Thursday, February 28, 2013

‘All Sunsets are Sunsets’ at Nature Morte

Nature Morte hosts an exhibit of recent works of art by Bangalore-based Krishnaraj Chonat. This is his first solo in the capital city of India. Employing a wide range of techniques and materials, he creates complex sculptures, which resemble both landscapes and figures, albeit always just barely, hovering between the illusive and the recognizable, between the man-made and the organic.

Born in Chennai in 1973, Krishnaraj Chonat lives and works in Bangalore. He earned a BFA degree from the Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore in 1994 and went on to get a Post-Diploma degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda in 1996.

Thus far, solo shows of his work have been mounted at Gallery SKE in Bangalore (2004 and 2010) and Project 88 in Mumbai (2007). He has participated in a number of important museum survey exhibitions of Indian contemporary art including those mounted by the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011); the Essl Museum, Vienna (2009); the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2008); The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2007); the Daimler Chrysler, Berlin (2007); and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris (2005).

An accompanying note to his solo, entitled ‘All Sunsets are Sunsets’, mentions that Krishnaraj Chonat is inspired by the phenomenon of mass tourism in the globalized context. He states ‘the solo seeks to highlight the significance of the human emotional component in the experience of the tourist landscape.’

His works challenge our preconceived notions of the exotic, the authentic, the synthetic, and the quotidian, all slippery slopes indeed. His constructions refer to museum dioramas, historical artifacts, architectural models, natural history specimens, and displays found in sporting goods stores. Included in the exhibition are his paintings on paper, delicate and resonant works that sketch out the ghostly apparitions of monuments, tourist sites, and the mirages of historical events.

The show will continue at Nature Morte’s Delhi venue until March 16, 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Depicting ‘Nude men’ and ‘clouds’

Most exhibitions revolving around the provocative or dramatic, even subtle depictions of nudity are limited to female nudes. However, an interesting presentation, entitled ‘Naked men’ at the Leopold Museum shows the changing and diverse depictions of naked men right from 1800 until the present. On the other hand, ‘Clouds’, an upcoming exhibition, will focus on bizarre and bewildering cloud formations that can be perceived and interpreted as mysterious messages, as enigmatic signs, and warnings of impending danger, being artistically presented at the Vienna–based venue.

Changes in the concept of male nudity
Thanks to loans from all over Europe, the exhibition ‘Naked men’ offers an unprecedented overview of the depiction of male nudes. Starting with the period of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the presentation focuses mainly on the time around 1800, on tendencies of Salon Art, as well as on art around 1900 and after 1945.

At the same time, it also features important reference works from ancient Egypt, examples of Greek vase painting and works from the Renaissance. Spanning two centuries, the presentation shows different artistic approaches to the subject, competing ideas of the ideal male model as well as changes in the concept of beauty, body image and values.

Bizarre and bewildering cloud formations
From 1800 landscape painting experienced an impressive heyday. Within this genre, artists paid increasing attention to the motif of clouds. These strange, elusive formations consisting of water, air and light appear as conveyors of different emotions and messages. Bushy clouds in a sunny sky contribute significantly to the positive atmosphere of a landscape and seem to be an almost indispensible feature in idyllic depictions of nature.

A sky traversed by dark rain and thunder clouds, on the other hand, is perceived as threatening, while a band of clouds bathed in the glow of the red evening light sets a melancholy mood. A sense of foreboding is also conveyed by masses of clouds that appear out of control, occasioned either by natural disasters or by man as a result of technical intervention, such as exhaust fumes and atomic explosions. The exhibition will shed light on these different aspects of cloud depictions with a great variety of select examples of European and American painting and photography from 1800 to today.

It will feature works by Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Gustav Carus, William Turner, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, John Constable, Ferdinand Hodler, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Paul Wolff to name but the most internationally famous representatives.

'Womantime' at Art Musings

Mumbai-based Art Musings gallery presents a solo show of works, entitled 'Womantime' by Nalini Malani, one of India’s senior experimental multimedia artists.

From the very outset, she has given the alternative voice a platform in her politically engaged art. Keeping in tune with her basic processes and philosophy, the exhibit features paintings as well as a shadow play, comprising 30 turntables and reverse painted cylinders, as well as a single channel video work.

One of the most significant artists of her generation, her artistic output is mostly in cycles (polyptychs), employing multiple-projection video installations. A profusion of figures and disparate elements from animate and inanimate spheres like fragments of machines, tadpoles, worms, larvae, winged creatures, monsters etc are portrayed in elementary colors like yellow, blue and red.

An introductory note to her new solo states: “Building up innumerable layers of fragmentary images into dreamlike and allegorical constellations, Nalini Malani’s work can be interpreted as a series of phantasmagorical tales. They are charged with critiques of violence, repression and contradiction that plague contemporary society, without becoming didactical but opening up thought provoking interpretations for the viewer.”

The artist received her education in the Fine Arts from the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. She is a senior multimedia artist whose practice encompasses drawing and painting, as well as projected animation, video and film. She has participated in several landmark international exhibitions including ‘Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis’, Tate Modern, London, and ‘Unpacking Europe’, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam in 2001.

Her major solos have been held at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Walsh Gallery, Chicago, and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland. The celebrated artist’s recent notworthy exhibitions include ‘Prospect 1, USA Inc.’ New Orleans (2008); ‘Indian Highway’, Serpentine gallery (2008);  51st and 52nd Venice Biennale (2005-7), and ‘Revolutions - Forms that Turn’, Sydney Biennale (2008).

‘While Everyone is Away’ at Chatterjee & Lal

The Kerala-born artist Nityan Unnikrishnan's second solo show at Chatterjee & Lal, entitled ‘While Everyone is Away’, is comprised of wonderful paper works and two impressive sculptures. Here's a quick look at the artist's current works and his processes:
  • Unnikrishnan studied ceramic design at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad and having completed his studies moved to Delhi to pursue a range of interests including pottery, illustration and crafts.
  • The artist has presented his artworks at Mumbai-based Chatterjee & Lal gallery thrice in the last three years, and this is the first time that he is showcasing three-dimensional works at this venue. They all function as an extension of his existing practice and seem almost to have jumped out of the picture plane of the paper works, into the exhibition space.
  • He puts to use his keen sense of design to create paintings from a myriad of sources both real and imaginary; these include elements from his childhood and his working life. He creates a dynamic relationship between the individual (the self) and his or her landscape.
  • The artist’s childhood was spent growing up in a home in Kerala that was part of the intellectual milieu of that period; it was a world populated by left leaning filmmakers, painters and academics. As a child, he was not let into certain rooms such as the cellar of the old house where he would spend his summer vacations. The lingering feeling of dread continues to pervade many of his meticulously detailed paintings of beasts and monsters of unknowable origin.
  • A write-up to the solo mentions: “Each individual work is open to different interpretations; little niches and low voices offer up clues as the viewer navigates their densely worked surfaces. He uses his keen sense of design to create paintings from a myriad of sources both real and imaginary; these include elements from his childhood and his working life.
  • Unnikrishnan turns to a wide variety of sources while constructing his works such as personal memories, literature, the arts and culture, Arcadia, the modern world, and his present life experiences.

A quick glance at Art13 Performances

Art13 Performances as part of Art13 London is a dedicated hub for the discussion and presentation of performance art. Curated by Amanprit Sandhu, and set against a peculiar site-specific backdrop designed by t Bedwyr Williams, they range from performances in which the audiences are invited to take an active participation to dysfunctional monologues. We take a quick look at some of the artists featuring in this section:
  • The role of the narrator and the artists’ voice as a purveyor of truths is ever present in the sardonic tale presented by Bedwyr Williams (Ceri Hand Gallery), and Juneau Projects’ (Ceri Hand Gallery) short radio play.  The body, as a site of resistance and representation, is central to the performances of international artists Joel Yuen (2092 Gallery, Singapore), and Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter (Alexander Ochs Gallery, Germany/China).
  • Singaporean artist Joel Yuen will present Anthem, a critique on the political indoctrination within the Asian and Southeast Asian context. The performance duo Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter from Kenya and Germany respectively, will use a live camera to capture distinct moments of touching and handling fruits that are reminiscent of Mwangi’s childhood in Kenya.
  • The use of the body as both a tool and source of production is explored in the performances of artists Helena Hunter (Jerome Zoda Contemporary, Italy) and Myriam El Haik (Vincenz Sala Paris-Berlin, France/Germany).  The voice and the feedback loop are concerns that arise in the ritualistic, visceral, performances of Plastique Fantastique (IMT Gallery, UK).
  • Hugo Dalton’s (Fine Art Society, London) practice is rooted in observational drawing and concerned with the relationship between architecture and movement. In his videos and performances Feiko Beckers (Yeo Workshop) both recounts and stages personal stories which often revolve around personal failures, accidents and embarrassments he once experienced. Rebecca Lennon’s (Ceri Hand Gallery, UK) fantastical, absurd monologue concerns the number zero. Seated in front of a mirror, the audience will see themselves reflected, while only the artist’s legs will be visible, and her voice deferred to the soundtrack being played.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

‘Crossing Over’ at Latitude 28

A new exhibition at New Delhi-based Latitude 28 brings together disparate works aimed at exploring new meanings, which at times tend to merge and diverge so as to create crossovers with each other on sort of irregularly chartered routes.

