Jitish Kallat: Overturning Expectations Through Artistic Dynamism

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on Jitish Kallat’s recent work

New York: If there were one versatile and imaginative contemporary Indian artist, who, through his art evoked spiraling chains of thought and overturned expectations, it would be Jitish Kallat. Topping Artprice.com’s list of prominent contemporary Indian artists, he is definitely one of the most dynamic artists you will read about.

His works cover a vast array of genres and themes: from exploring the socio-economic and political circumstances of his city, Mumbai, in a manner that brings out the liveliness and exuberance of the city instead of the sunken reality, to addressing issues of peace and tolerance post the 9/11 terror attacks. Some works will take you back in time, reviving a past with contemporary lessons, whereas others will makes you question our being and the different aspects of life.

Kallat is an artist who has grown tremendously over the last decade, establishing himself not only nationally, but making a substantial impact in the international art market as well, leaving behind a trail of his exciting aesthetic creations. He has had his works exhibited in major museums such as the Tate Modern in London and the ZKM Museum in Karlsruhe in addition to having his works held in collections like those of the Saatchi Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

His Public Notice series of works (2003-2010) takes three important moments in Indian history, with an international holding and impact, and reinforces their existence and significance in today’s times. These are large scale installations, comprising the text of speeches delivered by three prominent personalities in Indian history: India’s first prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, delivering his freedom speech on 15 August 1947, Mahatma Gandhi’s speech in 1930 on the eve of his historic Dandi March during India’s struggle for independence from the British empire, and lastly Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893.

Jitish Kallat, Public Notice,  Art Institute of Chicago

Jitish Kallat, Public Notice, Art Institute of Chicago. Image Credit: http://www.artic.edu/aic/resources/resource/1150?search_id=1

Of the three, the most well known is Public Notice 3, shown at the Art Institute of Chicago. This installation converted the speech’s text into LED displays on each of the 118 risers of the main stairway at the Art Institute. This installation aims to connect two great historical periods – the first World Parliament of Religions, which took place on September 11, 1893, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Centre, both happening on the same date, 108 years apart. Vivekananda’s landmark speech at the Parliament addressed issues of fanaticism and encouraged universal tolerance and respectful recognition of different faiths and traditions, concepts as relevant 108 years later.

This installation, of course, represented the interesting chasm between the underlying message of tolerance in the speech and the conflicting events of the September 11 terror attacks. Through this installation, Kallat not only addresses the intriguing juxtaposition between the two significant events in history, but also sheds light on the immense contemporary significance of a historical event that was forgotten with the passage of time.

Jitish Kallat at Art Basel Hong Kong

Jitish Kallat at Art Basel Hong Kong. Image Credit: http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2013/07/10/jitish-kallats-corridors-of-suspicion/

The artist’s recent projects have been equally enticing and rich in concept and technique. He is working towards installing a massive sculpture, 60 feet long and 26 feet high in lower Austria. The sculpture as he calls it is “ an endless loop in the open landscape”. It involves the recreation of the typical blue highway signage and its conversion into a huge ribbon in the air. The ribbon displays information about travel distances from Austria to different parts of India and the Far East.

Kallat also has an upcoming solo exhibition this September at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, which explores the concepts of “time, sustenance, laughter, suspicion and sleep.” The show will involve a good mix of works. He notes, “One video piece called “Breath” shows seven rotis. There are seven lunar cycles where each roti slowly grows from dust, starts becoming a crescent moon, then a full moon, and then returns to dust. There is another sculpture of a Lilliputian world of small figures paired. Each figure is seen frisking the other one. All of these pairs come from found photographs of security checks at airports, rock concerts and entrances to nightclubs. It’s like a small corridor of suspicion. There is also series of paintings that come from laughter clubs”.

Kallat makes art with a powerful purpose. Whether it might be reviving elements of a lost history, emphasizing the richness of Indian cultures and traditions, or making visible the beauty underlying the simple aspects of everyday life.

He says about the origins of his artistic creations: “All of these works have been questions I ask myself. How do I manifest my experience of the world I inhabit in forms that I find? Everyone carries a world inside themselves; it’s when their world interacts with mine that the work of art actually happens. Until then I just make a dormant piece of something that’s made of atoms and molecules”

 For more information on Public Notice 3 you can click here.

Jitish Kallat studied painting at the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. He lives and works in Mumbai, India.

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. At The Tate Modern.

Emily Jane Cushing suggests the Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’

London: Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’ is the first in a series of international collaborative exhibitions exhibited at the Tate Modern, London.

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Driven by the desire of strengthening cultural exchange and dialogue throughout the world, the series presents contemporary art through a series of collaborations with cultural organisations.

