The Curator #21

In the last few issues we have discussed about various curators and understood how they have used artworks to create new narratives about our past, present and future. This was done through various thematic interventions. They have used art from pre-modern, modern and contemporary times to build their stories. Curators have used diverse forms and mediums to foreground their concerns.

Today we will look at how two curators engaged with the artworks of artists from a community and by doing so reiterated their contribution to this country. Through these works they showed the rich history and cultural legacy of the Parsi community. In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote’s exhibition “No Parsi is an Island”. Through this exhibition their attempt was not only to showcase the artistic legacy of Parsi community, but also try to bring to light the lost histories of Indian modernism.

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Courtesy: Ranjit Hoskote and Nancy Adajania

The Curator #21

Curators: Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote

Exhibition: No Parsi is an Island: A Curatorial Re-reading across 150 Years

Venue: NGMA Delhi, 2016

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Nancy Adajania

 

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Ranjit Hoskote

I am not going to talk about the Parsi community. I presume that most of you are familiar with the community’s history. Bollywood too has played its idiotic role in caricaturing and stereotyping the community as obese, gullible people. But the list of names the community has contributed to Indian politics, defence sector, economy, art and culture is long. Their contributions expand to diverse fields. Apart from business and they have played an important role in the cultural industry of India. The community members were active in theater, movies, music, literature, art, etc. For example many of us are familiar with Raja Ravi Varma’s name and his images, but we do not give enough importance to another contemporary of his Pestonji Bomanji who was a fine painter. He is usually highlighted as a salon painter, and simply dismissed as a Parsi artist whose patrons were mainly Parsis. But according to Nancy and Ranjit, “Bomanji should be recognised as the equal of Ravi Varma. In the course of our ongoing work on Bomanji, we have come to the provisional conclusion that, while both artists drew on the same stratum of patronage — native aristocracy, the mercantile elite, colonial officials, and the colonial state system — Ravi Varma was able to develop a mass market through his oleographs, with their mythological subjects, while Bomanji remained committed to a more formal studio practice; with the result that his fame, considerable within the world of connoisseurship, did not extend to the larger multitudes.”

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Portrait by Pestonji Bomanji

In this exhibition Nancy and Ranjit explores a timespan of 150 years and looks at the works of 14 artists. The curators explore the contexts they inhabited and negotiated. They also focus on the kind of vibrant expanded practices these artists possessed. They say, “It is vital to us to reflect on and represent the way in which they ranged across visual domains and political urgencies, the work that they accomplished beyond the studio and the gallery, engaging with diverse economies of cultural production such as music, dance, theatre, cinema, the crafts, literature and publishing as producers, interlocutors and collaborators.”

Ranjit Hoskote on Twitter- In NO PARSI IS AN ISLAND, Nancy Adajania & I map Indian modernism's lost histories. Shown here- Adi Davierwalla.

Work of Adi Daiverwalla Courtesy: Ranjit Hoskote and Nancy Adajania

If we look at theatre and cinema the contribution of Parsis to these two fields is immense. There is a genre of theatre itself which is called “Parsi Theatre”. It was one of the most important theatre traditions of late 19th century and early 20th century. It was staged by Parsis and these theatre groups were owned by them. Later on many of them became film producers and moved to cinema field.

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NGMA exhibition view. Courtesy: Ranjit Hoskote and Nancy Adajania

Importantly, this curation is also an art historical inquiry which is critical of the art historical writings of the post ‘90s. Because when we attempt to study the history of the first two generations of Indian art before the ‘90s we usually try to relate them with Progressives, Group 1890 or the Baroda Group. Therefore the artists who are not part of these movements get side-lined and their contributions are not studied. They give the example of Jahangir Sabawala who has made his own independent artistic path maintaining a distance from the other movements and groups of the time. It is because consistent curatorial and critical attention that he has been able to rise to the stature he is getting now.

Regarding the title “No Parsi is an Island” they talk about their inspiration from Keki N Daruwalla’s poem “Migrations”. They say, “In tandem with Donne’s meditation, folded into our title, we propose Keki N Daruwalla’s poem, Migrations, as a prelude to the exhibition. In this poem, the Lahore-born Daruwalla retrospects on the consequences of the Partition, postcolonial India’s birth trauma. He brings the inherited memory of an ancestral diaspora from Iran to this meditation on a historical experience that is all too often seen as a Hindu/ Muslim binary, despite the strong share in it of the Sikh community as well as other religious and ethnic groups. Migrations is a complex poem with many potential addressees: it reminds Parsis that they do not have a monopoly on the condition of displacement; it reminds others that the Parsis were also affected by the Partition, and that they have had, and continue to have, a stake in the larger subcontinental narrative.”

Ranjit Hoskote on Twitter- "Gieve Patel's friend Sudhir Patwardhan's iconic 'Man in Irani Restaurant' (left) is part of 'No Parsi is an Island'.jpg

NGMA exhibition view. Courtesy: Ranjit Hoskote and Nancy Adajania

Ranjit and Nancy say, “In this spirit, we may observe that the work of Parsi artists connects them to larger questions, concerns and urgencies, and to the activities of colleagues, in every generation under review here. They have not simply articulated a Parsi “identity”, as though this were static and pre-programmed; nor have they cherished a splendid isolation from ambient historical circumstances. Rather, they have participated vigorously in debates concerning, at various times, colonial modernity, nationalism, an Indian modernism, and the globalised contemporary cultural space.

In the process, we show how they have developed enduring and productive relationships outside the community: through a particular form of pedagogy; through deeply personal decisions such as those of marriage, friendship or ideology; through collegiality, collaboration and intervention, or the establishment of an affinity with a cultural idiom outside the Parsi ethos.”

Share your views and what you think about this project. How can curation bring alive the history of a community which is dwindling in numbers? How can curation foreground its cultural contributions?

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

 

 

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The Curator #20

In the last few issues, especially through the work of Dr. Jyotindra Jain and Dr. Annapurna Garimella, we realized how folk and traditional art practices are configured as crafts. While an artist maybe using newer mediums and themes in his work, just because of his association with that particular traditional form it is bracketed as folk or craft. We have to seriously engage with this issue and understand why are certain artists called folk artists and others as fine artists. If you have seen Gond paintings, you must be knowing about the Gond Ramayani paintings. The narrative is very different from the classical Ramayana. It actually begins when the conventional Ramayana ends. The story starts after Sita is rescued from the captivity of Ravan. The central protagonist in this story is Lakshman, not Ram and the narrative is about finding a bride for him. Unlike the classical story here you will also see characters from Mahabharata such as Bhim making their entry. They are part of this story. This story was part of an oral tradition and it is very humorous. There are many artists who have painted this. Each of their style is different. They also use different versions of this narrative and sometimes also depart from the Gond paintings. They use newer synthetic materials to make these works. So, there is an artistic autonomy in terms of the execution of the narrative, they also use modern materials to create this work. Then why do we not see them as contemporary artists. Again, I am opening up this question to you all for discussion. There are many interesting curators who have showcased works which depict these newer developments in what we understand as the domain of “folk”, “traditional”, or “crafts”.