With common usage of vivacious visual references to images that enigmatically work around us in different multiple layers, the artists have tried to tinge this imperceptible relation between reality and art. Text, employed as visual vocabulary, can be explained or exploited by each viewer in a specific way. More the ways it can be read, the more meaningful it gets, with a hypnotic repetition we experience at times in our daily lives, as if to intensify consciousness as well as lived experiences. This lets the meanings spread globally. As it branches out, artists interested in understanding the critically global, instead of the parochial issues of genre and identity, venture to explore.

Among the participating artists are Aroosa Naz Rana, Quddus Mirza, Jamil Baloch, Muzzumil Ruheel, Ayaz Jokhio, Mahbub Shah, Sajjad Ahmed, Sabina Zaffar, Imran Ahmed Khan, Waseem Ahmed, Mohammad Ali Talpur, David Alesworth and Saira Sheikh. According to the curator, Ambereen Karamat, art from Pakistan in the last two decades or so has chosen to adopt an interesting route, especially with sharp turning points clearly emerging every few years. Karamat elaborates in an accompanying statement: “Starting off with traditional art works to 'Contemporary Art in Pakistan', it covers a very broad and diverse spectrum; new terms like 'Neo- Miniature' have cropped up, mapping out the direction that Pakistani Art is leading to.

“This 'course', to me, seems to have come to an intersection, a point, where the new works being produced are effervescing, pushing through each individual's marked political peripheries. The works, born of different trajectories, have the content embedded in the many layers of their surfaces. The exhibit focuses on these new works at the point that acts as a bridge, a crossing over, to the other direction," the curator adds.

Human form ‘From Head to Toe’

A group exhibition, entitled ‘From Head to Toe. Human Images in the Focus of the Würth Collection’ prompts visitors a fascinating visual discourse concerning the several changes as well as constants in the depiction of human image. The exhibition at Schwäbisch Hall, Germany courtesy Die Galerie, occupies 2,600 square meters at the Kunsthalle Würth.

There are paintings, drawings, installations and sculptures on view by no less than 100 talented artists who shed light from diametrically diverse points of view on the existing perception of and involvement with transcience, expressive force, beauty, self-questioning as well as standardization of the enchanting human form.

The exhibit, with its 200 portraits and deft depictions of the figure, looks to provide new insights into its rather well-known incunabula. However, the majority of the showcases, including recent acquisitions, have never before showed at the Kunsthalle.

It focuses on works of art from the past 125 years or so, by those including Claude-Émile Schuffenecker, Wilhelm Trübner, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Christian Schad, George Grosz, Tony Oursler, Marc Quinn, and Jaume Plensa among others. Yet the point of departure possibly is Leonhard Kern’s (1588–1662) an idealized ‘Fettered Slave’, created during a time period in which there were no sharp dividing lines drawn between man-made and God-created things, artificialia and naturalia.

Over the following centuries, while the results of epistemology, the theory of evolution, and the experience of world wars caused an abandonment of the notion of man as the undisputed crown of creation, artists world over started to explore human extremes in the twentieth century. Now, the thin line between the nature and man-made has again got so blurred that many denote the post-biological age and the body as an option.

The group exhibition gives a sumptuous visual challenge to discover subtle clues in the prevailing spectrum of artist’s views of the world and ensuing obsessions. Naturally it also tries to represent another fascinating voyage of discovery through the wonderful Würth Collection, revealing this time contrasting and shared approaches to both body and soul. Perhaps it may even succeed occasionally in making seemingly unbridgeable gaps comprehensible.

Noteworthy female tribal artists

Laado Bai is informed by the deep belief of Bhil community in animistic myths. Born and brought up in the milieu of city, Japani Shyam’s perspective on different Gond beliefs and ritual is understandably slightly distanced, and a touch different from that of her parents. A distinct aesthetic by Sita Devi popularized Mithila painting’s ‘bharni’ style, emphasizing strong colors over fine lines. They all form part of the Folk & Tribal Art Auction courtesy Saffronart.

Laado Bai
Hailing from the village of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, she creates artworks that reflect the flora and fauna of her immediate environment along with the rituals and festivals of her tribe. Under the guidance of the artist Jagdish Swaminathan, she began transferring her paintings from the rough mud walls of her tribal home to paper and canvas at the Roopanker Museum as part of Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, in the 1970s. Today, the artist works at the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy.

Japani Shyam
She was named after Japan, one of the favorite countries of her father Jangarh Singh Shyam. Under the guidance of this renowned Gond artist, she began to paint at a very early age, and at the tender age of 11 won the Kamala Devi Award for her work. In her work, Japani Shyam attempts to bring to the forefront the different moods of animals, their struggle to sustain themselves and survive in changing environments.

Gangu Bai
A prominent Bhil artist, Gangu Bai, is known for paintings that reflect the ritual-steeped culture of her tribal community in Madhya Pradesh. Based at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya or the National Museum of Mankind in Bhopal, her art speaks of the Bhil's close relationship with Nature, and raises awareness about their unique culture and agriculture-based lifestyle.

Sita Devi
One of the most prominent early Mithila artists and among the first to transfer the traditional art form from the walls of the home to paper and canvas, she was a Mahapatra Brahmin from the village of Jitwarpur. “Sita Devi’s elegant elongated and richly coloured paintings of Krishna, Radha, and other gods and goddesses, are well known.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An indigenous Indian tribe produces exquisite art

London-based Grosvenor Gallery is hosting an exhibition of wonderful Warli paintings.

Warli paintings are created by members of a tribe which lives in the Thane District, about 90 miles north of Mumbai, India. An indigenous tribe guided by their own traditions and beliefs, the Warlis are essentially farmers. Today, there are approximately 600,000 tribe members.Their name probably comes from the term ‘warla’, meaning a plot of land. They speak a dialect sans any written form. The Warlis are non-vegetarians. They are known to survive on the little livestock that they raise, supplemented by the activities of fishing and hunting.

One of the rare divinities to be represented is the goddess Palaghata, the symbol of abundance and fertility. Her body is composed of two inverted triangles - pala and ghata, the male and female. They symbolize the balance between the male and the female and also in the relationship between man and nature.

The main component in their art is rhythm. The incessant movement in their art is related to human activity in general. The reason why gods are rarely represented in their art is because they are generally manifested in the forms of animals, minerals or plants. Trees are very common in Warli paintings and depicted with great care, as the spirits particularly like to manifest themselves in this form of life.

The show is being hosted in association with Hervé Perdriolle, a known expert in Indian tribal and folk art. In 2003, he organized an encounter between Jivya Soma Mashe and Richard Long. This resulted in two milestone exhibitions, one in 2003 in Düsseldorf, and the other in 2004. He has contributed in the hosting of several exhibits like ‘(M)other India’ at the Galerie du Jour/Agnès B and ‘Show & Tell’ at the Foundation Cartier, Paris( 2011-12).

The show of Warli paintings will continue until March 1, 2013.

Art13 London set to beging

Art13 London is the city’s new art fair for modern and contemporary art, presenting a truly global perspective and showcasing art from 1945 to the present day. With over 70% of galleries exhibiting at an art fair in London for the very first time, this is the most eagerly anticipated art fair in over a decade.

The first edition will showcase 129 leading galleries from 30 different countries showing thousands of artworks, including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and editions or multimedia. Whether you are an established collector or looking to buy your first artwork or simply browsing, Art13 London welcomes you to discover works of art ranging from £100 to £500,000 in the iconic Olympia Grand Hall.

Art13 London will showcase modern and contemporary art from six continents, acknowledging the quality of work produced in countries such as China, India, South Africa, Australia and Brazil, to complement a strong showing of galleries from Europe, the UK and the US. The fair will showcase 129 galleries from over 30 countries, asserting the Fair’s broad global reach.

Art13 London is organised by Art Fairs London Ltd: collaboration between Tim Etchells of SME London Ltd and Sandy Angus of Andry Montgomery. They were two of the three co-founders of ART HK. Moreover, furthering his interest in emerging art scenes and markets, Sandy Angus became a director of India Art Fair. Diverse in their language and form, the artists featured in the Art13 Performances programme have common threads running through their practice.

A diverse line-up of 21 projects will feature prominently throughout the Fair. Visitors can discover installations by artists from Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well as the West. The range of media employed in these works will enhance the multi-sensory experience of visiting the Fair. All projects are embedded into the fabric of the Fair and will surprise the viewer with unexpected encounters.

Stephanie Dieckvoss, the fair director, has in the past worked at Frieze Art Fair. She played a role in the launch of ART HK in 2007. Stephanie has experience working for a number of international galleries including Cheim and Read, Gagosian, Karsten Greve, and the Serpentine Gallery.

‘Montessori: Lessons in Economics’ at Nature Morte, Berlin

As the title of an ongoing solo show by L.N. Tallur implies, the artist tries to assume the role of a cheeky educator, setting up participatory experiments carefully alongside sculptural propositions that provide so-called solutions for the lingering economic crisis.  Tallur’s highly orchestrated presentations look to control and manipulate the expectations of viewers and echo the ‘packaging’ of solutions that are known from the realms of education and politics.

