The year 2018 saw a slew of shows and events that distilled the brilliance of artistic merit even as they were some that belonged to superficial whimsy and appropriation. Top of the lots in 2018 in Delhi were some that went back in time and celebrated contemporary art movements in myriad ways.
Jyoti Bhatt Prints and Intaglios- The Ark Baroda
Baroda Jyoti Bhatt’s prints and intaglios that looked at 60 years of work in Baroda became a testimony to both history and the handprints of a master. Bhatt began his artistic career as a painter and a printmaker in the 1950s. He worked as a painter from 1954 to 1969 and also taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda. He says, “I was never interested in studies. You may say that since I was not good for anything else in life, I became a painter. I studied painting and printmaking at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, under stalwarts like N. S. Bendre, Sankho Chaudhari and K. G. Subramanian.”
Deeply impressed by Anand Coomaraswamy’s book ‘Mediaeval Sinhalese Art’, Bhatt realised that folk art has many strands which reinforce one another. “Each work of art provides an avenue of creativity and refines Human sensibilities and responses. Living within a creative network, an individual artist attains a special stature and refinement. The disappearance of the network, with the breakdown of traditional cultures, is bound to cause cultural impoverishment,” he said
His artistic practice flows seamlessly across various mediums in art and cinema, including video art and narrative feature film. His work confronts India’s film history, her colonial period and contemporary war politics. He is deeply concerned with war, colonization, and man-made borders. Marxism and Buddhism have been decisive influences on Madhusudhanan’s art.
His work Hunters in the Desert a large goatskin seemed akin to a sacrificial element, tethered to the wall by threads. On stepping closer, you saw a perforated portrait of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama lit up with LED lights. The work offered a glimpse of Madhusudhanan’s childhood memories, of his tryst with the art of Tholpavakoothu (shadow puppetry) in Kerala. He adapted the technique to create perforated goatskin canvases, which he then articulated with charcoal and ink. Experiments and concepts such as these have kept him busy over the past two years, resulting in a new body of works, ranging from oil paintings and sculptures to ink-and-charcoal drawings. Granite, Lamp & Mirror, at the Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi became the stuff of parodies and ironies and the brilliance of a filmmaker and artist extraordinaire.
Shyamal Datta -IIC
Fire to Fire-Dawn to Dusk -a collection of photographs that documented the ethnographic and anthropological lifestyles of tribes of the Northeast tribes became an eye-opener for lovers of history and photography in IIC Delhi. Not beautiful- but works filled with the pathos and pensive drama of humble lives lived in the humility and simplest of banal needs here was an exposition that made you think and take note of the things we take for granted in life. While the show could have been tighter in terms of a curation and display, it became an act of many scenes from individuals to wildlife to the harmony of folklore. Among best was a landscape of Mizo maiden-the recreation of a tale in the tints of a blushing sunset as well as a wildlife moment of esoteric elegance in the moment of the courtship of a female egret resplendent in her plumage spread out in spectacular fashion.
A corporate legend who gave up a plush job to traverse wildlife and forests in America and Alaska Shyamal has an eye of an archivist. “I get up early just before dawn to catch the light,” says Shyamal who has traversed rugged mountains and brooks in the North East for 10 years. “Yes, at that moment in time the light has a power that one cannot imagine. Sometimes it has a haunting quality, but the clarity of the conscious moment that is untouched. It is a combination of what is real, what is strange, as well profound because the camera acts as a signifier of freezing the frame on many instances of rare existence, so we look at lifestyles of vanishing tribes and it becomes an avenue of documentation.”
MASTERWORKS FROM THE NGA: AUSTRALIA NGMA Delhi
Indigenous Australia: Masterworks From The NGA (National Gallery of Australia), a show which opened at Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) straddled more than a thousand journeys spanning more than a century.
“ This exhibition, has been brought to the NGMA as a curtain-raiser for the forthcoming Australia Fest in India, “ said Director General Adwaita Gadanayak. “ We have over a hundred artworks produced by Australia’s indigenous artists, from the late 1800s to the present.”
At the inauguration, Australian High Commissioner, the graceful diplomat Harinder Sidhu stated: “The art of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is one of the oldest, richest and most complex forms of creative expression in human history. The NGA’s Indigenous Masterworks exhibition showcases the best work produced by the most significant indigenous artists in Australia.”
The oral tradition of storytelling coupled with ancient understanding and knowledge is what best reflected in this historic culling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The sumptuous catalogue informed us about Australia’s indigenous culture which counts among the world’s oldest continuous cultures, stretching over a span of an epic 60,000 years. The exhibition had materials ranging from paintings on canvas and bark, weaving and sculpture, new media, prints as well as photography.
Dhanraj Bhagat at 100-NGMA Bengaluru
Dhanraj Bhagat at 100 years curated by Adwaita Gadanayak DG, NGMA was a journey in the life of an artist and sculptor who was devoted to the act of creating works born from an alchemy of experience and learning. To imagine an artist and a mentor who drew, painted and sculpted with intricate details a host of images from the tapestry of life even as he taught as the Head of Sculpture at College of Art, Delhi is to be initiated into the life and times of the master Dhanraj Bhagat.
To witness his changeover from a strong narrative pictorial space into a defined yet distinctive sculptural space requires a complete rethinking of the formal pattern, as obviously the space illusion of sculpture is determined differently. This centenary celebration is a mapping of a great mind. It presents a dynamic array of styles, techniques and genres — from panoramic landscapes and compositional studies for mythological and spiritual narratives to arresting studies of the human form.
Spiritually, aesthetically, emotionally, creatively and symbolically, the form-colour interactions are as rich as the variations in a symphony, in which one musical phrase interfuses with another, thereby evoking multiple reactions in the individual.
Dhanraj Bhagat presents his audience with a unique perspective of seeing the human body. This understanding represented in his sculptural work prizes structure over realism even as he works at deconstructing the values of art conventions to create his own language in the ways of seeing and sculpting. In many sculptures on view, we are left to discover the relationship between modern and contemporary art styles to form a creative and conceptual niche that exalted the beauty and poise of the human figure both as a realist entity as well as an abstract study that sought to define new dimensions. Bhagat’s rhythmic, abstract and sensitively sculpted figures preserve traditional subject matter of the human body as well as heightens its potential to explore new boundaries and express eternal evocations.
Ankon Mitra: Apparao Galleries Chennai
A source of light is a harbinger of energy. Lighting is instrumental in determining our moods and the characteristics of a space. How space makes us feel is to a very large extent determined by the quality and nature of light in that space. In this collection, the source of light is additionally imbued with a positive symbolic or iconographic significance, calling to the mind of the viewer a facet of world history or culture, and ultimately calling our attention to our singular, simplest and strongest connection with the cosmos – the light that we receive from the Sun.
At the Apparao Galleries in Chennai, Ankon Mitra’s Pleated Poems was about weaving light into pleated aesthetics in goat’s skin. An architect by profession and origami maestro, Ankon invites us into a haze of poetic intonations with his brilliance and his resonant rhythms that dig deep into Indian, Japanese and abstractionist expression. A series of lamps made of folded goat skin talk to us about ideations and synergies in light and space, and materials and the imperative philosophy that decides design dynamics. The great architect and philosopher Louis Kahn said: “Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.” Pleated Poems was about Kahn’s reflections and the ingenuity that lay in architect turned origamist Nikon’s works.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
via TOI Blog
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