In today’s “The Curator” series we will discuss the exhibition “Pichvai Tradition & Beyond” curated by Pramod Kumar KG. As many of you know Pichvais were historically detailed hand painted textile, which were hung behind the idol of Shrinathji, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Pichvai paintings, has originated in Rajasthan’s Nathdwara region, have traditionally been magnificent and detailed hand-painted textile works of art that narrate tales from the life of Krishna where he is portrayed in different moods, body postures and attires. In recent times, it has become something more than a religious object. It has been used as wall art and many collectors and interior designers are using it to decorate homes. In this journey of transition from religious to secular, Pichvai also has undergone many changes. The size, the iconography, colours, etc. have changed a lot in time to suit the new demands of the clientele.

 

The Curator #20

Curator:     Pramod Kumar KG

Exhibition: Pichvai Tradition & Beyond

Venue:       Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 (Collateral)

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Pramod Kumar KG, Courtesy: Eka Cultural Resources

Pramod Kumar KG is the Managing Director of Eka was the founder director of the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing at Amber, Jaipur, directed the Jaipur Virasat Foundation and instituted the Jaipur Literature Festival. He is currently co-director of Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival. He has lectured extensively across the world and is a published author with contributions in several books, journals and magazines. Until recently he was the editor from India of the Textiles Asia journal.

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Courtesy: Eka Cultural Resources

According to the organisers “Over the last century, intricately painted Pichvai paintings that left the shrine have taken on a new role as wall art and are much sought after by the cognoscenti for their effervescent aesthetics, inciting a fresh demand among collectors. Recognising the need to create a platform to support and sustain the few remaining supremely skilled painters who learnt the rapidly declining tradition from a long line of past masters.”

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Courtesy: Eka Cultural Resources

Pichvai art is undergoing a drastic change and the curator’s attempt was to highlight these changes in this show. To also showcase to the public that Pichvai doesn’t remain as the same traditional form. According to Pramod Kumar G, “For traditional arts to have a resonance and relevance to contemporary audiences, they constantly need to be re-interpreted and contextualised for the here and now. Pooja Singhal’s ‘Pichvai Tradition & Beyond’ has for the first time brought to the public eye, artworks that have been reworked with layered historical inferences in newer scales, formats and themes. These artworks thus have moved away from their purely religious connotations to representations of aesthetic modes, seasons, forms, colours and secular iconographies that every layperson can see and appreciate. While these artworks have found newer patrons, the true success of the project has been the inculcation of a fresh group of artists in this time-honored genre who have given new life into an old art form by merging older traditional techniques with contemporary application and ingenuity.”

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Courtesy: Eka Cultural Resources

The works displayed in this show were created at Pooja Singhal’s Pichvai Tradition & Beyond atelier.

Do you see any changes in the traditional art forms in your region? What are the new technologies and materials which artists are using now? What are the themes which they are dealing with? Discuss and share your views in the comment section.

 

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

 

 

The Curator #19

The Curator #19

We are living in the time of greater environment crisis. Our land, air, and water are heavily polluted. It has become so common and dangerous that we have even turned a blind eye towards the issue. As if it is not happening. Many rivers in our country are extremely polluted. They churn out chemical foams. The thick smog in many parts of the country have risked thousands of lives. Have we ever thought what can we do about these issues? As artists, curators, teachers, pedagogues, art lovers how can we use art to raise our voice against this situation. Most importantly, how can we use curation to address this issue? How can we shake up people who are ignoring this ecological disaster? Can curators and artists across the world come together and imagine a possibility to create an awareness, and throw some light on the magnitude of the situation? Art and curation are not only to create beautiful exhibitions, but they are also tools for social change.

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In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we discuss about the ‘Yamuna-Elbe. Public.Art.Ecology’ curated by Ravi Agarwal (Delhi) and Till Krause with Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg). We will see how by bringing two rivers from different countries Yamuna and Elbe, curators have tried to connect the ecological issues. We will also see how artists from these two countries created art projects by their involvement with these two rivers.

 

The Curator #19

Curators: Ravi Agarwal (Delhi) and Till Krause with Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg)

Exhibition: Yamuna-Elbe. Public.Art.Ecology, 2011

Venue: Yamuna and Elbe

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Ravi Agarwal

Ravi Agarwal is an artist, environmental activist, writer and curator. He has pursued an art practice integrally with his other pursuits. His earlier work, in the documentary oeuvre, encompasses ‘nature’, ‘work,’ ‘labour,’ and the ‘street.’ His current interest span questions around ecology and society, urban space and capital in interrelated ways. He works with photographs, video, and public art.

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Atul Bhalla

This was a public art and outreach project initiated by the Ministry of Culture, Hamburg, and carried out in the framework of “Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities”.

The participating artists in the two cities were:

Delhi: Asim Waqif, Atul Bhalla, Gigi Scaria, and Sheba Chhachhi from India and Nana Petzet and Jochen Lempert from Germany, with contributions by Vivan Sundaram and Till Krause.

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Gigi Scaria

Hamburg: Atul Bhalla, Navjot Altaf, Ravi Agarwal, Sheba Chhachhi, and Vivan Sundaram from India and from Germany, Daniel Seiple, Anna Möller, Jochen Lempert, and Ines Lechleitner with in collaboration with Prof. Vikram Soni from Delhi.

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Asim Waqif

As part of this project various school outreach activities were conceptualized which included

Art installation making from collected trash, Interschool poster-making competition, Interschool debate on urban development and sustainability, and Eco-walks.

This also featured

River Walks: Historians such as Sohail Hasmi and environmentalists such as Vimlendu Jha will conduct walks around the Yamuna as well as Delhi’s water systems to sensitize the general public as well as school children to their natural heritage and the impact of urban development on it.

Public Discussions on subjects related to the river and the environment will also take place.

