Frieze London 2013

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart looks at the 2013 edition of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters.

London: With the onset of the British winter, as the trees of Regent’s Park shed their foliage to assume a structural minimalism, another edition of Frieze draws to a close. Running in its eleventh year, Frieze Art Fair is a conglomerate of art, artists, curators, galleries, collectors, dealers and critics who have a common affinity for art of the contemporary sort. Its younger sister fair, Frieze Masters, now in its second year is just as grand and deals with ancient to modern art.

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

I was fortunate enough to attend Frieze both in 2012 as well as in 2013 and the change within the two years was quite apparent. This year Frieze Art Fair condensed their number of exhibitors from 175 to 150, a move that reinforces Frieze’s emphasis on quality over quantity. Additionally the architectural design was also opened up to reveal a new entrance, floor, a revised gallery grid and a mezzanine café area, rather than the claustrophobic labyrinth of corridors from previous years.

This year the participation of South Asian galleries was lesser than last year, even though South Asian artists were well represented by international galleries. Project 88, the only Indian gallery to participate, has been at the helm of promoting cutting edge contemporary art in Bombay, India. This year Project 88 featured the works of Neha Choksi, Raqs Media Collective, Rohini Devasher, Sarnath Banerjee, Somnath Hore and The Otolith Group.

Houseplant and Sun Quotation, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/arts/international/indian-artist-explores-absence-through-presence.html?_r=1&

Houseplant and Sun Quotation, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/arts/international/indian-artist-explores-absence-through-presence.html?_r=1&

Choksi, now a regular name in the Frieze line up, concerns herself with the search for various forms of absences. She approaches and represents this absence by appealing to the presence of forms. In Houseplant and Sun Quotation, Choksi correlated the mechanized process of photography to the living process of the plant, both processes necessitated by the presence of light. She placed plants near paper that has been photo chemically treated with palladium salts, so as to expose the non-shadow part of the paper. The resultant effect was that the absence of the plant on the palladium paper was represented through a negative presence of the shadow form. The Burst series featured two ceramic sculptural forms or anti forms, if you will, that adopted absence and suspension in order to initiate her ideas of solitariness and expiry.

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

In Forthcoming Titles through referential comparison between influential authors in the canon of Marxism, Raqs Media Collective’s carefully displayed wall mounted library managed to resonate a faux seriousness only to be broken by the anagrammed names of the authors. Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist revolutionary and a figure who has actively influenced Raqs own collective consciousness, became Luxme Sorabgur.

Sarnath Banerjee’s new series of drawings was replete with the caricatural humour that Banerjee is synonymous with. He made light of contemporary Indian society through symbolic representations and diagrammatic visual depictions.

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Rohini Devasher’s paper work involved prints of satellite images of the Indian Astronomical Observatory and the surrounding landscape at Hanle, Ladakh, superimposed with drawings. Her project was an investigation of these mythic terrains where fiction blurs the boundaries of what is real and imagined. It was a process of converting the familiarity of geography into one of strange hybridization. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Somnath Hore and the Otolith Group with their newest video essay People to be Resembling.

Dubai based Grey Noise featured the works of Pakistani artist Mehreen Murtaza. Murtaza’s stylistic visual narrative consists of an amalgam of Sufi cultural imagery along with the futurism of science fiction. This odd juxtaposition enables science to question and reexamine religion, myth and superstition. While adopting the critical point of view of Western rationalism, Murtaza does not stray away from the Islamic historical heritage and thus her work operates in a realm where mystical ideas of spirituality synchronize with scientific theories.

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

In Transmission From A Missing Satellite, Murtaza payed homage to Dr Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Though Salam’s contribution to the field of science was remarkable, the memory of the man is tainted by prejudice due to his minority Ahmadi background. The work presented an assemblage of clues such as loose letters, telegrams and even a floating stone reminiscent of the Floating Stone of Jerusalem at the Dome of Rock. Through these artifacts Murtaza used artistic approaches to visualize the adventures in quantum immortality.

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

The other South Asian artists on display were Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid at the London based gallery Corvi Mora. Dayanita Singh also displayed her work at Frith Street Gallery. Singh also has a solo show Go Away Closer on display at the Haywards Gallery, Southbank Center till the 15th of December 2013.

In the other side of the park at Frieze Masters, the environment was quieter and less frenetic than it is in Frieze Art Fair. Whilst the older contemporary fair attracted a fair share of curious onlookers who come to marvel at the trends in contemporary art, Frieze Masters took on a more discerning vibe. The lighting was softer, public area was carpeted and the artworks were more traditional.

