Inspired by Steel

Hemi Bawa’s Show
Artd’ Inox, Jindal Center, 12, Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110 066
23 -30 August 2006

As we move forward in time there are certain movements and thoughts which have a timeless quality about them. . Such is the case with the architects, thinkers and artists who belonged to what is known as the Bauhaus tradition, And for me the third principal of the Bauhaus School at Weimar stands out as an iconic architect and thinker. Often his one liners God is in the Details, and Less is More, are like musical fugues which propel artists and architects to initiate unusual vocabularies.

When I look, at Hemi Bawa’s recent collection I move my gaze from the present to the past and then to the present future. There is a perfect marriage between the two materials of the past and the future steel and glass. While the modernists have used both glass and steel in their effort to breaks with the past, the contemporaries are using glass and steel to innovative and test their ideas with the two diverse yet hard materials.

I move back to the beginnings of modern architecture to Franks Llyod Wright, to Walter Gropius to the Glass House of Philip Johnson and then forwards to the Tokyo International Forum designed by the new York, architect Rafael Vinoli. There is one common thread which appears like a recurring motif, and that is glass and steel. These two materials are now moving from structural of buildings to objects of the interior.

While modernism was responsible for not just innovative use of technology, but it also encouraged the re examination of every aspect of existence and led to a forward progressive movement in mind, thought, art, literature, design and architecture. Jin within this domain materials found itself chartering paths into territories which were hitherto alien or forbidden.

Following the trails set out by the progressive and eclectic modernists, materials started getting a new lease of life at the hands of painters and sculptors, At the turn of the century as we move into the 21st century ‘vision impura’ becomes a living reality particularly in the landscape of sculptors and visual artists. It is this blurring of boundaries between two distinct and hard materials that Hemi Bawa now emerges with a fresh surge of ideas.

Primarilya visual artist, where critics often refer to her work as having a ‘mysterious, quiet quality”, glass is one of the many materials Hemi works with. While she uses a host of materials, from stone, metal to glass, it is the idea which guides her to choose the material. “If I feel a certain form looks better in glass, then I will do it in glass. If I want a form to portray a feeling of strength and power, I use a large stone, or if I feel a certain piece will look, better in Bronze or Aluminum or Glass I use those.” It is the concepts which drive Hemi to choose the material and not the materials which provide the muse.

The easy confidence and control over the two mediums glass and steel propel Hemi to create a body of work, which has not been seen before. The paintings which are framed within steel, the glass abstract forms embedded in steel, the artworks where glass and steel have been fused together foreground that two positives can yet make another positive. For Bawa the joy of working with glass is the “its’ both tough and fragile and traps light beautifully.” The same qualities can also be used for steel.

Steel an alloy made with iron and carbon has an elasticity, ductility, hardness and a tensile strength stronger and more brittle than iron, glass is more amorphous, a more solid material yet strong and exceedingly brittle. The two are not easy materials to sculpt upon yet the two together are formidable. And it is in this interplay of two diverse and difficult materials that an unusual knot is tied.

What is really special about this exhibition is the way the art work has evolved and developed. While Hemi Bawa one of India’s most innovative glass artist has worked with the modem material of steel, a distinctly new visual language is being created. Both glass and steel are not part of the indigenous art practice of the country. While painters have used glass at different moments of time and in special areas for example in Tanjore and Kalighat paintings glass has not been part of the mainstream Indian fine art practice. In a similar vein steel too has not been an integral part of the Indian art practice. In traditional Indian sculpture bronze, stone, gold, silver, iron were more the norm. In contemporary art Balan Nambiar is one of the few contemporary artist who has really explored steel. Steel as a medium for various reasons, its complexity, expense audits sheer materiality made it a bit out of reach for the artists ‘Inspired by Steel1 thus becomes a singular show where the traditional, modern and contemporary voices are joining hands and walking on a path which is yet to be developed and explored.

Hemi Bawa and Jindal Stainless become two important partners in this show which is part of a new cosmopolitan voice emerging from India.

Dr. Alka Pande


Ages of Separation

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Gate No.2, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003
20-26 September 2006

Diwan Manna is known for his soulful images and is a pioneer among art photographers. He is one of the first exponents in conceptual photography in India. His artistic technique and expression is unique and has a style of its own.

Diwan combines photography with painting, body arts and acting to create works that defy definition.

He has been exhibiting extensively across Europe including France, UK, Germany and Poland for the last about 15 years and has collections with some prestigious museums and institutions of Europe. He is a recipient of National Award in Photography by the Central Lalit Kala Academy.