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. is curated by Loren Hansi Momodu at Tate Modern and Andi-Asmita Rangari, Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. Indeed, what makes this exhibition so exciting is the bringing together of emerging curators from both the Tate Modern and selected international venues to create shows to be exhibited in both London and the inspired location, in this exhibition the other location will be New Delhi.

The series will show-case the work of new artists, those recently established and of rediscovered artists. Among these artists are Amar Kanwar and Anjali Monteiro and K.P Jayasankar using medium including audio documentary, video, performance, text and sound. The Tate writes that it hopes this exhibition takes a moment to listen to the harmony and dissonance of voices rising.

Amar Kanwar’s film ‘A Night of Prophecy’ was shot in several regions of India including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Kashmir. The artists from these regions used music and poetry of tragedy and protest to express emotions resulting from caste-bound poverty and the loss of loved ones caused by tribal and religious fighting.

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit; http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit; http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit; http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit; http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/project-space-word-sound-power

Saacha is about a poet, a painter and a city. The poet is Narayan Surve, the painter Sudhir Patwardhan and the city is Mumbai; the birth place of the Indian textile industry and the industrial working class. The film addresses the politics of representation and the decline of the urban working class in an age of structural readjustment, whilst simultaneously exploring the relevance of art in this contemporary social environment.

Related events include Performance and music; Mithu Sen  will make public readings of a new work entitled ‘I am a Poet‘, which she describes as being ‘not bound by rules of grammar, diction, vocabulary and syntax’. Mithu Sen will be reading ‘I am a Poet‘ on Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00.

And a film by Anand Patwardhan: We Are Not Your Monkeys; Jai Bhim Comrade, Monday 15 July 2013, 18.00 – 22.30

The exhibition will show from 12 July – 3 November 2013 at the Tate Modern London, and continues at Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi, 10 January – 08 February 2014.

More information about the Tate exhibition can be found here.

Damien Hirst leaves Gagosian

Damien Hirst, Doxylamine From Dali to Damien Hirst, The Story by Saffronart

Damien Hirst, Doxylamine
rom Dali to Damien Hirst, The Story by Saffronart

Manjari Sihare of Saffronart ponders over the latest news to hit the global art world

New York: Damien Hirst is in the news again. This time for his split with his primary gallery (also one of the world’s largest, but more about that later), Gagosian.  After a longstanding relationship of seventeen years, the gallery and the artist are headed for a split. Why? No one knows (yet!). Even Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page (my usual go-to for art world breaking news) has no mention. All we have are amicable press statements issued from both sides wishing the other success.

And success it will be, for both Gagosian and Hirst are unstoppable. According to a recent report by The Financial Times, Gagosian’s turnover was estimated at $925m this past year.  Likewise in June 2012, The Sunday Times cited Damien Hirst as the world’s wealthiest artist, with a fortune of £215m.

Damien Hirst poses in front of his work I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds

Damien Hirst poses in front of his work I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds

What we will miss are fruits of this lethal combo! It was the perfect marriage! Gagosian has hosted some spectacular exhibitions of the artist’s work, the most recent being a worldwide showing of Hirst’s Spot Paintings at the beginning of 2012. It also played a significant role in organizing a giant retrospective of Hirst’s work at the Tate Modern in London this summer. The exhibition went down in the institution’s history as the most popular one drawing almost half a million visitors.

The artist-gallery relationship is tricky as it is often ruled by power, from opposite points of view. There is no one-size-fits-all model. But Hirst has always been his own master, right from the beginning. He first came into news in 1988 when still as a student at London’s  Goldsmith’s College, he curated an exhibition in an abandoned warehouse to show his and his peer’s work. In 2008, he broke the art market convention of selling only through representative galleries. He side-stepped both his primary galleries, Gagosian in New York and White Cube in London to hold an auction of his works (mostly new) in London.  Interestingly this auction coincided with the fall of Lehmann Brothers and the beginning of the global financial crisis of 2008-09, but was a success nonetheless.

What does Hirst’s news coincide with this time? Is it the first sign of Apocalypse 2012 – an “artpocalypse” perhaps? Definitely not! In an industry where most relationships are made on a hand shake, none of these splits are carved in stone. Stay tuned for more on this story and other art world news in 2013!

Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern

Sabah Mathur of Saffronart visits the Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern, London

Damien Hirst poses in front of his work I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds

London: Damien Hirst is quickly becoming an international phenomenon. After a brief taste of his work at the India Art Fair earlier this year, the large-scale retrospective of his work at the Tate presented an interesting opportunity for a more meaningful engagement with his artistic career. The show is a survey of the work of one of Britain’s richest and most prominent artists, who emerged on the art scene as part of the YBA movement of the 1990s. As I wandered through this ambitious exhibition of an artist who has continually been in the media spotlight over the last 20 years, I realised why Hirst’s work has always been described as controversial. While it evokes feelings of delight for some, it provokes, disturbs and disgusts others. Critics have been quick to label his work ‘con art’, but his popularity can be measured by the queues of people in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, waiting to see the exhibition.

