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship in 2000-01. Among her most recent solos are 'Nothing Lost in Translation', Nature Morte, Berlin (2010); 'Me Two', Krinzinger Project, Vienna; and 'Dropping Gold’, Suzie Q Projects, Zurich.

Among the prominent group shows she has featured in 2010-11 include 'Against All Odds, LKA, New Delhi; 'The Pill', Latitude 28, Delhi; 'Myth - Reality', The Guild, Mumbai; 'At The Edge', Gallery Maya, London; 'Indian (Sub)Way', Vadehra (Delhi, London); 'Dialogues' and 'Eye of India, Bartha & Senarclens Partners, Singapore; 'The Evolution of the Species', Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Mumbai. Her work also formed part of 'India Xianzai: Contemporary Indian Art', at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Shanghai courtesy ICIA in 2009.

Mithu Sen maintains a consistent interest in using text, image, and concept through a combination of which, her work let viewers construct their own narratives on the subjects considered often private, through the complicity of their viewing as well as interactions with the images and other elements. Her pieces reflect an acute awareness of many styles and sources apart from the politics of borrowing.

Viewers can experience stories and sounds, which connect to the drawings, developing an experimental new format. The artist wants them to question prevailing societal values. The viewer is compelled to relate to her works at a personal level, through self-analysis of their own identity. According to her, this is also meant to prompt them to play with the ideas and meanings of 'self', as she explores different permutations of identity which one can build and try on, depending on desire or necessity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

‘The Encampment of Eternal Hope’ and ‘The Rinse Cycle’

Housed in a landmark industrial structure on the banks of Tyne river located in Gateshead, BALTIC has come to be recognized as a renowned international centre for contemporary art. The venue is currently hosting two interesting solo shows – ‘The Encampment of Eternal Hope’ and ‘The Rinse Cycle’.

A nomadic social sculpture
A major new sculptural installation by Zoë Walker & Neil Bromwich, extending their enquiry into the role of art as an active agent for transformation in society, takes apocalyptic predictions for 21 December 2012 – the end date for the Mayan Calendar – as an imaginative catalyst, the project envisages a post-apocalyptic utopian community, a kind of ‘garden of earthly delights’.

This ambitious participatory installation will evolve within the gallery space involving audiences in a program of events, which bring together experts in the fields of ecology, economy and the arts to explore hopes and fears for future survival. ‘The Encampment of Eternal Hope’ is a nomadic social sculpture, field laboratory and evolving community. Part-tent and part-garden, it seeks out positive strategies for future living at a time of global uncertainty. The collaborative duo is renowned for their large-scale participatory events and exhibitions that invite audiences to imagine better worlds.

As part of the show, visitors are invited to engage with this laboratory for future living. They can join a team of experts within the fields of ecology, economy and the arts and play their part in this live artwork. The program also includes expert speakers such as physicist David Korowicz and Dr. Geraldine Wright alongside survival exercise classes
Popular culture and the unconscious mind
Los Angeles-based Jim Shaw is one of America’s most important and prolific contemporary artists. Part of a ground-breaking group including Mike Kelley, John Miller and Tony Oursler that graduated from California Institute of the Arts in the late 1970s, he has one of the most distinctive visual imaginations of his generation. ‘The Rinse Cycle’ is the first ever full-scale survey of the renowned artist’s work internationally. It brings together over one hundred paintings, sculptures, drawings and videos done by him during the last twenty-five years.

Jim Shaw’s work is largely informed by his fascination with the popular culture imagery, and also art history, religion, myth and politics,, as well as his very own unconscious mind, so to say. Drawing heavily from these various different sources the artist makes work in distinct series format that take years to complete. They are all shown together in this exhibition for the first time.

Using found materials to build monuments to human life

Huma Bhabha (American, originally from Karachi) is known for her engagement with the human figure and for her usage of found materials, working primarily in sculpture. Often tending towards the grotesque, her sculptural works and photo-based drawings feature bodies that appear dissected and dismembered.

One can likewise view them as monuments to human life reclaimed from the detritus of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Incorporating materials like Styrofoam, animal bones and clay, the artist creates figures that feel unstable and ephemeral. Insistently contemporary, they nevertheless recall classical figurative traditions across a range of cultures and historical periods, typifying a strand of neo-primitivism that has arisen in the past decade.

The curator, Peter Eleey, mentions in an introduction to the solo that Huma Bhabha’s sculptures ‘may appear bound to a distant past, while also seeming to arrive from the decaying ruins of some future civilization’. Specific poses/pieces here suggest Greek kouroi, African sculptures, Easter Island heads and Egyptian statues, apart from the reworkings of these forms by many modern artists like Giacometti and Picasso.

According to the curator, the hybrid Greek-Buddhist figures from ancient Gandhara (now northern Pakistan) — a reference that seems especially germane given her background (the artist immigrated to the US in the 1980s), and especially potent with a show of sculpture from Gandhara fresh in memory.

The side galleries of MOMA hold smaller recent artworks. The earliest one from 2005 exudes a more classical approach to the human figure. For example, Sleeper’ shows a man with curly beard who wouldn’t  look out of place in Greek & Roman Galleries of the Met had the same been shaped out of marble instead of Styrofoam topped up with clay.

Karen Rosenberg of The New York Times mentions in an essay that what you see, here and throughout the show, are not just romantic ruins or contextless fragments; Ms. Bhabha has a raw and sometimes violent approach to sculpture that feels very contemporary but makes you think about the way we excavate and display the art of past civilizations, the columnist concludes.

