Saturday, August 31, 2013

50 years of contemporary art: Chemould

The Chemould story started in 1941 with the establishment of Chemould Frames, Kekoo Gandhy's frame manufacturing business, through which he came to know the then young K. H. Ara, S. H. Raza, K. K. Hebbar and M. F. Husain.

At a time when there were practically no venues for showing modern art in the city, Gandhy began to use his show room window to exhibit their works in specially designed frames while also promoting them to prospective clients. The show room thus became a site for small, informal solo shows such as that of M. F. Husain's in 1951. Today Chemould Frames continues to operate as an independent company from the gallery, situated in the same premise as over 60 years ago.

Gallery Chemould, founded in 1963 by Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, was one of the oldest established commercial art galleries. It has the distinction of having represented major artists, such as M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza, emerging from the first waves of India's modernist and contemporary art movements. Chemould was also the first gallery to host the first solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed artist, the late Bhupen Khakhar (year of birth and death).

The Gandhys began their long association with contemporary art during the late 1940s, in the early years of the modernist art movement in post-Independence India. Their role and involvement as facilitators and promoters in this cultural climate has come to be seen as integral to the existing scene around the visual arts in the country.

Chemould has been represented through loan, collaboration and participation in several major international exhibitions: the 1st Johannesburg Biennale (1995); ‘the Fire and Life Project’ in collaboration with Asialink (1996 & 1997); ‘Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tension’ (1997) hosted by the Asia Society; ‘Private Mythology: Contemporary Art From India’ (1998) in collaboration with the Japan Foundation Asia Center; Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (2001) hosted by the Tate Modern. In 2007, Atul Dodiya’s representation in Documenta 12 was represented entirely through the gallery’s collection namely, ‘Antler’s Anthology’.

Exploring the evident urban disjuncture

Artists Arun Kumar HG, Avantika Bawa, Baiju Parthan, Chittrovanu Manzumdar, Gigi Scaria, Manjunath Kamath, Roshan Chhabria, Prajakta Palav, Sarnath Banerjee and Sudipta Das feature in a show, entitled ‘Diver-Cities II’ at New Delhi-based Latitude 28.

A press release based on an essay by theorist-writer-social scientist Sunil Khilnani (The Idea of India) states: “'India's cities are hinges between its vast population spread across the countryside and the hectic tides of global economy, with its ruthlessly shifting tastes and its ceaseless murmur of the pleasures and hazards of modernity. This three-cornered relationship decisively moulds India's future economic, cultura1 and political possibilities.

“The demographic drift across the world is unstoppably towards the urban.' 'Modern India's political and economic experiences have coincided most dramatically in its cities - symbols of the uneven, hectic and contradictory character of the nation's modem life. From the ancient sacred space of Benares to the decaying colonial pomp of Calcutta, from the high rationalism of Chandigarh to the software utopia of Bangalore, from Mumbai's uneasy blend of parochial politics and cosmopolitan to the thrusting new cities of the north.

“The evident urban disjuncture's have enlivened distinct political sentiments. The real and imagined experience of the city has individually and together reconstituted both the nature and the range of the selves, the ‘identities' that Indians can call their own.” The question is whether identity remain singular, multiple, dual or fused? Which intersections does it emphasize, which points of reference resonate? A globe called home, yet a search for imaginary homelands? A polyglot culture, where every being is in tumultuous transit between identities or composite identities...

In the context of the thematic group show, a curatorial write-up underlines how art today has become an exciting statement of the cultural diversity mapping diverse geographies. Homogeneity, which emerges as a by-product of globalization, leads to the growing importance of nudging the cultural producer to look for the celebration of difference.

The show, in keeping with the gallery’s motto of weaving a strand of artists spread across disciplines, to dig into the finer aesthetic grain and concerns of each works and puts them forth in a defined collation, continues until September 23, 2013. 

(Information courtesy: Latitude 28)

'Jelly with Nuts' by Prajakta Palav Aher

Prajakta Palav Aher explores her life and experiences in the ever-expanding mega-city of Mumbai. The megacity is a machine for the unceasing, untiring churning-out of reality. When the world is too much with us, we lock ourselves into a cocoon and create representations of the real that we can control.

In her new suite of works titled 'Jelly with Nuts', showcased in 'Diver-Cities' at Latitude 28 (2013), Palav delves into a series of paintings that challenge the notion of the Indian wedding pandal (pavilion) in terms of treatment and its inherent ideology and social significance. Pandal is a temporary structure which maintains privacy on busy streets by creating a personal territory which to Palav is akin to a fantastical land.

Retaining the pristine and aesthetic quality associated with the wedding pandal through meticulous rendition, the artist intervenes in a subliminal way to locate fragments of ‘ugliness’ within this space and hence introduce a tenor of disturbance into this protected cocoon. Palav paints every detail from a multitude of photographic references that she has archived over the years. The candid medium of photography allows her to unpretentiously penetrate the many aspects of middle class life in India, and capture its varied truths.

Although the artist's portrayals are realistic, they do not come across as documentaries but instead, allow the viewer to realize the disposition of the situations. Palav traces out using the historical journey in conjunction with urban references of the traditional motifs and their situated recycling and reclamation in the process.

The vibrant Indian motifs like paisley and floral patterns in her work displayed at 'Re-claim, Re-cite, Re-cycle', have traveled from being revered as fabric, jewelry designs to signifying their minor presence interwoven and molded as decorative jaalis in the urban households, which like their diminutive presence in the concrete jungles become the object of trivial mass productions.

Friday, August 30, 2013

'Plot' at GallerySKE

Artist Sreshta Rit Premnath's note to the recent solo show, entitled 'Plot', at GallerySKE:
I am perplexed, forgetting why I entered the room. Why am I here? As if reason stands separate from action. When asked "Why did you do this?" I recollect a series of events, which appear to inexorably lead to my present circumstance. If asked again "Why did you do this?" do I produce a new constellation or refer to my previous plan? "What is the plot?" As if a plot, like a key, is separate from a story and yet necessary for its comprehension.
II. Corpse

A mystery begins with a corpse. A chalk line that delineates the prone body—a minimum boundary that separates figure from ground. Eventually this boundary too disappears. Every form of presence has its analogous form of absence. Remove the word "form" from the previous sentence. 1-1?1, 1-1?2, 1-1?3, 1-1?4, 1-1?5, etc.
III. Property
The stray dog that circles a site the size of its body. Asleep, invisible until stepped upon it bursts into flight, baring its teeth or squealing. The volatile and vulnerable claim of the sleeping dog. Before this was my land, there was land. Before there was land, there was nothing. Yet, knowing nothing leaves me ignorant of concepts such as "my," "this" and "land." "With false documents and brute force the land was extorted from them." While the concept of ownership may be fundamentally unstable, this instability does not displace the ethical issue of rightful ownership. The two concepts are irresolvable but interconnected.

Law is both the means of instituting and of maintaining private property. Then there are those who occupy the fragile margin of this law. Their property is provided only so long as they are useful or invisible. The sleeping dog has no right besides its insistent occupation of space. Yet, we know that this may be wrenched from it in a moment. What is this existence, this right to be, that precedes (or exceeds) property?

'Utsha' at Nature Morte

The penultimate source of creativity, imagination and action is an extended dream project of the artist Jagannath Panda, to capture and enhance the richness of Odishan culture as well to promote art that reflects the contemporary realities of the urban, rural, secular and sacred identities of the region.

A press relase elaborates: "Utsha is a registered charitable trust based in Bhubaneswar with a commitment to capture, engage and nurture the Odishan culture and provides a space/platform to reflect and augment diversity of the state with all its urban, rural, secular and religious identities. We are intensely involved in promoting artistic excellence with exciting synthesis of contemporary and traditional arts, in all their forms and mediums. We are very keen to investigate the notions and dilemmas of contemporary visual culture (at large) by creating a dynamic and vibrant artistic and intellectual environment for experimentation and creativity.

Utsha supports a growing network of art practitioners, organizations, galleries, students, researchers and common people. We are unique in the sense of connecting parochial and traditional practices to the global and contemporary creative circuits respectively. We are more concerned with local, ethnic and regional practices that come from small towns such as in the hinterland and in spaces marked by conflict zones; As these are the realms that need urgent attentions and are full with possibilities.

Utsha invites critical reflections on the nature of the contemporary Odisha in global context. As we function internationally to realize the notion and dialogue with people around the world. we invite regular screenings and discussion of different areas and interest of visual culture which could be volunteerly or curated including documentary and video art, theatre, performance etc. we embodies a continuing engagement with creativity in different communities and locations.