The show comprises works spanning Hirst’s career, including photography, painting, sculpture and installation. Spread over fourteen rooms, it charts the artist’s work from his undergraduate days through to the Sotheby’s auction of 2008, where 244 new works by Hirst were presented directly by the artist for auction. The first room, containing his early work, is colourful and fun. Hirstian themes that recur throughout the exhibition are introduced: namely, death and mortality, spots, interesting titles, and, via the block sculpture Boxes, the compartmentalising of things. The rooms following this one are filled with Hirst’s archetypal works from the animals preserved in formaldehyde and the Natural History series to the giant spin paintings, the medicine cabinets and his famous spot paintings. Hirst’s tendency to obsessively repeat himself becomes quite obvious and there did not seem to be much point in including so many spot paintings and medicine cabinets in the exhibition.

The theme of life and death underpins the majority of the works included in the show. Hirst’s works are explicitly concerned with the fundamental dilemmas of human existence. Crematorium, a disproportionately large ashtray filled with cigarette butts and ash, can be seen as a reminder of the inevitability of death. What appears to be a lifetime’s accumulation of the remains of smoking can also be seen to double as the cremated remains of the human body.


Two other fantastic representations of the life cycle can be seen in A Thousand Years and In and Out of Love. The former is an installation of a glass vitrine in which maggots hatch and develop into flies, which then feed on a severed cow’s head. Many of the flies meet their end on an insect-o-cutor while others survive to continue the cycle. Hirst takes the principle of bringing real objects into the gallery a step further in this work, creating a literal enactment of birth, death and decay. He does it again in the second installation where the themes of life and death as well as beauty and horror are highlighted. In and Out of Love is a recreation from Hirst’s first solo exhibition in 1991 where in one room, with a specifically maintained humid environment, white canvases were embedded with pupae. Butterflies hatched from these and flitted around the room, feeding on sugar water and flowers, mating and laying eggs. In a second room Hirst showed eight brightly coloured canvases with dead butterflies on their surface and also placed tables in the room with ashtrays full of cigarettes on them. As Hirst has said, in this work the building became the vitrine. For some, this confinement of butterflies to one room is a melancholy prospect, while for others it is fascinating to see so many butterflies flutter around and sometimes even sit on them! Some of the butterflies certainly alighted on my shoulder, only to be promptly flicked off by the security guards.

A Thousand Years, 1990
Image credit: http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/aipe/damien_hirst.htm

In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies), 1991
Image credit- http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Hirst’s+butterfly+takes+a+shine+to+Serota/26282

Dead butterflies reappear as a symbol of beauty and the inherent fragility of life in works such as Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven where they are arranged into complex patterns reminiscent of medieval stained glass church windows. Interestingly, in I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds kaleidoscopic mandala-like forms recall Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The title is taken from the Bhagavad Gita.

Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven, 2007
Image credit: http://www.theartsdesk.com/visual-arts/damien-hirst-tate-modern

Dead animals are used in many of Hirst’s works. Vitrines are used as devices to impose control on the fragile subject-matter contained within them. The carcasses of animals are preserved as in life, but at the same time are emphatically dead. Hirst also explores the theme of life and death through one of his most famous works For the Love of God. With this skull that is set with 8,601 diamonds, Hirst is trying to celebrate life by saying ‘to hell with death’ and has been quoted saying, “…what better way of saying that than by taking the ultimate symbol of death and covering it in the ultimate symbol of luxury, desire and decadence.”

While walking through the exhibition it very quickly became evident that this was very expensive art. A lot of money must have been paid to set the diamonds in For the Love of God, and to make the vitrine for A Thousand Years. Expense is built into these works and is part of their aesthetic. One of the last rooms stands testament to Hirst’s financial success with its glittering disco-like appearance. The works in this room, featured in the 2008 auction, are studded with gold and diamonds. However, the themes remain the same although now in a more opulent form.

Whether you consider Hirst’s work macabre or whether you are excited by it, there is no denying that it leaves a lasting impact. While some of his works may be getting repetitive, many of them remain engaging. His use of dualities is summed up by the exhibit in the final room. In The Incomplete Truth a dove is suspended in formaldehyde as if in mid flight. The dove represents hope, peace, and the Holy Spirit. Yet the title of the work remains equivocal.

Read more about this exhibition.

Take a video tour of the exhibition http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturecritics/charlesspencer/9217107/Alas-Ive-now-seen-Damien-Hirst-in-his-true-colours.html

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991
Collection: Tate London
Image credit: http://www.tate.org.uk/whatson/tate-modern/exhibition/damien-hirst?gclid =CKu45tHS17ACFU4lfAodBEpV0g

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