In Conversation With: Valay Shende

WATCH NOW: The sculptor famed for his recent public installation Dabbawala, discusses his Buffalo series and the philosophy behind his art during a studio visit with Saffronart.

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Art and Activism at Broad Art Museum

Amit Kumar Jain reflects on The Artist as Activist, a joint exhibition by Bangladeshi artists Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opened a landmark exhibition on two leading Bangladeshi artists, Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi, earlier this month. Considered as the forerunners of contemporary art practice in Bangladesh, Rahman and Lipi are also well-known for having co-founded, and currently running, the Britto Arts Trust, a non-profit organisation supporting young artists, since 2002. Their first major museum exhibition, The Artist as Activist brings together an extensive body of the duo’s collective work under one roof, which has “emerged from their shared journey as a husband and wife, and reflect their continual interchange of ideas and pursuit of like-minded themes,” according to curator Caitlin Doherty.

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, Michigan, USA. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Doherty transforms the museum space effectively, by dedicating a gallery to each artist and showcasing works from various periods of their career. Lipi’s section is designed as a quiet, intimate and personal space, making the viewer look inwards to the role of the women in the Bangladeshi society. Her works look at the domestic, and how the woman negotiates the constant tussle of her personal ambitions and societal demands. As one moves through the gallery, one moves through her body, culminating in a womb-like, protective environment, where she secludes her innermost desires and emotions from the taxing outer world. This is the space where My Daughter’s Cot, an empty cradle made of stainless steel razors, signifies the vast contradiction between the personal and the societal, and gives a sense of longing in what is supposed to be a beautiful, but threatening symbol of motherhood.

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My Daughter’s Cot, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Contrary to Lipi’s gallery, Rahman’s artworks speak for the abject, dissatisfied man, beginning with a self-portrait series of charcoal drawings that depict the artist screaming in frustration, in response to his own helplessness and inability to fight the political and social failure of his country. He approaches activism through social commentary, highlighting the plight of the indigo farmer through an ongoing performance piece titled Transformations. In Sounds from Nowhere-8, Rahman symbolically captures the pain and the loss that followed the collapse of the eight-storied Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, which caused death and injury to thousands of garment factory workers. He navigates his own identity in the contemporary political history of Bangladesh, a nation still recovering from two wars. Rahman’s gallery becomes more vocal and versatile as he adapts to multiple mediums in highlighting the struggles he shares with his fellow citizens in a postcolonial, developing country.

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Charcoal drawings by Mahbubur Rahman. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

The last gallery brings together the works of Lipi and Mahbub under a common endeavour. Through their non-profit organisation, they initiated a project to work with the transgender community in Dhaka. Reversal Reality, a solo project by Lipi, compares the living realities of the artist and co-collaborator Anonnya, a transgender woman, while focussing on the struggles of the latter. While Lipi’s project takes on the individual, Rahman’s video project Time in a Limbo looks at the transgender community through their rituals, dialogues and practices. The museum has proposed to use this gallery with the LGBT community of East Lansing, and hopes to bring Anonnya to the United States to share her experience.

The Artist as Activist is the first major exhibition from South Asia at the Broad Art Museum, and will continue till 7 August 2016. Previously, the museum had showcased a project by Mithu Sen and an exhibition of works by Imran Qureshi and Naiza Khan.

—Amit Kumar Jain, Curatorial Consultant for The Artist as Activist

 

Exhibition details:
The Artist as Activist
Featuring: Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

Dates:
5 March – 7 August 2016

Venue:
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Michigan State University
547 East Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
USA

 

 

 

 

Eesha Patkar takes a look at one of South Africa’s foremost artists and filmmakers

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - RETROSPECTIVE at Johannesburg Art Gallery (3 July - 23 October 2005), Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – RETROSPECTIVE at Johannesburg Art Gallery (3 July – 23 October 2005), Exhibition Poster

William Kentridge, one of South Africa’s leading artists and authorities on the subject of apartheid, has made his way to StoryLTD. For the next few weeks, we are featuring prints and posters from his art shows around the world.

Our collection of posters shows Kentridge’s continued presence in his hometown of Johannesburg where he exhibited steadily at the Goodman Gallery, but internationally as well, at Annandale Galleries in Sydney, Australia, and K20 Grabbeplatz in Düsseldorf, Germany. These are, of course, mere hints of the entire breadth of Kentridge’s achievements.

Between the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Kentridge started and developed a reputation as a charcoal artist and printmaker. In the ’90s, he produced the first of his many animated films—Monument (1990), Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (1991), Felix in Exile (1994), to name a few—a series of nine films that he eventually exhibited together as the “9 Drawings for Projection.” You can find the poster for this exhibit here.