Born 1970, Bhubaneswar, the artist lives and works in New Delhi. In 2002, he did his B.F.A Sculpture from B.K College of Art & Crafts, Bhubaneswar and M.F.A Sculpture, M.S University, Baroda in 1994, before joining Royal College of Art, London. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at Fukuoka University of Education, Japan.

World’s ‘super galleries’

  • White Cube caused a stir nearly two years ago when it opened a 58,000 square-foot gallery in south London. That's bigger than a football field, reports Kelly Crow in an elaborate news report in The WSJ.
  • Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth earlier this year converted a former roller rink and nightclub in New York's Chelsea neighborhood into a 24,700 square-foot gallery - complete with an artist-designed bar serving free coffee on weekends. "We don't need to sell coffee," said director Marc Payot.
  • Austrian dealer Thaddaeus Ropac opened the world's second-largest gallery last October when he transformed a group of eight factory buildings on Paris's outskirts into a 50,000 square-foot art complex. The $10 million space has allowed him to carve up areas for performance art and outfit several apartments for visiting artists like Anselm Kiefer.
  • Recently, Mr. Ropac realized that his artists didn't want to use the complex's studio for fear of attracting onlookers, so he's rented even more space a few blocks away. "I don't want my artists to feel like they're in a zoo," he said.
  • New York dealer Larry Gagosian, among the first to champion this supersize-gallery model, is also known for showing big artworks to match. His two biggest galleries in New York are closed for the next six weeks—right through the opening of the fall season—because one of his artists, sculptor Richard Serra, requires that much time just to install his show that is opening in October.
  • Sotheby's specialist Alex Rotter has been quoted as saying in The WSJ article that he credits these 'super galleries' for convincing newer collectors to buy extra-large art. Mr. Rotter, who helps oversee Sotheby's in-house galleries S2, said he's also learning firsthand that some artworks look, and fare, better in vast concrete surroundings than others. "For Richard Serra, it's not hard to fill a space," he said, "but if you give 5,000 square feet to someone else, there's a chance some of it will feel like filler—not all of it is good."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

'Enormous' works of art

Increasingly, the works of art on display are getting just as enormous, needing teams of several workers and cranes to host them. Not so long ago, museums were the prime potential buyers or acquirers of such huge, room-filling pieces. However, an influx of new wealthy collectors and art lovers across the globe over the past decade has changed the scenario. Columnist Kelly Crow reconstructs if in The Wall Street Journal:
  • Thanks to a resurgent global-art market, some of the world's top dealers are feeling flush and fueling a new gallery building boom—transforming factories, roller rinks and airplane hangars into showrooms for contemporary art. As a result, some of the most highly anticipated shows of the season are set to open in galleries, not museums.
  • Like museums, some gallery spaces now boast auditoriums, screening rooms, roof gardens and bookstores. Shows at the dozen biggest galleries are often planned two years in advance and can take more than a month to install. Once up, the art may also stay on view for several months at a time, a typical time frame for a museum exhibit but a fresh stretch for a gallery setting more accustomed to opening new shows monthly.
  • These mega-galleries could be a sign of market-fueled hubris—but they may simply represent the next evolutionary step in the look of a modern-day art gallery, architects and dealers say. Either way, these spaces are changing the way we see, and shop for, art. A century ago, art galleries from New York to London and beyond sought to evoke a clubby townhouse with décor as ornate as their paintings' gilded frames.
  • After the devastation of World War II, galleries removed their lavish adornments so as not to compete with their artists' wildly splattered abstractions. Canvases got wider and sculptures got a little bulkier, but just about everything on offer could still fit within the confines of an apartment with a 9-foot ceiling. All that changed in the 1960s as galleries began clustering in the New York neighborhood of Soho with its tall, cast-iron window casements, tin ceilings and wooden floors.

Dealing with questions of identity

In the case of diaspora, exiles, immigrants and emigrants, struggles with dislocation and recognition of the empowering potential remain a constant engagement. Postmodern thought looks at 'identity' as something fragmentary and dynamic, rather than static.

The questions of identity 'now' orbit around the development of new identities and homogenous cultures which stand in contrast to the hybrid, plural and technical. This question of identity carries valence for artists particularly in the age of globalization where boundaries are not so definite and dynamic. Interactive processes through diverse media, which is essentially observable in the virtual space that has shrunk the world to a small screen, takes precedence over others.

This suggests, as an accompanying note to a new show at New Delhi-based Latitude 28, a brave new terrain where the poetry of visual arts is often completed in the imagination of the viewer, signaling a shift away from the history of visual arts as a single narrative that distinguishes itself from the inheritance of aesthetic traditions. Inhabiting itself in the 'now' of the increasingly common international biennales with their gatherings of diverse and maybe even incommensurable practices, contemporary visual arts is generating communication and confusions in the mélange of practices from disparate cultures.

What it all proposes is a critical articulation of contemporary cultural practices and their representation, and of what contemporaneity might in fact be. The immediate challenges are clear: bringing together artists from different geographical and cultural zones into a single exhibition space as divergent as they may be culturally and geographically. The new urban space is particularly well suited as a starting point for understanding contemporary India: The city is a crucially intricate construction born out of the intersection of diverse social, economic and cultural tempers, as a source of multi valiantly layered experiences, playing itself in various keys across diverse visual regimes. The city, now occupies the mind of the artists in various arresting poses.

Among the participating artists, Arunkumar H.G, manipulates ready-made objects such as toys, plastic, ceramics, cow dung, hay and TV monitors in varied contextual settings giving a glimpse of his susceptibility towards the neo-pop movement. This eclectic approach allows Kumar to articulate his ideas through remarkable, layered meanings.

Facets that make Indian art and artists stand apart

Inquisitive artists of today’s restless, resurgent India produce works that revolve around the current situation and its impact on the common people – a byproduct of skewed progress – to pose several pertinent questions like:
  • How does the globalized economy and market of the new millennium influence the socio-political spheres?
  • How does it touch the common people’s life? What does the world expect from India as market and a thought leader as the largest democracy apart from US and China?
  • Can the conflicts between consumerism and a streak of spirituality affect our tussle between culturally established mindset and current views?
Keeping a close eye on the country’s rich past and an informed view to the promising future, the new-generation artists are proactively responding to the changes in an effort to examine the implications of incessant churning - a facet, which has brought contemporary Indian art into international spotlight. Through diverse forms of expression and insightful perspectives they want to know what it means to live, thrive or survive in present-day India, undergoing a dramatic socio-political engineering along with economic transformation.

Alongside the evolving art-scape, a new class of investors and collectors is continually evolving. Analyzing the scenario, writer Margherita Stancati had mentioned in The Wall Street Journal: “As India’s economy is growing, so is the portion of the population that can afford to invest in art. This means many buyers are actually new to the art market. As a result, the profile of collectors is changing too.” The process is almost two decades old, now…

Broadly speaking, though investor confidence in the art market is still a bit circumspect, the interest has certainly returned. Collectors worldwide are fervently participating in a series of Indian art auctions, making them hugely successful, to establish its global potential. They are treating the major sales as an opportunity to acquire some of the very best contemporary and classic works on offer, set to appreciate in the future.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East

The world’s first major museum exhibition of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair celebrates this remarkable artist’s extraordinary body of work. She is a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East and, born in 1916, takes her rightful position as a significant figure in the history of twentieth-century art.

Through painting and drawing, architecture, textiles and jewellery, as well as, of course, her prolific and experimental sculptures, visitors can discover how Choucair worked in diverse media pursuing her interests in science, mathematics and Islamic art and poetry. Many of the works, made over a period of five decades, have not previously been seen outside of Lebanon.

A rare female voice in the Beirut art scene from the 1940s onwards, Choucair’s work combines elements of western abstraction with Islamic aesthetics. It is characterised by an experimental approach to materials alongside an elegant use of modular forms, lines and curves drawn from the traditions of Islamic design.

The exhibition at Tate focuses on Choucair’s sculptures from the 1950s to the 1980s, created in wood, metal, stone and fibreglass, as well as extensive examples of her early abstract paintings and some key figurative works such as Self-Portrait 1943 and Paris-Beirut 1948.