‘Unnatural Histories’ by Huma Bhabha at MoMA

A new series of works, entitled ‘Unnatural Histories’, by Huma Bhabha at MoMA (the PS1), consists long-enduring forms drawn from the eerie ancient world, lending gravity to the throwaway materials, now rather commonplace in most contemporary sculptural pieces. The precariousness of assemblage & installation art perhaps haunts her totemic, monstrous figures, typically done from Styrofoam, clay, wood scraps, wire mesh and rubber; the juxtaposition, either way, is quite arresting.

Two sculptures in bronze flank the museum entrance. ‘God of Some Things’ includes a stylized figure. The other one, ‘Ghost of Humankindness’, shows a cracking clay mask and a blocky body of cast-packing materials. They together appear to bookend the figurative sculpture history.

Huma Bhabha, born in Pakistan, can be said to be a sort of late bloomer. The MOMA show is her first ever museum solo in New York, following a series of major group shows like the Gwangju Biennial (2008), Whitney Biennial (2010), and the Paris Triennial this year.

There are some 30 sculptures alongside 12 collage-drawings, which layer peculiar skeletal heads over mostly desolate-looking landscapes. The two-dimensional artworks incorporate photos of Karachi, her native city, as if giving the artist’s multifarious, polytheistic beings a defined feel of place. They also complement her sculptures in some other way, underlining the gestural glue, which closely holds them together.

The first artwork on display inside the gallery space is the sprawling title work specifically created for the exhibit. It’s a type of alien blob, having lopsided eyes and curious clay skin, seemingly oozing over a Styrofoam skeleton. It seems to be having swallowed, or maybe merged with, a human figure; standing just to one side of this sculpture, one can notice a photo-cutout of a ubiquitous man propped up right behind it. This rather strange life form has a long tail done out of a cut-up rubber tire.

Scale works to her advantage; the smaller head sculptures don’t really give the same impact, though they do play nicely with similar sized drawings. In her larger artworks, Humba Bhabha engages architecture - either by constructing the figure as if a kind of building or by referring to old palace and temple statuary.

‘Huma Bhabha: Unnatural Histories’ is on view until April 1, 2013 at MoMA PS1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Making of Landscape

A major exhibition of artworks by the three towering figures of English landscape painting - John Constable RA, Thomas Gainsborough RA and JMW Turner RA takes place at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

It explores the development of the British school of landscape painting. The display includes 150 works of art, including paintings, prints, books and archival material.

Showcasing major works from the Royal Academy Collections, the exhibition features highlights such as Gainsborough’s Romantic Landscape (c.1783), Constable’s The Leaping Horse (1825) and Boat Passing a Lock (1826) alongside Turner’s brooding diploma work, Dolbadern Castle (1800).

An accompanying note explains: “Since the foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, its Members have included artists committed to landscape painting, addressing the changing meaning of ‘truth to nature’ and the discourses surrounding the beautiful, the sublime and the picturesque. During the 18th and 19th centuries there was a shift in style in landscape painting, represented here in the works of Gainsborough, the emotionally charged and sublime landscapes of Turner and Constable’s sentimental, romantic scenes.”

A number of works by those like Richard Wilson, Michael Angelo Rooker and Paul Sandby are also exhibited, with prints made after 17th century masters whose work served as models: Claude, Poussin, Gaspard Dughet and Salvator Rosa. Letters by Gainsborough, Turner’s watercolor box and Constable’s palette are on display, bringing their artistic practice to life.

The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The Academy was founded by George III in 1768. The 34 founding Members were a group of prominent artists and architects including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir William Chambers who were determined to achieve professional standing for British art and architecture.

Another significant exhibition at the institution early next year will be the first ever retrospective devoted to the portraiture of Edouard Manet. Spanning the entire career of this enigmatic and at times controversial artist, 'Manet: Portraying Life' will bring together works from across Europe, Asia and the US.

Rathin Barman’s installation at deCordova Sculpture Park

Rathin Barman’s works explore the intriguing relationship that exists between the urban and the rural with attention to the way in which technology, materialism, and globalization affects the two diverse realms.

The promising artist primarily works with industrial rubble like decrepit bricks, metal, materials that are inherently representative of the recurrent building up/ breaking down of human civilization. Often, his works juxtapose an urban environment with rural elements in sculptural forms as well as site-specific interventions.

Rathin Barman’s intriguing Untitled installation, currently sited on the renowned deCordova Sculpture Park’s lawn, apparently contrasts the suburban with the urban by fetching the leveled city buildings’ ruins to its pristine campus. It incorporates a series of walls, each one of them made by stacks of architectural demolition rubble, which are placed meticulously within an open metalwork frame. Obviously, the jagged, dense wreckage contrasts with the undulating frame, comparatively delicate in appearance in spite of its rigidity.

Its open weave simultaneously exposes and contains the rubble, to create a permeable boundary between the unspoiled park environment and the dirtied remnants of civilization. He mediates this intricate relationship employing metalwork, carefully crafted into beautiful botanical forms, created in the city of Kolkata. Thus the work becomes both universal and site-specific: it prompts viewers to reconsider how the manner in which they identify with their built surroundings and also to think of the different factors, which drive destruction and creation on an international level.

The sculpture is displayed courtesy Kolkata’s Experimenter Contemporary Art and the Creative India Foundation. Incidentally, Rathin Barman is the first artist from South Asia to exhibit in the world-renowned sculpture park. A version of this wonderful work, featuring the same dazzling metal armature, was first installed at the Frieze New York Sculpture Park in the spring 2012.

