Pushpamala N: The Ethnographic Series

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on Pushpamala N’s series of ethnographic photography

Ohio: Previously shown at galleries in India, the Saatchi Gallery in London, and Bose Pacia Gallery in New York, Pushpamala N’s collection of photographs from The Ethnographic Series 2000-2004 is now on display at the Gund Gallery in Ohio. Produced in collaboration with photographer Clare Arni, the series is a look back at 19th and 20th century ethnographic photography in India. Often the subject of her own compositions, Pushpamala N. believes that anthropologists are no longer the anonymous, objective observers that were. In fact, they rather become the subject by bringing in their personal identity.

detail from The Ethnographic Series 2000-2004

She emphasizes her use of the camera as an ethnographic tool. In an interview with Gund Gallery associate Claire Buss, Pushpamala N. talks about inhabiting the persona of the central character and “masquerading” in a role. It works as a comment on staged ethnographic photography, where the central characters were very often made to position themselves in a certain way, thereby questioning the authenticity of capturing ethnography.

Read more about this exhibit.

Aesthetic Bind – Celebrating Fifty Years of Contemporary Art

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart on Citizen – Artist 2013, the second exhibition in a series of five in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Chemould Prescott Gallery.

K. Madhusudhanan, History is a Silent Film, 2007, Sinle projection with sound, Variable dimension

K. Madhusudhanan, History is a Silent Film, 2007, Sinle projection with sound, Variable dimension. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/k_madhusudan_copy1.jpg

London: September 2013 – April 2014 has and will be an exciting time at Chemould Prescott Gallery, Mumbai. Curating five exhibitions during this time frame, Geeta Kapur depicts an extremely evolved contemporary Indian art scene with Citizen – Artist (Oct.14th – Nov. 15th 2013), mirroring the growth and expansion of Chemould Prescott as a gallery.  The first exhibition in the series, Subject of Death, was in remembrance of Bhuppen Kakkar, the groundbreaking painter supported by Chemould at the beginning of his career, with this particular exhibition opening on his 10th death anniversary, as well as an ode to the late Kekoo Gandhy, founder of Chemould Prescott in 1963.  The second – Citizen Artist deals with notions and definitions of citizenship, nations and borders, the exhibition features works by Inder Salim, K. Madhusudhanan, Tushar Joag, CAMP, Gigi Scaria, Ram Rahman, Shilpa Gupta, Rashid Rana, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Raqs Media Collective, Gauri Gill and Arunkumar HG.

Each work is deeply engaged with the implications of citizenship in a contemporary globalised world.  For instance, in Shilpa Gupta’s 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control 2013, she places a graveyard in the middle of the gallery, and creates an index of people who are considered martyrs by their families, but are buried namelessly, questioning the ethics (or lack thereof) of citizenship in Kashmir.

Shilpa Gupta 2013 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control

Shilpa Gupta 2013 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/shilpa_gupta_5_copy3.jpg

Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3 (2012-2013), by Jitish Kallat involves miniature crafted-figures staged in a line on a ledge, to depict scenes from everyday travels such as airport security checks, immigration queues etc.  In detail, one figure is performing a security ‘pat down’ on another, seemingly commenting on the increase in accessibility of global travel, but the costs and troubles of crossing borders that go with it.  The greater accessibility is increasing the crowds, risks, and precautionary measures.

 

Jitish Kallat Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3, 2012-2013 24 figures  (resin, paint, aluminium and steel) 50 x 180 x 15 in.

Jitish Kallat Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3, 2012-2013 24 figures
(resin, paint, aluminium and steel) 50 x 180 x 15 in. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/jitish_kallat_3_copy1.jpg

Rashid Rana’s Crowd is thematically similar, and is composed of three photo prints on wallpaper involving digitally spliced and manipulated images.  An intense reproduction a mixed population people is projected onto the wallpaper focusing on the loss of identity and individuality in very populous.

Installation of Rashid Rana's Crowd (2013) in Chemould Prescott Gallery, Offset print on wallpaper

Installation of Rashid Rana’s Crowd (2013) in Chemould Prescott Gallery, Offset print on wallpaper. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/exhibitions-works/citizen-artist-2013/rashid-rana-50-years-chemould.html

Raqs Media Collective’s animated video projection loop, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID) (2011), is an image of the handprint of a 19th century Bengali peasant, Raj Konai, which was taken by British colonial officials in 1858, and then sent to Britain.  Fingerprinting technologies were developed from experiments based on this image.  The Unique Identification Database (UID – same as the title) is a new project initiated by the Indian government in attempts to properly account for, and index its’ population.  This work poses an interesting juxtaposition of India’s colonial past and current day attempts to account for citizens.