A spate of reviews applaud her as a singular figure who deserves her place in the spotlight for creating compositions with the planes and voids of these interlocking modular sculptures… There is a lot of delight in Choucair’s games of rhythm and counter-rhythm, her things that look like figures and also like sculpted words. She carved and constructed, worked with terracotta and biscuity clay, produced small organic forms and larger works with mirrors, Plexiglas and nylon thread, another reviewer states. Laura Cumming of The Observer mentions: “A great stream of gorgeous syncopated abstracts that are based on mathematical permutations but fly free of science.”

The artist survived immense cultural and political constraints. She studied art in European capitals, before returning to her roots - Islamic forms. In the process, Choucair gave Middle Eastern modernism a lucid identity.

An artist collective that plays a plurality of roles

Jeebesh Bagchi (born 1965, New Delhi), Monica Narula (born 1969, Delhi) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (born 1968, Delhi) before extending into visual art, explored urban geography through experimental documentary film and television. They make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors and have founded processes that have left deep impacts on contemporary culture in India.

For APT7, they delve into their own past, bringing together publications, documents, interviews and project proposals that mark the moment in which they were made, as well as anticipating the future. Raqs Media Collective has been variously described as artists, media practitioners, curators, researchers, editors, and catalysts of cultural processes. Its work locates it along the intersections of contemporary art, philosophical speculation, historical enquiry, research and theory, often taking the form of installations, online and offline media objects, performances and encounters.

Raqs remains closely involved with the Sarai program at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (, an initiative they co-founded in 2000. They enjoy playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as a curators, sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs.

Raqs follows its self declared imperative of 'kinetic contemplation' to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures. According to Shuddhabrata Sengupta, a lot of their work is rooted in terms of its context in New Delhi He has mentioned: “In a sense, we have always perceived our work as responding to the city. Even if it articulates across large cultural distances, we see it as an ongoing process of responding to the locality we live in."

A project by Raqs Media Collective was included in a section, titled ‘The 20 Year Archive’, in which the 7th Asia Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT7) acknowledged its history by bringing together artists who work with archives. 

'Beneath the Surface' at CIMA

Kala Bhavan, its faculty and students have developed this unique collaborative exhibition of graphics. Kala Bhavana, founded in 1919, is well-known as a distinguished centre for Visual Art practice and research in India.

A new group show at CIMA in Kolkata, is the culmination of a workshop, organized by Kala Bhavan, in honour of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan to commemorate his birthday. This distinctive exhibition presents the works of thirty-nine artists, comprising of faculty members; students; and Professors emeritus of Kala Bhavan revolving around the process of etching - making a design on a metal plate by means of the action of acid.

The image is scratched through an acid – resistant coating, or etching – ground with a needle, exposing these parts of the metal beneath. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, where the acid bites into the line of the design. The longer the plate is left, the deeper the lines become. It is a time and labor intensive process, where the artist is bodily involved in the making of the art.

The printing of currency notes uses the process of etching except it is done mechanically. Graphic print making has unfairly fallen in practice and value with the advent of digital printing. What the new approaches, cannot replicate, is the tactility of a classical etching. This show attempts to remind us of an endangered art practice thanks to an endeavor of Kala Bhavan.

In May 1951 Visva-Bharati was declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance by an act of Parliament. At Santiniketan the environment is always present in one's consciousness.  It becomes a part of one's being here, more than anywhere else, which is why it grows on you and having lived here once it is difficult to forget. 

The Santiniketan environment has changed, grown and evolved with its community. Rabindranath Tagore would never have accomplished his dream at Santiniketan had not some great minds, scholars and teachers assembled around him. From its embryonic state to its full maturity Visva-Bharati was ably fed, nurtured and tutored by some of the best minds of contemporary India or abroad.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

James Turrell’s first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980 courtesy focuses on the artist’s groundbreaking explorations of perception, light, color, and space, with a special focus on the role of site specificity in his practice.

At its core is Aten Reign (2013), a major new project that recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial and natural light. One of the most dramatic transformations of the museum ever conceived, the installation reimagines Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic architecture—its openness to nature, graceful curves, and magnificent sense of space—as one of Turrell’s Skyspaces, referencing in particular his magnum opus the Roden Crater Project (1979– ).

Reorienting visitors’ experiences of the rotunda from above to below, Aten Reign gives form to the air and light occupying the museum’s central void, proposing an entirely new experience of the building. Other works from throughout the artist’s career will be displayed in the museum’s Annex Level galleries, offering a complement and counterpoint to the new work in the rotunda.

Organized in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, James Turrell comprises one of three of major Turrell exhibitions spanning the United States during summer 2013. This exhibition is curated by Carmen Giménez, Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of Twentieth-Century Art, and Nat Trotman, Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Meanwhile, another presentation, composed of selected materials from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives is ‘Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian House and Pavilion’. On October 22, 1953, Sixty Years of Living Architecture: The Work of Frank Lloyd Wright opened in New York on the site where the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum would eventually be built.

Two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings were constructed specifically to house the exhibition: a temporary pavilion made of glass, fiberboard, and pipe columns; and a 1,700-square-foot, fully furnished, two-bedroom, model Usonian house representing Wright’s organic solution for modest, middle-class dwellings.

‘Kandinsky in Paris’, 1934–1944

Perhaps more than any other 20th-century painter, Vasily Kandinsky has been linked to the history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The current collection on display includes over 150 of his works, which are regularly presented in a dedicated gallery at the museum.

The current selection, ‘Kandinsky in Paris’, 1934–1944, examines the last 11 years of his life. After the Nazi government closed the Berlin Bauhaus (where he had been a teacher) in 1933, Kandinsky settled in the Parisian suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine. In France, his formal vocabulary changed, and diagrams of amoebas, embryos, and other primitive cellular and plant forms provided the sources for the whimsical biomorphic imagery that would be predominant in his late paintings. Instead of his characteristic primary colors, Kandinsky favored softer, pastel hues—pink, violet, turquoise, and gold—reminiscent of the colors of his Russian origins.

He also increasingly experimented with materials, such as combining sand with pigment. While Kandinsky found that his art had affinities with Surrealism and other abstract movements in Paris, he never fully immersed himself in the city’s artistic environment. Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, this intimate presentation features paintings from a prolific period of Kandinsky’s career. The exhibition is organized by Tracey Bashkoff, Senior Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, and Megan Fontanella, Associate Curator, Collections and Provenance.

Meanwhile, ‘New Harmony: Abstraction between the Wars, 1919–1939’ explores a particularly rich facet of the Guggenheim’s 20th-century collection, celebrating the spirited trends in abstraction embraced among international artists working in Europe between the World Wars. The exhibition—titled for a 1936 Paul Klee painting of utopian geometry that reflects the artist’s interest in color theory and musical composition—features 40 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by some 20 artists, including Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, and Joaquín Torres-García.

The metamorphosis from private collection to public museum is an extraordinary transition. For the Guggenheim, this occurred in 1937, when Solomon R. Guggenheim established a foundation empowered to operate a museum that would publicly exhibit and preserve his holdings of nonobjective art. Today the Guggenheim is a museum in multiple locations with access to shared collections, common constituencies, and joint programming.

A fantasy world full of erotic tension and violence

Beneath the glittering surfaces of artist Raqib Shaw’s extravagant paintings lies a fantasy world of animals and mythical creatures. Pulsing with suggestions of violence and eroticism, these are rendered with extraordinary flair and detail.

His practice is based on a deep understanding of the rich history of poetic-visual culture of both East and West, having drawn on a rich seam of influences from India, Japan, and China. A vast range of sources, from English literature and Renaissance painting to Japanese kimono and Chinese cloisonné techniques, informs their hybrid imagery. Their visual opulence derives from his unique process, which builds up surfaces using stained glass paint and enamel, teased into shape using a porcupine quill, and finished with gems, glitter and rhinestones. This labor is so demanding that the paintings take months, even years at times, to complete.

The multi-faceted artist is known to employ mix media, such as car enamels and industrial paints coupled with decorative materials comprising glitter and precious gemstones for densely patterned and elaborately layered surfaces that combine an Eastern and Western perspective. For all their flourishes, his works reveal both a highly resourceful imagination and a singular, innovative commitment to the process of painting.

Apparently inspired by a wide range of sources, the artist unveils explosive collisions of mesmerizing fact and fiction, nature and culture. The startling aesthetics unveils itself only on closer examination to bring out sexual bizarreness and violence. At a latent level, it touches upon the vices of mindless consumption and profligacy as well as intemperance that that afflicts mankind. He unveils a chain of cultural contradictions, essentially based on the twin factors of self-knowledge and dream psychology. The jewel-like surfaces, bright colors, and intricate detailing deceptively mask the violent and sexual undertone.