The present exhibition “Ages of Separation” is about his journey in search of trying to come to terms with the insidious and unrecognized forms of degradation of our sense of life and honour within ourselves as well as in others. He is not merely interested in presenting images of destruction of human goodness, courage and beauty, but tries to tap the unsuspected and as yet unrealized sources of tenderness, fortitude and humanity in us.

In the present exhibition he is going to show approximately 40 large images from the series Shores of the Unknown, After the Turmoil, Alienation, Violence and Conceptual Self Portraits.

He shows us many aspects, in three successive phases, of his work. The black and white of his first work, and then the fiery contrasts of colours in his more recent work are only metaphors of eternal combat that men engage in to reach the light.

Diwan Manna reveals both his real compassion for his contemporaries as well as his admiration in front of the beauty and dignity of beings, for he knows how to affirm in his colour compositions his conviction of seeing in woman the future of the world and all its magic.

This is how Diwan Manna speaks to us and passes from social violence, precariousness of life of men and women living in the shadows like the forgotten, to the solitude of beings and their anguish. Two series of black and white photographs of technical mastery and perfect classical beauty precede here then big photographs, in intense colours, with carefully thought out portrayals that are like inner and symbolic dreams.

Life, Woman, Hope.

An encounter with these pictures is a disquieting and an empowering experience. It brings out our hidden humanness, which in fact becomes an experience of self-realization for each one of us. It opens a reservoir of fellow feeling across cultures, languages and political milieus.

In a way the experience of the exhibition recovers for us our lost humanity. We can hear the pangs within us of the humanity being reborn.

PS: Diwan Manna was invited as a part of a cultural exchange in France to photograph people and Le Corbusier creations in May-June 2006, and an exhibition of these photographs along with his counterpart from France Michel Dieudonne who photographed Corbusier creations in India, would be held in Saint-Etienne, France from November 20, 2006. It is scheduled to be inaugurated by French president Jack Chirac.

Diwan is also a part of an exhibition along with two French photographers in Lille, France from 14 Oct 2006 to 14 Jan 2007.

Dr. Alka Pande


Cross Polynations

Hema Upadhyay, Barbara Pietrasanta & Remen Chopra’s Show
Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Gate No.2, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003
27th Sep to 3rd Oct

The concept behind Cross Polynations emerges from my continuing work with gender and identity. Locating this cross cultural dialogue between two artists it became of interest to me the richness of such strong cultural and intricate histories , where personal and universal spaces combined , the coexistence seemed beautiful. This three way discussions led to ideas and added another dimension to this discussion , what would naturally emerge would be a cross cultural dialogue and then entered the bridge to connect the two worlds, the worlds of the Milanese artist Barbara Pietrasanta and the Delhi based Remen Chopra, Mumbai based Hema Upadhyaye who works with mixed media and installations became the ‘near perfect’ thread weaving the cross-cultural dialogue.. These artists all shared the very important characteristics that brought them to one place , their creative processes in developing a visual statement of their lives to present and share with us all the temporal realms of the feminine . The Differing approaches , perspectives and generational differences started to pollinate the private personal space with the universal aspect of the feminine , and thus was born the idea cross ploynation. Polynations had a three edged interpretable for us .

Cross –a crossing of boundary
Poly – between three cities
Nations – between two nations

Cross Polynations emerges from the plant kingdom- where cross-pollinations becomes vital to the production of fruit from a tree, or flowers to bloom in a garden. The bloom or the blossom transfer pollen grains , an act of reproduction in seed plants where the union of male and female gametes occur . The Bees travel from flower to flower collecting nectar and in the process they pick up pollen grains. As the bee flies from flower to flower, the pollen grains are transferred onto the stigma of the female flower part thus accentuating the process of polination .

This word then started to becomes a metaphor for us within the sensuous and beauty of the feminine , like an illuminated flower dipped into the ephemeral world hidden within the floral tube. Linking nature, life, form and art . Creating new hybidization and new discoveries , And such “cross-pollination” started to engender new forms of expression that are essential to discovery. This ongoing dialogue of hybridization comes to life through the works of the three women artists , who come from three different metropolitan cities and two different cultural nations . They also talk a new global, international cosmopolitan voice celebrating their individual ‘difference’.