Born in 1971 in the state of Karnataka, he received a BFA degree in painting from the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts in Mysore in 1996, an MFA degree in museology from the MS University in Baroda (1998), and an MA in Fine Art from the Metropolitan University in Leeds, UK (2002).

‘Montessori: Lessons in Economics’ is his first solo in Europe. It brings together a number of recent sculptures, which exemplify Tallur’s wit and deft manipulation of materials while commenting on politics and society. Having studied both art and museology, he draws from a wide spectrum of cultural references, ranging from art history, Hindu iconography, a globalized economy and popular culture.

An accompanying note elaborates: “A series of personal migrations from his original hometown of Koteswara (a village in the southern Indian state Karnataka), to the likes of Leeds in the U.K. and his current home Daegu City in South Korea have sharpened L.N.Tallur’s eye for the complexities of trading in cultural goods. He often uses reproductions of classical Asian sculptures as a starting point for his work, which he then manipulates, injures or even decapitates to accentuate the absurdities of cultural, monetary and symbolic exchange values.”

Another re-occurring theme in his work is the nature of value itself. In several works he uses actual coins, sometimes polished so as to be washed of their sins and civilized, or embedded in concrete to become eternal, they poignantly point to our complex relationship with currencies and wealth, laden with desire, fear and anxiety.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mapping out of a metaphorical space

On the eve of celebrated artist SH Raza’s 91st birthday, Delhi-based Vadehra Gallery presents a show of some of his most recent works. It consists of about 25 new artworks executed by the modernist master S H Raza after he returned to India in 2010. In them, Raza seems to be preoccupied with certain peculiar geometric forms that to him encapsulate both the beginning of human life and the void surrounding us before and after.

These forms are to him ‘the mapping out of a metaphorical space in the mind.’ In ‘Antardhwani’, Raza revisits the same point (the bindu) in search of a new ‘impression’ of it. A note on the artist mentions: “The Bindu is the seed, the germ, the core, and it gives birth to the fecundity of the world. The black bindu becomes cosmic force, the sole energy for the universe or for instance, Summer, in tones of yellows expresses a certain mood of saturation. The constant core of creation imbued his work with new territories.

According to Raza, ‘The point, the Bindu, symbolizes the seed bearing the potential of all life, in a sense. Its also a visible form containing all the essential requisites of line, tone, color, gesture and space.”  The circle becomes more of a central point representing concentrated energy. This circle of Bindu manifests itself in various forms throughout his works where it can be seen as the point or genesis of creation as well as a focal point of meditation.

Raza moved towards a more expressive language painting landscapes of the mind.  Raza abandoned the expressionistic landscape for a geometric abstraction and the Bindu series. His experiments were influenced by the new medium of acrylic, with which he began his new approach and experiments on canvas. His canvases from the 60s and 70s can be viewed as works in transition of both using abstraction and figurative and the way of treating the canvas. His paintings from 1970s are more gestural in technique and expression, even in terms of colors exuding its spontaneity.

Artists who blend tradition with contemporary trends

Pradyumna Kumar’s trees have movement, suggesting the sighing breeze passing through the leaves. An important aspect in Jivya Soma Mashe’s artworks is the fluidity with which he invariably paints each and every object/figure. Pranab Narayan Das creates exquisite Pattachitra paintings. Dhavat Singh Uikey looks to translate the fascinating tales about the forest and the animals therein, stretching the set boundaries of Gond art. They all form part of the Folk & Tribal Art Auction courtesy Saffronart.

Jivya Soma Mashe
One of the most widely known and first successful Warli artists, Jivya Soma Mashe, has been greatly inspired by the tribal folklore and stories of celebration. There is a sense of constant movement within the paintings, yet each detail is incorporated with utmost precision. Mashe has been honored with both a National Award and the Padma Shree.

Pranab Narayan Das
The artist from Orissa is known to paint on tussar silk and the wooden containers used as 'dowry boxes' during weddings in his community. Pattachitra painting developed around religious centres of the state like Konark and Puri. It recalls the ancient murals of the region. These finely detailed works created on layers of primed cloth (patta) usually feature religious subjects. Pattachitra paintings are created using extremely fine brushes and colors derived from natural sources like the conch shell and lamp soot.

Pradyumna Kumar
This award-winning tribal artist is the first from India to win the prestigious UNESCO Noma Concours in 2006. He took to art late in his life, creating paintings influenced by Madhubani stylistic traditions albeit with themes drawn from his own imagination. Interestingly, he brings to Madhubani art both his map-making skills as well as a keen observation of plant forms.

Dhavat Singh Uikey

An engineer by education, and a Gond artist by profession, he has grown up listening to folk tales. Open to experiments and newer ideas, Uikey plays with scale, palette and form in his works, trying to put a visual form to the myths and folklore surrounding animals as told by the Baiga tribe. Most of the stories are about their reactions and interactions with animals in their daily lives. Singh sees himself as more of a contemporary artist using traditional skills.

Shail Choyal, Ravi Kumar Kashi and Madhavi Parekh

New Delhi-based Art Perspective hosts a group show of a series of original prints that have been enhanced with drawings. Among the three participating artists are Shail Choyal, Ravi Kumar Kashi and Madhavi Parekh. Below is what they have to say about their works on view:

Ravi Kumar Kashi’s keenness to ‘let go’

According to the artist, we are in the habit of 'holding' on to things. We buy and hoard objects and see them as possessions. It becomes an extension of our personality and at times it substitutes us. We also hold hundreds of emotions/thoughts in us without expressing them.

"In this series, where etching and drawing has been combined, I was looking into various ideas of 'holding' and 'letting go' of possessions. Letting go feels like unburdening oneself. Since it is the same matrix that continues all through, it is like opening all the pages of the book and looking at them simultaneously. Only in breathing can we neither hold nor let go, both are necessary," the artist elaborates.
Shail Choyal portrays Krishna
The artist depicts an episode from Bhagvatpuran in which Lord Krishna plays the divine flute and the resonance mesmerizes the cows to return home is the basis of my work. The imagery of the cow has been one of Shail Choyal’s favorite motifs.

The artist reveals” “I love to paint, etch and sculpt the cow in its various moods - and aim to project a dramatic tension through juxtaposition of the allegorical with the real. Use of landscape through pencil drawings around the flute player is neither religious nor historical but sensuous and other worldly. The drama here episode may look absurd and ironic but, I aim to balance it with the nostalgia I confront in everyday life".
Madhavi Parekh’s childhood memories
The artist reminisces how she spent her childhood in a small village Sanjaya in Gujrat where people used to celebrate all festivals. She recounts: “I used to enjoy Christmas a lot as a friend were Christians. The image of Christ always remained as important to me as Durga and Kali. As an artist, when I visited Jerusalem, all my childhood memories revisited me fresh and thus the icon of Christ became a part of my work."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Experience germination of a genius

A new exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery brings together a spectacular group of several exquisite Picasso paintings, offering a unique opportunity to experience the birth of his genius.

‘Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901’ reunites major paintings from his debut exhibition with the influential dealer Ambroise Vollard. It was the year that the ambitious nineteen-year-old launched his career in Paris with an exhibition that would set him on course to become one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

These works show the young painter taking on and transforming the styles and subjects of major modern artists of the age, such as Van Gogh, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. In the second half of 1901, Picasso radically changed the direction of his art, heralding the beginning of his now famous Blue period. Inspired partly by the recent suicide of a close friend, Picasso produced a group of profoundly moving paintings of melancholic figures that are considered to be among his first masterpieces.

An elaborate review by Alastair Sooke of the UK Telegraph mentions: “Picasso developed this new look in the late summer of 1901. In place of frenetic brushwork, he favored more monumental forms, extensive planes of colour, and bold outlining redolent of Post-Impressionist painters such as Gauguin and Van Gogh. The narrative of this exhibition is one of the most exciting stories that can be told about the life of any major artist — that of breakthrough. It’s a tight, compelling, and beautifully installed exhibition, full of first-class works of art borrowed from important institutions around the world.”

The works show Picasso’s desire to take on and reinvent the styles of major modern artists, including Van Gogh, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. The show was a success and launched Picasso’s career in Paris. It is a great opportunity to discover the remarkable story of Pablo Picasso’s breakthrough year as an artist –1901.

The Courtauld Institute of Art is one of the world’s leading centres for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture, and its Gallery houses one of Britain’s best-loved collections.  Based at Somerset House.

Works that address personal, cultural and national identity formation

Born in Calgary, Canada, Hajra Waheed was raised within the gated headquarters of Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest transnational oil corporations. She later joined the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship, and was awarded the Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship upon completing her BFA in 2002. The artist went on to do a Masters and also pursued a doctorate at McGill University.

Over time she has dedicated both her visual and written work to deconstruct corporate gated communities and their peculiar expatriate experience, encompassing a wide array of issues ranging from security and surveillance to the construction of identity and her own relationship to and experiences of war.