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Grosvenor Gallery’s debut at the Frieze Masters featured a selection of Black on Black Paintings by Francis Newton Souza. This appearance at Frieze coincided with their current exhibition, F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings on view till 28th October. The exhibition follow the legacy of Souza’s 1966 show Black Art and Other Paintings at Grosvenor Gallery where he presented a series of monochromatic works rendered in thick black impasto oil. Even though the inspiration for Souza’s stylistic turn toward such a dark somber palette is disputed, these works bear reflection to Souza’s state of mind in the 60s.

Difficult and demanding, Souza’s black series is not easy on the eye, but of course that was exactly Souza’s intention. As Toby Treves pointed out, Souza claimed that the visual intensity of his paintings was meant to be a jarring reminder about the visceral consciousness of life. In order for the work to reveal itself, a few moments are required in front of each work. The interplay between the light and the textured brushstrokes, caught by the eye only at a certain angle uncovers a world of forms, textures and worlds inside each canvas.

Lovers, 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Lovers, 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

From the somber monochromes of Souza to the resplendent gleam of the Indian miniature works at Francesca Galloway, Frieze was a complete affair in itself. In conjunction with the fair itself, a host of galleries, museums and artistic institutions opened their doors to patrons by organizing lectures, panel discussions, performances and art projects.

A Scene in a Heaven, Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

A Scene in a Heaven,
Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

My favourite part of Frieze London was actually the Sculpture Park. While most of the public and media attention goes onto the two sister fairs, the Sculpture Park is often the portion of the fair, which has so much to offer. It also provides a nice escape to the bustling fanfare of the tented Frieze Art Fair.  Amidst the rolling greens of Regent’s park’s sculpture half of the fair was Amar Kanwar’s Listening Bench #4 (2013), a part of his The Sovereign Forest exhibition, currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The benches offered visitors a place of quietude and contemplation after the influx of so much sensory stimuli.

A Surreal Experience

Shradha Ramesh reports on Neha Choksi’s exhibition at Projects 88, Mumbai.

New York:  Project 88 is the place to witness a liquefying Iceboat and blueprint of the sky in Sky Fold. The two works are the masterpieces of Neha Choksi, who steers your visual sensibility to an ethereal dimension.  A performance artist and sculptor, her works take reference from theatre, art and science. Choksi’s interest in temporary presence, in ‘an affirmative act of destruction’, and in gravity persists in all her works. Both her works Ice Boat and Sky fold are reminiscent of her interest. The works are on display starting October 3 to November 16, 2013 at Project 88, Mumbai.

Iceboat, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://project88.in/press/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Choksi-Iceboat-sm.jpg

Iceboat, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://project88.in/press/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Choksi-Iceboat-sm.jpg

Third among the video performance series, Neha Choksi has her audience entranced with her surreal Iceboat creation. Clad in a white monk like attire, the artist rows her way into Lake Pawna on a ice-boat under the blazing sun. The video is a sublime theatrical performance of the artist sinking with the boat. It appears like a twenty first century ritualistic practise of disengaging oneself. A lyrical enactment of dipping into the lake, her performance is timely and graceful. About her experience, Neha Choksi narrates:

“Everything is liquifying and it is a heady process to be part of that while it is happening.  You know you are headed for a second birth, a sort of baptism, if you will, and I put my back into rowing every now and then with extra vigour, as if I want to dissolve with my clothes and my equipment.”

The other two body of works that transacts with the notions of absenting and silence are Leaf Fall (2008) and Mind to Lose (2012).

Sky Fold, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://project88.in/press/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Choksi_SkyFold1_2013.jpg

Sky Fold, 2013, Neha Choksi. Image Credit: http://project88.in/press/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Choksi_SkyFold1_2013.jpg

 Sky Fold is the reflection of light on folded paper that creates a dynamic sense of depth and movement. The series is photographic work of cyanograms of varying sizes. By exposing the folded cyan colored paper to the sun, it creates a visual milieu of the evanescent sky. Neha Choksi creates a new visual language that transcends both visual art and theatre. The viewer gets enticed in both her performance and aesthetic creation.

To read more click here.

Tejal Shah: Between the Waves

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on Tejal Shah’s short film screened at the 14th Circuito Off Film Festival in Venice

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel 1

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel 1. Image Credit: http://in.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/949827/tejal-shahs-between-the-waves-at-film-fest-in-venice

London: After dOCUMENTA (13) and Project 88, Tejal Shah‘s Between the Waves was screened as part of Fil Rouge at the 14th Circuito Off Film Festival in Venice dedicated to experimental short films.

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel I

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel I. Image Credit: http://tejalshah.in/project/between-the-waves/

Fil Rouge was a special section of the festival including five international women directors which presented five uncommon creative universes.

