Young Tigers Show

Young Tigers

Group show with Pradeep Puthoor, Mahua Sen, Shivkumar Verma, Veejayant Dash, Raj Kumar Mohanty, Pradosh Swain.
8 October – 1 November. 2008

“Featuring contemporary art from India, this group exhibition by six young Indian artists is held in conjunction with the launch of Dr Alka Pande’s latest book titled “Indian Art – The New International Sensation – A collector’s Handbook”.

A respected art critic from India, Dr Pande will be signing copies of her book at Art Mosaic Gallery during the first few days of the “Young Tigers” exhibition, which she has curated in collaboration with the gallery.”

— Arts Beat. Singapore’s Forthnighly Art Event Guide.

Artmosaic Gallery
# 01-02 MICA Building
140 Hill Street
Singapore 179369

Sun Rises in The East’s Show

“India is pluralist society that creates magic with democracy, rule of law and individual freedom, community relations and (cultural) diversity. What a place to be an intellectual. I wouldn’t mind being born ten times to rediscover India.”

– Robert Blackwell

On 22nd July, 2008, Indian democracy was again put to test. 275 members of India’s Parliament in a historic session, voted their confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, diminutive, gentle economist known for his brilliance and progressive outlook, who has been leading the country since 2004. As the finance minister in the Congress led Government under the then prime minister – P.V. Narasimha Rao, he had been responsible for the first steps to integrate India into the global economic system. In 2008, he had yet another ace up his sleeve. This time he wanted to take India into the top league of nuclear nations without compromising on India’s historical stand on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Nuclear Treaty with the United States would give India the open access to the much-needed latest nuclear technology, and nuclear fuel supplies, for non-military use mainly in the field of nuclear energy, and other civilian uses.

India once again rose to that challenge when Dr Manmohan Singh was able to get a vote of confidence for his Government despite strong opposition in a divided Parliament.

The Nuclear Treaty with the United States is critically important for India’s emerging energy scenario over the next 2-3 decades. It will assure India’s status as one of the Global Economic superpowers.

“Bear in mind that the commerce of India is the commerce of the world and … he who can exclusively command it is the dictator of Europe.”

– Peter the Great of Russia

This holds true even today with one change ‘he who can exclusively command it is the dictator of the world.

One of the oldest civilisations of the world along with the Greek, Egyptian and the Chinese, India has always been relevant and significant. Known as the ‘Sone Ki Chiriyan’ or the Golden Bird, India became the Jewel in the crown of her colonial ruler – Great Britain. Edward Luce in his book: In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India analyses India within and contextualises her globally.

‘India is booming, poised to become one of the world’s three largest economies in the next generation and to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2032.’

He further states at ‘the subcontinent’s spectacular growth is taking place against the backdrop of a society that has yet fully to come to terms with liberal modernity. Emerging India continues to be beset by deep contradictions: it is a fully fledged nuclear weapons state with almost 40% of the world’s malnourished children; a growing economic powerhouse with an enduring anti materialist philosophy; it plays host to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research and development, and yet is home to one of the most intolerant religious chauvinist in the world. For all its complexity and many layered histories, one thing is certain – India’s fate matters.

The complexity of the social structures, the spirituality of the land, the multi-vocality of cultures, the aesthetics of the erotic, the wealth of Indian textiles makes India a refined civilization. India has always been an icon for spirituality and is universally accepted for its ancient wisdom. In the last five years India has jumped as a frontrunner in the ranks of the modern world because of its stunning economic growth.

From an exotic culture known for its wildlife, sadhus, poverty, natural disaster, of the developing world, it has catapulted into being an industrial powerhouse and a leader in many areas of economic growth, particularly Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing. China started this journey more than a decade before India. But today India has caught up in the race and at present both India and China are the two giants of the east who are a large visible presence in the Global world. As nations of the future, both countries have taken full advantage of globalisation trade, industry and intellectual knowledge. Both countries have a vast pool of manpower, which is growing not just in numbers but also in quality.

China’s singular strength lies in Industrial production, cheap labour, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese and encouragement by the Chinese Government. China is a globally preferred destination for Industrial production with giants such as Sony and Liugong, Caterpillar, Kodak, Mahindra & Mahindra, OTIS; household goods like Haier, shoes with brands such as Puma, Adidas, Reebok and Nike; hardware such as Nikon, Lenovo along with fashion accessories such as Louis Vuitton. India, while growing in a parallel trajectory, unlike China has a huge domestic market. Personal savings and investment, oil production, direct foreign investment is ensuring India’s place in the sun, encouraged by its political stability, a fairly good institutional framework, rule of law, judiciary, regulatory mechanism for industry and trade.

The rapid economic growth, its catapulting into the arena of industrialization, and now a front runner in the geography of the world armed with nuclear power, India has truly regained its glory which had come into the shade particularly when it was shadowed by its imperial colonizers.