Films and Musical Concerts: Films on the water and the Yamuna will be screened. A classical musical event will be organized by the river Yamuna.

Writing workshops

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According to Ravi, “With the city appropriating the river back into its gaze, there is fresh demand to ‘clean’ the river, especially from the city elite. This is the new ‘view.’ Though there have been major plans and a huge amount of money already spent to clean the river in the past, all have failed. The current proposals however are the most ambitions in terms of resources needed. There are demands to channelize the river to a small narrow flow, instead of the wide riverbed. This, it is said, will allow land to be freed up for fresh commercialization and urbanization. Linked to the idea of a clean river is the new requirement of land for those who can afford such housing and it is invested in by international capital. It is no surprise that the Commonwealth Games village has been built by a large international developer and its flats are being allotted to the rich and powerful.”

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Elbe Walk

 

The exhibition connected two different rivers, and two cities but with an interconnected future. It emphasized that river ecologies have been cradles of civilization and some of the most vibrant cities in the world lie along them. Today as local interconnectivities become more global, contesting views of the river, predicated on technology and capital have emerged. Rivers are increasingly seen as mere water channels, or even real estate. New threats of climate change have complicated the challenge. This exhibition tried to foreground these issues.

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Project partners for the outreach and educational activities included:

Toxics Link, World Wildlife Fund, Swechha, Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, KHOJ International Artists’ Association,A Wall is a Screen, and several important historians and environmentalists in their individual capacity.

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Sheba Chhachi

Let us discuss how can we use art and curation to address issues of environmental crisis. How can we do an exhibition on the ecological crisis. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

 

 

The Curator #18

Most of the exhibitions we have discussed in this series includes different forms of art works. For example, all of the group shows curated by the curators we have discussed features two-dimensional works such as paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, etc., and three-dimensional works such as sculptures, installations, etc. But what about an exhibition which deals with only one of these forms? What if a curator wants to curate an exhibition on the contemporary painting? Or he/she wants to showcase the art historical evolution of painting? That means the show will feature only one form of work. The curator will have to rethink the space in a different way for this show. Also, they will require a historical grasp on the particular form they are dealing with. They should be thoroughly aware about the contemporary developments, the new artists and their techniques.  Mostly such exhibitions also arise out of a passion to survey what is happening in a particular field of practice, for example in sculpting, painting, video-making, etc.

In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Nancy Adajania’s exhibition Avatars of the Object: Sculptural Projections to see how she addressed the recent developments in the practice of sculpture.

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Nancy Adajania

 

The Curator #18

Curator: Nancy Adajania

Exhibition: Avatars of the Object: Sculptural Projections, 2006

Venue: Guild Gallery and Jehangir Nicholson Art Gallery

 

Nancy Adajania is a cultural theorist and curator. She has curated various important shows in India and abroad. She has also edited various publications on art and culture. Her recent editorial venture was to compile a lexicon of affective terms which was published in the journal Aroop. The terms for the compendium were contributed by various artists across India.

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Aroop Journal edited by Nancy Adajania titled Some Things That Only Art Can Do

Her focus of the exhibition was that the ‘classical sculptural object is no longer tenable, and that the most interesting sculpture being produced today emerges from a science of dematerialized objects.’ What are dematerialized art objects? It is the result of a new development in art practice where art object was dematerialized, which means that art production was possible without conventional physical materials. It aimed towards a high-conceptual art. This was done so that art could escape from commodification and commercialization. It was impossible to sell a non-physical idea or work which exists as a concept or which is ephemeral in nature. The term dematerialization was coined by art critics Lucy lippard and John Chandler.

Therefore, the exhibition curated by Adajania featured objects that formed her display comprised ‘video footage of self- destruct sculpture; sculpture as the performance of moving parts; sculpture in a condition of meltdown and remaking; or sculpture that takes the viewer for a walk along a conceptual map studded with text.’

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Jahangir Jena

She notes that sculptors in ever period has revisted their choice of materials. We too know from our previous posts and Art1st books and training programs that apart from bronze, marble and stone, modernist sculptors started using newer materials such as concrete, fiberglass, industrial waste, plastic, etc. Sculptures also acquired movement instead of remaining static like it used to be. Therefore, it became necessary for a curator to understand this change and how to showcase this new change in sculpture-making for the viewers.

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Navjot Altaf

The artists of this show were Jehangir Jani, Shilpa Gupta, Anita Dube, Kaushik Mukhopadhyay, Mithu Sen, M M S Umesh, Navjot Altaf, and Pooja Iranna. Most of these artists, apart from incorporating the latest developments in technology and materials, also used their practice to address significant social issues.

For example, Navjot Altaf’s works has been dealing with social injustice and political violence happening around us. She also deals with the discrimination and inequalities faced by minorities and women. Like Nancy has noted, “She brings to her work a sense of social commitment and a need to expose the social injustice.”

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Navjot Altaf

Shilpa Gupta uses her work to ‘engage the viewer through the provocative and interrogative dimensions of conceptual art.’ She uses video projections, shadows, etc., to create a participatory work with the viewer. She creates artwork using interactive websites, video, gallery environments and public performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as consumer culture. Among the artists on view, Jehangir Jani works with different medium like sculptures, ceramics, fiberglass and sheet metal.

 

Mithu Sen works with found objects, apart from her visceral paintings and sculptures, she has a fascinating collection of dolls. Her works are very playful in nature and they employ a dark humour. Anita Dube as we know ‘often employs a variety of found objects drawn from the realms of the industrial (foam, plastic, wire), craft (thread, beads, velvet), the body (dentures, bone), etc.’

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Anita Dube

According to Adajania, the show concentrated ‘on the performative aspects of sculpture, as objects of art emplace and simultaneously displace contexts of spectatorship and vice versa. The displacement of object and meaning in the extended-sculpture realm challenges, even mocks received ideas about sculpture. This opens the door for two alternatives. On the one hand, we can re-objectify the object along different norms. On the other hand, we can move to a post-object sculpture: we can address the after-life of the object, looking for the lost sculptural qualities and finding them transformed/morphed, made anew.’

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Subodh Gupta

What are your views on conceptual art? What kind of new materials have been used recently to make sculptures? What is the difference between a sculpture and an installation? What is a live-sculpture? Let us discuss more about these aspects.

Also, I wish you all a Happy New Year on behalf of Art1st. We are looking forward for an exciting year ahead with lot of new interesting projects. We will keep you posted about them soon.

Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

The Curator #17

Throughout this series we have explored how curators have used pre-modern, modern and contemporary art. The category of “art” mainly included sculptures, paintings, videos, photographs, installations, performance art, etc. Even if the sculptures, and paintings belonged to the past they were included in the category of arts or fine arts. But what about forms like patachitras, ivory carving, wood carving, jewelery, pottery, phad paintings, kavads, etc. Why are not they arts? Have you ever thought about this that why are they called folk art/craft and not given the status of art? In the last post we saw how Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee curated a show on the picture showmen traditions, masks, puppets, etc. from India which usually do no fall into the ambit of high art? Why is that an artist who is painting in Bengal on a long scroll and carrying it house to house to tell a story not called as an artist and his work not seen as art? Why do we use categories like folk artists and tribal artists to denote their works? We see the high art in museums and galleries, but we collect the craft objects like objects of curiosities at our homes. There are well curated museums for high art, but folk/tribal arts/crafts are always housed in ethnographic museums.

This is a contentious issue in Indian art and art elsewhere. This issue has been addressed by few seminal curators previously, especially by Dr. Jyotindra Jain. In his exhibition Other Masters: Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists of India, curated in the 90s, Dr. Jain takes a different look at this. Usually we are taught to see folk, tribal artists and craftspeople as artists who are stuck in tradition and who are not able to innovate themselves right. Dr. Jain made us see that there are artists who do not want to be part of a tradition and who do not belong to the recognition of the modern art world. They have an identity of their own. We have to respect that and not create the binaries of high art and folk art. Similarly, artist-curator J. Swaminathan has said that we should not treat their artistic expressions as just curious objects, because of their primitive character, instead we should treat them as contemporary expressions. If a patua painter is painting and narrating the story of Indira Gandhi’s death and the destruction of World Trade Towers in his work how is he a primitive artist? His or her expressions, concerns and thoughts are inclined towards the contemporary.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

In today’s Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Annapurna Garimella’s exhibition Vernacular in the Contemporary which opened up this question on the differences between high and folk art, and how can we understand this larger cultural production happening in India, which are situated outside the metropolises.

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Dr. Annapurna Garimella

The Curator #17

Curator: Dr. Annapurna Garimella (Jackfruit Research and Design)

Exhibition: Vernacular in the Contemporary: Working and Working Reflectively, 2010-2011

Venue: Devi Art Foundation

This exhibition used the collection of Anupam and Lekha Poddar of the Devi Art Foundation and also created newly commissioned works by artists who are often categorized as makers of folk, tribal and traditional art. It used a new term called the vernacular to denote this sphere where this cultural production is happening. ‘The exhibition focused on the vernacular and shifts the art historical and institutional terms for understanding and theorizing this cluster of visual art. Moreover, the show foregrounded the diversity and contemporary relevance of vernacular artists’ personas, ideas and concerns through ambitious projects’. This exhibition was the result of extensive field works, correspondences and it also carried out an extensive documentation of these artistic practices.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

 

But why can’t we use terms like folk art, tribal art, and native art anymore. Dr. Garimella has the answer. “Many of the artists are not tribals, so that’s inaccurate.” She says, “If a Madhubani painter uses tubes of paint manufactured in Japan, can you call that process of creating art native? I chose the term vernacular with care. It signifies a traditional art language without the limitations that the terms ‘folk’, ‘tribal’ or ‘native’ have.”

In order to to select the best folk and tribal artists from across the country, Devi Art Foundation and Garimella’s company, Jackfruit Research and Design didn’t go merely by reputation or recommendation. They place public notice was put out in newspapers, announcing a programme in art, much like the way universities seek applications for courses. In addition, suggestions were sought from DAF and colleagues working in art, NGOs in the field were consulted, newspapers were scanned, and the internet was scoured. Letters were sent out in a variety of regional languages, and 175 artists responded with portfolios. Finally, after conversations in a variety of languages, 30 artists were commissioned to create works for the show. So, there is Pata Chitra painting from Bengal and Orissa, Phad scrolls from Rajasthan, Chittara art from Sangam district in the Western Ghats, leather puppets from Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh, Bhuta sculptures from Karnataka, among a host of others. The show has been divided into two parts. The first part, titled ‘Working’, has 180 works by 32 artists. Part II of the exhibition, titled ‘Working Consciously, Working Reflectively’, opened in March 2011.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

Photographer Fawzan Husain who had documented this exhibition and the artists observed that this was the first time he was offered an assignment like this, and he grabbed it. “I remember meeting this leather puppet maker, S Anjaneyulu, in Dharmavaram village in Andhra. Leather puppet shows used to be the main form of entertainment here. Movies changed all that, of course. This man, perhaps, is the last such artist remaining. These puppets are usually 6-7 feet high, figures from the epics. It takes more than a week to create one. His sons cannot afford to carry on his legacy. Yet, this man continues to create, showing up cheerfully for work every day, let down perhaps, but not betrayed enough to abandon his art. I won’t forget that man’s face,” recounts Husain.

Sculptor L Rathakrishna has rendered the 108 karanas of the Natyashastra in bronze. This, possibly, is the first time this has been attempted by an artist other than in a temple: karanas are usually carved on the outside of a temple. So Shiva becomes less of a god, and more of a performer.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

You can read more of Dr. Garimella’s writings on the vernacular art here https://www.academia.edu/1777530/Do_what_you_will_-_Identity_exhibitions_and_contemporary_vernacular_art

https://www.academia.edu/1778077/Making_the_Exhibition

Also listen to her lecture https://vimeo.com/47226311

So friends, have a good weekend and happy Christmas in advance. Feel free to share, discuss your opinions about this series with us.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

 

 

 

 

The Curator #16

We have discussed through various examples, how curator weaves a narrative through objects and artworks in an exhibition. These narratives offered a larger picture about our history and heritage instead of only limiting the exhibition to the artworks and artists. We have seen examples of curators such as Naman P. Ahuja, Ranjit Hoskote, and through the exhibition ‘Where in the World’ how interesting narratives about our present and past can be told through artworks. The Sanskrit word for narrative is Aakhyan. It also means story-telling. India has myriads of story-telling traditions. These traditions are part of a living tradition which means it is continuing for centuries and one can trace it back to history. These practitioners use interesting objects such as scrolls, puppets, masks, etc., to tell these stories. For example, the patuas of Bengal carry illustrated scrolls to tell stories, scrolls from Gujarat portray Jaina myths and the Rajasthan depicts the story of Pabuji and Dev Narayan. Besides these long scrolls from Tamil Nadu and Andhra called yama patas are used to talk about the journey to hell and heaven.  Besides scrolls, masks and puppets are also used in this purpose. Performance traditions across India uses masks. Many of us know about performances like Krishnanattam, Kathakali, Chau, Ramlila, Aji Lhamu, Chham, etc., which uses mask as an important element. These masks are made of different materials. Also important is the use of puppets in performance. Shadow puppetry is a popular performance item in many parts of India including Odisha, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Let us see how can one weave a narrative about narratives and curate a show based on this tradition and the various objects used. In today’s Art1st’s “The Curator” series we introduce you to the exhibition Aakhyan: A Celebration of Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen Traditions of India curated by Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee for IGNCA.

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The Curator #16

Exhibition: Aakhyan: A Celebration of Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen Traditions of India, 2010

Curators: Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee

Venue : IGNCA

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 I have introduced you to seminal art historian Dr. Jyotindra Jain, today I will also introduce you to Dadi Pudumjee who is a leading puppeteer from India and also the founder of The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust.

Pudumjee also holds a significant collection of masks from different parts of India. Even if you are not familiar with Pudumjee you must be familiar with his masks. You don’t believe me right? I am sure most of you have seen this song from the movie Haider.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVDeDObxbM8

The masks and puppets used in this song are from Dadi Pudumjee’s collection. Dudumjee’s performances and shows have travelled nationally and internationally.

 

Aakhyan, the exhibition was the celebration of masks, puppets and picture showmen tradition of India. According to IGNCA “Aakhyan brings together three distinct traditions of masks, puppets and picture scrolls of India, focusing on the artistic expressions in the visual and kinetic narratives. At the core of the ever- fascinating multiplicity of Indian storytelling lie the epic worlds of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the Puranas.” Furthermore, “The art forms chosen for this event, in their diverse manifestations, represent the larger picture of the cultural landscape of India denoting rituals, epics, legends and ballads, and contemporary narratives. Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen are living traditions in many parts of the country with a formidable variety of vibrant expressions. By bringing these together, IGNCA is making an effort not only to showcase the rich diversity of masks, puppets and picture scrolls in the larger matrix of storytelling traditions in India but also to project the artistic significance of each form.”

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According to Dadi Pudumjee, “Akhyan attempts to present some of these living traditions of storytelling not just as museum pieces, but as a portrayal of the rich cultural performing arts and crafts of India — the exquisitely carved wood, costumes, jewellery, painting and the techniques of manipulation & presentation which have survived many centuries — highlighting the Indian tradition, where the object is given life and projects its creator’s ideas and essence, through narration of stories of gods and demons, heroes and common people, of love and affection, and beyond.”

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In the wonderfully illustrated catalogue produced by IGNCA, Dr. Jain gives a historical account of the story-telling tradition and picture-showmen tradition in India. By picture-showmen we mean performers who carry images to narrate stories. Using references from classical textual sources, he gives a detailed account of this tradition from different parts of India. It is a must-read essay on the picture-showmen tradition of India. He observes that, “Indian traditions of storytelling, often accompanied by painted panels or scrolls, can be traced back through literary evidence to at least the second century BC and are known to have existed almost all over the subcontinent. Buddhist, Brahmanical, and Jaina literature contains abundant references to the art of painted scrolls (pata chitras) which were exhibited in ancient times to educate and entertain the people. Classical Sanskrit literature has several references to yama patas.”

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This show also used pictures and masks which were related to the contemporary adaptations of these. For example, the picture scroll from Medinipur on Indira Gandhi murder. ‘The mid-20 century scroll titled “After Independence” depicts, with a tinge of sarcasm, the family tensions, social conflicts and agony that arose from the breakdown of existing moral values and economic structures, the effect of modernization around the time of India’s independence.’

This exhibition had also accompanied by various performances.

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You could download the catalogue from here and see the images and read the essays. http://ignca.nic.in/PDF_data/aakhyan_brochure.pdf

Have a wonderful weekend. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and discuss.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

 

 

 

The Curator #15

In the last two posts we discussed retrospective exhibitions and how they are curated. Today we will discuss about biennales. Have you heard of Biennale before? Biennale is an Italian word for Biennial which means an art exhibition which is held once in two years. Venice Biennale is of the earliest biennales In the world. There are two three important factors which play an important role in a biennale. The location is the most important part of a Biennale. Why have a biennale in Venice and not in Florence or Rome? Venice was one of the important cities of Italy during the medieval period especially due its commercial and cultural activities. It was also an important hub of Renaisaance art. Even in the contemporary times Venice is a sought after destination because of ts beautiful waterbodies, buildings and history. Nevertheless it also faces its own challenges due to financial and environment crisis. Because of this unique blend of history, cultural activities, architectural marvels, and a cosmopolitanism Venice is seen as a perfect destination to hold an art exhibition of such a larger scale. Biennales are mainly known by the city names where it is held. Some important biennales are Gwangju Biennale, Hawana Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Moscow Biennial, etc. In India too we have Kochi-Muziris Biennale which was started in 2012 and since have become a center of attraction of the world. It is held in the city of Cochin and sees the participation of a large number of public. After the establishment of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, there has emerged many biennials across India. The important ones are Pune Biennale, Bodhgaya Biennale, etc. Similar to biennials we also a format called triennials which happens once in three years. India also has a triennial conducted by Lalit Kala Akademi which is a format happening once in three years. It was started at 1968.

Every biennial and triennial appoints a curator. The curators decides the theme for the exhibition and invites artists from different parts of the world to join the exhibition. Unlike usual art exhibitions biennials have larger time gaps in between them, the format is bigger, the participation too is global. Once the artists are selcted based on their practice they are invited to visit the city and the spaces allotted for the exhibition. Mostly, artists make new art works based on their experience but these days some artists also show existing works. Kochi-Muziris Biennale is unique because it only invites artists to be curators. The first edition was curated by the founders of the KMB Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. The second edition was curated by Jitish Kallat. In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Jitish Kallat’s “Whorled Explorations” curated for KMB in 2014.

The Curator #14

Curator : Jitish Kallat

Exhibition: Whorled Explorations, Kochi Muziris Biennale (Second Edition)

Year: 2014

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Jitish Kallat

 Jitish is one of the most important contemporary artists from India whose artistic presence has reached a global level. His exhibitions and artworks have featured in the most important museums and galleries of the world. Jitish was appointed as the curator of KMB. One important thing we have to know about Kochi-Muziris Biennale is that it is not inspired by one location. It draws its influences from two sites – Cochin and Muziris. Muziris is a historic site near to Cochin which was a port and a gateway to the world. It was an important trade destination and also had many foreign settlements. Biennale wanted to highlight this historic cosmopolitanism of Cochin and Muziris and how Kerala’s public sphere was shaped by these cultural exchanges.

