Folk And Tribal Arts of India: Part 1

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart introduces the indigenous art forms of Patachitra and Jogi Art alongside illustrated lots from Storyltd’s upcoming auction of tribal and folk art

NEW YORK: On September 24th StoryLTD’s newest Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art will go live with an eclectic collection of indigenous art works depicting a vast array of artistic traditions from different regions of India. These techniques represent longstanding regional narrative and customs with colourful hues, varying textures and elaborate compositions. Two techniques represented in this sale include the multi-dimensional storytelling tradition of Patachitra scroll paintings and the family rooted Jogi art.

Patachitra, originating in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, is essentially an ornate cloth-based scroll painting. Although these colourful works have organic and humble roots they offer a wealth of narrative possibilities. “Patta” means “cloth” in Sanskrit while “chitra” means picture or painting. True to the name, layers of cotton cloth are adhered together with a natural glue product and formed into scrolls. Patachitras made of lighter paper materials are sometimes reinforced with saris to extend their life. It is essential that these scrolls remain intact as they are exhibited by traditional story tellers that travel distances and use these scrolls in their performances. The subject is often based on Ramayana or regional folklore and mythology. However, they also sometimes contain narratives from Muslim and Sufi traditions. Traditionally crafted by travelling bards, each scroll was accompanied by a song. Thus each Patachitra was experienced as a multidimensional piece, with a narrative conveyed in both visuals and music. The tradition of Patachitras continues and contemporary scrolls often convey current events or pivotal moments in recent history.

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

A fitting example of these Bengal scrolls can be seen in Lot 85 and 86 in the Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art by Jabbar Chitrakar and Yamuna Chitrakar. These colourful works are made from natural pigments and shows two narratives simultaneously. The title Chitrakar, literally meaning painter, is taken on by the performers. Not formally trained in the art of painting, these chitrakars learn the traditional skills in a local setting, becoming travelling showmen who are adept in more ways in one, donning multiple roles- painters, singers, performers, storytellers.

Much like the scroll paintings of Bengal, Jogi Art has an interesting history. Ganesh Jogi, the namesake of this artistic form, performed as a musician in Rajasthan. Following the traditional professional associated with the Jogi caste, the family would wander the streets in the early hours of the morning, singing devotional songs and receiving grains, clothes and occasionally money from people. Due to changing times they had to move to the neighbouring state of Gujrat to seek a livelihood. A chance encounter with the eminent artist and anthropologist in the 1980s laid roots for the blossoming of this visual art form. Shah encouraged Ganesh and his wife Teju to draw from their hearts and imagination images that inhabit their world. Over time these illustrations became detailed and complex, a true visual delight. The current lots showcasing Jogi Art present the evolutionary and transformative potential of traditional artistic practices. They present varied themes that include village life, current events and contemporary discourses like environmentalism.

StoryLTD’s upcoming auction of folk and tribal art presents an opportunity to partake in India’s traditional visual practices, the range of artworks included in the sale are sure to peak one’s curiosity about the indigenous art genres existing in the different regions of the subcontinent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Showcases the Tiny and Beautiful of Contemporary Indian Art

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses the Indian Pavilion in the upcoming Beirut Art Fair

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

 This September Lebanon will once again thrive as a major cultural hotspot in the global art community with the 5th edition of the Beirut Art Fair. Held at the Beirut International Exhibition Leisure Center, the fair will represent the most contemporary and innovative work from the local and international art markets. As it grows in popularity the Beirut Art Fair is proving more and more to be a vessel of booming international art sales, meshing together buyers and artists from both the Western and Eastern art markets. Last year, the 4th edition of the fair, displayed galleries from 14 countries and welcomed over 18,000 guests. Leading collectors throughout the Middle East and beyond flock to this event, because it assembles a global showcase of work in a creatively liberated environment.

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

In past years, the fair has focused primarily on a wealth of offerings from local galleries. However, there is a growing trend for outside influences. Last year the fair featured a South East Asia pavilion curated by Richard Koh. This year the focus will be the Indian Pavilion curated by Fabrice Bousteau. Bousteau’s previous credits include co-curating “Paris-Delhi-Bombay:India Through The Eyes of Indian and French Artists” at Paris’ Centre Pompidou focusing on the Indian subcontinent. The curator’s approach to the Indian Pavilion will break away from the now-typical rhythm and layout of traditional art fairs. He plans to channel a cabinet of curiosities, displaying a wide range of sizes and mediums. Bousteau’s vision of small and ornate rather than large and dramatic purposefully goes against what he believes is a trend in contemporary Indian art. “It will represent the Indian art scene from Subodh Gupta, the star, to the youngest Indian artists…the concept of the exhibition is to create a cabinet of curiosities. Indian artists love to make enormous sculptures…The idea was to [exhibit] some very small things, for a number of reasons, one of which is a question of budget…The idea is that small art is beautiful” Bousteau told The Daily Star. This shift away from large pieces should present an opportunity for less represented artists or artists with a different artistic process to be shown. The curator utilizes themes in traditional Hinduism as well as drawing comparisons between the Middle East and Indian societal makeup to select the works that will be presented. This nuanced curatorial approach may make the Indian Pavilion the creative focal point of Beirut.