Known to be an excellent draughtsman, he can effortlessly produce thousands of drawings of flowers, and creatures - both real and imaginary - that make their way into the vibrant paintings. They are then meticulously infused with enamel-like paint, later to be covered with countless tiny emeralds, rubies etc. Intense shades of captivating colors achieve a high degree of precision with his expert touch.

His awe-inspiring oeuvre tends to recreates myth and fantasy with devils and angels, horror and beauty infused in equal measure. A wealth of dense imagery fills Raqib Shaw’s paintings and sculptures: fantastical creatures and devil-like gods, decayed ornamental architecture, and exquisitely painted flowers and grasses. Raqib Shaw’s works formed part of the 7th Asia Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT7).

Monday, August 26, 2013

A 'progressive' art journey

The progressives rejected the Bengal school’s ‘revivalistic’ methods, and also opposed the academic styles followed at the schools that were set up by the British. The group tried to mark the passage of the age of nationalism and a disengagement of art from historical exigencies.

Founded in 1947, the Progressive Artists Group (PAG) consisted of six rebellious and restless artists, who were keen to ‘look at the world outside from a very Indian way, and not a British way.’ They primarily included Francis Newton Souza (an outspoken personality chiefly credited with founding the group), SH Raza, Sadanand Krishnaji Bakre (the group’s only sculptor), Krishnaji Howlaji Ara, Hari Ambadas Gade and Maqbool Fida Husain.

Its emergence was essentially a reaction to the then dominant streak in the form of the Bombay Art Society. It had dismissed FN Souza as amateur and even rejected KH Ara’s work ‘Independence Day Procession’. The two along with HA Gade launched a group. Souza brought MF Husain whereas Ara and Gade brought in SK Bakre and SH Raza. They together started exhibiting their works to a wider audience.

There were regular meetings and discussions held that built a fraternal feeling, warmth and also an exchange of ideas. Each of them had his own unique style: Ara’s beguiling nudes, Husain’s earthy sensuality, and the frank sexuality of Souza, for example.

Other noteworthy modern artists who later joined the group included Vasudeo Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee, Mohan Samant, Krishen Khanna and Tyeb Mehta. The creation of the group and their individual evolution as artists of repute were invariably entwined with aspirations of newly independent India.

Apart from their personal trajectories, the most significant thing about them was not merely their unconventional work, but the circumstances under which they joined forces – to make an emphatic artistic statement. It is important to put the contribution of Progressives and other younger artists associated with them like Krishen Khanna, Padamsee, Bal Chhabda and Tyeb Mehta in a specific historical context.

‘Sense and Sensuality’ by Design Temple

Design Temple, founded in 1999 by Divya Thakur, is considered a significant force in the domain of contemporary Indian design today. It focuses on home accessories, also opting to branch out into graphic art, fashion, interiors, artistic collaborations and publication design. Their products are largely characterized by a marked social consciousness, clever wit, impeccable craftsmanship and a heightened awareness of symbology.

In 2011, Design Temple was invited to participate in Wallpaper Magazine’s exhibition ‘Handmade’ at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. In 2007, Divya Thakur was commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to curate a graphic representation of contemporary India. She has also showcased the unorganized design sector with an exhibition ‘Indigenous India’ (2004) at the Loggia dei Mercanti in Milan. Design Temple products can be found in their dedicated retail outlet in the Colaba neighborhood of Mumbai apart from lifestyle boutiques across the country.

Divya Thakur’s recent project, entitled ‘Sense and Sensuality’ looked to build a visual narrative by using design objects that inform our contemporary way of life.  For the gallery space of Nature Morte at the Oberoi Gurgaon, Design Temple focused on a group of products that reinterprets the traditional yet syncretic beliefs, practices and attitudes that revolve around gender, sexuality and spirituality in India.

A press release elaborated that the foundation laid with a group of wool pile carpets from the ‘Floored!’ series replicated geometric patterns found in both domestic and sacred architectural spaces. It added: “Arranged with these are the puzzle-like constructions called ‘Indian Order’. This modular system, inspired by pillars found in temples and mosques, allows for multiple functions through limitless combinations. Here, they will be further activated by the addition of ‘Lingam Candles’ of Design Temple.”Completing the dazzling display were selections of limited edition prints from two collections (‘Erogenius’ and ‘Animania’) as well as the ‘Peacock Mirror’, a tribute to Narcissism.

Socially oriented agenda of a sensitive artist

Artist Praneet Soi’s practice is a byproduct of his constant journey, observation and search of cultural contrasts between and his native city Kolkata and Amsterdam, where he now lives. He has traversed distant and diverse cultural grounds, from India to the Netherlands, passing via the US.

On his flat acrylic engravings, he looks to denounce, the spasmodic pressure we suffer every day from religious and political realities. Keen to experiment, he works in a wide range of media like painting, drawing, audio-visual assemblages etc. He employs ancient eastern refinement to emphasize the suffering of humanity.

Born in 1971 in Kolkata, Praneet Soi did his Bachelors of Fine Arts and later Masters (Painting) in 1994-96 from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda. After completing a Masters Degree (Visual Arts) from University of California, San Diego (2001), he studied at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (2002-03).

Some of the artist's selected solos are 'Still Life', Vadehra Gallery, Delhi (2009); ‘Het Oog (the Eye)’, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2009); 'Cut-Out', Gallery Martin Van Zomeren, Netherlands (2009); ‘Juggernaut’, Project 88, Mumbai (2008); ‘Face to Face’, LKA, Delhi (2006); ‘Northern Wind’, Galerie Martin Van Zomeren, Amsterdam (2005); 'Spinning Stories ... # 3’, The Kromme, Tent, Rotterdam (2004); 'A Short Walk’, The Inkijk, SKOR, Amsterdam (2004); and shows at University of California, San Diego (2003, 20005).

Among his recent selected group exhibits and participations are 'Genius without Talent', de Appel Boys' School, Amsterdam; 'Concepts & Ideas 2011', (CIMA), Kolkata; 'ID/entity', Vadehra, Delhi; 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London; 'Generation in Transition', Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warszawa, Poland; Ural Industrial Bienale of Contemporary Art, Ekatarinburg, Russia; 14th Vilinus Painting Triennal, CAC, Adelaide; and the 2009 'ARCOmadrid' fair in Spain.

A recipient of The Russell 2002 Grant courtesy University of California, he also served Residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine in 2001. He received a Grant from the Ministry of Education Culture & Science, Netherlands in 2004.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mapping Praneet Soi’s art and career

Young and talented Praneet Soi explores representations of familiar images emanating from the rumblings around in order to grasp how such imagery can affect the way we might perceive our own environment. The artist is known for addressing sensitive social issues with a global or local resonance.

Giving an insight into his processes, a curatorial note to his display ‘Het Oog (the Eye)’ at Van Abbe Museum had mentioned: “In a time where we are inevitably confronted with images of conflict from all over the globe, the artist asks himself how the human figure is represented in contemporary image culture. In our time, where the use of age-old image conventions is appropriated in professional image production, what happens when this very figure is ripped apart and an attempt is made to reconstruct it in another way?”

On the other hand, his ‘Cut-Out’ comprised an archive of images composed as cut out collages, together with paintings and a mural as a means for him to mark out his physical, political and cultural environment. On the other hand, his ‘Juggernaut’ included works that when juxtaposed led to a certain social commentary.

Encapsulated within the notion of progress today are the dual forces of war and globalization. The thread that strings these forces together is history. The series employed political imagery born of such process to picture the strange alliances and mutations that populate its disturbed trail.

His paintings in miniature format and on flattened ground explored images of unrest from across the world - Afghanistan, Lebanon, London and Iraq, whereas for a project earlier this year, he visited the insurgency hit city of Srinagar in Kashmir. An interactive document was prepared to follow the state’s political problematic along juridical lines within history. A slide-show offered details of a fulfilling personal and intuitive exploration of the city. Collages, text as well as photographs drew upon its inherent beauty. The composition – not predetermined - albeit materialized in a symbiotic relationship with the space.

Ravinder Reddy’s iconic heads

Ravinder Reddy’s work ably captures the contradictions and dualities of Indian life. In it, one can easily see the provincial in the universal - Resembling both African folk art and Kalighat paintings. As the artist explains, it’s ‘a kind of an amalgam of Mexican and Egyptian figures, Nigerian bronzes, and rural women in the state of Andhra Pradesh coupled with Warholian ‘pop’ sensibility’.