Much of the artist's earlier works namely ‘The Anouchian Passport Portrait’ and ‘Swimming Pool’ have been centered on memory and the relationship it shares with photography apart from use of the medium in the mis-identification or perhaps further identification of individuals and also groups of people experiencing pangs of migration. Drawing from her personal experiences between the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia and India, she grew up well aware of different complex lived cultural experiences amounting to exclusion, privilege as well as difference.

Her works explore these even while seeking to address specific personal, cultural and national identity formation in context of popular imagination, current political scenario, history, and also the broader impact of American culture and power in today’s global situation.

Hajra Waheed has exhibited her mixed media works regularly in shows hosted at prestigious venues across north America, in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, including shows ‘Remembering Memories’ Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago; ‘Nannima, 1948’ SAVAC, Toronto; ‘How Nations Are Made’ Bradford Museums, UK; ‘Drawing Form’ Green Cardamom, London; ‘(In) The First Circle’ Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, ‘Lines of Control’ VM Gallery, Karachi; The Third Line, Dubai and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, NY in 2012.

Her artworks are housed in several renowned permanent collections like the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York, the British Museum, London and the John Jones Collection.

Friday, February 22, 2013

France honors Subodh Gupta

The French government has just bestowed the prestigious award of ‘Knight of the Order of Arts & Letters (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) on Subodh Gupta. The major honor comes in deserved recognition of this internationally renowned sculptor-artist from India whose remarkable originality and versatility has been largely inspired by the daily life of a country and its people on the move, even while maintaining distinct ties with France, a country where some of his earliest exhibits took place.

Playing with some very simple materials and objects drawn from daily life, he expertly makes them interact with each other to bestow an artistic dimension on them. His art oscillates constantly between the fantastic and the quotidian, a tin sheet deftly transformed into a mirror of the realities. He narrates life, its complex challenges and its drama by subtly shifting perspectives and also changing landmarks/scales. He and his partner, artist Bharti Kher, are committed to humanitarian actions and collected funds for the victims of the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Here are instances of Subodh Gupta’s French connection:
  • The artist established links with the French cultural milieu quite early in his career. He was invited to exhibit his works at the In Situ gallery in the 13th arondissement in Paris, where numerous French collectors discovered him.
  • His installation ‘God Hungry’ for the Lille 3000 festival left a lasting impression: a monumental cascade of kitchen vessels poured in through the arches of St Marie-Madeleine church, a reference to the tsunami that ravaged India in 2004.
  • Gupta designed the stage décor for the artistic production of Ballet Angelin Prejlocaj, ‘And then, one thousand years of peace’ in 2010.
  • He was one of the most viewed artists at the ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’ exhibition at Centre Georges Pompidou in 2011.
The French government distinction Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters is conferred on ‘persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of arts in France and throughout the world.’

‘Sea Change’ at Experimenter

An ongoing series by Hajra Waheed at Kolkata-based Experimenter, stitches together a gripping tale about the missing as well as the missed.

It looks to chronicle the disappearance of all those who do – under the garb of salvation, a better life or even a new one. In testimony to this, all that remains to be seen, are a series of collaged portraits and Polaroids, coded notes, files, objects, and one-page declarations.

Through these delicately executed artworks that form part of ‘Sea Change’, she enables a glimpse into the curious fragments of ourselves that we often leave behind and the offerings that we make to all those along the way. In a way, the exhibition is a quiet ode of sorts to those who dare to journey across the borders they once created for themselves. In ‘Sea Change’ the visual material is directly sourced from existing photographs – a large deck of postcards from the 1930-40s gifted to her by a friend whose grandfather spent many years photographing his travels.

Not dissimilar to most postcards from this period that generally orientalized both people and places in the global south, these particular images became the catalyst by which a process of reclamation and resurrection (of these once photographed persons and places) came into being. In some ways, these unnamed and unidentified individuals become ghosts of the past and future – a skipping record of sorts where viewers are asked to possibly attempt to identify them but are ultimately are forced to walk away without ever fully being able to grasp them or their story.

In sifting through the fragments of what has been left behind from Sea Change, it is difficult not to begin questioning whether this is indeed a story about the disappearance or perhaps even a mass migration of a particular group of people or about something else. After all, all of the notes left behind suggest a secondary story – a story of love: though what remains unclear is if it is indeed between two people or between person and nation or their notions of 'home.'

The power of a photograph to unleash both ambiguity and certainty is one of the most compelling qualities for the continued use of the medium in Hajra Waheed’s work. She remains interested in the space between translation and disorientation that takes place when stitching back histories/narratives, the relationship between the text and the photograph, and between drawing and photography.

‘Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia’

The first major exhibition of a multi-year initiative conceptualized by the New York-based Guggenheim charts contemporary art and creative activity across three geographic regions.

‘No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia’ in collaboration with UBS features recent acquisitions in painting, sculpture, video, film, work on paper, and installation, it attempts to engage critically with the region on its own terms.  The exhibition’s title is drawn from the opening line of the W. B. Yeats poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928) referenced in the title of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel ‘No Country for Old Men’. It alludes to this transformative journey, one which eludes simple delineation.

An accompanying note by the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator (South & Southeast Asia), June Yap, states: “The exhibit proposes a reevaluation of the region and its countries based on its cultural relationships, influences, affinities, and negotiations. It offers a glimpse into the region’s diverse contemporary art practices, and presents the possibility of understanding its countries as greater than the contents of their political and geographical boundaries.

Challenging romanticized perceptions of the region, the artworks in No Country lay bare a complex set of conditions that resulted from the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, and which bear the historical traces of colonization and the often-traumatic birth of nations. These works explore universal themes of national identity and community, cultural knowledge, power, and faith.

The mission of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture, and other manifestations of visual culture, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, and to collect, conserve, and study the art of our time. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was founded in 1937, and it opened the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939, its first New York–based venue for the display of art. The unusual gallery—designed by William Muschenheim at the behest of Hilla Rebay, the foundation’s curator and the museum’s director—was built in a former automobile showroom on East Fifty-fourth Street in Manhattan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A collective that realized ‘international common ground of experimental art

‘Gutai: Splendid Playground’, a new interesting presentation courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum revolves around the amazing creative spectrum of one of Japan’s highly influential avant-garde collectives especially of the postwar era. We take a quick glance at the group and its art processes as well as philosophy.  
  • The Gutai Art Association (active 1954–72) originated in the cosmopolitan town of Ashiya, near Osaka, in western Japan. Spanning two generations, the group totaled 59 Japanese artists over its 18-year history. The name literally means ‘concreteness’ and captures the direct engagement with materials its members were experimenting with around the time of its founding in 1954.
  • Founded by Yoshihara Jirō, the Gutai group’s young members explored new art forms combining performance, painting, and interactive environments, and realized an ‘international common ground of experimental art through the worldwide reach of their exhibition and publication activities. Against the backdrop of wartime totalitarianism, Gutai forged an ethics of creative freedom, to create some of the most exuberant works and events in the history of Japanese and international avant-garde art.
  • Samsung Senior Curator of Asian art (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), New York, Alexandra Munroe; and Ming Tiampo, an associate professor of art history at Carleton University, Ottawa have collaborated for the exhibit.  According to them, as the global pioneers of environmental art, Gutai’s participatory environments take the form of organic or geometric abstract sculptures incorporating kinetic, light, and sound art, turning exhibition spaces into chaotic dens of screeching, pulsing, machine-like organisms. Yoshida Minoru’s erotic machine-sculpture ‘Bisexual Flower’ (1969) mines the psychedelic effects of this approach.
  • The outdoor exhibitions of 1955 and 1956 literally set the stage for the group’s artistic strategies. Held in a pine grove park in Ashiya, these events brought art outside and released it from its confines, like Motonaga Sadamasa’s magisterial Work (Water). The Guggenheim commissioned the artist to recreate this work for the rotunda.
  • On the other hand, Yoshihara’s ‘Please Draw Freely’ (1956/2013), a collective drawing on a freestanding signboard reconceived for the Guggenheim’s rotunda and created by visitors, invites adults and children to collaborate, think, and imagine for themselves. Moving from what Yoshihara decried as ‘fraudulent . . . appearances’ to lived reality, Gutai artists invented ways to go beyond contemporary styles of abstract painting into concrete pictures, blurring representational significance by incorporating raw matter, as well as time and space, as the stuff of art.

Sanat Kar’s engravings at Galerie 88

Galerie 88 presents a show of artist Sanat Kar’s engravings. The last solo of his prints was held in the city of Kolkata way back in 1994 at the gallery. His works are primarily surrealistic having a curious dream‐like appearance.

His figures exude innocence and the charm of poetry. Birth and death, the beginning and the end of the cycle of life hold endless fascination for Kar, as does the grotesque and the macabre, states an accompanying note. Grainy textural surfaces, doodled lines create their own visual magic in his work. He elaborates, "My works play on the deep, dark recesses of the human mind."

Born in Kolkata in 1935, he received his diploma in painting from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta in 1955 and played a major role in the formation of the Society of Contemporary Artists in 1960. He joined Graphics department, Kala Bhavan, Viswa Bharati in 1978 and later become the principal of that institute.

Sanat Kar began experimenting with intaglio printmaking method in the early '60s. It was a self-taught process. His experimentation and innovation in printmaking has been widely recognized. He is also credited with the innovation of cardboard intaglio. As Zinc was becoming too costly a material he began working first with wood blocks, then moved onto plywood and finally Sun‐mica and engraving on cardboard.

He successfully transposed the characteristics of works on metal plates to his wood blocks while retaining the specific facets of the surface. Besides intaglio, he has created a series of tempera paintings and bronze sculptures. Sanat Kar received AIFACS award, New Delhi in 1973 and West Bengal State Academy Award in 1993, among others. His work has featured in the Festival of India in the US, Japan, Soviet Union; British International Print Biennale, and an international print Show in Poland among other global showcases.

A Portfolio of 10 recent engravings has been released on eve of the exhibition along with his other prints.

‘Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity’

A stunning and superlative survey , ably anchored by several of the most celebrated artworks of the glorious Impressionist era, illustrate the extent to which the then artists responded to the deft dictates of fashion between the 1860s, the time when admiring critics often equated ‘The Green Dress’ by Monet with portrait of his future wife," and stretching into the mid-1880s, when Degas happened to cap off his extremely famous series of milliners followed by Seurat who pinpointed the vogue for the emphatic bustle.

Highlights of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art include:

- Monet's ‘Luncheon on the Grass’ (1865–66) and ‘Women in the Garden’ (1866);

- Bazille's ‘Family Reunion’ (1867)

- Bartholomé's ‘In the Conservatory’ (circa 1881, paired with the sitter's dress), and fifteen other key loans from the Musée d'Orsay

- Monet's ‘Camille’ (1866) from the Kunsthalle, Bremen

- Renoir's ‘Lise–The Woman with the Umbrella’ (1867) from the Museum Folkwang, Essen

- Manet's ‘La Parisienne’ (circa 1875) from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

- Caillebotte's ‘Paris Street; Rainy Day’ (1877) from the Art Institute of Chicago

- Degas's ‘The Millinery Shop’ (circa 1882–86) from the Art Institute of Chicago

- Renoir's ‘The Loge’ (1874) from The Courtauld Gallery, London

- Cassatt's ‘In the Loge’ (1878) from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Alongside both masculine and feminine costumes, a full complement of period photographs and illustrations will serve to vivify the ongoing dialogue between fashion and art, and afford a sense of the late nineteenth-century Parisian milieu that inspired, provoked, and nurtured the talents—and often the ambitions—of the painters of modern life.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded on April 13, 1870, "to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life.

‘Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity’ continues to be is on view until May 27.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wonderful paintings of female folk artists

Womenfolk of different tribal communities in India seek inspiration and imagination from centuries-old traditions, festivals, auspicious occasions and religious ceremonies to produce mesmerizing artworks. Saffronart features many of them in its Folk & Tribal Art online Auction 2013.

Tara Devi Phul Jha - Ram, Laxman…
The Mithila region (Madhubani in Bihar) is known for womenfolk who have been creating devotional and ceremonial floor paintings and murals. They employ simple brushes made of bamboo and raw cotton, and natural vegetable and mineral colors to depict nature and mythological scenes. The artists’ techniques are devoid of any stylistic influences and use their own imaginations and thoughts to convey their ideas. Strong forms, double outlines and flat fields of vivid color mark this style.
Pushpa Kumari
The granddaughter of Maha Sundari Devi, one of the first artists to bring Madhubani or Mithila art to the fore, it was only natural for her to continue the tradition. What makes her work unique is that although her style is rooted in a centuries-old tradition, she incorporates not only contemporary ideas and treatment, but also, an artistic intensity and an aesthetic ideal truly her own.
Nankusia Shyam 
Having learnt to paint from her husband Jangarh Singh Shyam, she developed a keen interest in her natural surroundings that she began to showcase in her paintings. She often paints the animals she vividly remembers from her childhood days. Nankusia has travelled extensively, exhibiting her work in Japan, France, Sri Lanka and the UAE besides India.
Bhuri Bai
She started painting at a very young age, completing her first mural at the age of ten. When she was young, Bhuri Bai would visit the local fairs that travelled to her village, and the colors she saw at these events inspired her to paint on paper and canvas using a distinctive, vibrant palette.
Durga Bai
She learnt the art of 'digna' or the traditional designs of painting on walls and floors during festivals and other occasions, from her mother at a very young age. She began experimenting with different floral patterns and figures, later focusing on depicting the folktales she heard from her grandmother and various tribal deities. After marrying Subhash Vyam, the two moved to Bhopal, where they were encouraged by Jangarh Singh Shyam.

Three exhibits, three themes

A current exhibition at Tate Gallery in London takes a fresh look at the dynamic relationship that exists between painting and performance since 1950. On the other hand, another this thematic display takes a close look at curious continuities in the way various artists have tried to frame our vision of the landscape over the last three centuries. ‘Glam! The Performance of Style’ is equally worth watching!

A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance

Contrasting key paintings by Jackson Pollock and David Hockney, the exhibition considers two different approaches to the idea of the canvas as an arena in which to act: one gestural, the other one theatrical. The paintings of the Vienna Actionists or the Shooting Pictures of Niki de St Phalle will be re-presented within the performance context that they were made, and juxtaposed with works by artists such as Cindy Sherman or Jack Smith that used the face and body as a surface, often using make-up in work dealing with gender role-play. The exhibition proposes a new way of looking at the work of a number of younger artists whose approach to painting is energised by these diverse historical sources, drawing upon action painting, drag and the idea of the stage set.

Looking at the View
Coinciding with the re-opening of all Tate Britain’s galleries, the selection finds surprising coincidences and remarkable affinities in the way we look at the view, whether near or afar, high or low, from inside or out. Over seventy works by more than fifty artists will be included, including familiar names such as J.M.W. Turner and Tracey Emin as well as lesser-known figures of British art history. The exhibition consists entirely of works from the Tate collection and is part of the BP British Art Displays.

Glam! The Performance of Style

Glam, a visually extravagant pop style exploded across Britain during the years 1971–5. The exciting, futuristic sounds, extravagant fashions and glitter-dappled personas emerging in this era had their roots firmly in British art schools. ‘Glam! The Performance of Style’ is the first exhibition to explore glam style and sensibility in-depth. The exhibition investigates artistic developments in Britain Europe and North America through the prism of glam, examining painting, sculpture, installation art, film, photography and performance. Bringing together more than 100 artworks the exhibition it reveals the genealogy of glam.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A show that captures multiple facets of Henri Matisse’s oeuvre

The goal of an ongoing show, entitled ‘Matisse, In Search of True Painting’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is to encourage thinking about the legendary artist's method of painting using pairs, trios, and series. It is well apparent that, for him, the process of creation was not simply a means to an end but a dimension of his art as vital as the finished canvas itself.
  • The theme of the studio interior appealed to Henri Matisse throughout his career. In the mid-1940s, the nearly eighty-year-old artist was once again inspired to depict his studio, this time at the Villa Le Rêve in Vence.
  • These canvases-a series that was reproduced in the periodical Verve (Autumn 1948)-have been interpreted as a tour-de force of radiant color [Interior with an Egyptian Curtain (1948, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.), ‘Interior with Black Fern’ (1948, Fondation Beyeler, Basel), and ‘Large Red Interior’ (1948, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris).
  • Over a long and illustrious career, Henri Matisse approached his pairs in a variety of ways. Young Sailor II is a free copy, but he used a full-size cartoon and squaring in the creation of his next major pair, ‘Le Luxe I and II’ (1907, Centre Pompidou Paris, and 1907–08, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen). Painting in pairs offered him alternate solutions to any given pictorial challenge.
  • Painting sessions with the sensual Italian model Laurette over a period of six or seven months in 1916–17 were instrumental in reorienting Matisse as he abandoned the restrictions inherent in painting in pairs and fully embraced larger series.
  • Henri Matisse's enthusiasm for working in series coincided with his revived interest in Impressionism. It was very much on his mind when he attempted to capture the essence of a light-filled room in a series of paintings executed in Nice in the winter and spring of 1917–18.
  • A notable change occurred in Matisse's practice in the 1930s. He hired a photographer to document his work in progress. If the states of any given painting are thought of as a sequence of pictures—all different, yet nevertheless related solutions to the same problem—then the photographs of the painting-in-progress may be considered as yet another example of seriality in Matisse's art.
  • For Matisse, these photographed states served as visual documentation that could be used to explain his objectives. In December 1945, six paintings by Matisse were displayed at the Galerie Maeght in Paris, each accompanied by large framed photographs of its earlier states.

Action painting, drag & idea of the stage set

A new exhibition at Tate Modern takes a new look at the dynamic relationship between performance and painting since 1950. Contrasting key paintings by Jackson Pollock and David Hockney, it considers two different approaches to the idea of the canvas as an arena in which to act: one gestural, the other one theatrical.

The paintings of the Vienna Actionists or the Shooting Pictures of Niki de St Phalle have been re-presented within the performance context they were made, and juxtaposed with works by artists such as Cindy Sherman or Jack Smith that used the face and body as a surface, often using make-up in work dealing with gender role-play. The exhibition proposes a new way of looking at the work of a number of younger artists whose approach to painting is energized by these diverse historical sources, drawing upon action painting, drag and the idea of the stage set.