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Anish Kapoor, Descension, 2014. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

The exhibition was titled as Whorled Exploration. Citing two historic currents from the 14th to 17th century—the maritime explorations of the Age of Discovery and the astronomical propositions made by the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics—the exhibition draws upon a wide glossary of signs from this legendary maritime gateway. The project metaphorically exaggerates the gestures we make when we try to see or understand something: We either go close or move away from it in space; we also reflect back or forth in time to understand the present. Whorled Explorations draws upon these gestures of deliberation across the axes of space and time to present artworks that interlace the bygone with the imminent and the terrestrial with the celestial.

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Marie Velardi, Future Perfect, 21st Century, 2006/14. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

The participating artists were Adrian Paci / Aji V N / Akbar Padamsee / Andrew Ananda Voogel / Anish Kapoor / Annie Lai Kuen Wan / Aram Saroyan / Arun K S / Benitha Perciyal / Bharti Kher / Bijoy Jain / Biju Joze / Charles and Ray Eames / Chen Chieh-jen / Christian Waldvogel / Daniel Boyd / David Horvitz / Dayanita Singh / D​inh Q Lê / Fiona Hall / Francesco Clemente / Gigi Scaria / Guido van der Werve / Gulammohammed Sheikh / Hamra Abbas / Hans Op de Beeck / Hema Upadhyay / Hew Locke / Ho Rui An / Ho Tzu Nyen / Iqra Tanveer / Janine Antoni / Julian Charrière / K G Subramanyan / K M Vasudevan Namboodiri / Kader Attia / Katie Paterson / Khalil Rabah / Kwan Sheung Chi / Laurent Grasso / Lavanya Mani / Lindy Lee / Madhusudhanan / Manish Nai / Marie Velardi / Mark Formanek / Mark Wallinger / Martin Creed / Menika van der Poorten / Michael Najjar / Michael Stevens / Mithu Sen / Mona Hatoum / Muhanned Cader / N S Harsha / Naeem Mohaiemen / Nataraj Sharma / Navin Thomas / Navjot Altaf / Neha​ ​Choksi / Nikhil Chopra / Parvathi Nayar / Peter Rösel / Pors & Rao / Prajakta Potnis / Prashant Pandey / Pushpamala N / Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / Rajan Punalur / Raqs Media Collective / Rivane Neuenschwander / Ryota Kuwakubo / Sachin George Sebastian / Sahej Rahal / Sarnath Banerjee / Shahpour Pouyan / Shantamani Muddaiah / Shumon Ahmed / Sissel Tolaas / Sudhir Patwardhan / Sumakshi Singh / Sunoj D / Surendran Nair / Susanta Mandal / Tara Kelton / Theo Eshetu / Unnikrishnan C / Valsan Koorma Kolleri / Wendelien van Oldenborgh / William Kentridge / Wim Delvoye / Xu Bing / Yang Zhenzhong / Yoko Ono

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Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten, 1977. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

Please see the interview with Jitish Kallat here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clBJ92mmiWM

Also see the opening day video of KMB here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8j8XFAO4ac

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Bharti Kher, Three Decimal Points \ Of a Minute \ Of a Second \ Of a Degree, 2014. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

Artist Anita Dube is the new curator for the next edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale. Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

The Curator #14

In the last issue we discussed the retrospective on Indian artist Ramkinkar Baij curated by K.S. Radhakrishnan to understand what is a retrospective and how it is a curated. We understood that retrospectives help to bring a large body of artworks of an artist to the public. It also helps us to understand the contributions of the artists in a historical perspective. Continuing that discussion today in Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will learn about the exhibition “Raja Deen Dayal: The Studio Archives from the IGNCA Collection” curated by Jyotindra Jain (along with Pramod Kumar K.G.) at Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts in 2010.

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The Curator #14

Curator: Dr. Jyotindra Jain

Exhibition: “Raja Deen Dayal: The Studio Archives from the IGNCA Collection”, 2010

Venue: IGNCA

 

Dr. Jyotindra Jain is an eminent art-cultual historian and curator. He was the Director of the National Crafts Museum, New Delhi, Member Secretary and Professor (Cultural Archives), at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, and also Professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

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Dr. Jyotindra Jain

Also let us look at Raja Deen Dayal. Who was he and why was he so important? He was born in 1844 to a middle-class Jain family from Sardhana, near Meerut in today’s Uttar Pradesh. Later he studied at the Thompson Civil Engineering College in Roorkee. In 1854, photography was introduced as a subject in the college, where Deen Dayal perhaps first developed an interest in it.

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Raja Deen Dayal

After leaving the College he started working for the Public Works Department as a draftsman. It was around 1882-84 that he met Sir Lepel Griffin of the Bengal Civil Service, who was posted in Central India. He was commissioned by Sir Lepel to assist on his mission to document monuments of the architectural heritage of Central India. During this tour Deen Dayal documented the temples, forts and palaces at Gwalior, Orchha, Khajuraho, Sanchijhansi, Deegh, Indore, Omkareswar, etc. This was a remarkable trip for Deen Dayal, 86 of his photographs were published in the monograph of Lepel’s titled Famous Monuments of Central India in 1886. Deen Dayal’s talent was recognized and he was in demand to document monuments. He was commissioned by Archaeological Survey of India.

Bashir Bagh Palace, Hyderabad

Bashir Bagh Palace, Hyderabad

In the coming years he worked as an official photographer to several Viceroys, including Lord Dufferin and Earl Elgin. In 1887 he received the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Photographer to Her Majesty, the Queen (Victoria).

 

According to IGNCA, “The legacy of Raja Deen Dayal is an exhibition mounted from the collection of glass-plate negatives of India’s most accomplished photographer of the 19th century, and an introduction to the life and works of Raja Deen Dayal. The photographer beyond the portrayal of his subjects draws a picture of his time. He translates his perceptions through his medium and thus a collection of photographs is the milieu as experienced and described by him. Raja Deen Dayal’s photographs offer us not only vivid insights into India’s rich art and cultural heritage but also provide valuable testimonials for historians.”

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Facsimile albums laid out for viewing with the original album on display in the glass topped table seen at far left

This exhibition was divided into three sections.