By going against the grain in terms of classic fair curating, the Indian Pavilion may be tapping into a new buyer experience. How will art sales change if the offerings of a fair are depicted as a museum or private collection rather than a commerce-driven gallery? This is surely a more thoughtful and engaging methodology. The Beirut Art Fair 2014, and the Indian Pavilion specifically, will clearly be a pivotal event in the international art world this year. The Beirut Art Fair will run September 18th-21st, for more information about the fair please click here.

Can Site-Specific Artists Really Claim Space? The Georges Rousse Apnalaya Benefit Collection

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses appropriation in the site-specific work of artist Georges Rousse.

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse
Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

Paris-based artist Georges Rousse is a master of layering perceptions for his viewers. Locations, shapes, and spaces that were once familiar are reformed and combined in unexpected ways forming a multi-dimensional work that presents itself as both familiar and foreign. This summer StoryLTD presents Rousse’s Apnalaya Benefit Collection. This location is an interesting choice for the artist who often works in ruins or forgotten architectural spaces. In contrast, the Apnalaya center’s mission focuses on rebuilding the lives and communities of individuals in the poorest slum neighborhoods of Mumbai. I see a noteworthy correlation between the artist’s dedication to revitalizing and repositioning locations through his work and the center’s goals for supporting and improving nearby communities. Both the artist and the center create change in seemingly bleak circumstances. But how does the artist’s process bring new life into a location while still honoring the true history of the space? Unlike deteriorating ruins or forgotten spaces, the Apnalaya center is alive and active, making it harder to find this appropriative balance. Can Rousse truly claim a space as his own when the singular purpose of the location is fostering greater communities? This brings forward an intriguing discussion in regards to site-specific work in general.

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

 

Rousse’s work has been acclaimed internationally for his unique utilization of multiple mediums simultaneously molded together to create a single dynamic piece. His practice typically consists of creating a site-specific installation using paints and other traditional mediums to bring a new aesthetic to the space. In the case of the Apnalaya collection, large stars were painted in the space to create a playful effect of physical depth and perspective. After completing the space Rousse photographs it, creating a permanent and tangible testimony of the artistic occurrence. The photograph is intended to last, while the installation is temporary. Throughout his work we see the fleeting and liminal quality of public art installations in juxtaposition with the documented finality of photography.

 

Installation with the Apnalaya Team Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Installation with the Apnalaya Team
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Although the pieces in this collection appear simple in composition and color scheme initially, they have an entrancing quality that invites you into a unique space that is only truly represented in the artist’s photographs. He achieves the perfect balance of removing viewers from the familiar and paying visual homage to an everyday location.  The familiarity and safety of a school works in dialogue with the slightly dizzying change of perspective. Rousse’s “Nagar” series (I, II, III, IV) allow viewer’s perspective to dictate how they take in the work. The iconography in these pieces is nothing new. However, the placement and technical choices both in the original installation and the photography create an open-ended product that gives viewers freedom to determine their own viewpoint. Simply viewing the work I found it difficult to determine what is a manipulated through photography and what is in the actual space. Rousse is successful in creating an engaging mysterious quality for his viewers; familiar landscapes are tweaked to transport you elsewhere. However, with this visceral appropriation in mind, is the original space truly honored or is it simply a stepping-stone to the artist’s final product?

The Apnalya Benefit Collection will be shown on StoryLTD through July 15th. However, limited edition prints are selling fast. Find out what pieces are still available for sale here. You can also learn more about Rousse’s process by watching a video by the artist here.

 

 

“Nalini Malani: Transgressions” at Asia Society Museum

New York: The Asia Society Museum in New York is currently showing their latest contemporary exhibition, “Nalini Malani: Transgressions”. Malani received her technical training in painting at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai and throughout her career has focused on a number of controversial topics such as feminism, race, gender and global politics. This was especially powerful in the 1980’s when feminist topics were less prominent in art on the Indian subcontinent. In her process the artist is inspired by myths and allegories from a variety of cultural backgrounds including Hindu and Greek. “Transgressions” is no exception as it brings forward a strong narrative depicting globalization and transnational current events focusing specifically on the powerful western influence in postcolonial India.