His ‘everywoman’ has made a mark in Sotheby’s and catalogues, as well as several documentations of Indian contemporary art in the last five years. It forms part of internationally famous collections like the Frank Cohen collection, the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan and back home, Anupam Poddar’s collection, among other private collections.

Ravinder Reddy has been making sculptures for the last thirty years. He made the first trademark head in the 1990s. It was in the mid-eighties that the artist had seen Nigerian bronzes while at Royal College of Art, London after his graduation from MS university, Baroda. The bronzes reminded him of figures and features from his home states he had grown up seeing.

The features carried a feel and resonance cutting across geographical borders. When he decided to work on something similar, other influences like pop art permeated into the ‘heads’.Soon the artist was showing in London’s Grosvenor Gallery and SoHo galleries. In fact, he was one of the few sculptors to draw a much deserved attention internationally. The woman head was a turnaround point for Indian sculpture in 2007.

One entitled ‘Radha’ went for Rs1.49 crore at Saffronart’s auction in that year. A similar sculpture ‘Lakshmi Devi’ grossed Rs1.36 crore at Christie’s modern and contemporary art auction in New York. Mumbai’s Sakshi Art Gallery presented his heads as part of a group show, entitled ‘Third Dimension’ a few years ago. In fact, his heads has been drawing the interest of collectors, curators and first-time buyers worldwide. It’s the Indianness of his unique works that attract them as noted by French collector-curator Hervé Perdriolle, who states that the heads are iconic owing to their ‘eloquent simplicity’.

A chronicler of contemporary times

Mostly loaded with social or political commentary, N. S. Harsha’s oeuvre explores the close relationship that art shares with contemporary cultural representation and otherwise.  At times, he looks to combine ubiquitous objects with sites-specific paintings on walls or floors in order to engage with the exhibition space.

The sensitive artist brings to our notice the whimsical, slightly absurd as much as the poignant, akin to a philosopher without getting judgmental. In a way, he prompts viewers to reflect on the world around. A clever interplay of text, words and symbols, his compositions are as much influenced by comic book illustrations, Bazaar Art, simultaneously drawing inspiration from popular street and poster art. In the process, he unleashes a powerful political commentary within a fascinating framework of Indian miniature, the modern narrative tradition of his home country, its philosophical concepts and popular art.

A skilled storyteller, who often resorts to pointed, vivacious visuals, this celebrated contemporary Indian artist combines everyday life from his immediate milieu with the complex global scenario. The fabulous figurative and narrative depictions are extracted out of his own experiences as well as are chalked out of images and photographs culled from mass media. He invariably focuses on issues related to economics, the global marketplace, consumerism as well as cultural heritage. He puts his practice in local context, evolving cultural traditions and the shifting world order, to engage with an ever broadening realm.

The acclaimed artist during his first solo in London, entitled ‘Picking through the Rubble’, unveiled a series of paintings and an installation work around ideas of the absurd and meaninglessness. A curatorial note to the show elaborated: “He has always been interested in art and its relationship with cultural representation and misrepresentation, and therefore location - whether geographical, political, social or cultural - plays an essential role. Taking on the challenge of representing on canvas the absurd within human nature, the artist here furthers his exploration of humanity en masse, with an underlying sensitivity for the individual as well as the group.”

Tracking a socially sensitive artist’s career graph

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A spotlight on India's talented multi-media artist

Considered among India's most talented multi-media artists, Ranbir Kaleka's work has been described as ‘creating a seemingly living tableau on a canvas and screen.’ His new work – as part of the month-long show - continues this project of producing art in an intermediate space between a painting and running visual (video), which is not as much a hybrid as a transmutation.

Ranbir Kaleka, born in 1953, spent his formative in Patiala, and studied at the College of Art in Chandigarh (1970-75). He received a Masters Degree in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (1987). Underlining his credentials as an artist of international standing, his works have been hosted in many museum exhibitions of Indian contemporary art over the past decade, including the recent ‘Chalo! India’ at the Mori Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2008); ‘India Moderna’ at the Institute of Modern Art, Valencia, Spain (2008); ‘New Narratives’ at the Chicago Cultural Center (2007); ‘HORN PLEASE!’ at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2007); ‘Urban Manners’ at Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2007); ‘Hungry God: Indian Contemporary Art’ at Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea (2006).

He has also featured in ‘Art Video Lounge’ at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami (2006); ‘Edge of Desire’ at Asia Society, NY (2005); ‘iCon: India Contemporary’ at the Venice Biennale (2005); ‘Zoom! Art in Contemporary India’, Lisbon (2004); and ‘subTerrain: Indian Contemporary Art’ at House of World Cultures, Berlin (2003), among others.

In 2007 Ranbir Kaleka was commissioned to create a permanent video installation for Chicago’s new Spertus Museum. His work was included in the Sydney Biennale in 2008, and also formed part of the ‘India: public places, private spaces’ show dedicated to contemporary photography and video art in India at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Viewing his work is like a manipulation of time in which one may both experience the moment of action as well as view it from above. 'Reading Man’, his third solo with Bose Pacia (2005, 07), brought out how the artist creates contemporary tableaux of subconscious visions and fanciful dreamscapes by marrying realistic figures and passages with intense coloration and uncanny juxtapositions of objects.

A ‘sound’ base for art

The world-renowned art institution MoMA presents another dimension of new-age art with its first ever major exhibit of 'sound art’ pieces by some of the most innovative contemporary artists who play with sound and the endless possibilities embedded within it.

The artists featuring in the unconventional exhibition are Luke Fowler (Scottish, b. 1978), Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964), Toshiya Tsunoda (Japanese, b. 1964), Richard Garet (Uruguayan, b. 1972), Christine Sun Kim (American, b. 1980), Florian Hecker (German, b. 1975), Jacob Kirkegaard (Danish, b. 1975), Carsten Nicolai (German, b. 1965), and Haroon Mirza (British, b. 1977).

Other participants include Camille Norment (American, b. 1970), Tristan Perich (American, b. 1982), Susan Philipsz (Scottish, b. 1965), Sergei Tcherepnin (American, b. 1981), Hong-Kai Wang (Taiwanese, b. 1971), Jana Winderen (Norwegian, b. 1965), and Stephen Vitiello (American, b. 1964).

A press release elaborates: “While these artists approach sound from a variety of disciplinary angles—the visual arts, architecture, performance, computer programming, and music—they share an interest in working with, rather than against or independent of, material realities and environments. These artistic responses range from architectural interventions, to visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, to an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, to a range of field recordings—including echolocating bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, 59 bells in New York City, and a sugar factory in Taiwan.

The diversity of these works reflects a complex and nuanced field, elaborates the essay. “Yet the exhibition posits something specific: that how we listen determines what we hear. Indeed, the works provoke and evoke—both in the maker and the museumgoer—modes of active listening, and a heightened relationship between interior and exterior space.

“At a time when personal listening devices and tailored playlists have become ubiquitous, shared aural spaces are increasingly rare. Many of the artists in the exhibition aim for such realities, and the sound they create is decidedly social, immersing visitors and connecting them in space. In many of the works, links are drawn between disparate topographies and subjects, giving rise to new understanding and experiences.”

The show has been organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, with Leora Morinis, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.

Drawing parallels between animals and human beings

Essentially a keen story teller, Viraj Naik looks to weave his visual narration around a realm of curious make-believe creatures and entities that come to shape from his imagination. He builds his own mythologies, to traverse the world of the credible for the phantasmagoria with deft strokes of his ink pen, a graphite pencil or his color-tipped brush. While stepping into his fabulous painterly realm, one is transferred to a surreal world.

The artist at times turns to nature so as to seek inspiration. He states, “It (nature) is an important aspect of my creations; human beings are a part of it. As I paint, I feel like wandering through a forest and try to depict these feelings on to the canvas—the cautiousness and the animal instinct and the extra senses. I feel that animals share a peculiar relationship with humans. This comes out in my works as hybridization between the two. I feel that every human being has animal instincts and I bring them out through my paintings.” It is his love for and four-legged creatures that prompts him to draw parallels between them and humans.

The legends who have happened to influence him are Leonardo Da Vinci, Dali, FN Souza, Picasso and Laxma Goud whom he counts among the greatest printmakers from India. According to him, all these artists have indulged in hybridization in one form or another. And they all provide him inspiration in the form and technique he employs. The proficient printmaker displays a natural flare for watercolors and acrylics. He greatly relishes the creation of hybrids and chimeras, soaking in their dramatic personae, a composite of bird and animal, human and machine, and so on.

