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.

“Barbed Floss” at The Guild in Mumbai

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a note about the Guild Art Gallery’s latest group show, documenting the cultural ramifications of borders

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild.

New York: Currently, the Guild Art Gallery in Mumbai is displaying an engaging group show entitled “Barbed Floss”. This exhibition consists of works by five artists from Bangladesh who have shown in a wide range of international institutions. “Barbed Floss” examines the concepts tied to cultural and literal barriers that cut through different parts of our contemporary world. Most specifically, the fifth largest border worldwide, the barbed wire fence separating Bangladesh and India.

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

The title “Barbed Floss” utilizes the literal and interpretive meanings of these two opposing terms. “Borders on land are made up of barbed wire fencing and high walls, extreme military security, extreme emotional insecurity. The word floss behaves as a thorough cleanser with a fine thread, which removes, cleanses and frees blockages”. Curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki this exhibition discusses the limitations, miscommunications and conflicts that come about in these neighbouring communities simply by the virtue of this physical divide.The Guild has chosen Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Promotesh Das Pulak, Molla Sagar and Anisuzzaman Sohel for this examination of cultural limitations. Each artist takes a unique approach to this subject matter. Some works reflect literal interpretations, others more theoretical and possible solutions for these issues. Personal, third person and political narratives can be seen through each individual work. This is their first time their work is being shown together in this format.

The Guild specializes in Indian Contemporary Art. Their programming stresses a commitment to artist/curator dialogue and encourages experimentation and conceptual creativity. The Guild was founded in 1997 as most recently has expanded its artist representation to international artists. “Barbed Floss” will run at the Guild Art Gallery through September 30, 2013.

For more information visit The Guild’s website.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale begins today!

Manjari Sihare shares details of the much awaited Kochi- Muziris Biennale

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 An interactive map of India's First Biennale celebrating contemporary artists from around the world.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 An interactive map of India’s First Biennale celebrating contemporary artists from around the world.

New York: The date 12.12.12 is going to go down in India’s books for more than one reason.  The country’s largest contemporary art event, and its first biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is being inaugurated today across different venues in the Fort Kochi area of Cochin in Kerala, South India. While India has a strong history of hosting triennales, the very first of which was organized in 1968 by the legendary Mulk Raj Anand, the Kochi- Muziris Biennale will be the first biennale in the country.

Typical of the phenomenon of an international art biennale, this one is also centered on the city, in this case, invoking the underlying multi-ethnic spirit of the modern metropolis of Kochi and its mythical past, Muziris, the recently excavated ancient city that was buried under layers of mud and mythology after a massive flood in the 14th century. The biennale is the brain child of eminent contemporary Indian artists, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. The first edition will feature approximately 90 Indian and international artists, introducing contemporary international visual art practice to India in manner not done before. Special highlights include newly commissioned works by artists such as Ariel Hassan (Argentina), Amanullah Mojadidi (Afghanistan), Anita Dube (India), Sudarshan Shetty (India), Subodh Gupta (India), Hossein Valamanesh (Iran/Australia), Tallur LN (India), Vivan Sundaram (India), Sheela Gowda (India), Joseph Semah (Netherlands), Nalini Malani (India), Atul Dodiya (India), UBIK (Dubai), Rigo 23 (Portugal), Jonas Staal (Netherlands), Dylan Martorell (Scotland/Australia), Ernesto Neto (Brazil). British singing sensation of Tamil descent, Mathangi Arulpragasam (M.I.A.) has been roped in to perform at the inauguration. Known for her avant-garde music, M.I.A. has previously shared stage space with the likes of Madonna and Rihanna, as well as  been a part of the A.R. Rahman’s team for the music of Slumdog Millionaire.

The event is a multi-faceted one including a two-day symposium, ‘Site Imaginaries’, on 15 & 16 December, 2012.  From the situated ground point of Kochi, the symposium aims to explore and retrieve memories in the current global context to posit alternatives to political and cultural discourses, and build a platform for dialogue for a new aesthetics and politics rooted in the Indian experience. The panelists include Aman Mojadidi, Amar Kanwar, Ariel Hassan, Ashok Sukumaran , Atul Dodiya, Clifford Charles, Shahidul Alam, Gayatri Sinha, Geeta Kapur, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Jonas Staal, Joseph Semah, Marieke van Hal, Nalini Malani, Nancy Adajania, Paul Domela, Pooja Sood, Ranjit Hoskote, Riyas Komu, Robert Montgomery, Sarat Maharaj, Tasneem Mehta, Vivan Sundaram, Vivek Vilasini.

The biennale will be held across different venues including the Aspinwall House loaned to Kochi-Muziris Biennale by DLF Limited in association with the Gujral Foundation, a restored Dutch bungalow called David Hall, spice warehouses and heritage structures being opened to the public for the first time ever. Characteristic of leading biennales across the world, this one too is expected to give a boost to the State’s economy.

Read more.

The Geniuses of Art in Pakistan

Guest blogger, Ali Adil Khan reflects on geniuses of Pakistani modern and contemporary art

Toronto: Over the last few years, I have often pondered on who could be considered young geniuses amongst the modern and contemporary artists of Pakistan. I have thought long and hard, and researched and discussed my reasoning with fellow art critics and collectors.

Finally, I have settled on a list. My assessment is in no way conclusive and the list is not meant to be exclusive. The result is simply my conclusion based on my definition of a genius in art practice as “someone who invents a new way of looking at or creating art, one who is ahead of their time, creates a following and movement, and is admired by fellow artists, locally and internationally.”

As geniuses are revealed at a young age, among important artists there are young geniuses who tend to be conceptual thinkers and often create iconic individual works. Then there are old masters who make equally important contributions to art forms and movements and produce their greatest work when they are older. Think of Picasso as a young genius and Cezanne as an old master. Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” which he painted at 26, appears in more than 90 percent of art history textbooks published in the past 30 years. Similarly, Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte,” which he finished at 27, appears in more than 70 percent. For old masters, on the other hand, discoveries evolve over years instead of exploding onto the scene in a single masterpiece. Thus no single painting by Cézanne or his friend Claude Monet appears in even half of art history textbooks. Yet no one would question their place among the greats.

Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Zainul Abedin, Sadequain, Ismail Gulgee, Zahoor ul Akhlaq, Rashid Rana, Shahzia Sikander and Hamra Abbas proved their geniuses at a young age. Shakir Ali, Zubaida Agha, Ahmed Parvez, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Bashir Mirza, Jamil Naqsh and Colin David are old masters. The differences between these artists’ creative life cycles are not accidental. Precocious young geniuses make bold and dramatic innovations – think of Picasso’s cubism – and their work often expresses their ideas or feelings. Wise old masters, on the other hand, are experimental thinkers who proceed by trial and error.

Even before Pakistan came into existence, Chughtai had already proven his mantel and established himself internationally as the pre-eminent artist of the subcontinent.

Below is my list of the young geniuses of modern art in the history of Pakistan.

Chughtai (1897-1975) fused miniature paintings from India with a Persian style of painting, and romanticised it to invent a personal style that was later known as Chughtai art or the Lahore School of Painting. As they say, “It takes a diamond to recognise a diamond,” and Dr Mohammad Iqbal acknowledged Chughtai’s genius in the foreword he wrote for the Muraqqa-e-Chughtai, a compilation of Chughtai’s drawings and paintings on Dewan-e-Ghalib in 1928. Iqbal wrote: “He [Chughtai] is only twenty-nine yet. What his art will become when he reaches the mature age of forty, the future alone will disclose. Meanwhile all those who are interested in his work will keenly watch his forward movement.”

Zainul Abedin (1914-1976) played a pioneering role in the modern art movement of Pakistan. Although now legitimately claimed by Bangladesh as Shilpacharya, or father of modern art, Zainul Abedin was instrumental in establishing the first art institute in Dhaka and charting a trajectory for a future generation of artists. His dedication and contribution in establishing and nurturing the art institute and the Dhaka Artists Group is of major importance. His genius as an artist was revealed through his drawings of the 1943 famine in Bengal when he sketched over 2,000 drawings using the barest economy of line with Indian ink and brush on ordinary pieces of brown wrapping paper. His images were so powerful and moving that even if seen today, as I did recently at the National Museum of Bangladesh, they remind us of his extraordinary ability to generate an enormous emotional response.

Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi
Untitled (Acrobats)
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

Sadequain (1930-1987) undoubtedly is the greatest contemporary artist that South Asia has produced. His genius was exposed early on in his career when he was declared Laureate Biennale de Paris when he participated in the 1961 Paris Biennale at the age of 31. Sadequain is single-handedly responsible for the renaissance of calligraphy in South Asia and the Middle East. He was able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time and was able to evolve a unique art form based on the cactus and the Urdu letter alif. Dr Akbar Naqvi writes in his book Image and Identity, “In November 1968, which was Ramadan, his calligraphy of Quranic verses was exhibited in a celebrated exhibition at the Karachi Arts Council. For the first time art touched the underprivileged people of the city, who came in droves to see the exhibition and made Sadequain an Awami [national] painter overnight. Art had broken the class barrier and bridged Lalu Khet with KDA Scheme-1.” Naqvi further says, “As early as 1961, he [Sadequain] invented the style, either in Paris or in Karachi, which was a distinguished contribution to Cubism. Sadequain’s style was, if we must have a name, Calligraphic Cubism.” Furthermore, Sadequain’s phenomenal murals in Pakistan, India and parts of Europe defy Michelangelo. While Sadequain’s figurative work had strong social commentary and criticisms, his paintings also looked into the future.

