Art News & Views

[The Month That Was]


Mumbai Art Sighting

by Jasmine Shah Varma

Gallery get-together

Mumbai is divided by the city's linear topography into south and north regions. The visual arts activity is heavily concentrated in south Bombay while the north is where the cinema industry is located. A consortium of nine art galleries based in the Fort and Colaba areas of Mumbai made an effort to bridge this gap with a two-day, weekend event at Taj Lands End in Bandra, a suburb that's northwards. On March 31 and April 1, Chatterjee & Lal, Chemould Prescott, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinrucke, Gallery Maskara, The Guild, Lakeeren, Taj Lands End, Project 88, Sakshi Gallery and Volte Gallery together organised Mumbai Gallery Weekend. The event was aimed at reaching out at the potential suburban art market and received a fairly positive footfall.

Rather than an individual booth for each gallery the layout merged the works represented by the different galleries, making a seamless flow of artworks. The exhibition was an eclectic collection of works giving a picture of contemporary art. Most of the featured artists were under the age of 50 years. Established artists such as Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, T V Santhosh, Gigi Scaria, Ranbir Kaleka to emerging ones such as Minam Apang, T Venkanna, Sujith SN and Prajakta Potnis exhibited works in various mediums. The Mumbai Gallery Weekend is likely to take place once again in the future encouraging a newer audience to experience art.

Pixel perspective

At a time when we can surf our way into art museums across the world to look closely at centuries' old works of art thanks to initiatives like the Google Art project, Rashid Rana, the leading Pakistani artist compels an audience to visit the gallery and stand up close to view his works. Apposite / Opposite is an exhibition on at Gallery Chemould and Chatterjee and Lal till May 26. The joint exhibition covers 30 works made over the last three to four years. While the latter gallery is hosting the sculptural works, Chemould is showing his photo montages, installations and video based art.

Rana's works are an assembly of thousands of tiny digital photographs put together in a montage or pixelated images that form the surface of sculptures or cuboids. In the video work  Anatomy Lesson 3 each part in the video mosaic is animated engrossing you as much in the technique, the subject, the hundreds of images and the one large picture. Desperately Seeking Paradise II is a large scale, engaging stainless steel installation that provides different perspectives when viewed from different angles. From one angle you see houses, building and streets of towns in Pakistan, from another you see your reflection, and from yet another angle you see the angular lines of the steel structure. One is compelled to view every work from up close and from a distance for there is illusion at play as well. The engaging quality in Rana's works is not attributed to the magic of technique alone but the art historical references, the contemporary micro images relating to the worlds of religion, politics, everyday life and topography of towns in Pakistan. The works are enchanting and gruesome, representing a range of complexities of the human condition. One of most recognised and celebrated artists from South Asia, the constant evolution seen in Rana's practice has kept the art world looking up to him.

Stories retold

Eminent artist Badri Narayan returns to Mumbai city for a solo show at The Viewing room Gallery. The 83-year old is showing works on paper made since 2006, till May 26, 2012. The collection re-familiarizes us with his narrative watercolours where we once again meet creatures and characters from fables. Stories and their morals from Jataka tales and Panchatantra, portrayal of Ganesha, mythical creatures like winged horses and kinnara - the half human half horse beings, and fictionalised narratives from his personal life are illustrated in detailed compositions. Rooted in the Indian ethos his works are at once simple to grasp and also full of symbolic meaning. They are meant to provide an insight to life. We see a gamut of themes like praying, devotion, dreams, voyage, pain, death, the recurring monk figure and an array of composition featuring houses devoid of living beings in this collection. It also features still lives and another of his famed subjects - husband and wife portraits. Badri Narayan's style has a naïve sensibility where elements in the foreground and background have an equal prominence as seen in Indian miniature paintings. Line drawing and cross hatch texturing in ink and, watercolour washes are his trademark. This suite of paintings is predominated by vivid, pleasing primary colours.

The self-taught artist, also well-known as an illustrator of books, has worked away since the 1950s showing with prominent galleries. The Padma Shri awardee lived in Mumbai until recently but is now based in Bangalore.

Relearn the alphabet

Get prepared to relearn the alphabet when you visit Sathyanand Mohan's solo show Mirage at The Guild. One of the sets of works he is showing is titled L'ABECEDAIRE as in Gilles Deleuze's series of interviews. Sathyanand's photographic prints are a tad literal; a letter is held in the foreground and behind that we see a tableau of objects evoking an idea that is described by a word starting with the letter held upfront. So behind the letter 'A' is a montage of trinkets and a pile of broken pieces all of which, including the letter and the hand holding it, are coated in metallic gold colour. A for avarice is expected to be the viewer's response. In this fashion one goes through the series, decoding the imagery  a layout of objects akin to Vanitas - and coming up with the word suggested by the given letter. Unlike Deleuze though, Sathyanand has skipped a few letters from the alphabet. The process of communication, language and interpretation are brought up in these suggestive inkjet prints.In other works presented in this solo we see a similar play with objects, carefully planned scenes, techniques of photography and printing to symbolically convey the Baroda-based artist's conceptual ideas.

The exhibition is on view till May 26.

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