The Tate’s curator (contemporary art & performance), Catherine Wood, has been quoted as saying, “Quite a many of artists have a painting practice that only comes about because of an engagement with performance. “I thought, Where has that come from and how do we tell the story of how we’ve got to this point?” A panel discussion related to the exhibition will draw on the debates around the relationship between painting and performance raised by it. Opening with Jackson Pollock and David Hockney, it approaches how new art practices led to an expansion of how we understand not just painting and performance but art itself.

Catherine Wood, Tate curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, will be joined by artists Stuart Brisley and Paulina Olowska, and Magnus af Petersens, Chief Curator at Whitechapel Art Gallery and previously curator of the exhibition Explosion! Painting as Action at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and Fundacio Miro, Barcelona. The discussion will be chaired by art historian, critic and writer Anna Dezeuze.

Maverick collector Frank Cohen in news

The Manchester collector, Frank Cohen, quite often termed ’the Saatchi of the North’, owns up to giving away works from his vast contemporary art collection only grudgingly. It often entails selling works of art by many young artists for much less than it actually cost, something not very popular with the artists themselves or their dealers. In an upcoming sale in Paris, 143 artworks by these young artists from Cohen collection are on offered courtesy Pierre Berge auctions. We take a look at Frank Cohen’s art venture Initial Access in the backdrop of this auction:

Last year, the collector appeared to have cooled in his prolonged love affair with art when he revealed to the Daily Telegraph’s Howard Jacobson in an honest interview for: “The whole world has gone contemporary mad. There are too many artists or would-be artists out there overpriced and overvalued.” This April he is about to launch a London gallery to showcase his collections of modern & contemporary sans those works he has already sold or would sell.

His 'Initial Access' opened on 19 January 2007, as a space to present exhibitions from Frank Cohen’s internationally important collection of contemporary art. It is sited on the outskirts of the millennium city of Wolverhampton, in two refurbished warehouses that provide 10,000 sq feet of exhibition space. The avenue presents different aspects of the Collection in a series of curated exhibitions. The program is designed to mount shows of new acquisitions to the collection, explore themes among works that may not have been seen before and give the public an opportunity to see more of the collection currently in store.

The latest exhibition there, entitled ‘Painting is a Painting is a Painting’ presented three artists who playfully question what constitutes 'a painting'. John M Armleder, Rashid Johnson and Dirk Skreber (D) all from very different backgrounds, working visually, conceptually, even ideologically very differently, but all challenge our expectations of what a painting can, feel and look like. The exhibition title adapted Gertrude Stein’s 1913 poem, Sacred Emily, ‘a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prakash Jogi, Gopal Saha, Tekam and Anwar Chitrakar

These are talented albeit self-taught artists from the different tribal regions of India whose art invariably incorporates images drawn from life around them, myths, gods and goddesses, religious tales, and fantasies. Saffronart features three of them as part of its Folk and Tribal Art online Auction later this month.

Prakash Jogi
His art incorporates scenes from daily life, images of gods and goddesses, religious stories, and personal histories as well as wishful fantasies. Jogi's works are testimony to his innate aesthetic spirit. Pioneered by his artist parents Ganesh and Teju Jogi, he continues the family tradition along with his brother Govind.
Gopal Saha
Belonging to a village in the Madhubani district, this physically challenged artist is one of the most innovative ones practicing in the Mithila tradition. He is one of the few artists from this region who has painted his own biography, social satire, and scenes from daily life besides the regular Mithila subjects. His paintings of 'Englishman', for example, reflect on the western buyers who visit his village. Saha’s painting is characterized by his unique color combinations and flawless line.
Narmada Prasad Tekam
A Gond artist from Madhya Pradesh, he is entirely self-taught like most of his fellow tribal artists. He began painting at the age of ten, creating designs on the earth while tending cows in the fields and also on the walls of his home. His art reflects an innate understanding of the rhythm of nature and life. Tekam first came to Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal from his village in 1983, and since then his paintings have been featured in many exhibitions including a group show in Los Angeles in 2010.
Anwar Chitrakar
Kalighat painting style carries simple subjects, vivid colors, curved figures, swift execution, and satirical undertones. Blending newly absorbed Western techniques Indian subjects, these works with their characteristic bold, single-stroke outlines soon came to be identified as a distinct, urban school of painting. 

Anwar Chitrakar, who hails from Naya village, a small community of 'patuas' of West Bengal’s Midnapore district, strives to revive the lost glory and legacy of Kalighat 'patas' through his artworks that combine traditional techniques with an array of contemporary subjects and sensibilities including the Naxalite violence in his state. In 2006, he received the President's Award.

Works that recalls facets of arte povera

Artist Jewyo Rhii's practice tends to show an apparently unending struggle simply to cope with the world. She has developed a unique body of work that stems from her sensitive, personal and almost subliminal responses to her immediate environments.

Born in Korea, she has displaced herself many times in the last 10 years including periods in Western Europe and the USA. These conditions of constant movement, which are shared by many artists and others of her generation, form one of the bases of her work. Her sprawling, makeshift sculptures and installations have a homemade feel that recalls elements of arte povera.

Several US women artists of the 1960s like Eva Hesse as well as appropriation art from the 1990s with their reuse of domestic or familiar elements. Rhii's new exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands is probably her most comprehensive exhibition to date. It presents a selection of recent work, including drawings from the museum's collection alongside a series of site-specific pieces produced during a four-month stay in Eindhoven.

With these pieces, as with many of her previous bodies of work, the artist will draw on the experiences, sentiments and materials of her immediate surroundings. Following its presentation at the Van Abbemuseum the exhibition will travel to MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt and Artsonje Center, Seoul. It will be accompanied by a catalogue, published by Koenig Books. The exhibition is supported by the Yanghyun Foundation.

Meanwhile, you may also, check out for an Interesting visual exercise run by the museum on its site in which artworks inspire you to write. An introductory note states: “Each work tells a story and with more than 2700 of them in the collection, the Van Abbemuseum is a house full of stories. By combining different pieces of art in the past exhibitions, we create our own and new stories. The exhibitions are arranged around a specific theme or composed by the visual aspects of the artworks.”

‘Combinary’, as the project has been termed, gives you an opportunity to tell your very own original story? You just need to combine three pieces of art from the museum collection and go ahead!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Highlights of APT7

The 7th Asia Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT7) courtesy Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) in Brisbane is renowned for being probably the lone major event to exclusively focus on contemporary art trends from Asia, the Pacific and Australia.

Now in its seventh edition, it continues its founder’s forward-thinking vision and approach to explore history and culture in context of current scenario and geography, to fathom how the prevailing issues are explored in the work of talented and innovative artists of this era.
  • In keeping with its original motto, the younger-generation artists are drawing special attention this year too, at the flagship contemporary art exhibit of Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. Incidentally, this edition marks the 20th anniversary of the APT. It presents an excellent opportunity and opening for reflecting on the major transformations, which have taken place in the Asia-Pacific region over the last couple of decades.
  • Two co-curated projects explore specific focuses. Works from Papua New Guinea include a spectacular group of performance masks and painted and carved structures from New Britain and the Sepik, co-curated by architect Martin Fowler. Dominating the entrance and central atrium of the Gallery of Modern Art, this display reflects the idea of ephemeral structures, a central motif of APT7, and considers how the built environment influences people’s engagement with their surroundings and connection to place. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the APT, artists have also been invited to interpret archives from across the region for the 20-Year Archive.
  • Key themes to consider include transforming landscapes at a broader level, varied individual engagements with the city, and the local culture’s adaptability in today's globalized world. APT7 features a wide array of new and recent works by 75 artists and artist groups – both senior and emerging - from 27 nations across the region. These include works of eminent contemporary Indian artists, namely Rina Banerjee, Sheila Makhijani, Neha Choksi, Raqib Shaw, Dayanita Singh as well as major new commissions by Atul Dodiya and LN Tallur.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Indian participation at APT7

LN Tallur, Atul Dodiya, and Dayanita Singh are among the several renowned artists from India who feature at the ongoing APT7. 

LN Tallur’s sculptures blend traditional craftsmanship with high technology and social critique. His ‘Chromatophobia’ series uses currency and the gold standard to invoke the contradictions of global exchange. Works featured in APT7 include a traditional Hindu sculpture in which the central figure has been displaced by a mass of concrete and coins; and an ornate votive chariot based on the shape of the largest nugget ever found, unearthed during the Australian gold rush. 

Known for his kinetic sculptures which often comment on society and politics, the artist’s works combine a sharp wit along with a prodigious use of materials. His works may appear quintessentially ‘Indian’ at first, but they certainly participate in the most advanced dialogues surrounding sculpture today and reveal themselves to be both cosmopolitan and historically astute.

The idea for the works by Atul Dodiya here developed after a 1997 visit to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, a recurring figure in his work. Noticing a cabinet of personal effects, documents and photographs, he found a way to express his fascination for how such a personal collection of belongings can shape lives and become part of a collective memory. APT7 also features a new series of cabinet works looking closely at regional art histories.