The installation indicates the mission of deCordova to showcase a wide variety of artwork by international artists

Analyzing metro-centric living in a globalized world

Among many other social and cultural things, Rathin Barman’s he looks to address the cycle of constant building-destroying and then rebuilding alongside the art-architecture intersection. It raises questions, in the process, about the potential value of detritus and the life of material.

Rathin Barman holds a BVA and MVA from the Faculty of Visual Arts, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. His work has been featured in group exhibitions at Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata; Gallery Kolkata; and Frieze Art Fair, New York. His first solo, ‘And My Eyes Fill with Sand…’was shown at Experimenter, Kolkata in 2011. Barman has had residencies with The Why Not Place Residency Program at Religare Arts, New Delhi and Sandarbh Artist Residency in Rajasthan. 

Revealing his artistic ideas and thought processes, he states: “As we move into a globalized world, over dependence on our metro centric lives and need for material consumption has increased manifold. This in turn has given rise to new economic and environmental structures that are transforming both urban and rural spaces. Living in an urban setting has made me confront in my immediate surroundings the need to desire more. It has also made me work with materials that are urban, representative of our times and has made me recognize the definite unabated and unstable transformation of the urban landscape.

The artist reveals that his interest includes intervention in diverse urban and natural spaces in our immediate surroundings - physically or virtual spaces. He is very much interested through his interventions to highlight a subtle sense of humor and a wry helplessness in being located between reality and illusion through my sculptures, drawings and interventions and to redefine spaces, both visually and conceptually.

The various consequences of the transforming urban landscape owing to socio-economic change interests him to research more on architecture, the urban sprawl, development and human behavior. He considers the city to be a political phenomenon that reflects diverse ideology and socio-political points of view. He visits the cities that have either gone through transformation or are in the process of being transformed and create work that is relevant not only to that particular city, but a comment on our rapidly growing urban lives as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prajjwal Choudhury’s artistic journey

Thought-provoking works of art by this young and talented artist from Kolkata carry curious titles, such as ‘Where do I come from? Who am I? Where are I going?’, ‘Desire is Destroyed with the Destruction of Desire’, and ‘Nothing Endures but Change’ reflect Prajjwal Choudhury’s unconventional way of analyzing issues, emotions and concerns that surround our day-to-day lives.

Born in 1980, did his B.V.A. (Bachelor of Visual Arts) from The Indian College of Arts & Draftsmenship, Rabindra Bharati University, followed by his M.V.A. from the Department of Printmaking, Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda. A member of the Asia Pacific Artists Fellowship Program (2010) courtesy National Art Studio, South Korea, he was represented at the India Art Summit (2011, 2009) by Latitude 28.

The bewildering Banyan tree acted as the focal point, a mystical metaphor symbolizing India’s creative awakening, of a recent major international show at Vienna’s Essl Museum. ‘India Awakens: Under the Banyan Tree’, as its curator Alka Pande had put it, mapped the innovative approach of emerging contemporary artists, appreciated for their prophetic and artistic qualities. One name that clearly stands out is that of artist Prajjwal Choudhury.

Apart from ‘India Awakens’ in Klosterneuburg (2010); other significant shows he has featured in include at the 12th Harmony Art Show (2006); International Print Biennale, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (2005); 77th All India Art Exhibition (AIFACS) at New Delhi in 2004, apart from a group exhibition at M.S.U, Baroda, 69th All India Art Exhibition at Academy of Fine Arts (Kolkata), and 47th National Exhibition of Art in the same year.

Among his other participations are 18th All India Art Exhibition, Nagpur (2003); Two Men Show at Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (2002), also having featured in a group show at the academy and the 3rd Eastern region Art Exhibition, Kolkata.

Neglected objects acquire an artistic connotation

Prajjwal Choudhury invariably collects his preliminary fuel or basic material from such neglected objects as matchboxes to create his thought-provoking works. Those filled in the unique recycling machine were imparted with a realistic visual appeal, albeit laced with a touch of wry humor that deceived the onlooker about their latent intent.

In one such unconventional artwork curiously named 'Everything has been done before, but we would like to go back and begin all over again', shown as part of a group show 'Re-claim, Re-cite, Re-cycle', he set up a peculiar recycling machine seemingly functioning as a kinetic conditioned for reprocessing and reproducing matchboxes. There were no less than 2000 of them put inside the mixer falling constantly on a moving plate of steel.

After getting accumulated and once the mixer was emptied, they would reenter it by a vacuum process and the recycling process begun. Obviously, here the artist seemed to comment over the manner in which everyday mundane objects tend to be taken for granted by all of us.

Their covers carried images of the artworks of several world-renowned artists like Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Marcel Duchamp apart from those of many from India including Dhruva Mistry, Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya, and Jitish Kallat, collating them into a captivating collage.

This exceptional mode of conveying his viewpoint exudes a realistic visual appeal, with a touch of wry humor, perplexing viewers. His satirical approach and a sarcastic way of looking at the phenomenon through his peculiar medium is indeed unique and attention grabbing. For example, in ‘Who Will Be Next’, he collates the images by established artists acclaimed internationally - to suggest what you are seeing now will revisit you, albeit served in a different manner. The images are universally familiar, largely owing to their heavy dissemination in today’s mechanical age.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Looking back at ‘Wish Dream’ and a new record

Arpita Singh’s art is informed by magnificent miniaturist painting, folk art, textiles and other elements of India’s rich visual culture. She skillfully weaves such diverse elements and influences into dense and deft tapestries of personal experiences, reflections and imagination of the real world. We look back at a historic event when ‘Wish Dream’, a monumental (16-piece; 24-by-13-ft) mural by her done almost a decade ago, fetched a record price in 2010:

Saffronart’s annual winter auction by top modern & contemporary Indian artists a couple of years ago included a work by Arpita Singh. A price tag of Rs 9.6 crore (close to $2.25 million) for ‘Wish Dream’ broke quite a few records. The price was the highest ever for a work by an Indian female artist to be offered in auction, overtaking Bharti Kher's ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own’. For record, it went for $1.5 million a few months ago at a Sotheby's auction.

