Companionable Silences at Palais de Tokyo

Shradha Ramesh shares a note on the new exhibition, Companionable Silences, at Palais de Tokyo, Paris

New York:  “Companionable Silences” is a group exhibition of artists from various trajectories on view at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, from June 21 to September 9, 2013.

The connections between these artists are their encounters with the city, Paris, and its ground breaking approach to art – a break away from western archetypes.

According to the curator, the main focus of the exhibit “…is on artworks and artistic lineages that are worthy of study in their own right, with particular attention drawn to the contexts in which the artists’ ideas were formulated and executed.”

Besides the global artist profiles the exhibition representss a visual congregation and interaction between primitivism, modernism and orientalism. An assorted list, the artists are of divergent geographies, ages and genders. The list is dominated by internationally recognized women artists including Tarsila do Amara (1886 – 1973) Brazilian, Saloua Raouda Choucair (b.1916) Lebanese, Camille Henrot (b.1978) French, and Zarina Hashmi (b. 1937), Anjalika Sagar (b. 1968) and Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), Indian. The male artists included in the exhibitions are Adolf Loos (1870 – 1933), Kodwo Eshun (born 1967) and Umrao Singh Sher-Gil (1870-1954).

Self Portrait as Tahitian, Amrita Sher-Gil, 1934. Collection of N. and V. Sundaram

Self Portrait as Tahitian, Amrita Sher-Gil, 1934. Collection of N. and V. Sundaram. Image Credit:

Among the works in the exhibition is a film by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun of the Otolith group titled “I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another (2012)” which narrates the life of Etel Adnan -a poet, essayist, and painter, from Lebanon.

On the other hand, works by the Indian artists Zarina Hashmi, Amrita Sher-Gil and Umrao Singh Sher-Gil show their different relations and timeline with their art and Paris.

Among the vagarious arrangement, the most striking is the father daughter duo Umrao Singh and Amrita Sher-Gil. Umrao Singh Sher-Gil’s photographic portraits of his family and himself are of complete contrast to his daughter’s works, which are influenced by Ajanta cave paintings, Paul Cezane and Paul Gaugin. Born in Hungary, Amrita Sher Gil is well known in the Indian art circle for her modern and unconventional thinking. Born to a Hungarian mother and Sikh father, she trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where she became influenced by Realism. Her time in Paris was era of experiment and exploration. She was the first Indian woman to be recognized at international art forums.

This exhibition is definitely a must see if you are in Paris. To learn more about the show, click here.

The Indian Art Revolution

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart recommends visiting ‘The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989’ at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago.

London: The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is hosting the exhibition ‘The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989’ until 9 June, 2013.

The exhibition featuring over sixty artists that use various media celebrates freedom of expression and egalitarian values, and aims to introduce Sahmat and its projects to audiences in the United States. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Manjeet Bawa, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Zarina Hashmi, Rumana Hussain, Bharti Kher, Pushpamala N., Nalini Malani, Gigi Scaria, Nilima Sheikh and Vivan Sundaram.

The collective Sahmat was created in 1989 in memory of Safdar Hashmi and against political violence. Sahmat stands for Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and it also means “in agreement” in Hindi.  Hashmi was an activist, playwright and actor who was killed by a group of political thugs while he was performing in a street play called Halla Bol! (raise your voice) during the municipal election outside Delhi. Since its creation Sahmat used different forms of art to discuss political and social problems following Hashmi’s footsteps.

Safdar Hashmi

Safdar Hashmi. Image Credit:

Sahmat believes that art, being a very immediate and accessible medium of expression, can stimulate change, and can positions itself against religious fundamentalism and sectarianism, or so-called ‘communalism’. Its principles are to defend freedom of expression and fight against political intolerance. People from any background, religion and age can participate in the several projects by the collective that celebrate cultural diversity, communal harmony and democratic ideals.

This is an exhibition not to be missed, and a great example of the power of art to affect change.

More information on the exhibition can be found here, and you can also view some of the tributes made to M.F. Husain by Sahmat below.

Zarina’s Contemplative Art

Guest blogger Bansie Vasvani visits Zarina: Paper like Skin at the Guggenheim, New York

New York: Zarina Hashmi’s long overdue retrospective, Zarina: Paper Like Skin, at the
Guggenheim, New York, opened to an audience struck by the work’s serenity, quiet
dignity, and artistic impact. Combining her evocation of language and place to chart her
personal, itinerant trajectory, Hashmi’s work explores the notion of home and identity
with enormous depth and perspicuity. An established printmaker, she is often considered the precursor to a generation of artists for whom transience and its impact has permeated
through their work.

