Autobiografia: Recluse of History

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart previews an exhibition at Gallery Art & Soul in Mumbai

New York: The exhibition, Autobiografia: Recluse of History, is an intriguing group show of artists from different eras. Simplistic and powerful, it stimulates one’s historical chord through classic drawings of soldiers during World War I, with titles such as ‘le commencement de la peur’ / ‘the beginning of fear’ made by artist Jean Louis-Forainto, striking drawings of the town of Lodz by the cubist artist Felicia Pacanowska, a survivor of World War II and the holocaust.

Additionally, the exhibition features works by artists such as Prabhakar Pachpute, depicting open cast mines in India and photographs and scriptures of a theater founded by artist Amol Patil’s father for the Bombay mill workers.

The exhibition is a sneak peek into history, portraying several autobiographies which span an ambitious timeline of significant historical events and offer varied nuances of their respective periods of time. The visitor is thus exposed to several time capsules simultaneously.

A self portrait by Felicia Pacanowska

A self portrait by Felicia Pacanowska

Artist Felicia Pacanowska was a Cubist artist born and raised in the industrial town of Lodz. Her parents were artists too, and part of the large Jewish population in Lodz. The city became an important hub for the Nazi’s occupation owing to its industrial attributes. The Lodz ghetto, the second largest after the Warsaw ghetto, was built for Jews and Romans in German ruled Poland. The ghetto served as an industrial center for the Jews, a gathering point and also as a manufacturing center for German army supplies. Very few Jews survived the dreadful holocaust. Felicia Pacanowska lost her family in the holocaust leaving her depressed. Until the end of the war, she lived in fear and in brutal conditions. Most of her works of art and tools were lost. She, however, continued her diligent work, which eventually staved off her depression. Pacanowska’s significant body of works displayed at the exhibition mainly comprises portraits in studied, clean, scalpel-succinct pencil strokes.

Shernavaz Colah, another artist showcased in this exhibit, has an intriguing series of drawings titled “it-so-ur-sco-pop-hob-ia”, an anxiety instigated whilst being stared at by other people. The exhibition also includes reproductions of works of art by reclusive Sri Lankan artist Justin Daraniyagala, who Shernavaz Colah had been researching.

Justin Daraniyagala, a cubist artist, part of the Sri Lankan avant-garde 43 Group, preceded several of his contemporaries in India in interpreting cubism through his own aesthetic eye. John Berger, a distinguished British writer and art critic, reviewed Justin Daraniyagala and his group and spoke of their outstanding practices. He noted: “…the story of the [‘43] Group’s attempt to achieve a synthesis between the work done in Paris by Picasso and Matisse and the ancient tradition of Sigiriya (frescoes)  which yet took into account the emerging power and equality of Asia in the contemporary work could be discovered through a careful, chronological study of their work.”

The exhibition also includes the works of Zarina Hashmi, Yogesh Barve, Poonam Jain, Akbar Padamsee, Salvador Dali, Prabhakar Barwe, F.N. Souza, Nikhil Raunak, George Braque, A.A. Raiba, Sachin Bonde, Francisco Goya, Mangesh Kapse and Carla Montenegro, with reproductions by M.F. Husain, Pablo Picasso and Fernando Botero.

The exhibition is currently on view at Gallery Art & Soul in Mumbai, India.

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