Dayanita Singh has attained international fame as an accomplished photographer. Exploring the varied possibilities and inherent limitations of color film seen in the traditional sense, without the assistance of computer manipulations or digital photography, she produced the series ‘Blue Book’. Though renowned as a photographer, Dayanita Singh likes to describe herself more as a ‘maker of books’.

Containing little or no text, her books convey their themes and narratives through images. Portraits, street scenes, interiors and archives from cities across India are constructed as interconnecting short stories, drawing on her early career as a photojournalist, as well as on literary fiction, producing lyrical combinations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A spotlight on Jangarh Singh Shyam

An expert exponent of the traditional form of painting styles is getting the recognition and appreciation he deserves not only in India but also internationally. We are here referring to Jangarh Singh Shyam, rightfully credited for initiating the process of globalization as far Indian tribal art is concerned.

He elegantly transformed his tribe’s oral tradition to captivating paper and canvas works. A recent show of Gond art at New Delhi based Art Alive Gallery was aptly titled after him. It brought together four highly talented Gond artists, namely Durga Bai Vyam, Bhajju Shyam, Mayank Shyam and of course, Ram Singh Urveti. Seeing their works was like entering a world far removed from ours.

In fact, many new tribal art stars on the horizon of contemporary Indian art like Ram Singh Urveti imbibed and honed artistic skills under Jangarh Singh Shyam who has played a prime role in rising interest in India’s exquisite and rich tribal art form not only within the country but also among art aficionadas globally.

Belonging to a tribe from the state of Madhya Pradesh, Jangarh Singh Shyam was a protégé of Bharat Bhavan founder and prominent artist J Swaminathan. In a short span of life, the talented artist formed the new visual idiom, a legacy now being carried forward by his family. The enriching visual representation with the fascinating figures, intricate patterns and vibrant colors was pioneered by him over two decades back, before he died in 2001 under tragic circumstances at the remote Mithila Museum just outside Tokyo.

It was unfortunate though, that he was deprived of any tangible material gains during his lifetime as was the case with many other tribal artists. His works did not fetch more than a few thousands rupees in spite of the fact that seasoned collectors in different countries expressed amazement over his natural talent.

An undisputed authority on folk and tribal art

A renowned figurative painter and a widely respected authority on India’s fascinating folk and tribal art traditions, Haku Shah was drawn towards painting, poetry drama and music since early childhood. He would make wall paintings to generate awareness on social issues. Here are some important milestones of his illustrious career:

Born in 1934 in Gujarat, he did his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda. As an artist, the spontaneity and natural simplicity of rustic rural life always fascinated him. While at Gujarat’s Gandhi Ashram, he got an opportunity to grasp the mesmerizing quality of tribal art and compiled many Rani Paraj images on his own.

A stint at NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmeadabad provided further impetus to his desire of documenting tribal way of life. Coincidentally, Stella Kramrisch invited him to assist her in a show 'Ritual Art in Tribe and Village - Art of Unknown India' in America.

During his illustrious career, many solo exhibits of his works have been held including ‘Maanush’, Art Indus Gallery, Time and Space Gallery, Bangalore (2007); a photography exhibition at Alliance Francaise, Bangalore (2006); shows at CIMA, Kolkata, Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi; and Marvel Art Gallery, Ahmedabad (2005).

Apart from these, his earlier exhibits were at Asia Foundation Gallery, San Francisco and International House, Philadelphia (1968); Private Garden, Delhi (1967); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (1967,68,69,and ’75); Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (1964); Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1963,64), and  Ashok Gallery, Kolkata (1961,62). His significant group exhibitions and participations are 'National Printmaking Portfolio', Marvel Gallery (2010) and the more recent 'Baroda: A Tale of Two Cities', (Part I), Sarjan Art Gallery, Vadodara (2008), among others.

In appreciation of his contribution to the field of art, he has received several honors and awards like Padma Shri in 1989; special recognition from Davis School of Environment Design, University of California in 1991, Nehru Fellowship for Research Work on Tribal Art, Gujarat (1971-73) and JD Rockfellar 3rd Fund Fellowship.

A top contemporary artist and his acclaimed works

Many of artist Yusuf Arakkal’s works have been featured in some of the world’s most renowned museums like the Museum of Modern Art, Louvre Museum, museums in Scotland and South Africa, as well as the British Museum, which showcased his portfolio, entitled ‘The Textures Of Silence’, prints of his Chinese Ink artwork.

All these institutions accept only those works that meet their stringent standard. Importantly, these works have generated funds, diverted to social causes, a fact that satisfies him as much as recognition as artist. For example, one at MOMA was auctioned to generate money for AIDS patients. His work, ‘HOPE’, in MoMA's collection 2010, formed part of a charity initiative in Durban, South Africa.

Gradually, the figures 'fused' into the background. In the 70's, he indulged in figurative art, recollecting his struggle, reviving images from his past. His early paintings were akin to studies in abstract of city dwellers’ lives, done mostly in bright colors. Later, his growing inclination to identify with social issues started reflecting in them. According to him, he makes a consciously effort to synthesize the figurative and abstraction.

Though colors are important to him, they seemingly define and denote darkness; moving more towards black. He often tones down the exuberance of flaming colors to the dictates of his inner force. In fact, the darker the colors, the more lively they become to him. For him black remains the strongest color. Having studied the works of Vermeer and Rembrandt, he was fascinated by the usage of light in their artworks, especially Rembrandt. His focus is as much on the texture of his canvases, often imparting then a grainy, rough surface, alluding to peeling and cracked walls.

'An Inner Fire' by him revolved portrayed many faces - some pleasant, some familiar, and some rather strange, half-concealed and barely visible - created from memory. They provided acute glimpses of ubiquitous human faces, their pointed expressions, and intense emotions. Many of his paintings feature a forlorn figure, simply standing or restlessly sitting on the edge. 

The face, he reveals, whether of a woman or man, is himself, a quiet observer; and alone. He adds, "I’ve been painting this (character) for over 20 years; I am not bald, I am not a woman, but still am sure it's me!"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Building a imaginary hybrid world

Chitra Ganesh, a prominent and internationally celebrated artist, uses her work as a means of questioning the many opposites, which exist within the framework of the so-called ‘society’ that we live in.

Recovering buried histories to consciously bring them into a public and contemporary realm has informed her art practice and her working with contemporary/ historical political figures and mass mediated imagery. She states, “This imagery has not been fully explored; these stories contain question marks that can be best articulated through imaginative visual language.”

Her diverse oeuvre that includes installations and sculptural works is largely an outcome of a mélange of factors, such as queer politics, present day imperialism, lyric poetry, mythological narratives, and erased moments in South Asian history. Treating these as a starting point, she integrates them with her mythic imagery, to conceive a hybrid world, which articulates both psychic transformation and historical conflict.

While firmly rooted in a Western, postmodern discourse, Chitra Ganesh’s cultural references let her convey the principle of a multiplicity as a spirit, which draws together, and not breaks apart. In her comic book like sequences of digital prints, the artist includes snippets of text, successfully marrying with the post-modern in a truly unique aesthetic.

She is known for appropriating Amar Chitra Katha comics to ingenious (and titillating) effect simultaneously. Her diverse portfolio comprising digital collages, works on paper, photographs and paintings display disjunctive narratives, cracking visual motifs and aesthetically pleasing constructions. Employing her wide-ranging visual vocabulary, she strives to eliminate all those boundaries, which exist between race and sex. Her bold, surreal images reflect varying representations of female sexuality and power.

Much like mythologies in which deities are at once unified and disparate - Chitra Ganesh's work is a mix of separate productive moves, which happen to work in harmony!

Self-realization is the key to great art, believes this veteran

SH Raza’s practice is greatly influenced by his love for the rich Indian culture and belief system. On the eve of his recent visit to India, he quipped: “There used to be a great influence that of European realism. It was not keeping with our rich tradition. We later realized that painting is not something seen merely with our eyes, but that it is a sum total perception of the universe visualized with mind, heart and all human faculties or antargyan (knowledge of inner self).”

Mumbai-based Art Musings presented a solo of his wonderful works late last year. Entitled ‘Vistaar’, it underlined how his oeuvre encompasses mystic aspects of Hindu philosophy. An accompanying note stated: “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.”

Raza is in constant touch with the art scene in India and runs a foundation to promote young artists. He describes the contemporary Indian art scene as ‘very encouraging’ and is happy about the fact that contemporary Indian painters are fast rising in stature. Akhilesh, Manish Pushkale, Seema Ghuraiya, Sheetal Gatani, and Sujata Bajaj are among his favorite artists. The passionate painter believes if there’s truth in the painting, it will expose and assert itself, which in a way, forms the crux of his own practice.

The zestful octogenarian refuses to count his age in terms of the years he has lived, and continues to create art with same energy and vigor as he did almost sixty years ago. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A sensitive female artist with unique oeuvre

Described as a figurative artist and a modernist, Arpita Singh still makes it a point to stay tuned to traditional Indian art forms and aesthetics like miniaturist painting and folk art. The way in which she uses perspective and the narrative in her work is steeped in the miniaturist traditions and a reflection of her background. Known to create deeply and intensely personal works through a mélange of images and signs she has developed over close to five long decades of practice. Her highly intricate and multi-layered paintings are often autobiographical in nature, with subtle references to myth and history, nuances of traditional art, current happenings, and traces of popular culture.