The Place: The photographer’s record of the physical setting in which he lived and worked, and through which he travelled, the natural and man made physical substructure.

The People: The individuals who peopled the setting, the various and varied inhabitants.

The Event: The happenings and activities of the people which enlivened the setting, marked the passage of time and indicated the modes of life then, as perceived by the photographer.

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Rashtrapati Nilayam, Hyderabad

Dr. Jain says, “We decided to host this exhibition as he was undoubtedly the most prolific Indian photographer of his time, a man who made his mark on the work of European counterparts then. He is a towering figure in Indian photography,” For this exhibition, IGNCA had displayed the largest ever number of works of Deen Dayal.

Drawing Room of Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

Drawing Room of Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

The exhibition drew immense response and praise. Seminal photographers also showered praises on it and also on Deen Dayal’s legacy.

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Gallery View, Courtesy: Eka Resources

Noted photographer Ram Rahman remarked, “My favourite part of this exhibition was seeing a few of Deen Dayal’s architectural images, which I had not seen before. But there should have been at least one original picture by Deen Dayal on display. The original albumen prints are the size of the negatives. Here, those images have been simulated. A glass print would have given an average viewer an idea of how prints used to be in those days,” he says.

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The interior of Bashir Bagh Palace

 

Take a look at Raja Deen Dayals’ photographs at IGNCA when you visit. Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

The Curator #13

The Curator #13

We have seen different ways of curating artworks. Today we will discuss what are retrospective exhibitions. Have you heard about retrospective exhibitions? The word retrospective means looking back at the past events or survey the past or take a stock of an artist’s works in the past. Similarly, a retrospective exhibition presents works from an extended period of an artist’s activity. Most of the time, this task is done by a museum or gallery, after the artist’s death or at a time when artist’s career reaches a milestone.

The task of the curator in a retrospective is to present the works of an artist in such a way so that the general public can understand his contributions to not only to the art world but also to the history and heritage of that region. So the curator has to show the works in a chronological way to display how the works of an artist evolve and mature over a period of time. How this progression can be seen along with many other progressions in the art world and history. The curator’s task therefore is to understand the artist’s work from the early period itself. Here the curator becomes like a detective trying to piece together each and every work of the artist, sometimes works which were supposed to be lost, assembling a series of memories, exchanges, ideas, etc. of the artist for the viewer. As I said earlier this is not easy task. Imagine if the artist has not signed a series of works from a particular period and no one has a clue about it. Now, how will the curator identify it and put it in a particular sequence of the timeline. It requires a careful study and also tremendous amount of expertise from the curator’s side.

In today’s Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss about such a retrospective exhibition which took almost five years to mount. The five years went in detailed research on the artist Ramkinkar Baij’s life and works done by the artist K.S. Radhakrishnan who curated the Ramkinkar Retrospective at NGMA Delhi. This was the first exhibition which brought together more than 350 works of Ramkinkar Baij in one place giving it an art historical context with commendable scholarly input.

The Curator #13

K.S. Radhakrishnan

Ramkinkar Baij: A Retrospective, NGMA, 2012 

At the outset, let me tell you that Ramkinkar Baij was India’s most prolific and acclaimed modern artists. He was a painter, print maker, sculptor, designed sets for theatre, and mostly was a passionate human being. He is also considered as the first modernist sculptor. At a time when the nationalist clarion call echoed a backward march to tradition and indigenous mediums and visual idioms, Ramkinkar carved a niche for himself from the rest of the Bengal School by constantly acquainting himself with the unfamiliar terrain than the familiar and the experimental to the banality of life. The most notable fact about Ramkinkar Baij is that he was prolific. He sketched, and did water colour paintings all the time. When he was not making giant public sculptures, he would prepare its studies in drawings or experimenting on it in maquettes. Many times he was not able to afford painting materials, so he would paint on both surfaces of a canvas. He will forget to sign his works. Baij also used to gift his works to whoever he felt like giving. He lived in financially poor conditions and some times during heavy rains he would use his canvas paintings to cover the roof form where the water was trickling down. Besides these personal aspects of Baij, let me also tell you that his experiments with different styles is very eccentric. Usually art historians are able to bracket an artist’s works according to a particular style he or she adopts during a period. A change occurs after a particular time. In case of Baij, if one day he would create a painting in Expressionist style, the next work would be Cubist, in appearance. He was rigorously experimenting with style and visuals. Therefore it is a curator’s nightmare to assemble the works of Ramkinkar and put it in a legible form as an exhibition.

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K.S. Radhkarishnan is a prominent contemporary sculptor who has been part of important national and international exhibitions. He is known for his bronze sculptors. Radhakrishnan was trained under two important modern artists in Shantiketan – Ramkinkar Baij and Sarbari Ray Chowdhury. After Baij’s death he played an active role along with others in documenting his works which were scattered and archive them. In 2007, Radhakrishnan was selected by NGMA to curate the retrospective on Ramkinkar Baij. He says, “I started in 2007. I was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture. They asked if I would do it. I accepted happily because it’s like working on your teacher’s work. Also, Ramkinkar was a bachelor, so he had no children to look after his archive. In his case, it’s really his students who had to do that. I thought this would be a learning process for me. I knew I would be searching for things in a vast ocean, but I thought there was a big challenge in it. It’s always a great pleasure to work on someone who is so versatile and colorful. There’s much to be explored in terms of his life and work.”

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K.S. Radhakrishnan

Radhakrishnan notes that he started with the NGMA collection, which had documented a handwritten list containing merely titles, without any images. He started creating a database scanning every work and every page of Ramkinkar’s sketch books, most of which have never been exhibited. The idea was to photograph for documentation and also for publication purposes.

Since many of the remembered works at Santiniketan were missing, he started asking the people Kinkar da had associated with for leads. K.G. Subramanyan put me in touch with Nirmala Patwardhan in Pune, who directed me to her film-maker son Anand Patwardhan, who gave more names. It was virtually a house-to-house search. Like a detective he went around and found lost pieces of the greatest artist of modern India. In the absence of a chronology of works he went for subject and medium and used them as sub-categories. So you’ll find one room dedicated to drawings that led to the “Santhal Family” sculpture, then you’ll see oil paintings in another room. The corridors are like rivers flowing with watercolors, then there’s the two wings in between with the literature about him that then leads to the oil paintings section, then his life studies.

 

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“FRUIT GATHERERS”. A sculpture.