He did his Master of Fine Arts (Printmaking) from University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad. Among his selected solo exhibitions in the last decade are 'Fanatical Beings', India Fine Arts, Mumbai; a show at Visual Arts Centre, Hong Kong; 'Mythical Menagerie', Galleria, New Delhi; a show presented by Gallerie Nvya at Travancore Palace, Delhi; apart from his work having been showcased at Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai; Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi; Gallerie Nvya, Delhi; Museum Gallery, Mumbai; and Galeria Cidade de Goa.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A precursor to Sydney Contemporary 13

Sydney Contemporary is the Australian city’s newest and most ambitious international art fair that will showcase works by both emerging as well as established artists from across the world. It will feature leading international and Australian galleries. Here’s what the event will be all about:
  • With a thriving art scene and a growing collector base, Sydney is a dynamic cultural destination with an international reputation for presenting the very best in visual art through its public institutions, private collections, leading commercial galleries, and world renowned Biennale. Defined by the vibrancy of its host city, Sydney Contemporary provides commercial galleries with a dynamic platform to showcase the work of emerging and established artists, enabling local and visiting audiences to build on their existing knowledge, and develop their international art collections.
  • Tim Etchells, Founder Art Fairs Australia and co-founder ART HK, states: "Sydney Contemporary represents the first time this city has hosted a serious, high-end art fair. We expect it to play a significant role in helping to focus attention on the Sydney art scene in the same way that ART HK focused attention on Asian art.”
  • Housed in the distinctive nineteenth century Eveleigh Rail Yards on Wilson Street and located within an evolving urban arts district, Carriageworks has been developed by the NSW State Government through Arts NSW to create and present a multi-disciplinary arts program. This cultural centre provides specialist event facilities and a distinctive cultural edge for both galleries and audiences alike.
  • A biennial showcase for the very best visual art, current trends and emergent practices, as well as the cross-cultural dialogue it inspires. Sydney Contemporary boasts three days of public programs, appealing to the experienced, the novice, the discerning art enthusiast and those simply curious about buying and living with art. Programming includes guided tours, educational workshops, guest speakers and an extensive VIP program.
  • Created by the co-founder of ART HK, the event is the latest and most exciting addition to a line-up of increasingly influential fairs around the world and is set to establish itself as the must-see contemporary art event on the Australian cultural calendar.
The event’s inaugural edition will take place throughout Eveleigh’s arts precinct Carriageworks, in the third week of September 2013.

‘American Modern’ and Abstract Generation: Now in Print

Drawn from the captivating collection of MoMA, ‘American Modern’ tries to take a new look at the institutions impressive holdings of American art done between 1915 and 1950. Another show worth a mention is Abstract Generation: Now in Print.

Cultural preoccupations of a fast changing society 
‘American Modern’ considers the cultural preoccupations of a rapidly changing American society in the first half of the 20th century. Including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures, American Modern brings together some of the Museum’s most celebrated masterworks, contextualizing them across mediums and amid lesser-seen but revelatory works by artists who expressed compelling emotional and visual tendencies of the time.

The selection of works depicts subjects as diverse as urban and rural landscapes, scenes of industry, still-life compositions, and portraiture, and is organized thematically, with visual connections trumping strict chronology. Artists represented include George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andrew Wyeth, among many others.

Far from an encyclopedic view of American art of the period, the exhibition is a focused look at the strengths and surprises of MoMA’s collection in an area that has played a major role in the institution’s history. The exhibition is organized by Kathy Curry, Assistant Curator, and Esther Adler, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.
Abstract Generation: Now in Print
Since the early 20th century, abstraction has been associated with so many artistic movements, from Suprematism and Constructivism to Abstract Expressionism and Op art, that it can no longer be defined by any one style or tradition. Indeed, abstraction exists now as a rich and varied trove of formal languages and ideas—an open source of inspiration that extends well beyond the boundaries of art.

This exhibition focuses on the print medium, highlighting ways in which abstraction has played a generative role in works of the past decade. Featuring prints, artists’ books, and multiples from the Museum’s collection—by artists such as Cory Arcangel, Tauba Auerbach, Philippe Decrauzat, Liam Gillick, Wade Guyton, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, R. H. Quaytman, and Charline von Heyl—Abstract Generation examines contemporary notions of abstraction through a range of contemporary practices.

Works that exude paradoxical mix of scale and nuance

The intensity of the drawings by Aji V.N. arises from his concentrated compositions, and also from the shades he applies with the precision of a miniaturist, despite the large format. This paradoxical combination of scale and nuance evokes the idea of luxurious refinement.

A recent solo show of works by him at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam included a vast selection, with several of his new drawings and works on loan from the Netherlands and India.

For example, landscapes from various continents converged in them. Occasionally a Dutch scene was visible, with straight rows of poplars, and then again we could see the luxurious green of coco palms, banana plants and cashew nut trees, characteristic of the landscape of his youth. But even more frequently there was an imaginary world.

The earliest-shown work dated from 2004 and could be a self-portrait. On the paper we see a fragile youth, as in a dream world, up to his waist in water. Aji V.N. remarks: ‘It is a self-portrait, but not in the strict sense of the term. It is more a reproduction of an imaginary situation. The location is indeterminate, sans specific geography. The boy shown here is bathing in the water and in the light of the moon and the stars, while he has some kind of understanding with the fish. This physical experience is compacted into a world of thoughts: a philosophical image.

The drawing, dating from the early years of the artist’s time in Rotterdam, not only induces questions about our position in the universe, but also comprises specific reflections on life in various parts of the world. The artist had explained: “The River Ganges, which issues from the divinity Shiva, flows from the Himalayas through India as the sacred river. And this holy water blends with the water of the world. Regardless of whether it comes out of a tap or falls as a shower upon the earth: where water is, there is a unity with the source.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Arijoy Bhattacharya’s intriguing oeuvre

Arijoy Bhattacharya, a young and talented artist based in the capital city of India, is counted among the most promising practitioners of his generation. He obtained his BFA (painting) from College of Art, New Delhi in 2009.

The artist has worked on a series of exquisite drawings and sound, which are based on ancient iconography and scientific templates. Sri yantra, Nataraja and Shivlinga are the motifs that recur in his artworks with a some influence of the Bengal school.More recently, he chose to embark on a visual sojourn involving a painted works that strive to seamlessly blend the oriental and the occidental through juxtaposition of symbols of unity with drawings wherein the line turns into a thread of information that traverses various fields of information.

Taking a cue from a wide range of influences such as post-modern philosophy and Indian metaphysical traditions, Bhattacharya’s works explore reciprocity and mimesis. An essay mentions of Bhairava (male) looks toward Bhairavi (female), as they sit together in a state of yogic repose, on a Lotus. The captivating configuration of the figures follows the Uma-Mahesvara prototype.

It adds, “This image has been developed from a Nepalese source centering in the worship of the Goddess Kubjika. It’s an exploration and reinvention of a rare icon that indicates the hybridization of Indian Shaiva and Tibetan Buddhist imagery. The traditional Jwala Mala Mandala (Pattern of the Necklace of the Cosmic Fire) has been replaced by Sea-horse valley formations of the Mandelbrot Fractal. Fractals are iterated equations that generate patterns in the digital realm. One of them has been dubbed as the thumbprint of God - an existent representation of infinity. This pattern pervades throughout nature. It’s curiously consistent in satisfying the parameters to represent the fire of the Cosmos, at the levels of both form and content.”

Giving an insight into his philosophy and processes, he has noted that creating images through the collage technique lets the juxtaposition of disparate elements, getting unified in a composition, somewhat akin to music. ‘Lotus-Lovers’ and ‘Strange Attractors’ constitute a suite of drawings, which present a case of counterpoint, in terms of lines through its two types, the architectonic and the organic, converging and diverging within the themes presented.

He has featured in a number of significant shows like ‘Narrative’, Gasp, Boston (2010); ‘Holy Now’, Religare Arts, London (both in 2010); ‘Rising Stars’, Nitanjali Art, BMW studio, Delhi; ‘Harvest’, Arushi Arts, Gallery Stainless, Delhi (2009); ‘Round and Round’, Polka Art, IHC, Delhi; ‘Vistaar’, Gallery Limited Editions, Kolkata (both in 2007).

'Neighbourhood Souvenirs’

New-Delhi based Vadehra Art Gallery presents a solo exhibition by Charmi Gada Shah as part of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art’s (FICA) Emerging Artist Award 2011 which was shared by Charmi and Sujith SN.