9 FILMS - WILLIAM KENTRIDGE 9 DRAWINGS FOR PROJECTION, Old Fort, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, 22 -24 March 2004, Exhibition Poster

9 FILMS – WILLIAM KENTRIDGE 9 DRAWINGS FOR PROJECTION, Old Fort, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, 22 -24 March 2004, Exhibition Poster

Among others, we also have two posters that were once part of a limited edition triptych series. The posters themselves are designs for Kentridge’s six minute short film A Lifetime of Enthusiasm that was part of the installation “Telegrams from the Nose” at the Annandale Galleries in 2008. The third one remains elusive as of now, but those intent on possessing it and completing their collection can make a quest of it.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - A LIFETIME OF ENTHUSIASM, Annandale Galleries Poster for Telegrams From The Nose, 11 June to 17 July, 2008.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – A LIFETIME OF ENTHUSIASM, Annandale Galleries Poster for Telegrams From The Nose, 11 June to 17 July, 2008.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - A LIFETIME OF ENTHUSIASM, Annandale Galleries Poster for Telegrams From The Nose, 11 June to 17 July, 2008

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – A LIFETIME OF ENTHUSIASM, Annandale Galleries Poster for Telegrams From The Nose, 11 June to 17 July, 2008

Kentridge’s works were hardly ever standalone pieces: when he focused on a project, he created a cornucopia of art work that he abhorred to waste. It all became part of his narrative somehow, either in the original piece that he was designing it for, or a retrospective afterwards. For instance, the 2005 poster “Preparing the Flute” was designed for the exhibition celebrating Kentridge’s operatic production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute that opened earlier that year at the La Monnaie theatre in Brussels, Belgium.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - PREPARING THE FLUTE, The Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, South Africa, 4th June to 16th July, Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – PREPARING THE FLUTE, The Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, South Africa, 4th June to 16th July, Exhibition Poster

Likewise, with this poster designed for the 16th Sydney Biennale in 2008, featuring one of Kentridge’s famous collaborative pieces “Telegrams from the Nose.” The exhibit at Cockatoo Island, during which he worked with composer Francois Sarhan, consisted of a multi-projection film titled I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine (2008) and referred to a future production of an opera that he directed for the Metropolitan Opera of New York at the time.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - TELEGRAMS FROM THE NOSE, 16th Biennale of Sydney, 2008, Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – TELEGRAMS FROM THE NOSE, 16th Biennale of Sydney, 2008, Exhibition Poster

The opera, which premiered in 2010, was a re-adaptation of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1930 opera The Nose, originally borrowed from the short story by the famous Nikolai Gogol.

I first read Gogol’s The Nose sometime in 2010 myself—in tandem with Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis—both stories evoking the feeling of absurd, a genre that was particularly relevant and heavily employed in literature, theatre and arts of early 20th century, post-war Europe. Of course, Gogol wrote The Nose much earlier in 1836, to be revived by Shostakovich a century later. There have been several reappropriations of the story over time, but it has never been more consistently experimented on and beautifully explored than in the works and art of Kentridge.

Kentridge, already well-known for his politically inflected work, sought to incorporate the absurdity of The Nose into a series of palimpsestic works of art that defied any clear medium. His charcoal drawings became stop-action animated films that turned into highly interactive multimedia installations. And practically everything that he worked on during 2007 and 2010 was gearing towards the grand pièce de résistance, the final opera.

Gogol wrote The Nose, like most of his short stories (The Overcoat), as a satirical device poking fun at the egotistical excesses of Russian politics during his time. In it, a barber named Ivan Yakovlevich finds a pale nose in the bread he’s about to eat for breakfast. It belongs to Kovalyov—“Major Kovalyov” as he pompously deigns himself—a member of the Municipal Committee. Afraid to be seen with a bureaucrat’s appendage, the barber throws it off the Isaac bridge in the Neva river below. Meanwhile, the Major has just woken up without his nose attached to his face, and proceeds to spend the rest of his day trying to find it and commandeering the local police to catch it for him.

Ludicrous in narrative, yet clever in form, Gogol transforms the nose as a metaphorical and synecdochical arc to puncture the flatulent grandiose of not just the Major, but his peers and superiors as well. The value of a socially acceptable and dignified appearance, given importance through sartorial mentions of uniforms, coats, and cloaks—or lack thereof, in case of the barber—is particularly striking. The Major’s appearance is marred (“flat as a pancake”) without his nose, leaving him impotent and unable to “snub his nose” at those he encounters daily. But I find the Indian idiom “naak kat gayi”—literary translated as “nose cut off”—far more apt here. To find one’s nose (figuratively) cut off, is to be humiliated, ashamed and beaten even. Which is exactly what happens to the Major: he hides, blusters in shame and doesn’t regain his confidence until his nose is returned to its rightful place. Of course, he fails to find any humility in the process and continues in his megalomaniac ways, reaffirming the story for the satire it truly is.

During his work on the opera, Kentridge saw parallels between the politics of Russian bureaucracy and South African socio-economic politics of his own homeland. He found the Absurd as a perfect vehicle for expressing and exploring this dynamic: “(t)he extraordinary nonsense hierarchy of apartheid in South Africa made one understand the absurd not as a peripheral mistake at the edge of a society, but at the central point of construction. So the absurd always, for me, is a species of realism rather than a species of joke or fun. And that’s why one can take the joke of The Nose very seriously.”