 

This excavation also resulted in the publication of a mammoth catalogue, with images of most of the documented works of Baij with years and titles. The text for the catalogue was written by noted art historian and curator R. Siva Kumar. Along with the main catalogue the exhibition also resulted in the publication of numerous other books on various aspects of Ramkinkar’s art. These were written by A. Ramachandran, Radhakrishnan, Johny M.L., et al. A documentary on Baij was also produced and screened along with an audio recording of Baij singing.

Radhakrishnan’s attempt was to rediscover Baij and present his entire oeuvre to the art world. He notes, “For a long time people knew of him as a sculptor, but they did not see his radical idiom in a larger context. That is getting established now. As a 32-year-old Ramkinkar made an integral structural composition of man, woman, child and dog (“Santhal Family”, 1938) at a time when the trend veered to viceroys’ busts and static statues in the Western realistic tradition. I would place him alongside Western masters such as Rodin. Today, many people know Kinkar da for his visible Yaksha and Yakshi figures outside the Reserve Bank of India on Delhi’s Parliament Street. Yet Ramkinkar was not happy with them since they ended up too rigid. By placing in the show a series of the sketches and models Kinkar da prepared before executing the final sculpture, I have tried to highlight the creative journey, which was always more important to him.”

Here is a link to a film made on Ramkinkar Baij by acclaimed director Ritwik Ghatak

Please share your thoughts about this article. Have a happy weekend.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

 

The Curator #12

Through the various previous blog posts we got an idea about how does curating India abroad, how curating abroad in India functions. But what about exhibitions which feature artists from different nationalities to address certain universal political and social crisis. How would the curator address this diversity of the artist and strategically situate the artworks in the purview of his curatorial objectives. Would a foreign artist be able to understand the concerns of a different country? This is one of the most contested questions in contemporary art. Also, how do artists from different nationalities collaborate on a common concern is a perplexing question. All we can do is to attempt and see. The route map of this journey, the interactions between the curators and the artists are the important milestones which remain even after the exhibition is over.

Another important issue I would like to address today is how do we see our times. How can a curatorial exercise reflect our times. I do not disagree that we all see the world through our own vantage points. But there are certain truths which one cannot surpass are merely subjective. The political and economic crisis of our times is a reality. Not a fiction scripted to distract us form our valuable existence. Art or artists are not away form these issues and questions. Therefore one has to address them. Since art, curation, writing, etc., are the medium in which we work, we will address the crisis through this medium. In today’s issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” we will look at “A Preview to Desolation” curated by me at the Italian Cultural Center. The exhibition, a group show featuring eight Indian and Italian artists, imagined the contemporary as a desolate landscape, a terrain stripped of hope and peace. Quests for justice, equality and asylum have become more important than ever, but these struggles are always met with dismissal and brutal crackdown. Eight artists have responded to this topic, which is of utmost importance, through their works.

Exhibition: A Preview to Desolation

Curator : Premjish Achari

Venue: Italian Embassy Cultural Center

Artists: Atul Bhalla | Beatrice Pediconi | Gigi Scaria | Giuseppe Stampone Maura Biava | Sharmila Samant | Tushar Joag | Varunika Saraf

One of the major concerns of this exhibition was to address the apathy and indifference which has engulfed people in our times. We see incidents of violence, inequality, injustice but fail to respond to them. When there should be a collective demand for justice, equality, asylum, and human rights, instead all we see around us is a brutal crackdown on the marginalized and the oppressed. Because of this, the lives of the dispossessed has become even more precarious. The refugee crisis, the rise of  right wing ideologies is destroying co-existence and plurality in our society. The state aided violence by the fringe elements in many countries has become a serious concern. The main objective of this exhibition is to address this crisis through art. Therefore I had included artworks which confront and respond to this situation. The aesthetic concerns of these artworks address the fundamental instability caused by the ‘bad new days’, a phrase used by Brecht to denote these times of crisis.

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Atul Bhalla_Fictitious Landscape I_Courtesy_Vadehra Art Gallery & Atul Bhalla

This exhibition is premised on a concern about the violence, apathy, and brutality of the “bad new days”. These oppressions are real but on the other hand we ignore them and celebrate a different vision of life which exclusionary in nature. So I imagined our times or the contemporary as a landscape, a terrain of desolation stripped of any hope and beauty which could keep us going. The urge to control people, especially minorities, by branding them as “aliens” is increasing day by day. Furthermore, the larger global economic crisis and the economy of war and invasion have left thousands dead and much more homeless.  Through the artworks and the exhibition, in general, I attempted to draw the attention of the viewer to this crisis.

It was definitely a challenge to get artists who also think similarly and are sensitive to these issues. It needs political sensitivity to ally with these concerns. Artists included in this show were constantly working to make the artwork more active and participatory, in terms of their involvement in the material processes behind the creation of an artwork and an exhibition. I was fortunate to have found such a wonderful group of artists from Italy and India who responded to this exhibition through their brilliant works.

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Beatrice Pediconi Alien D_Courtesy sepiaEYE, New York

This exhibition uses ‘precarious’ as a conceptual category to understand the cataclysmic contemporary climate; through this it attempts to survey the vastness of this desolation and disarray. It enables us to plot the coordinates of crisis and the political conditions generated by conflicts for power.

Through this exhibition I attempt to show works which confront and respond to this situation. Its aesthetic concerns remain to address the fundamental instability caused by these ‘bad new days’. How a precarious regime of aesthetics is developing, based on speed, intermittence, blurring and fragility. It reasserts the necessity to locate the ideological foundations of Fascism and its aesthetic sensibilities, which are rooted in passive consumption. It allows this by activating and politicising art to protect the present and future from becoming a part of its political project.

 

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Sharmila Samant_The Wasteland_Courtesy_Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Plymouth_Aoteoroa NZ

 

“Bad new days” is an apt way to describe the times we inhabit. In the last few decades, unprecedented economic, political and social turbulence have resulted in a climate rife with insecurity and precarity. An undeclared state of emergency has displaced millions of citizens across the world, creating unjust socio-economic disparities. This has given rise to an atmosphere of intolerance, which thwarts any form of debate, engagement and dissent, virtues associated with a democratic society. Historic amnesia is favoured over historic memory. The human condition has become fragile; it is more insecure, fragmented, and susceptible to injustice and oppression. Our very existence has become precarious.

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Gigi Scaria_City unclaimed_Digital print on canvas_2017

A video feature of this exhibition was done by NDTV-Mojarto which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrv4VTILJog

Here are some of this exhibition views.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st
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Varunika Saraf, Citizen Z