Zahoor ul Akhlaq, Farman
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

Zahoor ul Akhlaq (1941-1999) has been credited with the revival of miniature paintings, initially in Pakistan and later globally. It was at the behest of Zahoor in the early 1980s, who was then the head of fine arts at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, a separate curriculum was designed for students to specialise in miniature painting. Moreover, he sought to insert an element of experimentation in the practise, which challenged the students to look beyond the borders of traditional miniatures. As a post-graduate student at the Royal College of Art in London, Zahoor was greatly influenced by his encounters with the Indian miniature collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was immensely fascinated by the entire collection, and in particular the masterpiece titled “Three Young Sons of Shahjahan” executed in reverse perspective by Balchand, circa 1635. Zahoor started rethinking and deconstructing the miniature. He later recreated the “Three Princes” in a minimalist style, which was exhibited as part of “Pakistan: Another Vision” in London in 2000. An exhibition of contemporary art from Pakistan at the Asia Society in New York in 2009, entitled “Hanging Fire,” started from Zahoor, underlining the importance and overarching influence of Zahoor on avant-garde artists such as Shahzia Sikander, Rashid Rana and Hamra Abbas, to name a few, who were all his students. Salima Hashmi in her lead essay for “Hanging Fire” says, “Zahoor’s ability to synthesize innovation and cultural context enabled the generation after him to make work as world citizens.” Or as Rashid Rana explains, “He has made it easy for us.”

Gulgee (1926-2007) invented abstract calligraphy based on action painting popularised by Jackson Pollock in the USA in the 1950s. Gulgee was completely self-taught and began painting while studying engineering at Columbia and Harvard Universities in the US. Early on in his artistic career, he focused on portraiture and excelled in it. He was commissioned to paint the portrait of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan (1959), Prince Karim Aga Khan (1961), Zhou Enlai (1964), Queen Farah Diba of Iran (1965) and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan (1968). He then turned to making portraits from marble mosaic and semi-precious stones, a technique that he developed in Kabul using Lapis Lazuli. In the late 60s and early 70s, he reinvented himself by working in abstract styles using broad brush and bold colours and incorporating local materials such as coloured beads, small pieces of mirrors, and gold and silver leaf. During this period, Gulgee produced some of the most spectacular works of modern art ever seen in Pakistan. In the late 70s and early 80s, Gulgee started experimenting again, this time combining action painting with calligraphy. By this time, he had already mastered all major styles of calligraphy, and completely modernized it to invent a distinct and unique style, never seen before in and outside of Pakistan. He was very prolific in the 90s and until his tragic death in 2007. He leaves behind a large body of paintings and sculptures for future generations to decipher.

Lot 33: Rashid Rana, Ommatidia II (Salman Khan), 2004
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

Rashid Rana (b. 1968) is one of the most sought after contemporary artist from South Asia. His recent exhibition at the Musée Guimet in Paris and major collections at the Saatchi Gallery in London and the Devi Art Foundation in Delhi are a testament to his genius. His creations in C-print + DIASEC, such as the “Red Carpet” exhibited at the Asia Society in 2009 and “Desperately Seeking Paradise” first exhibited at Art Dubai in 2008 are masterpieces that have no equal.

Lot 30 – Shazia Sikander, Let It Ride # 3, 1987
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969) at age 36 was awarded the MacArthur Foundation’s fellowship (also generally referred to as the genius award) which provides unrestricted use of US$500,000 to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Shahzia was the first to breakaway from the miniature tradition, and has been instrumental in the rediscovery, re-infusion, and re-contextualisation of Indo-Persian miniature painting, which has helped establish an art form that is now known and recognised as contemporary miniature, or neo-miniature. She has now entered the mainstream of contemporary art internationally and is a recognised superstar.