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - WHAT WILL COME, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 10th November to 14th Decemver 2007, Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – WHAT WILL COME, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 10th November to 14th December 2007, Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE - K20, 27 March - 31 May, 2004, Exhibition Poster

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE – K20, 27 March – 31 May, 2004, Exhibition Poster

Kentridge was a genius. Whether he was deconstructing three dimensional reality through mirrored cylinders in installations such as “What Will Come” at the Goodman gallery, or reflecting on identity and individual choices in a politically conflicted landscape as he did through his films at the K20 exhibit—at the heart of it was always the voice of an artist striving to inform, interrogate and possibly change the world.

5 Art Happenings to Keep You in the Know

Alekha Engineer of Saffronart keeps you up to date on recent happenings in the art world
If you’re all caught up in FIFA fever and haven’t kept abreast of art, here are five events that would be great conversation starters:

1. A Claude Monet painting, Nympheas, sold for £32 million at an auction in London on Monday, 23rd June. The sale marks the second highest price ever paid for a work by the renowned impressionist painter.

Monet’s Nympheas  Image Credit: BBC News Online , http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-27991977

Monet’s Nympheas
Image Credit: BBC News Online. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-27991977

2. An original drawing of Tintin, made in 1937 by Herge, the creator of the series, sold for a record 2.65 million euros at an auction in Paris. The 2-page spread intended for the inside covers of Tintin books set a new record price for a comic book strip.

Herge’s original drawing showing some of the easily recognisable panels from the comics Image Credit: Artcurial.com

Herge’s original drawing showing some of the easily recognisable panels from the comics
Image Credit: Artcurial.com

3. Art Basel 2014 closed on Sunday, June 22nd to resoundingly positive reviews. The fair once again proved to be a leader in the industry, with large volumes of sales taking place both during the preview and continuing through the week. This years edition featured two leading Indian contemporary galleries, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai and Gallery SKE, Bengaluru.

Art Basel 2014 Image Credit: Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

At the opening of Art Basel 2014
Image Credit: Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

4. The Whitney Museum of American Art opened its largest exhibition dedicated to a single artist on Friday, June 27th. ‘Jeff Koons: A Retrospective’ features close to 150 pieces created between 1978 to the present. The show has opened to mix reviews, not surprising as the artist himself is widely lauded but often criticised.

Jeff Koons' Sculpture, "Play-Dough", which took 20 years to complete Image Credit: Fred R.Conrad for The New York Times

Jeff Koons’ sculpture, “Play-Dough”, which took 20 years to complete
Image Credit: Fred R.Conrad for The New York Times

5. The Arts Council England and the BBC re-launched a web platform, The Space. It was initially launched in 2012 as a six-month pilot programme with  live broadcasts and archive footage functioning as an on-demand digital arts service. It is back as a free website for users to explore new art commissioned by the organization. The Space commissions works across genres through open calls and partnerships with new works launched every Friday. Ai Weiwei has lent his support to the initiative, donating his personal data for use at the sites inaugural event, ‘Hack the Space’, held on June 13 and 14 at the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. The world-renowned artist gave the names of over 5000 children and young people who died in 2008’s Sichuan earthquake in China, after the government refused to release the names.

“Hack the Space” at the Tate Modern Image Credit: David Parry/PA, theguardian.com

“Hack the Space” at the Tate Modern
Image Credit: David Parry/PA, theguardian.com

Duplicator’s Dilemma| Atul Dodiya

Elisabetta Marabotto of  Saffronart shares a note on Duplicator’s Dilemma, Atul Dodiya’s solo exhibition in Hong Kong

London: 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong is currently exhibiting Atul Dodiya‘s first solo show in Hong Kong.

The exhibition brings together a selection of works which combine tradition with modern references. On display is a series of works created on shutter doors paying homage to famous international artists such as Roy Lichtenstein.

“The shutter doors bring the commonly seen Bombay shop fronts into the contemporary art genre. Dodiya uses the duplicity of imagery to play with wild contrasts of scenery. This series combines the metal fronts of the pop art work of Lichtenstein with the deeply expressionistic long and stringy figures of his paintings. A man whose bones can be seen through his skin reads a book, a skull lays by his side. When the door is closed, piercing cartoon like eyes peer with the phrase, “What? Why did you ask that? What do you know about my image duplicator?” Highly original, his works physically add layers of meaning to his works. They can be read half-closed or open as well as fully seeing one image or the other.”

This series was inspired by the sight of small business in Mumbai locked down because of the fear of violence and religious persecution following the bombings in 1993.

Also in the exhibition is a series of black and white drawings representing figures almost floating in a phantasmal and fuzzy reality which subtly engage the audience in a curious dialogue.

Dodiya said about his works: “What is better? The fish inside the water, or the fish outside the water? The mirror reflects reality. Is that reflection real? Is the image which an artist depicts on canvas more real than the image which the viewer sees in reality?

Probably, these are some of the philosophical questions, which arose in the process while looking at Lichtenstein’s ‘Mirror’. Inside-outside, above-below, real-unreal, hidden-revealed, single-double, are these opposites? This is the dilemma with which artists begin and arrive at the discovery of the relativity of the real.

The fine line between art and life gets blurred, to the point where art is overpowering the reality of life. It becomes a game of stepping in and stepping out of the creative space.”

The exhibition is on until January 30, for more information click here.

 

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