Two culture rich countries unite to bring to the world a colourful tapestry of art in the art capital of the world, Venice, with a show ‘India- The Revealed Mysteries’ acting as a clarion call, dissolving every boundary of geography and history, merging the traditional and the contemporary in Art, observes Sushma Sabnis.
From being known as the most romantic city in the world to being the breeding ground for world destruction in Dan Brown’s novel Inferno, Venice, has inspired not just lovers and prolific writers, but brought to the world a unique perspective through its Art. Touted to be the art capital of the world, the city hosts numerous art related events in the city all year round, like the Venice Biennale and the Venice Architecture Biennale. This year the city of Venice lies bedazzled by a unique show happening in conjunction with the Architecture Biennale, of art works by Indian artists titled, ‘India – The Revealed Mysteries’ , curated by Sandro Orlandi of ARTntide, Italy and co-curated by Sangeeta Juneja of Gallery Artchill, Jaipur. The show displays the art works of 28 Indian artists with over 100 works on display, portraying a tapestry of colour, form, medium, thoughts and Indian aesthetics.
Juxtaposing the new age mediums with a deep rooted reverence for the traditional, these Indian artists have brought to the exhibition a jaw dropping variety of art and art practices relevant in India today. Adhering to traditional practices and enhancing them, further incorporating them into experimental and new media, these works are an estuary of contemporary creative pursuits witnessed in Indian art as it stands today, with reference to the art created in the rest of the world. The exhibition is a blend of various types of visual art such as paintings, sculptures and installation works, light, sound and digital media works, photography works and performance art. The participating artists are, stalwarts like SH Raza, Subodh Gupta, Arpana Caur, Ravinder Reddy, Surendra Pal Joshi, Seema Kohli, A Balasubramaniam, Anita Dube, Bose Krishnamachari, Chintan Upadhyay, N Pushpamala, Mukesh Sharma, Akash Choyal, Thukral & Tagra, Jai Zharotia, Nikhil Bhandari, Dileep Sharma, Tejal Shah, Baba Anand, Krishnaraj Chonat, Shilpa Gupta, Bharat Sikka, Vidyasagar Upadhyay, Madan Meena, Shahid Parwez, Sunil Padwal, Moumita Shaw Ghosh and Ashish Shringi.
Having opened to a huge gathering of art lovers, art connoisseurs and collectors on the 4th of June 2014, the inaugural function saw the presence of a few of the participating artists, with performance art by artist Seema Kohli, titled ‘Is death possible’. The show works on the lines of a give and take between the two nations replete with art history, culture and tradition. This show is the perfect blend of artistic minds who successfully bring forth the rich tradition of India merged with their own contemporary practices and views. A healthy blend of all ages of the artists ensures the the timeline representations of the artistic pointers from every generation. Vidyasagar Upadhyay and Chintan Upadhyay, father son duo artists compliment the show with their unique perspectives emerging from their philosophy of life itself. While the senior artist brings into abstractions a glimpse of the colours of Rajasthan, Chintan’s work represents the here and now with a social message boldly marked in his stuffed woollen works, titled ‘Shramjeevi Express’ which address the lives of that rung of an immigrant populace struggling to make a living in any metropolis. Artist Jai Zharotia’s work is a metaphor for the world being a stage and all living beings mere puppets in the hands of fate. He ensconces the works over a median line between dream and reality, seen and unseen, the said and the implied, bringing focus on the precarious balance needed in every human life.
Akash Choyal displays his penchant for 3D sculptures in any medium depicting human and anthropomorphic forms in his triographs titled, ‘Let me ride heaven’. Veteran artist SH Raza’s work on display at the show, titled ‘Shanti’ is a testament of east meeting the west as his influences hail from India and France where he studied. The evident emotionality and coming together of his life long experiences could be seen in the work, as in the works of artists Arpana Caur and Seema Kohli. Here the traditional influences are blended with pop art like nuances giving a new age artistic facet to the works, along with strong feministic roots. The palettes both these artists use are however very different and the intricate decorative elements dominate in Seema Kohli’s works. Arpana Caur’s works, ‘Dharti’ and ‘Day and Night’ are sensitive and replete with social concerns. Seema Kohli also displays her installation work, ‘Desires’ at the show. The global appeal of both these artists’ works is unshakeable. Anita Dube, the other woman artist participating in the show focuses on a more social message in her work titled ‘Void Conundrum’ where she employs a visual poetry in an installation addressing the changing scenario of India amidst an industrial revolution and its influences on humankind and the environment.
The installation works in the show by artists Subodh Gupta, Bose Krishnamachari, Mukesh Sharma, Dhiraj Singh, Shilpa Gupta, address issues of social and personal significance. For example, while the massive installation by Bose deals with the topic od technological influences overpowering traditional values, Mukesh Sharma’s installation ‘Nagraaj’ portrays a large looming black snake(Sheshnaag) made from junk waste from the IT industry, like keyboards and computer parts. The work questions the boundaries of personal security and privacy in an overtly vigilant and shrinking world of internet accessibility. Subodh Gupta’s sculpture, ‘Black Think’ made from iron and steel leaves a mark in the mind of the viewer for its apparent simplicity and for the portrayal of the simple thinking lives of the people. Abstracting a mundane object to put forth an idea of significance and bringing to the fore the object’s inherent beauty is what artist Surendra Pal Joshi does with his installations of safety pins called ‘Paani’. The work also hints at the simplistic lives of people from his native place which have imbibed value of simple living in this artist. Shilpa Gupta is known for her application of multimedia and technology into her works as a means to reach out to the viewers with her distinct social messages, like her work which incorporates a video installation with light and a red carpet at the show .