Arpita Singh thus became the first artist of her generation to find a place into the top bracket until now dominated by SH Raza, Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) and FN Souza (1922-2002). India's most renowned artist (now a citizen of Qatar) MF Husain was said to have claimed a Rs 100-crore private commission.

‘The Wish Dream’ took her a year to complete. Given the commission in 2000, she was inspired by the phrase that she had come across in a Tibetan play.  The mural (24 feet x 13 feet) is said to arise out of her complex oeuvre that spans well over four decades.

The artist stated in an interview: “The mural displays the dreams and wishes of a woman (within our society) and how it progresses and the way it’s related to other women through ritual. Wedding is the most important ritual, so you will notice a woman who is standing - and from behind - two hands of a man holding her.” It is comprised of 16 panels. The work inspired by Buddhist monastic traditions, is strewn with fascinating flowers, fragments of text, numbers, aircraft and cars.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain and other modern masters on offer

Masterpieces by Tyeb Mehta and M.F. Husain lead the Saffronart sale of Modern Art, with a rough total estimate $ 2.75 million (Rs 14.62 crore) to $ 3.40 million (Rs. 18.39 crore).

The sale takes place for two days on 18th and 19th December. It features a beautiful Kerala scene from the 1960s by Husain (estimated at $ 113,210-150,945 or Rs. 60,00,000-80,00,000) along with Mehta’s 1961 canvas ‘Untitled’, which was first shown in his solo at London’s Bear Lane Gallery. It’s estimated at $ 301,890-358,495 (Rs. 1,60,00,000- 1,90,00,000). S

Saffronart’s last auction for the year will present 70 modern Indian works by 27 artists at It features exquisite works of art by many other modern masters such as F.N. Souza, Ram Kumar, Manjit Bawa, S.H. Raza, Bikash Bhattacharjee, and Ganesh Pyne among others. A captivating untitled canvas by MF Husain, done in the 1960s, is featured on the auction’s catalog cover. He first went to the scenic in the 1960s, and was struck by the fecundity and beauty of the land and so also its cultural traditions. In this fabulous painting, a sort of tribute to Kerala’s verdant beauty, he represents it through one of his favorite motifs, the fascinating female figure.

Husain paints four of them involved in different tasks and seated in different positions. The figures either tending cooking fish or bathing overlap with several large leaves like those of the banana palms characteristic of the state. Employing a palette of browns, whites and greens, the artist reproduced the "three or four subdued, silent colors of Kerala's enigmatic woman (Kalyani Kutty). Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Untitled’ work is another highlight of the auction. Painted in 1961, it represents the earliest phases of his figuration, before he moved onto the sharper lines, flat expanses of color and bisecting diagonals that later became the hallmarks of his works. This lot is a perfect example of the artist's early oeuvre, a testimony to his preoccupation with the figure.

Souza’s ‘East End Factory – London’ is another important lot in the online sale. It is estimated between $ 80,000-100,000 (Rs. 42,40,000-53,00,000). In this painting from 1957, the composition is largely governed by an eerie stillness. Among the other highlights are Manjit Bawa’s 1976 canvas (estimated at $122,645-160,380 or Rs. 65,00,000-Rs. 85,00,000).

‘Contemporary Renaissance’ courtesy MK Search Art

A new group exhibition, entitled ‘‘Contemporary Renaissance’, courtesy Casa Masaccio Arte Contemporanea and MK Search Art revolves around Casa Masaccio.

A curatorial note by Veeranganakumari Solanki elaborates: “San Giovanni Valdarno, the Tuscan town in the historic district of Arezzo, traces a personal and significant association with art, culture and architecture. Being the birth place of the famous Renaissance artist Masaccio (born 1401), there’s a significant and protracted relationship with changing art movements and practices that integrate themselves within the inherent art and culture of this town.

“San Giovanni Valdarno founded in 1296 by the Republic of Florence has integrated itself with cultures and influences from the surrounding regions, thereby imbibing multicultural elements. The architectural layout of the historic centre was created by Arnolfo di Cambio based on the layout of Roman cities. Though San Giovanni Valdarno is an industrial town, it preserves its cultural and artistic heritage.

Artists and art movements over the centuries has been influenced by historic events, political turmoil and contemporary happenings. Artists integrate personal views and ideas into a universal language through their art practices, similar to the history of the town of San Giovanni Valdarno. The artists during the residency at Casa Masaccio explored and excavated, through ideas and research, its historic nature, architecture and art to integrate it into their art practices.

Maintaining an identity of their own, they created a dialogue that engages with San Giovanni Valdarno, its culture and people; and at the same time realized the development of new contemporary ideas and forms through their art. The works created during this period adopt a language that merge into the history of the town, but at the same time maintain universal identities of their own.

Among the participating artists in the show are Remen Chopra, Vibha Galhotra, Sonia Jose and Monali Meher, who together draw deeply from the Renaissance period and school of thought, which was central to San Giovanni Valdarno, the birth town of Masaccio.