In the ‘global’ world cities start playing significant roles. In the case of Delhi, Mumbai and Milan, the two nations already have a shared past. The Greco Roman influence was first evident in the realism of the Buddhist sculptures found in Hadda and subsequently in Gandhara sculptures and art. Indian muslims were seen in Roman courts while the Italian arches seen in the buildings. Trade between the two cities naturally brought in a cultural exchange, which continues even today.

The exhibition attempts to examine issues of representation identity and gender in a global inter city environment through the production of the art works and the tracing of the process of production, the exhibition will foreground the issues of gender and identity, questioning and expressing the multiple roles of the feminine , expressing dreams , thoughts and desires , the private world which coexists within the universal landscape , within a reciprocal dialogue.

Francesco Poli an Italian curator and me an Indian curator will put our thoughts in way, which will provide the Theo critical discoveries.

An accompanying conference in Milan between the three artists, the two curators led by Amartya Sen could lead to the production of a ‘new’ hybrid flower.

This hybrid flower doesnot end here but rather becomes the origin towards the process of pollinations and ‘polynations’, becoming a documentary in the process of the contemporary representation of globality and globalism ,towards a re articulation of cultural identity in a true sense.

‘The true artist , like the true scientist is a researcher using materials of the world in which he himself lives and what he creates , or better perhaps, what he brings back are the objective results of his exploration.’ – Paul Strand

Dr. Alka Pande


Sensuality, Perception and the Self

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Gate No.2, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003
11-15 October 2006

“When the melody longs for lyrics and lyric wraps around that melody when a vrishka sings through its blossoms and a lata tenderly winds around that vriksha when chataka waits for a drop of rain and rain comes down like a blessing from the sky when charavaka calls for its mate on the banks of the Ganga and the mate respond and longs for union when purusha and prakriti seek each other and finding themselves, rejoice these are moments of romance.” – Bharat Satsai, 16th century

The stirring of desire go back to antiquity. The earliest scriptures of Hinduism, the Vedas, have various sections devoted to love poetry making it an inevitable and an inherent part of the culture. In the Vedic hymns, the comparison of Usha, the Goddess of Dawn, (Rigveda) to a maiden who unveils her bosom to her lover, shows the erotic element so vividly and beautifully enmeshed in the ‘holy’ books. Erotic poetry finds its first expression in the love-charms of Atharveda. Eros, the Greek God of Physical Desire, found a parallel in Cupid, the Roman God of Love. Its Indian resonance is found in Kama, the Indian God of Love.

This rich treasure of romantic poetry inspired artists to painting these words into visual poetry. The artist realized that the door to the intimate worlds of these paintings is through that richly evocative love poetry. He expressed the feeling of ‘shringara’ though line and colour, symbols and motifs all portrayed within a sensitive approach. Expressing the most exalted of human emotions, that of romantic love between a man and a woman, a love that is richly sensual and yet serenely spiritual. Exploring with it a poetically elegant and richly sensuous female form.

Sensuality, desire, pleasure, celebration, love, romantic moments are all part of both the sacred and the profane in the Indian cultural framework. Kamasutra, the 4th century Indian text, validates and affirms pleasure, sensuality and erotica. It has in many ways become the cannon for the understanding of Indian culture. There is an abundance of sacred literature of the Hindus, which is filled with the sacred lore’s palpitations of feminine dreams and themes gyrating with female fury.

Innumerable tales describe the feminine, there are the goddesses who strike their children with fever, nymphs who seduce sages, celestial virgins who run free in forests and chaste wives who fling themselves on funeral pyres to become guardians feminine virtue. In the domain of the ‘Riti Kalin Kavya’, medieval Bhakti poetry and ‘Saundarya Lahiri’, the feminine has been adored, loved and worshipped. The pursuit of external beauty is narrated, where verses on women described them as a haunting melody and glorious sunset.

As we scroll through the world map, desire, erotic pleasure finds an important and significant emphasis in the cultural ethos of all ancient civilizations. The translations of erotic symbols from different cultures are then carried forward through artists and thinkers.

This exhibition attempts to address the celebration of sensuality, which has been part and parcel of he Indian consciousness since the dawn of civilizations. Through the works of contemporary artists, the exhibition attempts to address the continuous mappings of sensuality, sexuality and desire.

Dr. Alka Pande


Multiplicity and the self

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Gate No.2, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003
20-24 August 2006

The process of identification with culture is one of adopting the behavioural code, learning to “do the conversation”, and associating within the community literally or symbolically. Identity means orienting self towards particular cultural frameworks while defining, negotiating and reconstructing aspects of self in interaction with others. Therefore Identity refers to how to know one self.