Raqs Media Collective, UID Installation View

Raqs Media Collective, UID Installation View. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/raqs_1_copy1.jpg

 

Raqs Media Collective, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID). Projection, video loop (1”), 2011,

Raqs Media Collective, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID). Projection, video loop (1”), 2011. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/raqs_2_copy1.jpg

These are a few amongst many other multi medium and media works that dwell on various aspects of citizenship and certainly don’t seem to be in an aesthetic bind.  The third and next installment in the Aesthetic Bind series to look out for is Phantomata (Nov. 29, 2013 – Jan 03, 2014) participating artists include: Tallur L N, Susanta Mandal Sonia Khurana, Nikhil Chopra, Tushar Joag, Pushpamala N, Baiju Parthan, and Pratul Dash.  For more information visit about the exhibitions visit Chemould Prescott Gallery website.

Raja Ravi Varma’s Legacy

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart discusses Raja Ravi Varma’s influence on Indian illustrative arts over the decades

New York: A conversation about the nascent phase of westernized Indian art is incomplete without a mention of Raja Ravi Varma. The famed painter of the royal Gaekwad family of Baroda, he has many firsts to his credit. He was one of the first painters to use oil as a medium, creating magnificent portraits of the Indian royals in the western academic style. He started his career in the princely state of Travancore in southern India, where he was the court painter from 1857 to 1872. He went on to open the first printing press in India, a move that had a decisive impact on Indian art, beyond what would have been Varma’s understanding and intention at the time.

Raja Ravi Varma, Shakuntala Patralekhan,  Collection of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Image credit: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/how-raja-ravi-varma-changed-indian-illustrated-art/?_r=1

Raja Ravi Varma, Shakuntala Patralekhan, Collection of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Image credit: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/how-raja-ravi-varma-changed-indian-illustrated-art/?_r=1

Other than using oil paints and creating portraits seeped in realism, Raja Ravi Varma’s style of painting played a foundational role in defining the Indian prototype imagery in the proceeding decades.  His rendition of the characters from Indian mythology decisively shaped the Indian visual culture, the impact of which can be felt even today. The voluptuous heroin with long dark hair and defined features complemented the muscular heroes depicted with chiseled bodies and intent expressions. It is interesting to note that these images seem to be a product of his travels- presenting a generic Indian prototype and not an ethnically definable character. As Deepanjana Pal, the author of The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma explains “The images were a composite created out of what he saw during his travels – the skin color was from north India, the way the sari was draped was Maharashtrian and the jewelry was usually from south India.”

Raja Ravi Varma, Lakshmi, Oleograph
Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Varma’s images gained immense currency among the Indian masses that in 1894 when his paintings traveled from Baroda to Bombay for a public appearance, lines upon lines of people filed through the halls for viewing. The public response to his paintings encouraged Varma to set up a printing press so as to generate images for public consumption. He imported a printing press from Germany to reproduce affordable lithographs of his illustrated paintings. Even though the press was an unsuccessful venture and he eventually sold it off, his initiative had a lasting impact. Fritz Schleicher, a German lithographer who bought his press, turned around its fortunes by using Varma’s mythical figures on advertisements, flyers and ultimately calendars. This episode had a monumental impact. Varma’s imagery percolated the Indian household and mind. The popularity of the printing medium, mass production of goods and images and increased public consumption helped in the dissemination of the new Indian imagery. Other printing press that sprung around India and later comic books like Amar Chitra Katha started producing and emulating Varma’s imagery.

The printed image in India owes a significant debt to Varma’s creations and efforts. In turn, these images rendered on ink and paper, decisively impacted the illustrated arts in India. Even contemporary Indian artists continue to build on this tradition. They have gone on to adapt these early images and weave them into a new discourse- constantly re-imaging and re-imagining the role of the Indian hero and heroine. Chitra Ganesh and Pushpamala N are two such contemporary Indian artist whose practice clearly draws from Varma’s oeuvre.

Pushpamala N. The Native Types - Lakshmi (After Oleograph from Ravi Varma Press, Early 20th Century) 2001 C print on metallic paper 61 x 50.8cm. Image Credit: http://www.theartwolf.com/exhibitions/indian-art-mori.htm

Pushpamala N. The Native Types – Lakshmi (After Oleograph from Ravi Varma Press, Early 20th Century) 2001 C print on metallic paper 61 x 50.8cm. Image Credit: http://www.theartwolf.com/exhibitions/indian-art-mori.htm

One thing is for certain, Varma’s legacy will continue to have a lasting impact on India’s artistic traditions in the years to come. Some will enjoy it in its original garb while others will re-create it for the contemporary audience- just as Varma had done over a century ago.