‘Pondicherry’ by Sebastian Cortes

A note by Pascal Bruckner to a new series of works, by entitled ‘Pondicherry’ by Sebastian Cortes at Tasveer in Chennai:

After seeing Sebastian's photographs, one notices the predominant tonality of this town: the washed-out grey. It constitutes a web of harmonics and subtle shades, a clever compromise between the ancient and the new, the facades repainted white, the ochre or pastel tones of the houses, the burgundy floors, the vivid green of the palm trees and the wear-and-tear caused by the sea air, the climate and the monsoon-rains.

The ashram of Aurobindo, by deciding to paint its buildings in sparkling grey, slightly uniform, slightly regimental, turns its back on what verily constitutes the charm and beauty of this place, this perpetually unresolved rivalry of colours and their myriad shades. This grey that sometimes veers to green or to blue lends to Pondicherry its poignant charm, a blend of languor and nostalgia.

An invisible patina covers the most flaming things that seem to have become bygone even before coming out, to a point where they vanish into nothingness, suspended on the edge of the abyss. One gets a taste here of a time of quality, a taste of reminiscence, very different from the hurly-burly of big cities.

Here the present seems already past, like a fugitive trail dimming away almost as soon as it has appeared. Look at these interiors photographed by Sebastian, both empty and overloaded at once, filled with bric-a -brac of beds, clocks, lifeless lamps, sagging sofas set in chiaroscuro against flaky walls. They lead us on to another dimension. The tonality of this parallel world exudes a kind of soft, impalpable melancholy that evokes an idleness bordering on the miraculous. As if we had always lived in it and were returning home.

Nothing is lost, nothing is to be regained, we are experiencing the satiny weft of time that flows on and strips us threadbare, makes of us eternal travelers condemned to transience. It is nothing very important or grandiose, just a heady perfume, a wink of light, a shuffling of naked feet, just the bare essence, a weightless enchantment that feels like joy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Indian artists draw from the birth town of Masaccio

During a month-long Casa Masaccio artist residency project, four contemporary Indian artists drew inspiration from the culture and site- specific aspects of historic San Giovanni Valdarno. They all soaked in the serene surroundings, nature, architecture, and interiors of spaces caught in a time warp as well as people and their peculiar customs.

Remen Chopra
Born in New Delhi, and educated at the School Of Visual Arts New York, Remen Chopra naturally tends to combine diverse mediums like drawing, photography, painting, sculpture and installation to create works that are visually as layered as their conceptual depth. The treatment of her materials creates sensations and textures that allow the innovations to visibly layer beyond the surface. This furthers the need to make the content evident for the viewer, even if drawn from an intensely private and thoughtful place to be available and assessed.
Vibha Galhotra
Vibha Galhotra's practice addresses trans-cultural in the global local specificity. Driven by her concern towards the random urban development and fast depleting living environment, her work at a broader level expresses the fusion of science and spirituality through the collective concern of schizophrenic spaces and effects on culture and human values. She focuses on the context of displacement, nostalgia, identity, existence construction or deconstruction, the banal cultural condition in, around environment of negotiations in the new constant changing world. Her work crosses the dimensions of art, ecology, economy and activism.
Sonia Jose
Inspired by everyday life and experiences, Sonia Jose’s art practice relates to the environment and personal/social history. Her work stems from a need to preserve and acknowledge lived experience - she is particularly drawn to the intimate and overlooked circumstances that surround routine life practices. Working with varied media that includes drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation - she investigates the relationships, exchanges and politics between place, architecture, object and individual. The artist graduated in fine art from the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore.
Monali Meher
Monali Meher studied at Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai, 1990. In 1998 received ‘Unesco -Aschberg’ Residency in Vienna by Federal Chancellery for Arts and Science and performed her 1st performance,’ Reflect: A personal window display’, at Jehangir art gallery in Mumbai with the statement, ‘Nothing is permanent & it’s a nature’s law’. Since then she has exhibited her performances internationally at museums and institutes.

Two engaging displays at MOMA

A quick review of two engaging art displays at MOMA – one by Ferhat Özgür and other solo by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, suggesting contrasting ideas and processes of expressing their concerns:

‘I Can Sing’
Ferhat Özgür, a talented Turkish artist, looks to critique contemporary political realities with humor and irony. Living and working in Istanbul, he principally focuses upon the relationship of the individual with society, using his work as a space within which individuality can be expressed in spite of the context of oppressive environments.

Özgür‘s video work, titled ‘I Can Sing’. depicts an Anatolian woman in a headscarf, standing before a backdrop of contemporary Ankara featuring minarets alongside the ever-expanding sprawl of urban development. The woman’s lips move in conflict with the soundtrack of Jeff Buckley’s cover version of Leonard Cohen’s classic song ‘Hallelujah’.  Her personal lament becomes a lament for the disappearance of cultural traditions and identities in the wake of western homogenization.

She appears to both praise and despair, but the lines between Islam and Christianity, Western influence and Turkish tradition are blurred--suggesting that change is being both embraced and shunned. She is an embodiment of societal upheaval and change. Even the major key of the Western popular song is an indicator of uprooting as it obliterates the minor tones characteristic of Turkish music.
‘Tender Love Among the Junk’
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt’s mixed-media constructions, collages, and installations are marked by a trashy opulence concocted from household items and dollar stores. Mimicking Byzantine decoration with cellophane, aluminum foil, tinsel and glitter, the American artist (born 1948) pioneered a maximalist aesthetic in the late 1960s that explored gay sexuality, class struggle, and religion.

Mingling high with low, and sacred with profane, Lanigan-Schmidt bucked the reductive tastes of conceptualism and minimalism that dominated his youth, creating a radically decorative practice that, despite its influence, has never been properly assimilated into the history of American art.

