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.

‘Move on Asia’ – Video Art From Asia 2002 – 2012

Emily Jane Cushing suggests the ‘Move on Asia’ exhibition of Asian video art from 2002 to 2012.

London: The ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany opened on February 9th their exhibition which shows the development of the video art genre and the increasing importance of Asia in contemporary art; the exhibition runs until August 4th 2013.

Meiro Koizumi: „My Voice Would Reach You“ (2009). Video still; Image Credit: http://regator.com/p/259249425/move_on_asia_video_art_in_asia_2002/

Meiro Koizumi: „My Voice Would Reach You“ (2009). Video still; Image Credit: http://regator.com/p/259249425/move_on_asia_video_art_in_asia_2002/

The increased interest in Asian arts resulted in the 2007 exhibition at the ZKM | Karlsruhe  curated by Wonil Rhee entitled “Thermocline of Art. New Asian Waves”. This exhibition was hugely successful in attracting world-wide attention to the Asiatic ‘moving image’; despite being only six years prior and fifty years since the emergence of video art, the need for a follow on exhibition showing the huge development in this genre is needed.

It is noted that as an art genre video art has continually been associated with the West despite much of the technology originating in Asia. This exhibition proves that over the last couple of decades the culture of video art has gained greater independence from Western models by showing at biennale’s and art exhibitions across the world.

The vast exhibition, containing over 140 works, is made up of works from video artists originating from thirteen Asiatic countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to the showing of established artists, recent works by new artists are also shown.

The exhibition displays a wide range of Indian art; Indian artists showing are Vishal K. Dar, Chitra Ganesh, Shilpa Gupta, Tushar Joag, Shakuntala Kulkarni, Nalini Malani, Pushpamala N., Sharmila Samant, Tejal Shah, Valay Shende, Shine Shivan and Thukral & Tagra.

“40+4. Art is "Not Enough! Not Enough" Image Credit, http://vimeo.com/48543105

“40+4. Art is Not Enough! Not Enough” Image Credit, http://vimeo.com/48543105

An interactive installation entitled “Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun may also be viewed in connection with the exhibition. “Global Fire” is a large inflatable dome in which the visitors may ignite the flags of 200 countries with lighters on heat censors. Also on show in the ZKM_PanoramaLab is the interactive video installation “40+4. Art is Not Enough! Not Enough” in which forty Shanghai based artists are interviewed about their works and asked to question their art in relation to the environment and the social impact of their artistic production. This installation resulting from the collaboration between the curator Davide Quadrio, the filmmaker Lothar Spree as well as the video artist Xiaowen Zhu is truly insightful and fascinating.

“Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun, Image Credit; http://duzhenjun.com/installations/global-fire/

“Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun, Image Credit; http://duzhenjun.com/installations/global-fire/

This exhibition runs until 4th August 2013; view the website for more details on this exciting exhibition.

Also, for those wishing to read more about Indian video art, I have found a really interesting article from Tehelka Magazine with Pakistani artist Bani Abidi discussing Indian Video art and it’s increased popularity here; it’s a great read!

Chitra Ganesh’s Residency at Bose Pacia, New York

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart discusses Chitra Ganesh’s fantastical works in light of her ongoing artist residency at Bose Pacia in New York City

Secrets, Chitra Ganesh, 2007

Secrets, Chitra Ganesh, 2007. Image Credit: http://www.chitraganesh.com/dc6.html

NEW YORK: Brooklyn based artist of Indian origin, Chitra Ganesh is the current artist- in residence at Bose Pacia in New York City as part of their Transparent Studio initiative, showing her works from June 18th to July 16th, 2013.

The Transparent Studio is an artist studio program founded by Bose Pacia where the selected artists are provided with a studio space in the main gallery. The intention of turning the transitional gallery space into a temporary artist studio is to enable an atmosphere of engagement and conversation around the creative process, allowing an opportunity to engage with the artist is the given set up.

Chitra Ganesh received her BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics in 1996 and her MFA from Columbia University in 2002. Ganesh’s work has been exhibited widely at venues including PS 1/MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, the Asia Society, and the Andy Warhol Museum, Fondazione Sandretto in Italy, Nature Morte Berlin, ZKM in Germany, and the Gothenburg Kunsthalle.

Ganesh’s art and practice draws equally from her Indian roots as from her engagement with contemporary discourses regarding identity, the feminine, history and such. An adept multimedia artist, her works range from text based canvases, illustrations, prints, installations and collaborative projects. Her visual oeuvre serves a concoction of mythology, folklore, sci-fi, Indian bollywood, graffiti- drawn from her international experiences- a heady mix nonetheless a stimulating portion for a discerning connoisseurs’ palette .

The female protagonist is central to Ganesh’s work, reminiscent of the male super heroes of the comic book traditions. The ‘heroine’ often takes on the garb of the superhero- challenging and questioning societal norms and beliefs. The artist’s narrative is fuelled by her efforts to challenge the established canons- of history, literature, art, culture. The super ‘heroine’ of Ganesh’s works gives voice to the excluded narratives which are often relegated to the periphery of the ‘popular’ and ‘accepted’.

A consistent element of Ganesh’s visuality is her adaptation of the comic book layout in her works. An important point of reference is the Indian Amar Chitra Katha comic series that the artist encountered early in her life. They present religious and cultural narratives based on Hindu mythology and Indian history. She combines these with her interest in Greek mythology, western fairy tales and fantasy literature. She skillfully adapts the popular comic book format to her large scale works. Her use of the comic script as a trope to infuse the otherwise playful visual with an intent and relevant narrative is one of the many high points of her practice.

The humor and lightness of the visual elements balance the weighty discourses she handles in her practice. The blown-up and larger than life scale of her works also references the multiple points of entry and focus. She uses the busy and sometimes overwhelming imagery to give material form to an abstract concept- which through this process becomes accessible to multiple viewers. The use of text in her works is an inviting point of reference which opens the eye to the fantastical landscape at view. The words interject her visual narrative, and the two elements together take the viewer on a journey that titillates multiple senses.

Bose Pacia will be hosting an open studio on 11th July 2013 where the artist will be present.

Shilpa Gupta: I keep falling at you

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on Shilpa Gupta’s installation at the ZKM Media Museum in Germany

Karlsruhe: Sound Art. Sound as a Medium of Art is the latest exhibit at the ZKM Media Museum, which will be running till January 2013. The museum is one of a kind as it is the first and only space in the world solely for interactive art. Shilpa Gupta’s installation I keep falling at you is part of a larger body of her work titled Half a Sky which was exhibited at OK Offenes Kulturhaus Upper Austria.

I keep falling at you, a swarm-like structure is made up of thousands of microphones and is hanging from a ceiling. Massive and looming in appearance, it is contradictory in nature and form because the microphones in this case are not being used as recording devices but are actually emitting sounds and voices. Gupta tries to play with contradictions between appearance and reality.


There are works on display by 90 different artists, but the underlying theme running through them all is the emphasis on ‘auditory experience’. The idea is to engage visitors with new age sound perceptions within a space that is not necessarily an ideal location. Gupta’s work is on display till 16 January, 2013.

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