Hamra Abbas (b. 1976) left a lasting impression on me when I first saw her sculptures titled “Lessons on Love,” a set of life-size works based on erotic miniature paintings from the Kama Sutra, and in particular, one that showed a man and a woman seated facing each other on a Howdah (an elephant or horse back mount), embraced in love and engaged in a hunting scene. This brilliant composition and a transformation of miniature into a life-size sculpture captured my attention, as I fully comprehended Hamra’s creative expression of a paradoxical relationship between sex and violence. Last year when I saw her masterpiece titled ‘Buraq’ at the “Hanging Fire” exhibition in New York, it further confirmed Hamra’s exceptional talent and genius. Hamra’s versatile practice straddles a wide range of media, as she questions widely accepted traditions and uses culturally loaded imagery and iconography in creating new platforms from which to view notions of culture, tradition and exchange. Hamra’s research on madrassahs [Islamic seminaries] after her return to Pakistan in 2007, resulted in creation of exceptional works: an installation titled ‘Read,’ which was exhibited first at the National Art Gallery in Islamabad and then at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the 99 faces of children in the madrassahs, which was awarded the Jury Prize at the Sharjah Biennale in 2009. Hamra is the recipient of the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize and currently doing a residency in New York.

Read another article by Adil Ali Khan on Miniature Art from Pakistan and follow his top ten picks in the current auction.

Anupam Poddar on Art from Pakistan

Yamini Telkar of Saffronart in conversation with Delhi collector Anupam Poddar 

Famed collector, Anupam Poddar in his Delhi residence
Image credit: Ram Rahman

New Delhi: Anupam Poddar, undoubtedly one of India’s most important contemporary art collectors, hardly needs an introduction. Poddar has been acknowledged worldwide as a premier patron in the ArtReview Power 100 list and on CBS News’s and Apollo Magazine’s lists of the top 20 most influential collectors today, alongside François Pinault, Viktor Pinchuk, Eli Broad and Sheikh Saud Al Thani, the cousin of the Emir of Qatar. Based in New Delhi, Poddar along with his mother, Lekha, set up the Devi Art Foundation in 2008 to house their collection of more than 7,000 contemporary, modern and tribal artworks from across the Subcontinent. India’s first non-profit art center, it was set up to encourage the viewership of the most cutting edge and experimental work from the region. Poddar’s collecting interests have transcended Indian art to encompass Central Asian art including art from Uzbekistan, Oman and Pakistan. He and his mother travel to these countries in search of the best art and talent. The exhibitions at the Foundation are curated out of their collection. In 2010, the Foundation organized Resemble Reassemble, a cross-section of contemporary Pakistani art featuring the works of 45 artists who are part of Poddar’s collection, including Farida Batool, Imran  Qureshi, Ayaz Jokhio, and others.

Ahead of our inaugural Pakistani Art Auction, Anupam shared his insights about art from Pakistan in this tete-a-tete with Yamini Telkar of Saffronart. View the slideshow below for Poddar’s favorite works from the auction.

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Q. What got you interested in art from Pakistan?

I find contemporary art from Pakistan, honest, fresh at the same time experimental and challenging. It is amazing to see the quality of work produced by young students. During one of Rashid Rana’s visits to India, I happened to see images of some works that I found extremely exciting. Soon after, my mother and I made a trip to Pakistan to meet the artists.

Q. Having collected both contemporary Indian and Pakistani art, what according to you are some of the similarities and divergences between the two?

Despite having a shared history, I feel contemporary Pakistani art is more experimental in nature than Indian art. The artists follow their individual pursuits with convictions that are not driven by the market forces or contemporary trends; their personal expressions are highly skillful and insightful.

Q. There is a trend among the ‘culturalti’ to engage in India-Pakistan dialogues. Do you think this has any bearing on artists and the art world? Would you as a collector/institution be interested in such projects?

I don’t think so. They are very few artists who engage with the politics between the countries as their subject matter.To stay away from this, the curatorial strategy of ‘Resemble Reassemble’ was to create a playful visual narrative and not a national survey show. As a collector/institution we wanted the exhibition to challenge the preconceived notions many viewers have and at the same time set up a platform for Indian artists to interact with works and artists from the other side of the border.

Q. Based on your interactions with contemporary artists from Pakistan, what are some of their main concerns?

One of their concerns which I find very exciting is to preserve the miniature tradition. At universities, it is re visualized and presented in a way that it challenges its own boundaries and often tends to surprise the viewer with the outcome. Otherwise, works revolve around their local realities or regional issues. Due to political and financial constraints, many Pakistani artists do not get an opportunity to travel which makes their work more rooted in local realities which are far closer to them than that of an unseen world.

Q. What trends do you see marking the development and collection of Pakistani art in the near future? What is your opinion of an auction dedicated to Pakistani Art?

Compared to the past, there is a lot more interest in contemporary art in Pakistan. We see many galleries opening up in different parts of the world, dealing solely in Pakistani art. There was a presence at Documenta this year, many art fairs and international auctions. An auction dedicated to Pakistani art is a great idea. It makes it much easier for people to buy art from the region, by bypassing bank transfers/shipping/customs – which are an absolute nightmare!

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