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel II

Tejal Shah, Between the Waves, 2012, Video Still from Channel II. Image Credit: http://tejalshah.in/project/between-the-waves/

Tejal Shah showed a surreal universe where unicorn women collect plastic and communicate through a mirror within a lunar setting. The film tackles issues such as sexuality, body, kinship and productiveness while blurring boundaries and categories.

Below you can enjoy an extract of Shah’s film.

Between the Waves

Click here for more information.

Art Night Thursday, Mumbai

Tarika Agarwal of Saffronart gallery-hops in Mumbai on the occasion of the latest edition of ‘Art Night Thursday’

Mumbai: It was quite an exciting experience walking around the Mumbai Art District at night for the first time as part of Art Night Thursday last week.

Started in London, the idea is that on the first Thursday of the month, participating galleries and museums stay open past 9 pm. It was an amazing way to get introduced to the great art scene in the vibrant city of Mumbai. It has managed to promote museums and art galleries as fun places to hang out in the evening.

The trail consisted of seven galleries. There was a vast variety of  works on display – tapestries, video art, sculptures, installations, oils, acrylics to name a few. I started my journey alone but somewhere along the way it became a nice little group of art lovers walking about the streets of Mumbai from one gallery to another. It was nice to see how college students, art students, the retired and collectors were in the same space enjoying, appreciating and discussing an artist’s work.

In this edition of Art Night Thursday, here is the list of a few of the artists being exhibited and the kinds of work they were showing –

Monika Correa, Homage to Kepes, White Warp
Image Credit- www.gallerychemould.com

In an exhibition of Tapestries at Chemould Prescott Road, Monika Correa has explored the underlying relationship between weaving and the diverse patterns and textures of nature. Read more.

Prakaash Chandwadkar, Untitled – 001, Acrylic on Lokta Paper
Image Credit- www.gallerybeyond.com

In a group show at Gallery Beyond, Prakaash Chandwadkar had showcased a few acrylics on Lokta Paper (wild crafted, handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal).  These works display the vistas of the Himalayan Ranges around Nepal where he treks.

At the Guild, Rakhi Peswani presented ‘Anatomy of Silence’. The artist believes that silence is an integral part of paintings, sculptures and objects. Art holds a mute relationship with the society it is created and survives in. She shows the human body in a handmade avatar which is close to displacement and demise. The relationship between a laborious work and a craftsman’s body is explored and seen vis-à-vis the situation of the handmade today.

William Kentridge

William Kentridge, Untitled, Indian Ink on pages from The Century Dictionary; An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the language.
Image Credit- www.volte.in

One of the best shows was the William Kentridge solo exhibition, ‘Poems I used to know’ at Volte, which combines large drawings done in Indian ink on multiple pages from books that have been put together, a film installation, a series of slip book films, sculptures and a large tapestry. Read a review of the show in the Mint by Girish Shahane.

Shine Shivan, Glimpse of Thirst (11), Fabric, jute, fiber, marbles, fiber glass, artificial hair, sequins and beads.
Image Credit- www.artinfo.com/

Shine Shivan’s ‘Glimpse of Thirst’ at Gallery Maskara exhibits a provocative body of work including a large group of hybrid, fantasy characters crafted from various non-typical materials and a video installation.

Nityan Unnikrishnan

Nityan Unnikrishnan, Untitled, Mixed Media on Paper
Image Credit- www.chatterjeeandlal.com

Chatterjee & Lall previewed Nityan Unnikrishnan’s solo show ‘While Everyone is Away’ during Art Night Thursday. This exhibition consists of fourteen paper-works and two sculptures, and is the first time the artist’s three-dimensional works have been shown. According to the exhibition note, “He derives from a variety of sources to build his works: memories, literature, the arts, Arcadia, the modern world, his present life. The individual works are open to a variety of interpretations; little niches and low voices offer up clues as the viewer navigates their densely worked surfaces.”

Risham Syed

Risham Syed, Untitled Lahore Series # 11, Acrylic on Board on Canvas
Image Credit- www.project88.in

Risham Syed’s first solo exhibition in India titled ‘Metropolyptical: A Tale of a City’ was on view at Project 88. The artist portrays modern day Lahore, a place she calls home, yet remains a complete stranger to, due to the construction and deconstruction which is a mystic version of post-modernity.

Imagine getting a chance to see different collections of great art for an evening every month. Four to five hours of one’s time spent in appreciating the creativity of the young and the established felt like no time at all! I consider this a MUST DO if you are visiting Mumbai or are in South Mumbai when the next editions of Art Night Thursday are taking place.

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1083

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1058

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1381

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1377

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1379

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: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1378

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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