Zarina Hashmi
Homes I Made/ A Life in Nine Lines, 1997
Portfolio of 9 etchings and one cover plate printed in black on Arches Cover white paper, Chine Colle on handmade Nepalese paper; Image credit: Luhring Augustine, New York

In the front room, a portfolio of nine etchings titled Home I made/A life in Nine Lives, (1997) line the walls in geometric resplendence. Made on Arches Cover handmade Nepalese paper this series of simple, two-dimensional grids capture the structure of a basic dwelling. Zarina’s bare bone depiction can be best described by art critic John Berger’s definition of home as the center of the universe in an ontological rather than a geographical sense. Letters written by her sister Rani, that often described the passing of family members in Pakistan, become grist for her etchings and woodcuts. Her reductive images distill the sentiments of home to architectural forms and capture her nostalgia without being maudlin or dramatic. For Zarina, home becomes the place from which the world can be founded and it is the heart of the real. In these etchings, the original Urdu script of the letters is cut in metal for the prints, and the remainder of each image is rendered in woodcut. Zarina’s work underscores the sculptural aspect of her printmaking process acquired from the renowned British printmaker Stanley William Hayter while living in Paris in the 60’s. The painstakingly delicate renditions of Home I Made/A life in Nine Lives are steeped in a worldview inspired by the Minimalist tradition.

Zarina Hashmi, Cage, 1970. Relief print from collaged wood blocks.   Printed by the artist. Image credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Zarina Hashmi, Cage, 1970. Relief print from collaged wood blocks. Printed by the artist. Image credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Untitled (1970), Cage (1970), and Kiss (1968) are a series of relief print collages made by inking assembled pieces of wood. Each work is constructed on handmade paper distributed by an organization founded by Mahatma Gandhi to promote Indian
handicrafts. The varying tones of the papers obtained from different regional workshops impart a particular character to each print emphasizing the quality of the material as much as the concept behind her creation. Using bits of wood assembled together, she
ingeniously creates a corral, a home, and a shelter suggestive of a protective surrounding.
The fragments and wood pulp produce dense fields that highlight the material properties
and spatial presence of an object in the convention of European Constructivism. Reminiscent of Carl Andre, her work appeals at a very basic, emotional level. Even in Kiss, inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s stone sculpture, the two pieces of wood placed side-by-side capture the primitive, folkloric precedents that Brancusi’s work expresses.

Zarina. Kiss, 1968. Relief Print From Collaged Wood, Printed In Black And Burnt Umber On Bfk White Paper
Image credit: Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Perhaps one of the most riveting series in the exhibit is her Untitled (Pin
drawings), 1977. Here a sequence of works on pure white paper creates a meditative,
trance like effect on the viewer. Grid formations are devised through columns of
perforations from pinpricks. These three-dimensional mounds that rise above the paper
give the composition texture without disrupting its immensely soothing quality. Very
much in the vein of Agnes Martin’s biomorphic spiritual effect, and the visual impact of
Robert Ryman’s white on white paintings, Zarina’s personal, highly individualized art
stands out for the quality of its conception and the reductive feel of the cosmos on paper.

Zarina Hashmi, Home is a Foreign Place, 1999
Portfolio of 36 woodcuts with Urdu text printed in black on Kozo paper, mounted on Somerset paper
Image credit: Luhring Augustine, New York

Zarina’s most well known piece, Home is a Foreign Place (1999), examines the larger issue of identity by implying that a home is what you make of it. From her residence in many countries as a diplomat’s wife, the artist believes that the idea of home and identity comes from an amalgamation of diverse cultures and experiences without
attributing any one single influence. In this woodcut portfolio of 36 basic architectural
lines, the drawings reveal how evocative a simple gesture can be. Triggered by Urdu
words like door, threshold, warm etc. that are etched into the drawings, the geometric
abstractions of crisscrossing lines and circles evoke the actual experience of entering such
spaces. Deeply nostalgic of both the loss of moving away from her homeland, and the
gradual extinction of Urdu, her mother tongue, the artist is able to revive her memories
through the deliberation of her deft craftsmanship.

Zarina Hashmi
Blinding Light, 2009
22 carat gold leaf on Okawara paper
Irregular vertical and horizontal slits
Image credit: Luhring Augustine, New York

In Zarina’s art beauty and aesthetics push the viewer towards new modes of
enlightenment. Her gold leaf piece that she initially felt might turn out to be garish,
connotes a sense of purity and sublimity that relays the quality of the metal itself. In
Blinding Light (2010) a 6 foot by 3 foot sheet consisting of layers of fine gold leaf
Japanese paper hangs from a bar. Vertical slits in a grid like pattern allow light to enter
and create shadows against the shimmering reflective surface. Imbued by Sufi
philosophy, the work resonates with the poetry of her imagination. Ultimately, Zarina’s
brilliant machination of paper that she believes is as malleable as skin compels us more
than ever towards a fulfilling experience.

This exhibition traveled to the Guggenheim , New York from the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and will be on view until April 21, 2013.

Bansie Vasvani is an independent art critic based in New York City.  She has a Masters Degree in Modern and Contemporary Art, and has traveled extensively to art fairs all over the world.

A Word of Thanks & Happy 2013!

Dear Readers,

Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2013 ! The past year was an eventful one for Saffronart as we introduced an array of new categories and collectibles by way of our auctions and The Story, our new website featuring unique objects in curated collections available for sale every day!