The exhibition titled ‘Neighbourhood Souvenirs’ includes works which could be defined as ‘architectural sculptures’, carefully constructed with salvaged wood and tiles from different demolished buildings in her neighborhood, combined with construction materials such as concrete blocks and plaster. Starting with photographic documentation of demolished structures in her Mumbai neighborhood, she re-constructs these broken interiors in a painstakingly detailed fashion into three-dimensional, miniature, assemblages that resonate with stories of untold pasts.

Her works speak of lost places – houses stripped of their meaning and associations with the inhabitants having moved out, buildings fallen to disuse, or some abandoned. Each of these spaces retains traces of history; they are souvenirs of yet another neighbourhood that is neither significant nor spectacular; places that will be forgotten only too soon.

Shah’s practice engages with the passage of time and the subsequent shifts that have occurred in the meaning and function of architecture. She often works with built spaces that are invariably either abandoned, neglected or in a state of disuse; through the process of revisiting them, and building or innovating on their outlines, Shah draws attention back to these spaces and their disjuncture in time and space. Employing different media, including drawing, sculpture, photography, film and architecture, she formulates a network of correlations that play on notions of memory, destruction and conservation. The works, as installations, become in-situ repositories of documentation, fiction and mimesis.

The artist completed her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts (Drawing and Painting) from the L.S. Raheja School of Art, Mumbai, and her post-graduate degree from Chelsea College of Art, London. In 2009 she received the Art India Promising Artist Award.

She has exhibited in group shows such as ‘The Staircase Project’, Kashi Art Residency, Cochin (2008); ‘Relative Visa’ (2009); ‘Her Work is Never Done’ (2010) curated by Bose Krishnamachari, Mumbai apart from ‘Generation in Transition: New art from India’ curated by Magda Kardasz at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2011). She has shown her work at Art Gwangju, Korea, by Gallery BMB (2010), and Prague Biennale 5 – India Pavilion, curated by Kanchi Mehta (2011). She lives and works in Mumbai.

‘Psalms of an Invisible River’

Sujith SN’s exhibition of watercolors, entitled ‘Psalms of an Invisible River’ currently on view at New-Delhi based Vadehra Art Gallery speaks in a tongue of Holbeinesque metaphors and meanings. The large format works on paper present a world that is both poetic and apocalyptic, and sets the stage for narratives on humanity’s relationship with the world and its various other inhabitants.

The invisible river from the tile could be any of the hundreds of rivers running through Indian cities which have been forgotten, misused and hidden under the forest of buildings. They also double as metaphors of people and lives which go unseen amidst the daily humdrum of urban chaos. Sujith’s rendering of space and atmosphere, and the pervading twilight that his landscapes are suspended in, echoes the double-edged character of development.

Sujith SN works out of Mumbai and Kerala. He received his BFA from College of Fine Art, Trissur, and MFA from Sarojini Naidu School of Fine Arts, Performing Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad. Important exhibitions he has participated in the past include Open-eyed Dreams 8 Durbar hall, Cochin, 2007, Relative Visa, curated by Bose Krishnamachari at Bodhi Gallery, 2008, The Indian Sub-Way, curated by Yashodhara Dalmia at Grosvenor Vadehra, London, 2010, and, Skoda Prize 20, 2011-2012. His previous solo exhibitions were The Map is not the Territory, Lattitude 28, 2010, and The City and The Tower, Sakshi Gallery, 2008.

The show takes place as part of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art’s (FICA) Emerging Artist Award 2011 which was shared by Charmi and Sujith. The non-profit organization aims to broaden the audience for contemporary Indian art, enhance opportunities for artists and scholars, and establish a continuous dialogue between the arts and the public through education and engagement with art institutions.

The Emerging Artist Award was initiated in 2007 and the award seeks to promote young artists studying or practicing in India, who demonstrate extraordinary skill and promise in the visual arts. Past recipients include Rakhi Peswani, Om Soorya, Shumona Goel, Sandip Pisalkar, Shreyas Karle, Hemali Bhuta, Paribartana Mohanty, all chosen through an extensive selection process by an independent jury.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Air India salutes Indian Masters

Artworks by several Indian masters such as MF Husain, Raza, Ara and B Prabha, owned by India’s national carrier Air India are housed in its offices spread across the country. They have now been thoughtfully compiled for a curated display for the first time. The exhibition is a part of its brand building exercise. A PTI report details the efforts and thoughts behind the exhibition as follows:
  • This is the first time an exhibition of the artworks, some of them which are worth several lakhs, and some even going into the crore bracket, is being held. ‘Air India salutes Indian Masters’, comprising oil paintings, watercolors, works on glass and wood, a few miniatures as well as a few sculptures, has been curated by NGMA Director Rajeev Lochan.
  • Select works from the airline's huge art collection are showcased at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in the exhibition that runs till September 1. "A total of 67 pieces from Air India's collection is being exhibited at the Gallery. The artworks have been sourced from different offices located all across the country. Prominent artists like Husain, Ara, Raza, Prabha, are all featured," Air India Commercial Director Deepak Brara was quoted as saying in the PTI news report.
  • "The purpose of Air India's exhibition is purely a brand building exercise. The airline has had a large collection of art for a long time, which it would like to share it with art lovers,” the official said, adding that the total value of the artworks, some of which are displayed in the offices of senior managers in Delhi and Mumbai, is not available because there has been no formal evaluation process.
  • While a bulk of the airline's collection is displayed in Mumbai, some of the artworks are also in Air India offices in New York, Washington, Perth, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, and London. The airline which struggled with its finances and recently received financial support from the government, however, has no plans to use the artworks to raise funds.

Discovering value in art

If you want to position yourself as an investor, you must take into consideration some critical things. We have already considered a few of them. What else needs to be kept in mind? To start with, it need hardly be reemphasized that an investor must be well familiar with the artist / period/ theme/ series of a collection, that competitive pricing be monitored carefully, and that value not be under - or over-stated.

With the minimum base amount of Rs 20 lakh, what is that you can expect the art market to bring to the table? This is what you need to work out. As a market expert points out: “Too much weight is given to emerging artists, but it’s best to invest in artists with a proven track record of at least a few years, in a price range of, say, about Rs 5 lakh. You won’t get the best-in-class for even mid-range artists at that price, so you could choose to invest in their smaller works, or perhaps drawings and watercolors, usually priced lower.

Last but not the least, provenance, purchase documents and artist/ gallery validation are other extremely important elements to avoid being spooked by the fake market. We have already touched upon some pertinent points raised by columnist Kishore Singh of The Business Standard in one of his previous interesting essays.

Now that people are less exuberant and more realistic, the writer raises some pertinent questions regarding the temperament and tenets of a successful investor. Putting things in perspective, he had mentioned: “Everyone fancied oneself to be an art connoisseur, and everywhere one went, one heard about the immense investment value of art. This was before the art markets suffered last year. All of them wanted to know if the paintings they were planning to buy had investor credibility.”

‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’.

From a single utterance, to the pronunciation of a name and the declaration of an idea, the voice is a tool through which we assert our presence in the world. The use of the voice as a means of protest and as a metaphor for self-representation is central to this exhibition.

By bringing together the work of Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Caroline Bergvall, Amar Kanwar, Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Pallavi Paul and Mithu Sen – including audio documentary, video, performance, text and sound – this exhibition at  Tate Modern (12 July – 3 November 2013) takes a moment to listen to the harmony and dissonance of voices rising.

Artist Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen presents a newly commissioned work that grounds the relevance of the voice – singular and collective, celebrated and silenced – in the localities neighbouring Tate Modern in London and Khoj, International Artists’ Association in New Delhi. Larsen encounters the lives of four young men, continents apart who show deep sadness, sheer belief and aspiration as they attempt to find expression and empowerment. United through hip-hop culture dance, rap and poetry become means to raise their voices in the face of adversity.

‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’ is curated by Loren Hansi Momodu at Tate Modern and Andi-Asmita Rangari, Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. The curatorial exchange is organised with the collaboration of Gasworks.

An event related to the exhibition was conducted by Mithu Sen (I am a Poet) last month. It involved Sen public readings from her book of abstracted poetic text. An accompanying note to it mentioned: “Not bound by rules of grammar, diction, vocabulary and syntax, the poems in this book suggest another medium of understanding.