In this sort of joyous retrospective of the artist’s work, almost everything on display tends to involve simulation of the Roman Catholic Church’s decorative culture and iconography. Woven in throughout deftly, too, there are signifiers of homosexual desire like pieces of gay pornography.

‘Evian Disease’ at Palais de Tokyo

The video work series, ‘Evian Disease’, by Helen Marten at newly developed for Palais de Tokyo in Paris is the second one by the artist, which cleverly exploits the medium of digital animation.

Born in Macclesfield in 1985, the London-based artist studied Central Saint Martins in London, then at the Ruskin School of Fine Art at Oxford University. She was awarded the Prix Lafayette in 2011 and the Prix LUMA in 2012.

Formulated as a dialogue between six characters, her new video is a speculative composition, a wild chase in search of the place and speed of the contemporary individual. In forcing language to misbehave – to deaden or to excite – the domestic and universal are packaged into the same plane, with casual nature and transformative cultural chaos stylized as friction-activating themes.

Behind the sanitized, yet ultimately seductive formal vocabulary of digital animation and the relentless omnipresence of the spoken word, a plot – whose ends only momentarily meet – begins to unfold. Making assiduous use of the collision of surfaces, the meeting of symbols and the superimposition of materials, Helen Marten delights in the deliberateness of error.
The artist ties signs together and unties them, leafing between and contaminating subjects that force public life into categories: projection, status, environment, consumption, sexiness. There is a patchwork (and seams), but the whole process is one of progressive layering, of artificial knots, foils and surface diversions. In this complex network of borrowing lies an inclination towards today’s comedic and the communicational, the domestically motivational and the wonderful obscenity.

Simultaneously, a new show of sculptural works by the artist set within a bespoke installation environment is on view at Chisenhale Gallery in London. In her installations, sculptures and videos, she plays upon our reference systems of physical stuff and a coding of the visual that establishes our most elemental relationships to the material world. Language and image become stylized outings of error, misalignment or perversion. Using the outlines of recognizable things as shorthand emblems for social activity or exchange, she explores what it means to be a human body preoccupied with the status of toothpaste, the floppiness of pasta or the eroticism of rubbish.

Friday, December 14, 2012

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Known to be a public art museum of immense standing and reputation, DeCordova Sculpture Park & Museum was formed with a singular purpose of educating and informing the general public about both modern and contemporary American art traditions and well as trends. The institution tries to accomplish this goal by focusing primarily on the art of the New England region. Here’s a quick look at its history and mission:
  • Providing a constantly changing landscape of large-scale, outdoor, modern and contemporary sculpture and site-specific installations, the Sculpture Park hosts more than 60 works, the majority of which are on loan to the Museum. Inside, the Museum features a robust slate of rotating exhibitions and innovative interpretive programming.
  • Established in 1950, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is the largest park of its kind in New England encompassing 35 acres, 20 miles northwest of Boston. In 2009, deCordova changed its name from deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum to emphasize its renewed focus on sculpture and to support the institution’s goal of becoming a premier Sculpture Park by 2020.
  • In March of 2010, deCordova acquired its first work by an international sculptor and continues to bolster the curatorial program by exhibiting high-quality, accessible art of nationally and internationally recognized artists indoors and out. To maintain its commitment to New England artists and emphasize the quality and vitality of the art created in this region, deCordova launched the deCordova Biennial in 2010 and the PLATFORM series in 2009.
  • Patrons of deCordova can enjoy year round activities in the Sculpture Park and Museum, including snowshoe tours, yoga in the park, birding tours, curator and artist conversations, and many special talks, screenings, and events. Unique to deCordova, the Corporate Program provides area businesses the opportunity to support the institution and regional artists through membership initiatives and Art Loan options. DeCordova is also home to the only preschool embedded in a contemporary art museum in the United States.
  • DeCordova educates through exhibitions, collections, classes, outreach programs, and a full schedule of ongoing and exhibition-related programs designed to enhance the public’s engagement with art and artists.

A sculptor who fused modern visual idioms with his roots

Known for his monumental sculptures, Ramkinkar Baij seamlessly fused the European modern visual idioms with his own roots and ethos. Indian sculpture, largely limited to academic naturalism until that point, was greatly transformed by this master practitioner, who experimented with different themes, materials, and forms, switching between figurative and abstracts, all soaked in a deep humanism and an instinctive grasping of the subtle, symbiotic relationship existing between man and nature.

He generally worked with cement and pebbles for outdoor sculptures since he could not afford other costly materials, quickly molding the mix before it set and then carefully chipping at the cast. Later, few of his sculptures were cast in bronze using molds made from the original works.

A major retrospective of his works courtesy LKA, curated by sculptor K.S Radhakrishnan, incidentally one of his distinguished students, along with K.G Subramanyan and A. Ramachandran, included over 350 masterpieces drawn from various collections. After Delhi, it was hosted in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

The grand showcase threw light on this enlightened and highly creative soul, who was more of a wanderer, whose works reflected his larger-than-life persona, and symbolized his creative genius. On the eve of the retrospective, the National Gallery of Art also released a few significant publications, such as ‘My Days with Ramkinkar’ by Somendranath Bandhapadhyaya’ (translated by Ms. Bhaswati Ghosh); ‘Ramkinkar Straight from Life’ by Mr. Johnny M.L; ‘Ramkinkar’s Yaksha Yakshi’ by Mr. K.S Radhakrishnan;; and ‘Ramkinkar Baij’ by Prof. R. Siva Kumar.