Artist Krishnaraj Chonat makes a simpler statement about his concern for loss of culture by the infiltration of modernization, changing the customs and traditions specific to a country like India. Also putting a spotlight on the onslaught of consumerism, a painting of a metro (Las Vegas) with a carrara marble structure shaped like a bag of objects which make a city shine and thrive. Alternatively it could be a bag of things wasted by that very glittering metropolis. In another interesting work titled ‘The Coracle’ he recreates a large fountain like looming structure inside a coracle (round shaped boat) with paddles reiterating the imbalance of the never satiating human desire against the depleting natural resources. Artist Ravinder Reddy’s fibre glass head of a traditional Indian woman with kohl lined eyes and jewelry with flowers in her hair, stands like a totem like structure, as a reminder of the simplicity of a traditional woman. He anoints the sculpture with a goddess like quality and aura towering over humankind.
The team of Jiten Thukral and Sumit Tagra, are the bright new entrants into the art scene from the graphic and advertising world. Their sense of humour, satire and art aesthetics has inspired the young blood in the art world today. Quirky and bold they enjoy surprising the viewer with mad-hatter-ish imaginary scenarios in their lively works. In the show they present a painting, ‘Dominus Aerius’ (Lady of the Air) along with a painted bronze sculpture on the same lines titled, ‘The Escape Project’. Artist A Balasubramaniam’s cast gold and fibreglass installation titled, ‘Energy Field’ is one to reckon with. Conceptual in style, the work is deceptively simple with a single golden apple placed high on a pedestal. The work implies multiple trajectories without directly addressing any of them or perception of the invisible through the visible. Journalist turned artist Dhiraj Singh brings his own brand of light based installation works to the show. In an attempt to bring out the inner workings of things be it the human body or the mind, the artist uses odd elements like x rays of objects, suspended in mid air, giving the work a sense of the unreal and the unexpected. He depicts a certain freedom in his usage of mediums and the work as a whole which reflects his approach to art itself.
The photography artists in this show are N Pushpamala, Nikhil Bhandari, Bharat Sikka and Tejal Shah. Each of them bring their own innovative usage of a medium which has now become widely accessible. N Pushpamala is known for taking pictures of herself in many mythological and historical scenarios. She enacts the scenes of an event and also plays the role of a director and camera person for the scene by catapulting herself into those realms. In doing so she engages in a certain dialogue with the viewer as an artist and as a controller of the past brought into the present for reassessment. Photography artist Nikhil Bhandari ‘s obsession with the female form is evident in the way he captures the curves of a feminine form. Playing with natural elements like light and shadows on the terrain of a female form converting it into a landscape, with a sensuality which elevates the work from being mere ‘nudes’ aptly titling it, ‘Form Beyond Eros’. Tejal Shah’s photography works address the unequal status given to homosexuals in a society predominantly heterosexual. Her works aim to dissolve all kinds of class distinctions and promote a tolerance in society, while the works of artist Bharat Sikka can be seen as having a documentary backdrop. He photographs people of different cultures, classes, races etc to bring together a slice of humanity with their own stories imprinted in their eyes. The artist Baba Anand has a unique style of embedding meaning, through the use of elements abstract and tangible to create artworks which stand as a reflection of diversity of life itself. From Bollywood posters, to deities to fake jewelry, flowers and other embellishments, these collages are irreverent and playful at once.
The show also displays some water colour works by Dileep Sharma, titled ‘Theatre of Libido’ highly influenced by engraving techniques and tattoos that the artist is inspired immensely by, while the works of artist Ashish Shringi lays allegiance to mythological and philosophical influences. Symbolically abundant, these works are a reflection of Indian traditions with inspirations from concepts of ‘Yantra’ and ‘Mantra’ enhancing the flow of energy. Moumita Ghosh Shaw’s art works depict human bodies and faces as a visual landscape, and as a narrative of an existential anguish. The human condition is dissected and represented in surreal ways in a dream like realm. Eminent artist Madan Meena displays works refined and minimalistic in style. Highly patterned surfaces are broken in their patterns with elements implying nature, with the use of unusual mediums like coffee stain and thread on paper. The end result is that of silent works which border on hidden abstractions. Artist Shahid Parwez’s ‘Grow up now’ is a composition of human and animal forms along with objects which are given a freedom to exist as they please on the pictorial surface. Reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s works Shahid’s works exude a subtle inherent Indian-ness. The works of artist Sunil Padwal are a reflection of an exploring artistic mind, as he dabbles with various mediums, and new materials to put forth his expressive works. There is an interestingness to his works while he insists on keeping the figurative works devoid of boredom, and as interactive and involving as possible.
‘India – The Revealed Mysteries’ the show is not just a show of Indian artists in the culture capital of the world, but could be seen as a stepping stone to introducing Indian traditional and contemporary art awareness to the global scenario. The show remains open for viewing till the 30th of September 2014.
(Images Courtesy: Gallery Artchill, Jaipur)