“India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, of much of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity… of self-government and democracy. In many ways, Mother India is the mother of us all”

– Will Durant, American Historian

India’s indigenous systems of knowledge begin right from the Vedic Period, which was in the second and first millennia BCE continuing up to the 6th century BCE. The Vedas, Upanishads, Aryankyas, the Puranas and the Natyasastra gave the world a great many firsts. The Upanishads for instance contained the definitive explications of the divine universal syllable Aum or Om, the cosmic vibrations underlying all existence. The Natyasastra was the very foundation of the fine arts in India, influencing music, classical Indian dance and literature. The Puranas consisted of the history of the Universe from creation to destruction, the genealogies of heroes, kings or the sages and description of Hindu cosmology, philosophy and the geography.

I would at this point do a quick travelogue with certain iconic moments of Indian History which for me are also markers of the development of a representation of a plural, democratic, multi-vocal character of the geography titled India soon after India’s attained Independence in the August of 1947. Five hundred princely states joined India, with over 22 languages 1,650 dialects, India was marked by a great deal of cultural heterogeneity.

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grand mother of tradition.”

– American Writer and Humorist Mark Twain

To understand ‘India Now,’ it is important to get a glimpse of ‘India Then’. The Indus valley becomes the point of take off in Indian history. An urban civilization it had a sophisticated drainage, town planning system.

The subsequent Mauryan Period saw a loose federation of city states the ‘Janapadas’ held together at the centre by Chandragupta Maurya. The Indo-Greek journey started because one of Alexander the Great’s generals,

Seleucus Nikator strengthened his eastern border and crossed the Indus River and invaded India. Ever since there has been no looking back of ‘foreign’ amalgamation in India – the Hunas, Scythians, Kushans all made their way into India through Punjab for that was the easiest way to enter India. As is frequently attested by the ancient Indian texts, the Kambojas, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas, Turks and the Mughals all came to India from Central Asia. These Dynasties of India came as the invaders and dynasties of Indian origin also ruled in Khotan and other places in Central Asia.

This was also the period when two important religions entered the fray of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

“India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.”

– Hu Shih 
(Former Chinese ambassador to USA,
 
referring to the entry of Buddhism into China.
 
Buddhism was born in ancient India).

From the 3rd – 7th century AD during the Gupta rule in northern India, the ‘Golden Period’ in ancient India was stamped. This was the time of the major writings of a renowned classical Sanskrit poet and dramatist Kālidasa, his place being the same as that of Shakespeare in English, with his plays based on Hindu mythology and philosophy. Also the time of Aryabhatta, the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers who lived in the dying years of the Gupta empire. His major work Aryabhatiya was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature, and has survived to modern times.

And then from the Arab Invasion of Sind, in 711-713 AD by Mohammed Bin Qasim, I now jump straight to the advent of the Mughals in 1526. Babur founded the Mughal dynasty in India, unlike many of his predecessors who invaded India but never made India their home had come to stay. His son and successor Humayan was the second Mughal emperor who ruled parts of Northern India along with Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was overthrown by the Sultan of Bengal, the Afghan Sher Shah Suri in 1540 AD. For 15 years Humayun took refuge in the court of the Iranian Safavid ruler Shah Tahmsap. On his triumphant return in 1555 A.D, he brought with me a set of painters the Ali brothers who with their renditions of the Hamzanamah initiated an entire new trend in the miniature painting tradition of India. His son ‘Akbar the Great’ as he was known, was considered the greatest of the Mughal emperors who eliminated his external military threats from the Afghan descendants of Sher Shah Suri. He was a polymath: an architect, artisan emperor, engineer and an inventor to name some. He founded his own religious cult the Din-i-llahi or the ‘Divine Faith.’ The grandeur and the enlightened rule of Akbar is seen in the recent Bollywood film in 2008 as Jodha Akbar, starring India’s leading actors. After Akbar, followed the reign of his son Jehangir and then to the great patron of architecture the Emperor Shah Jahan, whose reign came to be known as the Golden Age of Mughals.

This was the period of immense hybridity in every aspect of India’s culture and tradition. From religion to textiles, a great effervescence took place.

“If I am asked which nation had been advanced in the ancient world in respect of education and culture then I would say it was – India”

– Max Muller, German Indologist

Max Mueller could not have been more made more apt. He was part of the intellectual brigade that loved India and derived inspiration from the land, like Arthur Schopenhauer before him or the English poet T. S Eliot after him, who end the epic poem The Wasteland with the Sanskrit words ‘Shantih Shantih Shantih”( an invocation to universal peace)

Parallelly, Indian handicrafts, textiles, architecture and sculpture too were evolving and moving with India’s ‘Zeitgeist’.

Continued fusions and amalgamations was seen in colonial India. From ‘muggalitawny soup’ to Anglo Indian cuisine of mutton cutlets and ‘kedigeree’ , to English ‘chintzes’ produced in India, the Indo-English hybridity still lingers . Unlike many colonies to a large extent India does not have a deeply troubled past with her colonizer. Sure there are moments of turmoil resentments but India because of its religion and spirituality has an uncanny ability to rise above every invasion, every control, every foreign domination and exploitation.