The paintings, drawings, graphics and sculptures on view encompassed close to six decades of his fulfilling career. A peep into his rich artistic journey was further enhanced by diverse media interventions like photographic blow ups, texts, video clips and digital prints, in an effort to contextualize the artist, the person and his philosophy. According to K S Radhakrishnan, his curatorial venture aimed at flagging those junctures where Ramkinkar Baij met all those who had traveled before him, along with him, and even after him. It served as a context in which the post 1980s generation of artists see, accept, reject, or understand him.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Retrospective of a world-renowned sculptor

With a career spanning over six decades, Sir Anthony Caro (born 1924) is one among the most acclaimed living sculptors of Britain. ‘Caro: Close Up’ is probably the first ever exhibition of his monumental work conceptualized by any American museum since a MOMA retrospective in New York way back in 1975.

Focusing on some of his early drawings and a series of small-scale sculptures done in a wide range of media, the exhibit brings together close to sixty pieces from the 1950s onwards until the present day. Although Anthony Caro is known for large, brightly painted abstract works, the artist has worked even on a small scale. Many of his early figurative bronzes point to continuities with later sculptures in bronze and steel that play with the edges, tops, and sides of their respective table supports.

The exhibition also includes his most personal sculptures first made in paper/cardboard, mostly away from his workshop and assistants in London, before they were cast into metal. Importantly, drawing has always remained core to his art practice, not as mere designs for ambitious sculptures but as another facet of his private work. Stored in the studio archive usually, just a handful of them have ever been shown. Exhibited together with his famous sculptures, these drawing will offer fresh insight into the vivacious visual research behind his abstract art.

The small sculptures made by him swoop-n-dip below their supports frequently, tending to hang down from the table edges, jutting out almost into the viewer’s space. He nearly shocked the British art fraternity by dispensing with the traditional pedestal in the ’60s and started to place his monumental sculptures on the ground directly. The sculptures presented in ‘Up Close’ remind us that he taught them to get down. It is tough to reconcile these lyrical ‘Table’ pieces with his later, slightly more enigmatic work done in ceramics, paper and bronze. Curving planes characterize many of the paper sculptures and reliefs in the show from the ’80s and ’90s.

‘Caro: Close Up’ is on display at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, through December 30, 2012.

Images soaked in rich Indian aesthetics

'Dhyanachitra', a series of works by A Ramachandran is on view at New Delhi's Vadehra Art. Different key elements of Indian classical art have found a natural progression and integration in his practice, as evident, including several compound motifs and imagery, an array of decorative elements apart from the exuberance of intricate forms and a wide mélange of colors.

His dazzling visual descriptions, as the show aptly displays, precisely encapsulate the varied hues of the multi-faceted universe distilled carefully from the very essence of nature that he recreates. In a way, his paintings become a feast not only for the eyes but also for the mind. Influenced to a great extent by Nandalal Bose, A Ramachandran is known to build a strong case for rich Indian aesthetics and for abundant usage of classical Indian images for articulating a unique ideological position.

The veteran artist feels one of his monumental paintings, 'Yayati', could be treated as a landmark in his development as an artist since it allowed him to infuse aspects of classical proportions as well as postures in his body of work. Executed largely as a narrative, it prompted him to make use of mythological imagery laced with a contemporary touch and form.

An interesting development in the artist’s oeuvre is a series of peculiar portrait heads of tribal men and women, especially since 2005. The small paintings, done in oil, carry iridescent colors that shimmer. Contained by sinuous lines that define the form, they radiate a mystifying energy. The head is generally shown up to the bust. The detailing of their ornaments, drapery and expression has a completeness and intimacy about them with a intriguing element of iconicity in the overall stylization.

Among the important honors and awards won by him are Padma Bhushan, Government of India (2005); Raja Ravi Verma Puraskar, Government of Kerala (2003); Manaviyam Award, Manaviyam Cultural Mission, Government of Kerala (2001); Gagan – Abani Puraskar, Visva Bharati University (2000); Parishad Sanman, Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi (1991); Noma Award for Children’s Picture Book Illustration (1980, 1978): and National Award for Painting, New Delhi (1973,69).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Elizabeth Price is the winner of the 2012 Turner Prize

Elizabeth Price, the vivacious video artist, has won the Turner Prize 2012. Considered one of the most prestigious awards in the international art world, the prize worth £25,000 honors the Yorkshire-born practitioner this year.

The prestigious prize is given to a British artist under 50 judged to have put up the best solo of the last year under consideration. Price makes use of archival images and other forms to explore the strands of complex relationship in context of today’s changing values. Actor Jude Law presented her with the award at London’s Tate Britain. During the acceptance speech, the artist gave credit for her recognition to comprehensive school education, stating her art career would be ‘unimaginable’ sans public support for the arts.

The other nominees for 2012 were video artist Luke Fowler, Paul Noble, a visual artist, and performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd. Price, interestingly, is the least well known and a very low-key one of the shortlisted artists. She conceded that she herself was a bit ‘surprised’ to win the award.

For her solo (HERE) at BALTIC, Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Price reanimated existing archives, employing music, imagery and texts. The idea was to explore our complex relationships to burgeoning consumer culture. The carefully sequenced films guided through immersive virtual spaces that were derived from the material world’s debris.

Price had created immersive video installations that incorporated different media and forms of expression including photography and physical collections of art so as to invent new, somewhat apocalyptic narratives. In the show, each video opened by establishing a specific setting: a sculpture gallery, a wrecked container ship right at the bottom of the vast sea, or an auditorium. She drew upon photographic archives, artifacts’ collections and historical film to create fantasy episodes.