– ( Michael L.Hecht – in African American communities)

Perception is the background of experience which guides every conscious action. The world is a field for perception, and human consciousness assigns meaning to the world.”

– Merleau Ponty

We cannot separate ourselves from our perceptions of the world . The human body is an expressive space which contributes to the significance of personal actions. The body is also the origin of expressive movement, and is a medium for perception of the world. Bodily experience gives perception a meaning beyond that established simply by thought. Thus, Descartes’ cogito (“I think, therefore I am”) does not account for how consciousness is influenced by the spatiality of a person’s own body.

Notions of Perception, consciousness and self has been the concern of artists ever since art practice emerged .Seen under the angle of a narrative identity my question is how these changes are reflected in the individuals’ self-narratives in general and, more specifically, in the cultural construction of these narratives which influence visual culture .Therefore in the production of art does identity have a social construct?Is it singular identity within a global context ? With the breaking down of cultural barriers is there a move towards the macro- spaces of globality? Questioning notions of plurality, hybridity , migration, transculturalization, gender probing from the transsexual to the transgendered, heterogeneity , nationality and nationhood ,is the understanding of self and identity constructed?

These are questions posed , challenged and questioned in the 21st century, where identity is becoming subject to change and innovation. The idea of an identity which can be constructed by each and every person is a rather new one, that is to say about 200 years old. It is closely linked to the beginning of the so-called modernity. identity in this becomes not discovered but established by acts of self-representation that are political. Certain kinds of cultural forms had to be negotiated in the process of identity construction becoming, in the bargain, an establishment of differences as well as an accretion of experiences. Where the individual ‘self’ has become in itself a universal topic. Becoming socially constructed. It was once believed that what we do externally reflects what we are on the inside. But if there is no “inside,” we must rely on that which is outside to define us. We are products of external forces over which we have varying levels of control. The suspicious postmodernist sees us as having little control at all over the forces impinging upon us.

The sense of identity is multi- faceted and complex and has a long tradition

“According to anthropological folklore, in traditional societies, one’s identity was fixed, solid, and stable. Identity was a function of predefined social roles and a traditional system of myths which provided orientation and religious sanctions to one’s place ‘ in the world, while rigorously circumscribing the realm of thought and behaviour. Birth and death of an individual was within a clan, a member of a fixed kinship system, and a member of one’s tribe or group with the trajectory of life fixed in advance. In pre-modern societies, identity was unproblematic and not subject to reflection or discussion. Individuals did not undergo identity crises, or radically modify their identity.”

– Kellner

This question of identity carries valence for artists particularly in the age of globalization where boundaries are not so definite and the dynamic interactive process through diverse media takes precedence which is essentially observable in the virtual space that has shrunk the world to a small screen. Suggesting a brave new terrain where the poetry of visual arts often completed in the imagination of the viewer. Globalization has been the tendency to treat history, culture and political economy as a world system with the possibility of reducing it to a single and unique point of view.

Art today is becoming a living statement of the effect of globalization and of the acceptance of the diaspora by the host society. Signaling a shift away from the history of visual art as a single narrative which distinguishes itself from the inheritance of aesthetic traditions and including in itself the demands of the twentieth century . Inhabiting itself in the ‘now’ of the increasingly common international biennales, with their gatherings of diverse and maybe even incommensurable practices, generating communications and confusions in the mélange of practices from the disparate cultures; the ‘now’ of international exchanges today in business, politics, leisure and culture , operation though the power , speed and relative availability of airtravel and teletechnologies such as e- mail and web, the now in which different cultures and ethnicities face, meet or confront one another for all sorts of reasons , sometimes by choice and sometimes not, differentiating the boundaries and horizons of social and cultural bodies in the process, the now of economic globalization , the now of cultural , symbolic borrowings\, appropriation , assimilation and transformation in the international context both at the individuals and collective imaginaries. What it all proposes is a critical articulation of contemporary cultural practices and their presentation, and of what contemporaniety might infact be. The immediate challenges are clear : bringing together artists from different geographical and cultural zones into a single exhibition space.

The Indian art scene against this back drop is gaining new grounds, signaling a whole new world of images , while retaining its cultural traditions . becoming home to a large number of outstanding intellectuals and authors of the- the art technology and ancient forms of culture, which meet and merge in India. A duality exists in India where the ancient and the cyber- age coexist.