Transgressions II by Nalini Malani. Source: http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/nalini-malani-2/

Transgressions II by Nalini Malani
Source: http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/nalini-malani-2/

 

I was fortunate enough to slip into the Asia Society thirty minutes before closing, the ideal time to experience the central installation of the exhibition: “Transgressions II”. This enchanting piece, created in 2009, is part of the Asia Society Museum’s collection and depicts cultural negotiations in India. The piece consists of video projections combined with shadows utilizing three large transparent cylinders. “Transgressions” is both playful and visually haunting with the multifaceted use of a variety of mediums and sound. Each aspect of the work is an independent artistic expression that when combined, brings forward a dramatic multisensory experience for the viewer. Malani’s paintings on the transparent cylinders are in homage to the Chinese reverse glass painting of the 18th century and are aesthetically engaging all on their own. Viewers can walk freely through the projections and examine these dynamic paintings individually. The only other additions to the exhibition aside from the large installation are a selection of books by the artist depicting the drawing and painting technique in full. This addition invites Malani’s audience into her artistic process. Holistically, the work creates an engaging contrast between histories of seasoned storytelling and modern technology.

“Transgressions II” by Nalini Malani Source: Asia Society

“Transgressions II” by Nalini Malani
Source: Asia Society

 

As a viewer, I felt fortunate to experience the work completely alone and be ensconced in the ever evolving and shifting visuals of animals, characters and designs. Accompanying the moving colors and imagery was a poem written and read by the artist. Both the painting and poem touched on the artist’s central topics of colonialism and world politics. However, the visuals rarely depicted the poem in a literal sense, creating a dizzying, dreamlike quality. “Transgressions II” is an all-consuming and enthralling installation that allows Malani to fully absorb her audience in her multiple levels of creative expression and storytelling. This exhibition is a uniquely beautiful success for both the artist and the Asia Society Museum. While in New York this summer be sure to take in “Nalini Malani: Transgressions”. The exhibition will be up through August 3rd 2014.

 

FLORAL MOTIFS IN SOUTH INDIAN JEWELRY

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart highlights some of the prevalent plant and flower motifs in South Indian jewelry

NEW YORK: In Indic religions and philosophy reference to plants, fruits and flowers abound signifying the relationship man shares with nature. Since antiquity myths and iconography pertaining to flora and fauna has been a central part of Indian belief systems and their actual use and their reference in present day rituals and faith based practices proves their continued significance in Indian society. Plants and flowers are often time associated with deities, presented as offerings in rituals and symbolically represented in daily life through various means.
South Indian jewelry present a ripe example of the continued reference to plants and flowers in Indian faith systems and the development of intricate motifs laden with meaning, still in use in present day India. Our current exhibition “Jewels from South India” display an array of motifs associated with plants and flowers.
A Jasmine Bud Necklace

A Jasmine Bud Necklace

The jasmine bud necklace, known as mullai arumby malaii, adapts the tender buds of the fragrant flower in its design. The result is a piece of jewelry that conjures images of delicate and prestine creations of nature, the carnal scent of the auspicious flowers with erotic connotations enhancing the beauty of the wearer. There are many myths that chronicle the mystique of this tender flower.
Manga malai necklace

Manga malai necklace

Another common motif in South Indian design is the Manga Malai– the necklace of mangoes. Similar to the persian booti or paisley design, mango tree has long held mythic associations in Indian society. The mango tree is believed to be a wish-fulfilling tree and a symbol of fertility and long life. Mango leaves which are believed to hold protective powers are still used in actual rituals in India, also commonly found strung across the entrance of an house. Stylized motifs of mango have been adapted in South Indian jewelry, lending not only a meaning but decorative elements to the jewelry pattern.
The rudraksha bead is often times adapted in design of beads or used as it is in South Indian jewelry. It is believed to be sacred to Shiva and is commonly worn by both men and women with Shivite affiliations all over India. They are believed to hold the creative energy of Shiva, bestowing the wearer with similar powers. Symbolically the seed is believed to represent Shiva’s eye (Rudra=Shiva & Aksha=Eyes). Myths abound that reference the rudraksha.  One of them tells of how Shiva went into the state of penance for 1000 years in order to destroy evil in the world and when when he finally opened his eyes a drop of his tear on the ground resulted in the germination of the tree bearing the rudraksha fruit. The seeds are considered highly auspicious and are adapted in designs in multiple ways.
Dumroo

Dumroo

A gemset Jhumki or earrings

A gemset Jhumki or earrings

A gemset necklace

A gemset necklace

A closer look at jewels from our collections show the many ways floral motifs are adapted in design- their presence abounds. From three petaled blossoming flowers, to floral vines adapted in design, the significance of rendering plants and flowers in jewelry can be traced back to centuries and continues to the present day- a melange of traditional beliefs and modern practices.
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