Human action, rarely directly featured, with the drama primarily expressed utilizing objects. These stand in for humans, used for presenting institutional contexts, social histories and aspirational desires. The reoccurring concerns of both commodity culture and consumerism are explored by singling out specific objects, which turn expressions of existence, human relationships and complex social ideas. The exhibition included a video, titled ‘West Hinder’ that explored these themes via a ‘ruined cargo’. Guiding a descent to the wreck site, it combined a chorus of synthetic voices with motion graphics.

Prices of photographic artists still pretty reasonable

ArtTactic’s latest survey shows confidence in the modern and contemporary photography market is up by an impressive 9 percent, with the most significant and steady rise witnessed at top end of the segment, for photographs priced more than $100,000.

More than 90 percent of experts felt that modern photography prices are only likely to go up, while 34 percent opined that the contemporary photography segment would rise, whereas 66 percent believed they would hold at the current levels in the next six months. In this backdrop, an interesting and insightful article by Kathryn Tully in The Forbes magazine makes the following observations based on expert opinions:
  • The assessment from Ben Burdett of London’s ATLAS gallery is that most years, a new auction record is set for the highest price paid for any photograph, while new auction records for the most coveted artists are set every one to two years, but that prices even for the hottest photographic artists are still pretty reasonable. “Compared to the fine art world, it’s cheap. It’s easy to buy a major name in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
  • According to him, there is a relatively short list of really hot names in the photography market that consistently do well at auction, such as earlier twentieth century photographers like Richard Avedon and Irvin Penn, Helmut Newton, and living artists such as Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gursky.
  • A 1999 Andreas Gursky work, Rhein II, holds the record for the most expensive photograph to be sold at auction after in fetched $4.3 million at Christie’s in November last year. “At auction, you see the same names, and indeed the same images by those photographers, sell again and again. People feel more comfortable joining a party where everyone is already having a good time,” he adds.
  • What he does see, though, is an adjustment taking place in the way that photography and its value is perceived and says there’s much more of an overlap today between modern and contemporary photography and the broader modern and contemporary art market.
  • Big museums are giving more attention to fine art photography, which is certainly increasing its exposure.  The Metropolitan Museum is currently showing Faking It, an exhibition devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age, while in London, The National Gallery has just opened Seduced by Art, its first major photography exhibition, looking at how part and present photographers employ fine art traditions.

Is photography finally drawing collectors?

Photography is a medium, a language nearly everyone can easily understand. That’s why it is growing in popularity. But can really the schism between the broader fine art auction market and fine art photography be closed?

A top collector of contemporary photography in the US for the last four decades or so, Arthur Goldberg, while speaking at the Artelligence conference a few months ago in New York, mentioned that it was up to the time to come to determine if there should or would be any sort of equality between the two streams. However, he felt buying photos was a great opportunity and avenue to own quality art at a very low price. He had emphasized, “Great art is always great art whatever the medium be.”

Historically, price tags for fine art photographic works have been far lower than those achieved by painters and practitioners working in other mainstream medium. However, that scenario seems to be slowly changing for certain parts of this market, though the transition is still at a nascent stage. The ATLAS gallery owner, Ben Burdett, mentioned: “Prices are creeping up definitely, but it is not indeed a steep curve; it’s more of an apparently gradual slope.

The art gallery from London dealing in fine art photography has helped to compile the comprehensive photography collections for celebrities like Elton John and renowned institutions like Qatar’s National Museum. It’s currently showcasing part of the collection at Art Basel Miami Beach.

According to Burdett, exposure is definitely boasting the demand from aware collectors; a trend now very much global, not solely confined to Europe or the US. He adds the art loving public is being gradually introduced to new talented photographers, revealing that several mid-20th century photo artists like Lisette Model are being explored only just in renowned museum collections. They are consequently receiving far more attention. The expert feels that there has been a major rise in people who want to get serious photography collectors and also get into this seemingly lucrative market quite deep.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

In the first week of December, Miami Beach, Florida hosted the 12th and latest edition of Art Basel, considered among the most important art shows in this part of the world. More than 260 top galleries from across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America took part in it, showcasing artworks by over 2,000 artists of both 20th and 21st centuries.

Launched in the year 2002, Art Basel Miami Beach strives to stick to its original goal: Expanding the reach of North American art market, capitalizing on Miami's position as a perfect gateway to the emerging art market in Latin America. The four-day fair has been credited with allowing to transform the image of Miami to an emerging hub for both the visual and performing arts from just a weekend beach frivolity.  The fair now includes an array of satellite art fairs that spill over into less fashionable locations of greater Miami.

Art Basel Miami Beach has emerged as among the most favorite winter meeting points for the international art world, and the event stayed true to its reputation. Around 50,000 people had visited the fair last year, and even more dropped in this year. The Sotheby's Latin American art dept head, Axel Stein, was quoted as saying: “It has been like a magnet, which put together the art community."  Art Basel has also promoted a series of other fairs that have independently served as ideal meeting points to promote art on their own.

The exhibiting galleries, among the world's most renowned art dealers, offered exceptional pieces by cutting-edge newcomers and established artists. Special exhibition sections featured young galleries, public art projects, video art and performance art. The show as every year served as a perfect source for art lovers to both experience rare museum-caliber works and discover new developments/trends in contemporary art.

Top-quality exhibitions in the South Florida museums and special sessions for collectors/curators helped make the eclectic event special as far as encountering art is concerned. And as it the case every year, a large number of artists, dealers, curators, art enthusiasts and critics from around the world participated in Art Basel.