Dr. Alka Pande


Parallel Show

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Gate No.2, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003
19 -24 May 2006

Curatorial thoughts

“The meaning of a word is its use in language”
 Ludwig Wittenstein

Multicultural, multi-vocal contemporary India is not simply diverse, in a way it is a fecund geography of postmodern representation. Within this domain, the paintings of Mini Sivakumar and Charuvi Aggarwal chart a territory that is singular. The two artists from two different cultures, two different educational backgrounds, representing two different languages, can do many other things besides picturing of reality. They can give structure, direction, content and form, in fact, create all kinds of picturescapes without actually picturing anything . Mini, a self-taught artist, Charuvi, an artist emerging from a formal training of an art school, but in their individual work practice the two forge ahead with a rare intensity. Parallels thus become their leitmotif while the two artists charter their own individual vocabularies. What engaged me as a curator was the process of production of the art work itself.

Two years ago when I had gone to Shantiniketan for a seminar, I saw the paintings of Mini Sivakumar. I was enchanted by the sheer vibrancy of color and the dynamism of a creative outpouring. There was a veritable upsurge of potent ideas which were bursting forth. A student of mine, Charuvi Aggarwal cool and serene on a physical plane had a similar condition. Her pictures though ‘self ’ obsessed in a certain way had a similar feel and texture in their visual representation and thus “Parallels” was born.

Parallels where equidistant not intersecting spaces are created. I took the idea of ‘Parallels’ from the genre of music where parallels describe the movement of two voices or melodies that match each other exactly in pitch, while presenting the same interval between them. In literature ‘Parallels’ is the grammar of identical syntactic constructions which also describes two or more phrases or clauses in a single sentence that has identical syntactic constructions.

Putting the two artists together in a show is also about entering the mindscapes of the two contemporary artists . An entry both into the production of the art form through the vehicle of a parallel. The two artists are in their path of personal excellence, moving together following their individual trajectories, distant yet beside each other.

Dr. Alka Pande
Summer 2006


Of Elephants, Spices and the Everyday

Alliance Francaise, 72, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi – 110003
4-13 May 2006

The immediacy of the medium, the lushness of colour, the sensuality of expression makes Murali, a singular voice in contemporary Indian art.

Born and raised in Kerala, Murali’s visual iconography is symptomatic of the local and the global. Embedded in his native land, Kerala, Murali through his painting transports us into his personal and internal landscapes.

Working quietly and tirelessly for the last two decades, it became increasingly important for Murali to be seen in New Delhi.

Anita Nair’s text adds that extra insight into the landscape of Murali’s expression. Ravi Shankar the acerbic and witty cartoonist opens yet another domain of interpretation.

Within the Indian context Kerala has its own complexities and dynamism, which then becomes the fast forward engine of creativity and Murali, a traveler in this creative journey.

Dr. Alka Pande
Summer 2006


Over The Top

Gallery Moon River, D-16, Defence Colony, New Delhi – 110024
3rd of February 2006


‘The jester creates humour (ha ha), the sage creates ideas or solutions (ah ah) and the artist creates beauty or challenge (aaaahhhh)’, Arthur Koestler. In the ‘act of creation’ he gives an interesting insight to creativity.

Technology has opened its doors to creativity. One is not bound by any medium today. And we provide the platform to discover new modes of delivering ‘artworks’. The artists can explore ,interplay and interact across cultures, and blend old forms and techniques with newer ones. It is a chance to diversify, yet still retain originality.

An Exhibition of multidisciplinary art genres, ‘Over The Top’ conceived as a dialogue between sculptors, painters, fashion designers, photographers, printmakers who are keen to move beyond their own media to experiment with concepts and techniques from other visual arts.

OTT is about blurring boundaries, crossing mediums, exploring languages. The artists are free to work around mediums and not stick to just one medium. The artists can experience their particular space and create a visceral and conceptual experience in that space. It is about Genres hybridity, Kitsch, Formal, Non-formal, Baroque, Neo Classical, Minimal languages.

‘Innovation’, ‘Inspiration’, ‘Vision’, ‘Interpretation’, ……..the basics of creativity. One can assess creativity in several dimensions, be it, originality, ingenuity, appropriateness or intellectual leadership.

Reaching the edge of creativity, the artists can mix disciplines in a way to stimulate kindle the mind, arouse interest, inspire, blow the whistle………..visually. The expo (exhibition) explores, explodes and re-reads concepts, ideas, styles and representation.

Dr. Alka Pande