Happy New Year from Saffronart

It was also the inaugural year for our blog launched in April of 2012. In a span of six months, we have come a long way with a readership of 1600 plus. We were happy to feature exciting reviews reports and interviews through this course. Some highlights included a guest post on Arpita Singh’s New York solo exhibition at the DC Moore Gallery, a series of walk-throughs of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Islamic galleries, a review of Zarina’s solo show at the Hammer Museum, interviews withTarun Tahiliani and Shilpa Shah of the TAPI Collection, as well as collectors like Anupam Poddar,and Kamran Anwar weighing in on their favorite lots from our inaugural Pakistani  auction. Other exciting conversations included one between guest blogger Diana Campbell, artist Rathin Barman and gallerists Priyanka and Prateek Raja, an interview with the Director of the ARKEN Museum in Copenhagen and with Beth Citron, the curator of the Rubin Museum on their exhibition program dedicated to Modern Indian Art as also one with  Sarnath Banerjee about his London public art project, ‘Gallery of Losers’.

We thank you for your support and look forward to bringing timely and engaging news, interviews, images and more from our offices around the world. A special word of thanks for our guests bloggers for their contributions. We hope our regular posts on this blog continue to offer you new insights into the products we feature in our online auctions, new ideas about collecting, and also a new perspective on Saffronart.

Best wishes,

Team at Saffronart Blog

Zarina: Paper Like Skin at the Hammer Museum

Guest Blogger Tracy Buck visits the first retrospective of artist Zarina Hashmi at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles

Los Angeles: On September 30, The Hammer Museum, located in Westwood near the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, opened the first retrospective of artist Zarina HashmiZarina: Paper Like Skin is currently on view until December 30, 2012; it then travels to the Guggenheim in New York in the early spring of 2013 and to the Art Institute of Chicago in summer 2013.  Zarina’s elegant and understated works, executed sculpturally and via the manipulation of paper, include woodcuts and etchings, paper that has been cut and pinpricked and woven, an original cut block, and bronze and tin sculpture.

Zarina, born in India in 1937, has lived in the United States since the 1970s.  The exhibition’s curator, Allegra Pesenti, worked closely with Zarina in her studio/home in New York City to select pieces that represent her large body of work dating from 1961 to the present.  Within these works – undertaken not only in her New York studio but in her various former homes in Thailand, India, Pakistan, Europe, and Japan – are quietly and poignantly woven themes of memory, displacement, movement, dislocation, and the intimate and pliable connection to homes current and remembered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Among her works are woodcut explorations of the trauma and loss during the India/Pakistan Partition (Dividing Line, 2001); the jagged Radcliffe Line here appears as a scar cut beyond even the otherwise contained boundaries of map and land mass.  A separate series (These Cities Blotted into the Wilderness [Adrienne Rice After Ghalib], 2003) envisions and commemorates various cities that have been bombed in recent years.  Homes I Have Made/A Life in Nine Lines, 1997 is a series of floor plans of houses and apartments throughout the world, rented and made into homes, however temporary, and now remembered.  An engagement with line, with darkness and white, with paper and its materiality and subtlety, are at the heart of these works.

Although most often associated with paper, one might consider Zarina to be an artist who works in the “medium” of Urdu as well.  In several of Zarina’s works (Letters From Home, 2004; Atlas of my World, 2001, These Cities Blotted into the Wilderness [Adrienne Rice After Ghalib], 2003; Travels with Rani, 2008, among others) the Urdu script becomes a raw material, visually manipulated, recalling both the histories of Independence and Partition of the subcontinent, as well as Zarina’s own story of her family’s move to Pakistan some years following Partition. It also recalls, to those who can read it, the ghazal tradition and its thematic weight of melancholy and loss, of separation and longing, of displacement and disconnect.

One might consider the medium of printmaking itself to work in a similar way.  The printmaking process is a series of elisions, of secrets, its final printed product a sort of masking of the intense physicality of carving a block and running a press. Unlike gestural painting, for example, that draws attention outright and purposefully to the physical effort of its production, printmaking operates via a system of reversals, removing rather than adding material to ultimately produce an image out of this void, obscuring the repetitive gouging to produce not scarred lines but rather the lack they result in, the finished product in the form of white emptiness of paper. This repetition and physicality is revealed in her pinpricked, knotted, and scarred paper works, but subtly – in slightly raised white surface and shadow on white page; they record persistence rather than proclamation.

The fact that the show was lovingly and painstakingly conceived and researched by curator Pesenti is clear in the beautiful execution of the exhibition and in its quiet and respectful design. The exhibition’s catalog, with notable essays by Pesenti and by UCLA professor of Comparative Literature Aamir Mufti, replicates this care and attention and offers further insight into the work and life of Zarina, her choice of paper as medium and her connection to, and implications of, her use of Urdu. This retrospective, a first for the artist and, it may be said, long overdue, speaks quietly but powerfully of home and memory and its various definitions and delineations, in an abstract but deeply evocative language.

Watch Zarina talk about her work and this retrospective in a conversation with the exhibition curator here.

Tracy Buck holds MA degrees in South Asian Cultures and Languages and in Museum Studies, and has worked in the Collections Management and Curatorial departments of several history and art museums.  She is currently pursing a PhD in Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

%d bloggers like this: