Space Oddity performed by Nikhil Chopra

Shradha Ramesh of Saffronart reports on Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s venture with artist Nikhil Chopra

New York: Nikhil Chopra explores the culture of South Asian community and portraiture through ‘Space Oddity’, through an eighteen hour live performance.

Space Oddity is a collaborative contemporary art program by National Trust,Oriel Davis and Wave- Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Meadows Art in collaboration with Shakti, a retrospective response to socio-economic transition in UK and the subcontinent. The overaching theme of the exhibition that is held across Midlands, Wales,Powis Castle and Kedleston Hall explores the power of creative engagement and channels. Wolverhampton Art Gallery invited artist to create a visual commentary on their South Asian art and Indian artefacts.

Founded in 1884, Wolverhampton Art Gallery houses artworks from UK and abroad. The art collection spans over 300 years of art that reflects both 20th British Art collection and 21st art from across the globe.          

Nikhil Chopra, Inside Out, 99 hour site specific performance, 2012. Photo: Shivani Gupta, Costumes: Sabine Pfisterer.

Nikhil Chopra, Inside Out, 99 hour site specific performance, 2012. Photo: Shivani Gupta, Costumes: Sabine Pfisterer. Image Credit:

 Nikhil Chopra’s Space Oddity is a visual documentary of the South Asian community. Space Oddity the title is derived from the 1969 song by David Bowie, the exhibit reflects the socio and economic evolution of London from women’s rights, the empowerment of the working class, booming Western economies and hundreds of thousands of migrants from former English colonies.

Curator Jane Morrow’s responses to the concept “Wolverhampton Art Gallery holds an extensive collection of South Asian art and Indian artefacts, which are testament to the Victorian craze for ‘exoticism’. We are delighted that Nikhil Chopra will be visiting Wolverhampton and responding to our collection with a performance piece specially created for the city.”He would produce charcoal drawings members of Wolverhampton’s South Asian community and gallery onlookers as a way of reflecting Colonial India and examining the role of portraiture.

Born in Calcultta, Nikhil Chopra (b 1974) works in Mumbai. The artist works in the realm of photography, drawing and performance centered on Colonial India and personal experience.

Nikhil Chopra, Inside Out, 2012

Nikhil Chopra, Inside Out, 2012. Image Credit:

Internationally recognized, Chopra is known for his performance such as Making Worlds at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Coal on Cotton at Manchester International Festival, 2013, Manchester and his character Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing II, 2007 Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai. Working across disciplines he leaves an ephemeral visual footprint by blurs the boundaries between artwork and the audience space through integration of drawing and performance. Chopra graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at M.S. University,Baroda, Maryland Institute of Baltimore and Ohio state university. In 2007, he was chosen as resident artist at Khoj International Association.

Three day live performance featuring Nikhil Chopra, Space Oddity, will run from 28th November to 30th November, 2013.

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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:


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:

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.

Forerunner: An Ephemeral Transition

Shradha Ramesh reports on the show FORERUNNER at Chatterjee & Lal

Tandav III, 2012, Sahej Rajal

Tandav III, 2012, Sahej Rajal. Image credit:

New York:  Sahej Rahal’s is prepped up for his second innings at Chatterjee & Lal gallery, Mumbai. We caught up with the artist last year, at the gallery, during his exhibit Bhramana II – a live performance art. It was a characterial confluence of art, history and mythical performance, to Rahal the elements of Bhramana II came together from varied sources. He said “The characters that inhabit these performances bare indices to different cultures, mythologies and pop culture.” While Bhramana I a sequel of Bhramana II, was a momentary performance act, his Tandav III is a photographic representation in a surreal setting.

Bhramana III, 2013, Sahej Rahal

Bhramana III, 2013, Sahej Rahal. Image Credit:

A versatile artist Sahej Rahal converts everything around him into a creative exploration. He is known to intersperse reality with illusion. Having trained under Tejal Shah, Nikhil Chopra, Shumona Goel and Sophie Ernst his works are an amalgamation, of their teachings and techniques ranging from sculpture, video art and performing art. He has collaborated and worked at International forums, both in India and abroad. A short stint at Zurich residential program he created sculptures and installation with reference to war.

The Groom, 2011, Sahej Rahal

The Groom, 2011, Sahej Rahal. Image Credit:

A visual milieu, Sahej Rahal’s artworks are cryptic evolution of various fictional and real time heroes. Being a hard-core Star Wars fan, one is lost in his monastic ‘Jedi’ like forms taking the center stage in his pictorial representation. He was influenced by Joseph Beuys a German, a Happening and performance artist, during his creation of Bhramana series, he said “I was going back to look at the things Beuys was looking at, the idea of the shaman as the storyteller, and looking at the art making process as a kind of alchemy.”

Threading the path of creating a surreal character in a real life urban ambience, Sahej Rahal has a child like euphoric reaction to every object he comes across. To Rahal found objects play a critical role in his creations, a bath tub was an integral part of his video creation as was the didgeridoo instrument in his Bhramana II performance art.  In the two minute film a monk like character has a bath in a mundane bath tub in a surreal ritual. He fascinated by war, rituals, ceremonial processes and myths. He is an artist with full of zeal and gives it all to his art he says “I just pick the coolest things I come across… it’s a lot of fun.”

Sahej Rahal’s current exhibit, Forerunner transpires from these diverse experience and explorations. A series of photography, video documentary and sculptures the show is a visual maze. One gets enamoured by the other worldly creatures and the dynamism.

Forerunner is on display at Chatterjee & Lal gallery, Mumbai until 28 September 2013.

To Read More Click Here.

Nikhil Chopra’s Coal on Cotton

Elizabeth Prendiville shares a note on Nikhil Chopra’s performance at the Manchester International Festival this summer

New York: Performance artist Nikhil Chopra will be executing a very unique site specific piece over the course of sixty five hours at the Manchester International Festival this summer. Over the nearly three full day Chopra will be performing his piece “Coal on Cotton” for a live audience at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. This space is particularly different because it is currently unfinished and under construction.  In addition to carrying out his normal daily habits such as eating and sleeping, Chopra will be drawing specifically with coal.

Nikhil Chopra at Manchester International Festival

Nikhil Chopra at Manchester International Festival. Image Credit:

Chopra utilizes materials that directly relate to the meaning of his work. He draws on cotton from Mumbai that was woven in one of the few remaining historical textile manufacturers left in Manchester. By using these materials he engages the audience in a discussion about these two individual colonial cities that are linked in the historical context by the textile industry. Through his work and the use of the characters he embodies, Chopra hopes to reclaim and revitalize the histories of these two places as well as bring them into a contemporary context.

Chopra moved to the United States in 1997 to pursue his Masters in Fine Art at Ohio State University. At the university he began to explore performance art as his chosen medium. Within his work Chopra plays a variety of characters, all of which have a historical element as well as a biographical one. Throughout his career his performance art pieces have been shown at a variety of esteemed international art destinations including New York City, Sydney and the Venice Biennial.

Although creating a live artistic piece over the entirety of sixty five hours may seem like an expression of shock value for audience members, Chopra insists that this allotted time is entirely necessary for the creation of the piece. His artist statement claims that this time allows him to truly manipulate and change the space, creating a transformative and liminal experience for audience members. Nikhil Chopra’s inventive discussion of the history of the textile industry from an Indian and Euro-centric scope is sure to be a must see at the Manchester International Festival this year. His performance will take place July 5th through July 7th.

To learn more about the festival click here.

Frieze London 2012

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on one of the most avant-garde fairs in the world

London: The time of the year when all contemporary art lovers descend on London for one of the greatest international art fairs has just passed. Regent’s Park in the heart of the city just hosted the Frieze Art Fair & Frieze Masters 2012 for four days (11-14 October).

With its overwhelming size and number of participants, Frieze allows you to view some of the best art from all over the world and immerse yourself in a sea of colours, shapes and unspoken words.

The presence of South Asian art at the fair seemed to be more evident in this edition compared to previous years. Two Indian galleries, Chatterjee & Lal and Project 88, which was in the Frame section of the fair last year, confirmed their presence and many of well-known international galleries included works by Indian artists in their exhibits.

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010
Image Credit:

Chatterjee & Lal focused its attention on performance art, with Nikhil Chopra and Hetain Patel, two artists who approach this form of expression in different ways. While Chopra mainly uses costumes, drawings and photography, Patel works with self-decoration, video and photography. The latter explores issues of identity using characters to which he contrasts and compares himself. Nikhil Chopra, on the other hand, expresses himself through live performances whose characters are quite auto-referential and discuss the issues of the modern world. Time is an essential element of his performances. The artist is fascinated by how things transform over time and how the repetition of events is almost ritualistic. However, once the performance is over we are left with pictures and drawings which document the act and have the task of bringing the emotions provoked by the performance back to life.

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012
Image Credit:

Project 88 had on display a selection of works by Sarnath Banerjee from his project on the London Olympic Games, “Gallery of Losers”which ironically tackles the theme of winning/losing. For the first time in the history of the Olympics the attention is focused on the losers and the people who almost made it.

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012
Image Credit:

In “Poise II” Neha Choksi engages with themes of detachment and disappearance using installation art. The piece comprises a mattress held up by vases containing faded flowers.

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010
Image Credit:

The feelings of sadness provoked by this work are soon lightened by an installation by Raqs Media Collective called “Whenever the heart skips a beat”.

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011
Image Credit:

The unusual clock moving forwards and backwards, skipping beats regularly, creates witty combinations of words. Also on display is Raqs Media Collective’s “The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised”, a picture reflecting on all the things we should do but we cannot. One of these is the debt we have towards books which give us knowledge without being repaid. Thus, we all are ‘Namak Haraam’, innate debtors for the knowledge we constantly steal from books in our daily life. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Huma Mulji and the Otolith Group.

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012
Image Credit:

Other Indian art works on display at Frieze were by Dayanita Singh at Frith Street Gallery, Shilpa Gupta at Yvon Lambert, Bharti Kher at Galerie Perrotin, and Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery. Corvi-Mora Gallery exhibited works by the Pakistani artists Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid.

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011
Image Credit: Picture by the author.

This year, for the first time, Frieze opened the door to galleries displaying work by old masters as well, perhaps to attract visitors and illuminate some of the forms, techniques and concepts behind contemporary art. This newly opened section had on display different kinds of art up to the year 2000, leaving the exclusivity of the last 12 years to the main area of the fair. Frieze Masters enjoyed great success, rivalling TEFAF Maastricht, perhaps because of the merging of old masters, antiquities and some modern artists. In this section Indian art was on display at the booths of Sam Fogg and Francesca Galloway.

After this deep immersion in the art world, we will need a few days to process all of the images and the concepts behind the works. Frieze is definitely a unique yet overwhelming experience. Nevertheless, as always, I’m already looking forward to seeing what will be on display next year to please our eyes and stimulate our minds.

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