“No one but you speaks this language. It is yours to read, to decipher, to interpret and to understand. Unfettered by the hegemonic structures of language, these ‘nonsensical’ figures; this computer gibberish is beyond the process of meaning making. I invite you to embrace ‘nonsense’ as resistance and comb out utterances from your subconscious; thereby, giving voice to all those moments that exist but are not realised or lived. These are poems for you (and me) – by you (and me).” Then there was a film by Anand Patwardhan (We Are Not Your Monkeys; Jai Bhim Comrade) as well.

The exhibition will continue at Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi until 8 February 2014.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An ecommerce giant forays into art

Amazon has just launched its full-fledged Fine Art store that features drawings, paintings, mixed works, art prints and photography. From renowned artists to new artists, it has on offer a wide range of works cutting across periods and styles such as Pop art, Modern art, Abstract art, Contemporary art and so on.

The vast online marketplace has over40,000 works for now sourced from close to 150 galleries and dealers from across America and is comprised of galleries in Britain, the Netherlands and Canada, which will sell directly to art lovers present on the shopping major’s site. The current offerings are relatively modest in comparison to But volume, it seems, is not what Amazon wants to focus on, not yet. Instead, it’s focusing more on offering exclusive and high-end pieces, both originals as well as limited editions, drawn directly from known galleries.

Among the galleries presently involved in the ambitious project are Holden Luntz Gallery in Miami, The McLoughlin and Modernbook in San Francisco, and Paddle8 in New York City. Works are in the range of $200 (a Clifford Ross photo) to a painting by Norman Rockwell tagged at $4.85 million. What has brought the market players to Amazon? According to Paddle8, they are treating it as an avenue to sell some of their limited-edition works that are more ‘affordable’. Holden Luntz Gallery, on the other hand, feels the ecommerce giant sure can help access new client base., a Fortune 500 company from Seattle, allows customers to find almost anything that they might want to buy on the Web. Among their noteworthy arty picks are ‘Cascade’ by Monika Steiner, an artist who has been profoundly interested in the unseen aspects of life, reading about metaphysics, meditating, becoming fascinated by how abstract art expresses what can't be understood by the eyes and mind yet can be clearly felt. Steiner is attracted to spheres because they are nature's most efficient shape (requiring the least amount of structure to enclose the greatest possible volume).

In his iconic ‘Willie Gillis series of Saturday Evening Post covers’, Rockwell championed ‘the plight of an inoffensive, ordinary little guy thrown into the chaos of war’; an engaging and recently discovered oil on canvas (Willie Gillis: Package From Home) was the first of this series of 11 total covers about a young private during World War II. An unusually large work - comic yet still patriotic -it introduced the American wartime public to a young soldier who they came to know and love as if he were their own friend, brother or son.

Living folk and tribal art forms inspired Jamini Roy

Always keen to experiment, Jamini Roy (1887 – 1972) totally did away with the traditional canvas later on and opted to create his own unique surfaces out of wood coated with lime, woven mats, and cloth, using natural earth and vegetable colors. In the process, he switched to indigenous materials, discarding canvas and an impressionist style in oil painting.
Hailing from a modest village in the state of Bengal, his affinity to nature and rustiness of life there amply reflected in his subject matter and technique. He did a Diploma from Kolkata’s Fine Arts, Government School of Arts and Craft (1903-08). While studying there, he developed propensity for drawing classical nudes in keeping with the then prevalent academic traditions.

To begin with, his dabbling in the Post-Impressionist genre of landscapes and portraits could be attributed to his training in a British academic system. Gradually the young practitioner started experimenting with the art rooted to his own culture, seeking inspiration from the surrounding life, living folk as well as tribal art forms. The artistic transformation took a definite direction around 1921-24, after peasant upsurges across the country, prompting him to explore contemporary concerns.

The sensitive and socially conscious artist blended the innate artistic sensibilities with his appropriation of folk idiom that manifested in various ways. While painting ordinary village folks, he reinvented images from the patua’s ravishing repertoire. A series of works he did a decade before the World War II testified this knack of infusing the native folk painting style with those of his own.

Wonderful works of art by this modern artist of India, among the most celebrated ones of his generation, are soaked in a rural romance, celebrating the country’s humble grassroots. The inimitable themes and style cultivated by him still draw the fancy of collectors around the world as evident at some of the recent sales of South Asian modern & contemporary art.

What made his work unique was the fact that he opted to break away from the then academic traditions, to set his own stylistic and thematic agenda even while staying true to the core values and life around that shaped him as a person and as an artist. National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is currently hosting the works of this eminent artist, The  show, entitled 'Jamini Roy: Journey To The Roots', has been curated by Ella Datta.

A treasure-trove of art on the Web

The online shopping major, Amazon, is focusing on highlighting a wide variety of Contemporary artists, Modern painters, Renaissance artists, Post-Modern artists among others for its Fine Art store.

Its focus is on highlighting a wide variety of Contemporary artists, Modern painters, Renaissance artists, Post-Modern artists among others. An accompanying note states: “A user find an artist that fits one’s style in the Fine Arts store. It features many types of artwork including: canvas prints, abstract paintings, oil paintings, drawings, photography, mixed media works, and collages to add to your home, art gallery, professional workspace or other. As we continue to grow our collections of artworks, the Fine Arts store is sure to have something for everybody whether you are an experienced collector or looking to find your first piece of art.”

Among the works up for grabs are ‘Sachiko’ by Andy Warhol, ‘Falaises by Claude Monet (Lithography)’, and a special selection of Clifford Ross photos from $200 a pop. Created in 1977, ‘Sachiko’ was a color screenprint printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York and Andy Warhol Enterprises, New York. This piece is hand-signed by Warhol in black ink on the reverse and also annotated 'To Rupert' in black ink on the reverse.

When customers shop on Amazon Art, they can narrow search results to meet their tastes by using filters such as subject, style, color, size, price and gallery, enabling them to find favorite artists and discover new ones. Peter Faricy, the V-P for Amazon Marketplace mentioned that the group was indeed excited to bring ‘one of the largest and the most comprehensive selections of fine art" picked direct from galleries.

He was quoted as saying: “We’re thrilled to bring the excitement and emotional connection of art to our customers, Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers.” If its marketplace model prove works, Amazon in the future, will be carrying some of the fine art pieces from its own inventory.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A painter, filmmaker and photographer – all rolled in one

Rameshwar Broota’s paintings are often comprised of male bodies – muscular as well as emaciated – testifying the passage of time. The mystical male body though repeated acts of forceful resistance, swings between acceptance and confrontation - with its stolid musculature or skeletal frame.

Born in New Delhi in 1941, he studied at New Delhi College of Art (1960-64) and worked there as a lecturer before moving to Jamia Milia Islamia and later to the Sarda Ukil College. He has served as Head of Department at Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi. Among his selected solo exhibitions are 'This End to the Other', Shridharani Gallery; Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (2011); 'Counterparts', Vadehra and Shridharani Gallery, Delhi (2009); a photography show courtesy Sakshi Gallery and Vadehra Gallery (2008); ‘Archeology of Experience’, courtesy Vadehra at NGMA, Mumbai & Gallery 88, Kolkata (2004-05).

The prolific artist’s work has featured in many group exhibitions, including 'Figure/Landscape', Aicon Gallery, London (2010-11); 'Freedom to March', courtesy Ojas Art at LKA, Delhi (2010); '10 x 10', Gallery Threshold, Delhi (2010); 'Paper Trails', Vadehra, Delhi (2010); 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2009); 'Zip Files', Tao Gallery, Mumbai (2009); 'Master Class', The Arts Trust, Mumbai (2009).

His noteworthy participations are 'Miniscule Marvel' at Gallery BMB, Mumbai (2011); ‘Manifestations V', Delhi Art Gallery (2011); 'Time Unfolded', KNMA, Delhi (2011); 'Expressions at Tihar', IGNCA, Delhi (2009); 'Moderns', Royal Cultural Centre, Jordan (2008); Festival of Art Biennale-Baghdad, Iraq and Havana Biennale, Cuba (1986); ‘India: Myth and Reality’, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK (1982); International Art Fair Biennale – Cagnes- Sur- Mer- France (1976).

In a career spanning close to five decades, this renowned painter, filmmaker and photographer has moved from his images alluding to existential anxiety to sharp, albeit sarcastic satire to a classic heroism that borders on the cusp of both hope and despair. Among the honors and awards he has won are ‘Kala Vibhushan’ from AIFACS, Delhi in 1997; LN Gupta Memorial Award (1988); Senor Fellowship of the Government of India (1987, 88); and the National Awards from LKA, Delhi (1980, 81, 84).