‘Move on Asia’ – Video Art From Asia 2002 – 2012

Emily Jane Cushing suggests the ‘Move on Asia’ exhibition of Asian video art from 2002 to 2012.

London: The ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany opened on February 9th their exhibition which shows the development of the video art genre and the increasing importance of Asia in contemporary art; the exhibition runs until August 4th 2013.

Meiro Koizumi: „My Voice Would Reach You“ (2009). Video still; Image Credit: http://regator.com/p/259249425/move_on_asia_video_art_in_asia_2002/

Meiro Koizumi: „My Voice Would Reach You“ (2009). Video still; Image Credit: http://regator.com/p/259249425/move_on_asia_video_art_in_asia_2002/

The increased interest in Asian arts resulted in the 2007 exhibition at the ZKM | Karlsruhe  curated by Wonil Rhee entitled “Thermocline of Art. New Asian Waves”. This exhibition was hugely successful in attracting world-wide attention to the Asiatic ‘moving image’; despite being only six years prior and fifty years since the emergence of video art, the need for a follow on exhibition showing the huge development in this genre is needed.

It is noted that as an art genre video art has continually been associated with the West despite much of the technology originating in Asia. This exhibition proves that over the last couple of decades the culture of video art has gained greater independence from Western models by showing at biennale’s and art exhibitions across the world.

The vast exhibition, containing over 140 works, is made up of works from video artists originating from thirteen Asiatic countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to the showing of established artists, recent works by new artists are also shown.

The exhibition displays a wide range of Indian art; Indian artists showing are Vishal K. Dar, Chitra Ganesh, Shilpa Gupta, Tushar Joag, Shakuntala Kulkarni, Nalini Malani, Pushpamala N., Sharmila Samant, Tejal Shah, Valay Shende, Shine Shivan and Thukral & Tagra.

“40+4. Art is "Not Enough! Not Enough" Image Credit, http://vimeo.com/48543105

“40+4. Art is Not Enough! Not Enough” Image Credit, http://vimeo.com/48543105

An interactive installation entitled “Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun may also be viewed in connection with the exhibition. “Global Fire” is a large inflatable dome in which the visitors may ignite the flags of 200 countries with lighters on heat censors. Also on show in the ZKM_PanoramaLab is the interactive video installation “40+4. Art is Not Enough! Not Enough” in which forty Shanghai based artists are interviewed about their works and asked to question their art in relation to the environment and the social impact of their artistic production. This installation resulting from the collaboration between the curator Davide Quadrio, the filmmaker Lothar Spree as well as the video artist Xiaowen Zhu is truly insightful and fascinating.

“Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun, Image Credit; http://duzhenjun.com/installations/global-fire/

“Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun, Image Credit; http://duzhenjun.com/installations/global-fire/

This exhibition runs until 4th August 2013; view the website for more details on this exciting exhibition.

Also, for those wishing to read more about Indian video art, I have found a really interesting article from Tehelka Magazine with Pakistani artist Bani Abidi discussing Indian Video art and it’s increased popularity here; it’s a great read!


The Indian Art Revolution

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart recommends visiting ‘The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989’ at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago.

London: The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is hosting the exhibition ‘The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989’ until 9 June, 2013.

The exhibition featuring over sixty artists that use various media celebrates freedom of expression and egalitarian values, and aims to introduce Sahmat and its projects to audiences in the United States. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Manjeet Bawa, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Zarina Hashmi, Rumana Hussain, Bharti Kher, Pushpamala N., Nalini Malani, Gigi Scaria, Nilima Sheikh and Vivan Sundaram.

The collective Sahmat was created in 1989 in memory of Safdar Hashmi and against political violence. Sahmat stands for Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and it also means “in agreement” in Hindi.  Hashmi was an activist, playwright and actor who was killed by a group of political thugs while he was performing in a street play called Halla Bol! (raise your voice) during the municipal election outside Delhi. Since its creation Sahmat used different forms of art to discuss political and social problems following Hashmi’s footsteps.

Safdar Hashmi

Safdar Hashmi. Image Credit: http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions
/the-sahmat-collective-art-and-activism-in-india-since-1989/

Sahmat believes that art, being a very immediate and accessible medium of expression, can stimulate change, and can positions itself against religious fundamentalism and sectarianism, or so-called ‘communalism’. Its principles are to defend freedom of expression and fight against political intolerance. People from any background, religion and age can participate in the several projects by the collective that celebrate cultural diversity, communal harmony and democratic ideals.

This is an exhibition not to be missed, and a great example of the power of art to affect change.

More information on the exhibition can be found here, and you can also view some of the tributes made to M.F. Husain by Sahmat below.

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