Like Phoenix rising from its ashes’ India grows in giant leaps across the world.

At yet another level, due to its economic growth India, is the flavour of the world. From Hollywood to Bollywood, from production houses like Warner Bros , to Hollywood rap artist Snoop Dog jamming with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, to spiritual and travel tourism India has become the world’s popular destination. From the days of the flower children in the 1960’s when Rishikesh was their, the new tourist spot to hit the international market is Goa. From food to fashion, from ‘chicken tikka masala’ to the unstitched drape , the saree, India is visible in high street fashion.

Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, V.S. Naipaul, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Shashi Tharoor and William Dalyrymple are some top writers in world literature for whom India is their muse. One out of the 10 Indian authors who have been long listed for the 2008 Man Asian Literature Prize, financially supported by the London based financial services firm Man Asia and initiated by the Hong Kong International Literary Festival Limited, Siddharth Dhavant Shanghvi aptly says. “The stories coming out of Asia are tender and sexual, complex and deeply humane. I’m curious how variously our writers manifest the profound sameness of the human experience.” Another trajectory has been initiated by the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who along with Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani gave a fresh cultural Insider’s Insight into understanding India Now. Sen’s ‘Argumentative Indian’ , Guha’s ‘India after Gandhi’ and Khilanani’s The Idea of India ‘ are wonderful texts which touch a chord in any literate Indian’s heart. There have been old India hands like Mark Tully who have written sensitively about India, while William Dalrymple and Ed Luce with their ‘outside’ gaze give their own singular insights.

The gaze today is Outside In and Inside Out.

India today is racing on a sure albeit uneven and bumpy road , for along with this upsurge of sudden riches there are deep pockets of darkness, from political unrest (communist insurgencies in rural central and eastern India) to widespread developmental backwardness in areas like sanitation, safe drinking water, hunger and poverty.

But what keeps India going on singing the song of beauty and joy is its strong cultural roots which keep this fractured nation strong and together, as the only largest democracy is its spirituality.

“In religion, India is the only millionaire … The One land that all men desire to see and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined”

– Mark Twain

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Autumn 2008

Shiv Verma’s Show

An Encounter with Craft

 

“The vocation, whether it be that of the farmer or the architect, is a function; the exercise of this function as regards the man himself is the most indispensable means of spiritual development, and as regards his relation to society the measure of his worth.”

– Ananda K Coomaraswamy

The magic of India lies in its very versatility, its bio-diversity and its interrogation of time past and time present. Unlike China, India still has enormous continuity in the development of the fine art practice. Within the genre of sculpture, tremendous strengths operate with the traditional/modern, local and global. In a country where sculpture becomes the fountainhead of architecture i.e. Ellora between the 6th to the 9th century CE, contemporary Indian sculpture is prancing on to new international heights.

With Subodh Gupta leading the pack of contemporary sculptors into the realm of visual culture, an entire new geography is being appropriated by this new brigade of sculptors, be it Valsan Koorma Kolleri, Mrinalini Mukherjee, NN Rimzon or Karl Antao all of who have adhered closely to their materials and language, there are others like Bharti Kher, Anita Dube, Jehangir Jani who are experimenting more with concepts and the politics of the art itself.

One dynamic young sculptor is Shiv Verma, who in his art practice has evolved a singular language which is multi-vocal – having a strong craft/tribal base which has layers of a global internationalism, both in concept and materials.

Shiv grew up in the village of Kundagaon, in the district of Bastar, an important crafts centre of central India where the wall paintings, dogra and iron crafts originate from. Dogra is a unique casting tradition of the tribes of Madhya Pradesh that has a unique surface texture which makes one feel that bronze wires are wound around the basic form. Bastar, which is a significant tribal centre for many years, had been a laboratory for modern English anthropologists, in particular such as in the books of Wilfred Vernon Grigson’s ‘The Maria Gonds of Bastar’ or Prem Chandra Agarwal’s ‘Human Geography of Bastar District’.

At the turn of the century, Oxbridge educated cultural anthropologists examined customs, cultural practices and social norms of the community. From markmaking to ‘ghotuls’ where complete empowerment of women was evident from these nature loving and nature inhabiting communities emerged craft practices which dealt with existentialist concerns of the interface between human/divine, magic/mundane, ritual/myth and tradition/modernity. Bare breasted women became the icons of cultural representation of this extremely evolved yet complex tribal structure.

As mentioned in a case study by Madhu Ramnath “Bastar is home to one of the worlds largest concentrations of adivasi population. These people depend for their sustenance on the forest, most of which falls under the jurisdiction of the wildlife and revenue sections of the Forest Department. Unusually, other religions have intervened little in the Hindu-tribal dynamics of the region, so that comparisons can be drawn quite clearly between traditional knowledge and beliefs, on one hand, and conventional views on the other.”

As part of the Fabian socialism adopted by our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the subsequent setting up of the ministry of Tribal Affairs by the Government of India, a surge of projects and plans were taken up in this sector. Both government and committed non-governmental agencies pooled resources, energy and manpower in a format structured system. Whether this intervention into a society which had its own systematic structures was the ‘correct’ approach is yet to be seen.

The land of the fearless tribes & natural resources, enriched with natural beauty and thick forests today is enveloped by the centres of the government and the private non governmental organisations for promoting art and crafts such as stone craft, iron craft, metal, terra-cotta to name a few. It was in such a soil that Shiv Verma was nurtured.

As a result of a chance encounter with a visual artist, the inspiring Navtoj Altaf , this young man from a naturally enriched cultural environment became the first person to enter the hallowed portals of the prestigious MS university Baroda – the alumni and home to some of India’s ‘star’ artists like Neelima Sheikh, Dhruva Mistry and KG Subramanyam to name a few.

Shiv got enrolled into the Bachelors of Fine Art program. Having worked with all the mediums to lay his foundation, he specialised and stood out in his Masters in Fine Arts by taking up the creative metal sculpture technique specialising in bronze and iron. Shiv researched in the archives and saw that very few artists were using the original metal medium, which provided a challenging terrain.

Wanting to experiment with different medium as per the concept of the work, metal became the starting point in the execution of his ideas.

Shiv Verma’s visual vocabulary reminds me of the sculptor, painter and media artist Yinka Shonibare who used indigenous African textiles and cultural references of the land of his ancestors while living and training in London. He has explored issues of race and class by adopting a richly complex and unconventional approach. In the same way Shiv Verma repeatedly visits and revisits the geography, topography and environment of his own personal history. His forms and concerns invariably have recurring leitmotifs from Bastar. Whether it is the biological or the botanical, the onslaught of globalisation creeps into his work. From hybrid fruits to enforced technology, the underbelly of globalisation is the basic skeleton of his work as expressed in his sculptures ‘The Tribal Gods’ and the ‘Third Eye’.

Shiv Verma uses both traditional and modern materials from cast iron to stainless steel. Verma works with the technique he watched, viewed and worked with the craftsmen of Bastar. It is in the articulation of forms that his formal training at the art college in Baroda leads the way.

Drawing unabashedly the mother of all art is yet another inherent strength of Verma’s. Different to a painter’s, the strength and power of Verma’s drawings bring in a vibrant energy to his set of paintings. The acrylics on canvas in this exhibition have been inspired by the wall paintings that he saw in his hometown in the earthy colours and tones. He has bought an interface of science and technology in his works that harmonises with the natural habitat.

Retiring, self effacing, shy almost to the point of a non verbal communication, Shiv’s voice has an uncanny potency in the sculptures in which he uses not just cast iron but also the more unrelenting metal i.e. stainless steel with equal dexterity. He knows the language of tribal art and technique and with his formal training at MS University Baroda, he literally weaves ‘magic’. Conceptually strong, mystically ‘crafty’ Shiv Verma brings in that enchanting pattern which has a political twist. His work is not only ethereally beautifully stunning the viewers into a gasp of silence, but also enticing the viewer to ‘re’ turn to look and ‘re’ look at what an encounter with craft can do.

A sensitive cerebral artist, Shiv Verma’s strength lies in his complete mastery of the craft, which he catapults into a contemporary cosmopolitan language.

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Summer 2008

Language

Rajesh K. Baderia and Dana Lynne Andersen’s Show

‘Fusion’
East West Spirit Matter
By Rajesh K. Baderia and Dana Lynne Andersen
Presented by Draupadi Trust Organisation

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”
Rudyard Kipling From the Ballad of East and West

Dana Lynne Andersen and Rajesh K. Baderia have proved the statement wrong in more ways than one. Dana Lynne Andersen from California (USA) and Rajesh K. Baderia from New Delhi (India) come together in the white cube space of the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre with a rare energy which brings in international cross currents of philosophical thought. Both Dana and Rajesh are fuelled by the same search for an awakening of the mind and body to higher levels of consciousness. Together they bring in a singular fusion which has an uncanny alchemy.

Two diverse individuals, two different sexes, one man one woman from two different geographies would undoubtedly have dissimilar languages yet in their case their alphabets are similar. Both share a common ‘zeitgeist’ that of a shared cosmology.

For Dana “The Arts have the potential to catalyze the evolution of humanity.” She is creating work as a global fuel to harness and channelize human energy. Dana works as a conduit of transformation within the human spirit. And this stems from her own spiritual awakening which in a way finds a resonance in India.

The scale of Dana’s works is almost monumental. Her paintings are spectacular in their breadth of vision and intensity of colour. The mystical panorama of colours and form speak of the vastness of the universe and mysterious depths of nature. Dana explores and interrogates the human and natural energies through the act of painting itself.

Rajesh K. Baderia on the same trail uses a different language of expression and representation. Using sacred geometry and ancient texts, Rajesh creates powerful paintings which resonate with hidden energy. Using primal pure colours Rajesh creates works which transform themselves into ‘yantras’ and icons of meditation.

Blood red and black, cerulean blue and black, deep greens and blacks almost hypnotise you into a meditative silence.

Predominantly abstract, the paintings are created intuitively evolving out of a similar practice of traditional Indian painters who meditated for days before they created divine icons. He follows the trajectory of ‘Dhyana’ and his paintings are a reflection of this feeling of introspection and oneness. It is the spirit carrying the form within itself, much against the Western norms where the form carries whatever that may be of the spirit. Looking at the world not with a physical eye, but with beliefs making the physical seeing of things a passage to the opening in an inner spiritual movement. Rajesh K. Baderia’s works are governed by a principle, making abstraction an essence of being, feeling and sensing.

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
April 2008

Inside Out and Outside In

I have been visiting Jaipur for as long as I can remember. However, the visits have increased over the last four years on a regular basis ever since Faith Singh initiated the idea of the Jaipur Virasat Fesitival. And in my various inroads into Jaipur I was struck by the energy and dynamism which dots the landscape of the erstwhile royal and now the commercial city of Jaipur.

Post Independent Jaipur has also become the hub of a great trading class. From gems to jewels, from textiles to stone, from handicrafts to fine art, Jaipur seduces and engages every visitor to the city

As part of the ‘golden triangle’ of tourism, Jaipur has had its steady flow of the foreign and the indigenous traveller. And, it was this steady flow of tourism and the consumption of cultural production of Jaipur that prompted me to title the exhibition “Inside OUT, Outside IN”. The exhibition attempts to interrogate and experience the creative spaces and energies of Jaipur. For me, Jaipur almost always embodies a potent cocktail of art, craft and design.

The exhibition will transcend the languages of art and the various mediums of expression. An interdisciplinary cross-cultural manifestation of cultural production emerges where the zeitgeist is embedded in Jaipur.

Within the global context, Jaipur has always been in the ‘eyes’ of the outside world (the foreigner) — both for tourism and commerce. Its architecture, the museums and ‘royalty’ have always drawn tourists from across the globe. Gems and textiles are the other face of Jaipur. From across the continents gemologists and jewellers flood Jaipur to buy the best of gems and create jewellery. From Bagru to Shekhawati, the block printers of Jaipur have created superb world-class textiles that have been promoted both by individuals and corporates. And, then the huge craft community of its stone cutters, taazia makers — all living in harmony — also demonstrate the secular spirit of the state acting as a catalyst in of bridging cultural boundaries, celebrating a plural state.

All the 20 artists invited for the show have a connection with Jaipur, either through the physical geography or a cultural thread. From within Jaipur itself , ‘inside-outside’ artists like Piyush Pande have taken advertising to new heights, just as Chintan Upadhyay has also taken visual culture to the global stage. So, the idea of the show is to bring about a cross-cultural stream of two forces that are constantly busy energising each other.

‘Inside OUT, Outside IN’ will become the signpost of a model that will showcase the brightest and the best of Jaipur, not just to the people of Jaipur, but also to the world outside.

Jaipur as a part of Rajasthan becomes the protagonist who starts the journey of foregrounding Rajasthan like never before. For, if any state takes care of its writers, thinkers, artists and craftsmen, that state becomes an icon of a civil society and governance.

Through this exhibition the cultural diversity and the secular spirit of the state is captured.

Jaipur Virasat Foundation

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Spring 2008

Sonia Mehra Chawla Urban Biomorphic

The Stainless Show

“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of 
feeling the artist has experienced.” – 
Leo Tolstoy

Traditional Indian Art has always been a holistic one. Having its roots in the divine, the act of creating becomes a gesture of the Divine. And a segment from the Vishnudharmottara Purana illustrates this perfectly . It is the conversation between the Sage Markandeya and the powerful King Vajra. When Vajra wished to learn the art of sculpture, the sage instructed the powerful king to learn painting, dance and music before he could even think of producing an art work.

Thus the blurring of boundaries in art craft and design have always been part of the art practice in ancient India. In contemporary India we go a step further with the intervention of technology within the dynamic contemporary art practice. From the gesture of the divine we move into a more temporal geography where man’s interface with technology produces art which is both spiritual, physical, sensory and also tactile.

One young contemporary artist working out of New Delhi is Vibhor Sogani. Vibhor who trained as a product designer from the prestigious National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad is himself crossing boundaries through design into art. His latest body of work titled God and I is an exciting journey of this talented visual artist. Vibhor today is difficult to pin down in a formalist definition. That he is a creator is unchallenged.

Following Vibhor’s work for more than a decade now, I feel that this innovative young artist is working in the same trajectory which is rooted deeply in the very sophisticated yet complex traditional Indian art practice. Yet his work has no direct references to Indian craft or fine art traditions. His personal language is modern, his practice has that international cosmopolitan flavour which is a natural corollary to the material he is creating with ie Stainless Steel.

While stainless steel is gaining rapid ground in contemporary societies in India and abroad with Frank O Gery taking steel to new heights in architecture , Aneesh Kapoor taking stainless steel to dizzy heights in art, Vibhor in India is taking stainless steel to inventive heights in fine arts. The art objects coming out of his studio range from floor based evocative structures , to elegant wall based works, to dynamic kinetic installations.

Like a magician Vibhor has treated steel with an alchemists mysterious touch. Uneven rough, matt, surfaces play with satin and mirror finishes, leaving the viewer gasping with beauty. So clever is the play with material that in My Neighbour Gulliver a strange dizziness grips the viewer, seducing him/her to simply become one with the material

It is in exploring the qualities of stainless steel, and experimenting with the hardness and strength of steel that Vibhor not only shows his understanding of the material but also pushes the envelop of creativity.

God & I becomes a sacred yet challenging journey for Vibhor. Sacred because of the sanctitiy with which he approaches steel, and challenging because Vibhor is creating a new domain for stainless steel out of its ‘use’ in architecture and lifestyle. A designer who has in the last many years has won accolades for creating some of the most inventive life style products and lights using stainless steel as a medium in this show Vibhor moves seamlessly from a design orientation to a pure fine art practice.

Through God and I Vibhor plays not just with the title, but his own engagement with the bounty of nature, with his inner and outer landscapes. As the works play with the inherent characteristics of steel- the satin finish, the mirror finish and the raw and rough finishes, the surfaces interplay dramatically, encapsulating the reflections from the immediate environment, thus making the relationship between the art, the artist and the viewer a reactive and proactive one.

The complex and unusual forms emerge from his design practice, the finishes and patina again from his design orientation, but the knitting together of techniques and concepts is placed within the fine art domain.

His approach is very thought provoking and he naturally communicates his ideas and expressions through the medium of art installations.. Starting to work in steel, in the building up of the show, Vibhor in many ways repositioned the material and catapulted steel to another level, He has also experimented, explored, fused and combined other materials like brass, copper, bronze and stone.

Almost two scores of art works make the show God and I. And each art work is the beginning of yet another work. These spectacular works can be placed within the homes, outdoor in farmhouses, in the lobbies of hotels, even in intimate study rooms. Each piece is well thought out, and it is in the placing of these pieces that the space and the object enrich each other.

“If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.”

Bruce Barton”

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Spring 2008

The Next Awakening’s Show

Event Details : Nine blue chip artists of the future.

This exhibition will showcase the growing maturity and inimitable styles of the participating artists – Raj Mohanty, Pradeep Puthoor, Paradosh Swain, Nandita Chowdhury, Falguni Gokhale, Mahua Sen, Roopa Shree, Rashmi Dogra and Veejayant Dash. These artists are from all over India, and their paintings reflect their individual sensibilities according to their location, background and experience. They use a variety of mediums like acrylics and oils on canvases and charcoal on paper.

The Next Awakening is an exhibition that suggests a brave new terrain, where the poetry of visual arts is often completed in the imagination of the viewer. The Indian art scene against this backdrop is gaining new ground, signaling a whole new world of images, while retaining its cultural traditions.

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator

Let There Be Light’s Show

Polyphonies’ Show

The 10 artists invited for Polyphonies have been chosen with a great deal of insightful reflection. The selection was based on the different flavours and tones of their renditions, tones that helped in conjuring up myriad faces and aspects of cultural diversity of the land through a process of aesthetically communicated creativity. There is also a geographical mapping done through their works.

These post-independence Indian artists cross generations and go beyond the language of the early modernists, moving into the domain of contemporary art.

Each one of them creates work that is unique in expression and practice, yet thoroughly imbibed with the distinct spirit of ‘indianness’. Bridging the gap between the ancient and the modern, the then and the now, these artists echo the different voices that resonate the spirit of ‘India Now’.

The works of Ashim Purkayastha, Arpana Caur, Biju Jose, Baiju Parthan, Dhruva Mistry, Hema Upadhyay, KT Shivaprasad, Rajesh Ram, Ravinder Reddy.G, and Suhasini Kejriwal reflect the plural spirit, the cultural diversity and the multivocality of the Asian tiger, i.e. India.

Different and differing, the artist-sculptors featured in this exhibition could well find themselves described as keepers of the flame of Indian diversity. They keep the flame alive by expressing realities filtered through unique perspectives, by fusing together images to create unexpected and shattering insights, by moulding material into shapes that defy the regular, by making art that is real and fantastic, complex and elegant, of all humanity and of India – all at the same time. They achieve this end by defying conscription, by resisting the narrow inflexibilities of set definitions and by the sheer integrity of their work.

These 10 artists are the different sounds and hues of the wonder that India is. They are the diverse resonances that rise from her soil, the echoes of her enigmatic avatars. And hence, it is through their respective bodies of work that we map the polyphonic symphonies of India.

Hema Upadhyay

Hema’s work is mainly autobiographical, with much of it working to demolish the demonization or fetishization of self-portraiture. Like many contemporary artists she focuses on the razor’s edge that modern living usually is, with the pictorial concept playing an important role in her visual language. Her creative engagements with the different aspects of urban living make her work deeply evocative and introspective. Hema’s work is infused with a sense of catharsis, a feature that facilitates a sense of identification as well as angst in the viewer. Her images often touch upon feminist themes, a sense of dislocation, and an inner state of anxiety referenced within the context of violence and domesticity.

Dhruva Mistry

In Mistry’s work the niche is created by a body of work that focuses on individual experiences as seen through the filter of a perspective located within a western context. What makes this particular way of representation interesting is that while it does have tones of an occidental presence, the overall spirit is unequivocally rooted in an Indian cultural context. Many of the images he uses are drawn from the mythic and religious fabric of India, and they take on completely new facets when juxtaposed with experiences of the ‘other’. A common theme running through his works is the presence of subconscious archetypes. Mistry’s work is essentially layered, fusing together its solid cultural anchorage with a visual idiom that is universally valid and evocative.

Ashim Purkayastha

Many of Ashim’s works address issues of migration and survival. A free spirit himself, the sense of identification with the migrant is deep and apparent in much of his work, and temporal negotiations with any particular territorial context dominate much of his artistic idiom. Another predominant image in his work is that of the butterfly, once again a symbol of transience, metamorphosis, precarious beauty and change – all essential currents in the life of the twenty-first century citizen. As he mediates through labyrinths of human predicaments in his art, Ashim creates visions of disturbing conceits, surprisingly meaningful to all who engage with them.

Ravinder Reddy

Reddy’s work is a coming together of the traditional and the modern, and once together the combination moulded into a contemporary image that draws from the world it is located in. Another feature of his work is the distinct and deep sensuality that runs through it, although it exists more in terms of the covert rather than the overt, the subtle rather than the explicit. What is interesting to see is that this sensuality is seen almost always as a sense of well-being and fulfillment as opposed to excitement or arousal. Reddy’s work also has a strong conventionalizing impulse running through it, although it gets effectively countered by a sense of potential future renewal and regeneration – an aspect that further adds to its energy and enhances its creative vocabulary.

Biju Joze

Joze’s work draws largely from the long heritage of traditional Indian art forms, and balances it perfectly with the more radical movements of western aestheticism. The result is a unique and effective synthesis between the traditional and the eclectic. In keeping with the overall character of his work, even the media chosen by Joze incorporate options ranging from the conventional to the experimental, the metallic to the organic. His work remains real in the representations it seeks to breathe life into, relevant and issue-based in content, and deeply evocative in its language of visual imagery. It is the prime example of effectively communicated creative synthesis.

Suhasini Kejriwal

For Suhasini, the creation of art leads to the birth of a unique space where images function differently. Since this act occurs in an aesthetic mode, she believes that it leads to a slower and deeper process of absorption, one in which the engagement between the viewer and the viewed becomes much more real, valid and honest in terms of personal interpretation and meaning. Existing as an antithesis to the workings of instant gratification, the language of her art is therefore more than a mere visual projection; it is, instead, an involvement, an engagement, and an acknowledgement.

Baiju Parthan

The essential theme in Parthan’s work is the complete collapse of boundaries in all areas of contemporary human existence. An artist with a unique imagination, he has succeeded in creating a fascinating visual vocabulary that celebrates art while borrowing heavily from the rich symbolic heritage of Indian culture. With each work he goes further and further into the territory of metamorphisation, something he believes to be an inherent part of modern life. With a chosen language of archaic symbology, Parthan creates art that focuses on the various ‘selfs’ that are contained within each person, and of how frequent the interchangeability, the blurring of lines and hybridity of all these selves actually is.

Rajesh Ram

Rajesh is a painter and sculptor based in New Delhi. His visual language is one that expresses the tensions and anxieties of urban living, balanced as it is between the oft contradictory pulls between tradition and modernity. He communicates his message by using images and symbols entrenched in the familiar and everyday, and by juxtaposing them against different backdrops and contexts. What results is a work often jarring in the connotations it contains through it creative fusion. In Ram’s work one journeys from the known to the unknown, dealing simultaneously with the dilemmas and angst of modern existence.

Arpana Caur

Arpana is an artist who shares a uniquely symbiotic relationship with the world around her. While drawing from it the inspiration and essence to infuse her works with, she also gives back to it generously, and is connected to numerous social causes. Arpana often uses motifs from folk art in her visual vocabulary. In her work one witnesses the successful attainment of the extremely challenging task of bridging the gap between the specific and the universal, the unitary and the infinite.

KT Shivaprasad

Shivaprasad’s trajectory essentially explores the relationships between reality and illusion. Rooting himself in direct realism, his work blends together elements of abstraction and conscious pose, transforming his subject matter into potent imagery. Looking at the world around himself he lays out a mélange of disparate signs and symbols, arranging them in an intensely logical and original manner, and questioning the validity of modern existence as we know it. His works look at the many colours of life, and respect the global while remaining firmly anchored in the local. By representing humankind amidst its compelling predicaments and triumphs, Shivaprasad reveals the inherent profundity of mankind in visual terms.

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Winter 2007

Satyagraha’s Show

Satyagraha – Unspoken Strength

Celebrating 100 years of his participation and the leadership in burning the pass, which was a peaceful protest against South Africa’s discrimination and its apartheid policies, Gandhi still ‘lives’ in South Africa. Maybe not in flesh but definitely in spirit.

Known in India as the ‘Father of the Nation’ he left an indelible impact on world philosophy. Never has Gandhi been more relevant or important as in the present day terror infested world. The symbol of peaceful resistance on Gandhi’s greatest unspoken strength was made visible by him through Satyagraha.

Satyagraha was a philosophy based on truth, ‘pure’ truth and a clearly defined wrong. To get justice or resist any wrong for Gandhi, the weapon was without force and falsehood and the removal of the wrong was not an end in itself. Gandhi’s Satyagraha was based on moral power, on the power of non-violent protest a true expression of the common man.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi hailed from Porbandar in Gujarat and on 25th July, 2008 a series of bombs in Ahmedabad transformed Gandhi’s state of birth into a state of terror. One of the world’s greatest messenger of peace, Gandhi’s own land of origin way back in 2007 became a hub of inhuman crimes. Thus Gandhi’s methodology of non-violent resistance Satyagraha becomes increasingly relevant in today’s environment of unease.

Gandhi in his quest for freedom and the building of a modern independent Indian identity used indigenous practises to showcase India’s traditional wisdom through traditional philosophy and handicrafts such as the charkha and khadi. Khadi became the fabric of freedom.

Shantiniketan was founded by the noble laureate Rabrindranath Tagore as an alternate art-learning institute to the British system of art education. He took a leaf from the traditional Indian system of learning akin to that of a ‘gurukul’, where the teacher and the taught had a symbiotic relationship. He also brought in a visionary blend of Asian and western thoughts. Tagore and Gandhi had a fond affinity for one another despite their differences in matter of politics, nationalism, and social reform.

A product of Shantiniketan, Nandalal Bose had a spirit of nationalism and allegiance to Gandhi and to the Congress. It was best manifested in his posters for the Haripura Congress in 1937.

Satyagraha/Unspoken strength takes off from Gandhi’s personal inclination of the use of art to mobilise people. Fifteen contemporary Indian artists were invited to interrogate their own personal interpretation of the notion of Satyagraha.

With the opening of the markets in India and it becoming an increasingly significant player in the world, Indian art too has found a place in the scene. Till the turn of the century traditional Indian arts and crafts like sculpture, painting, textiles and handicrafts had a niche status bordering on the ‘exotic east’ as India started racing ahead in the twenty first century contemporary Indian art, along with Chinese Contemporary art entered the domain of contemporary global art practices.

From the ‘gesture of the divine’ where traditional Indian art was created for ritual practice and divine worship, the early modernists in post independent India started establishing their own independent voices. Beginning with Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Shergil followed by the pioneers of individual language in contrast to the anonymous craftsmen of traditional India. Spearheaded by Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza, M.F. Husain, S. K. Bakre and Tyeb Mehta, the development of Indian art has continued with a steady evolution with an unbroken tradition with the past. In fact this unbroken tradition with the past is at once India’s strength and yet also provides great challenges because of fissures, fractures of modernity. India’s modernity has its own journey very affluent to the Western/occidental world since for more than 200 years India was a colony of the British Empire.

India is relatively a young independent country barely crossing sixty years of age but in the last 5 years has catapulted itself amongst the future notions of the world who will be shaping world business and politics internationally.

Nationally India inspite of its long developing notion status has stood the test of time due to its plural, liberal and multi-vocal character. The strong constitutional and institutional frameworks set up by the visionary leaders of independent India, the Fabian socialism adopted by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is apparent in the strength of its democratic forces today.

With the progressive government policies of economic growth the rise of the great Indian middle class, both external and internal investments, the success of the IT sector and the burgeoning BPO sector India is now the most favoured destinations of the world. From spiritual tourism to urban luxury brands coming in, India ‘rocks.’

In such a climate, contemporary Indian art too has made its mark. Contemporary Indian artists are asserting their identities with buyers, collectors, hedge funds, museum and public collection. Contemporary Indian art has jumped from being predominantly an object of aesthetic pleasure to being part of the financial investment structure. Akin to holding on to blue chips stocks and shares contemporary India art is also being collected for its ‘financial/investment’ value.

The collector’s are not only rich Indians or the wealthy Non Residential Indians, the latter buying art for nostalgia for the homeland and an assertion of their identity.

This is boom time for contemporary Indian artists where the two posters boys leading the parade are the modernist, the feisty yet controversial MF Husain who is presently in Dubai working on massive project to create 99 paintings on Arab culture by the Qatar royal family, as well as a commission for Laxmi Mittal on ‘The History of Indian Civilization’. And then the enfant terrible of Indian art Subodh Gupta – known as New Delhi’s Damien Hirst, who has moved into the record making million dollar bracket.

Indian art today is in its own way a ‘marker of Indian identity’ an identity, which is assured, confident and ready to take on anything hands own. There is an unspoken strength in the galloping prices of Indian contemporary art, which is gaining rapid grounds outside the auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies.

Dr. Alka Pande
Curator
Monsoon 2008