She first studied at Delhi School of Art under the keen eye of artist Sailoz Mookherjea, before joining the Weaver's Service Centre in Kolkata and Delhi. She staged an exhibition of her works in 1960 with a group of artists who termed themselves ‘The Unknown’. She designed textiles in the mid-1960s and had her first solo at Delhi’s Kunika Chemould Art Centre in 1972. Since then her work has been featured at major art venues in Indian and internationally.

For an artist who effortlessly merges everyday life and allegory, expressionism and ornament, who harks back to historical folk and miniature painting, her formal approach is at once unassuming and painstaking, somewhat femininely gauche and pensively poised. Her paintings seem to be bursting at the seams with teeming life forms and objects or motifs as icons of contemporary life.

Soaked in subtle shades of watercolors and oils, Arpita Singh simulates a dream-like realm, or perhaps a scenario recreated while hallucinating. A price tag of Rs 9.6 crore (close to $2.25 million) for her ‘Wish Dream’, a monumental (16-piece; 24-by-13-ft) mural, broke quite a few records in 2010. The price was the highest ever for a work by an Indian female artist to be offered in auction at that point of time.

About her thought process, she has been quoted as saying, “I am a woman. I think as a woman. I see as a woman. My references are always feminine. This is the starting point.” She tends to see both tradition and culture as being keenly passed along from one woman to another, say mother to daughter, as in the ancient rituals carried out by Bengali women for the well being of their respective families.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Useful tips to ‘start and develop art career

Conceptualized as a comprehensive guide for emerging visual artists - painters, sculptors, video artists, installation makers or photographers – entitled ‘Starting Your Career as an Artist’ (Publisher: Allworth Press; Pages: 256; Price: $19.95) offers precious insights into building a successful and lasting career.

While interacting with established artists, gallerists, arts administrators, educators, and curators, the writers of the book, Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller, noticed specific patterns emerging for assured success in the field. All of them mostly agreed, the two found, the path to success was largely ‘self-determined’. The broad consensus, which emerged was: ‘To be a successful artist, one ought to figure out a way to be unique. Get in the studio day in and day out, and work towards building your own brand and cultivating your unique community of advocates and fellow artists.

The duo stated in an interview: “It’s vital to understand that making an artwork is less than half the battle. But we found that there was little grasping of the basics of marketing their work on their own and how to build a loyal community to sustain themselves. Artists must entrepreneurial and proactive and business-minded rather than they turning inward and simply rejecting the business and social side of their art practice in every way.” It contains vital information for creative minds keen to launch or enhance their careers, some of which is stated below, as the two suggest.

Visit art openings. Get familiar with contemporary art scenario, since it will form part of your prime target audience to sell your brand and work once you come out of school. Gradually learn the finer points of business of art.

Your goal at arts school should be to grasp as much as possible from the experienced teachers and seniors. Find a studio space after you complete studies, and get to professional work. Try to devote half of your total work week at least to pure art. Create a strong and consistent body of work.

Subtly promote yourself. Have an art portfolio along with business cards ready. Start familiarizing yourself with the local art community. Be part of art events. Host studio parties if space permits. Stay focused.

Inspirations behind Bharti Prajapati’s art

Bharti Prajapati’s canvases often revel in bright colors plus stark expanses of vast space. The sparse-looking landscape to go with the open skies strikes a perfect balance in her captivating compositions. The daily life of the common people is exalted, as if to celebrate their relationship with nature.

Her grooming as a textile designer (She studied Textile Design at Mumbai’s Sophia Polytechnic, and later at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.) has helped her enhance the intricate detailing of her canvases even while composing the larger picture. A flat expanses and contrast of detail tends to create a harmonious blend in them.  The Ahmedabad-based artist has had several exhibit of her wonderful work both in India and internationally.

Over the last two decades, her shows have been held at Radisson Gallery, New Delhi (2000); Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai (1999, 2001); Galerie Dauphin' Singapore (1999, 2000); Art Focus ,Singapore (1999); Ravishankar Raval Kala Bhavan, Ahmedabad (1998); Gallerie Lavelle, Bangalore (1995); Sanduka, Bangalore; and Objects of Desire, Bangalore (solo exhibition, titled 'Women & Walls') in 1996. She has featured in several group exhibition including 'Figures in Sculptures and Paintings', Jamaat Art Gallery, Mumbai (2010); and one at C.P. Art Centre & Cymroza in Chennai (2000).

The people of Kutch, with their strong cultural roots and ethnic style have had a significant impact on her as an artist. Kutch embroidery stands for a timeless symbol of charm, freshness, innovation and human skills. An awe-inspired glance at the exquisite designs of Kutch embroidery leaves us wondering about the mastery of the Rabaris, a nomadic tribe, who apparently brought this art form to life that includes square chains and patterns, woven employing silk threads with cotton cloth in the background.

Their vibrant and vivacious way of life; the captivating contrasts of the arid, dry and vast landscape along with the various vivid hues of its cultural heritage have prompted her to keenly explore its germination through canvases. Her earnest desire to transform her experience reflects in her paintings.

The self forms core of Anju Dodiya’s art

The self is quite often at the core of artist Anju Dodiya’s thought provoking works that explore various possibilities embedded within it. Her art practice is strongly rooted in the figurative.

Deliberating in detail on her ‘sometimes whimsical play on the self- portrait’, an essay in The International Herald Tribune, has noted: “Originally a collage artist, she hoards faces, particularly those in states of extreme emotion. A box of clippings in her bookshelf includes news photographs of mourners, bombing victims etc.

"She also confesses to staring at faces on Mumbai's commuter trains, a boon for any artist in pursuit of extreme expression. Marriage aside, you find little mutual influence in the works of Atul and Anju Dodiya. He welcomes the sensory bombardment of his country; she is a dedicated student of the interior." She has widely exhibited her work in India and internationally, including 'All Night I Shall Gallop', Bodhi Art, Singapore, Mumbai, New York and Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI, 2008); ‘The Throne of Frost’, Bodhi, Mumbai (2007); and ‘The Throne of Frost’, Baroda (2007); Bose Pacia, NY (2006).

Among her selected group exhibitions are 'India: Take Three', Kings Road Gallery, Chelsea (2009); 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2009); ‘Everywhere Is War (and Rumors of War)’, Bodhi, Mumbai (2008); 'Modern & Contemporary Indian Art', Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (2008); 'Of Personal Narratives And Journeys', Bodhi, Gurgaon (2009); and ‘Here and Now: Young Voices from India’, Grosvenor Vadehra, London (2007) among other shows.

Anju Dodiya also formed part of the ambitious ‘India Xianzai’ (India Now) show at Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA), Shanghai last year. The artist also showcased her multimedia triptych ‘Seasons’ at the Venice Biennale.  Her keenness to experiment and challenge the conventional was evident in her site-specific installation at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodora.

In her lavish ‘Throne of Frost’, minimalist charcoal and watercolors contrasted with the usage of richly textured fabric, succinctly capturing the opposing forces of power and destruction, wealth and decay. The palace inspired her images like a woman weighed down by an embellished box and a lonesome king.

Monday, February 11, 2013

An artist who builds ‘momentary monuments’

‘Lara Favaretto: Just Knocked Out’, an overview of the Italian artist’s work, was first hosted at MoMA PS1. For it she created a new site-specific installation extending throughout the galley spaces. The artist created another original artwork for an exclusive Sharjah presentation at Bait Al Serkal, Arts Area.

It comprised several works from the past decade and a half, as well as many new ones created specifically for the exhibition series. The shows also featured the first presentation of the extensive archive of images collected by Favaretto as source material and artistic inspiration. Here’s a quick snapshot of the showcase curated by Peter Eleey:
  • In both her installations and individual works, she repeatedly reminds us of the choices we make, and of those that are made for us. Balanced between aspiration and failure, she enacts a conflicted kind of freedom, an illusion of autonomy and control where finally neither may exist. A sense of resignation to the forces of decay and obsolescence runs throughout her work—most visibly in her minimal cubes made of confetti, which decompose during the period of their display.
  • Favaretto represents the eventuality of loss through a recuperative memorialization, often recycling elements from previous installations as new works, reusing discarded industrial materials, and encasing found paintings in loose tapestries of wool yarn.
  • Beginning with a swamp that she created at the back of the Giardini in Venice to commemorate twenty historical figures who have disappeared, and continuing with her sandbagging of a 1896 statue of Dante Alighieri in a civic square in Trento, her sculptures and public installations draw attention to the futility and impermanence of memorials themselves.
  • Favaretto memorializes the body in a similar state of limbo, often through mechanical representations that gradually degrade: car wash brushes whirl repeatedly, wearing themselves down against metal plates; a platoon of compressed air cylinders randomly empties itself, blowing silent party favors. These animist machines celebrate their own absurdity, taking on lives of their own, while also reflecting ours.
In essence, much of her work subtly alludes to the modern life’s casualties, referring to the body as well as the natural environ through industrial and mechanical forms that often change and degrade.