A Patch of Blue – Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

The Gond tribal community is one of India’s largest indigenous community. They are mainly found in Madhya Pradesh and its surrounding States. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the Dravidian idiom. The Gonds traditionally painted on mud walls of their houses. Their art is an expression of their everday quest for life. They believe that “viewing a good image begets good luck”. This inherent belief led the Gonds to decorating their houses and the floors with tradition tattoos and motifs. Starting in the early 1980s, certain talented Pardhan Gonds who traditionally serve as professional bardic priests began transforming their ritual performing arts into a new tradition of figurative and narrative visual art: using a variety of modern media (including acrylic paintings on canvas, ink drawings on paper, silkscreen prints, and animated film) they have created unprecedented depictions of their natural and mythological worlds, traditional songs and oral histories. Rich in detail, color, mystery and humor, these tribal artworks brilliantly employ modern means to evoke the pre-modern psyche. Jangarh Singh Shyam, uncle of Venkat Raman Singh Shyam was the first Gond artist to use paper and canvas for his art. Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness aboriginal art from Australia as both styles use dots to create the painting.

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Venkat Shyam, has been sketching and painting since he was seven years old. Every scrap of paper, even the blank spaces on the walls of his home were covered with his charcoal drawings. When Venkat’s uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam, visited in 1983, his eye caught the image of Shridi Sai baba on the wall and the sketches of houses and insects in the margins of the newspaper. He asked Venkat to come to Bhopal to paint after he had completed his studies in the Sinjhona village school. His first painting was of the goddess Khero Mai, who protects the village from evil spirits and to whom he had prayed before he left for Bhopal. When Jangarh saw the painting and called him a “donkey”, Venkat knew his uncle was pleased with his work. Later, Venkat went to Delhi, where at various times he worked as a cook, a rickshaw puller, a mason, an electrician, putting most of his earnings into buying art materials. Here, he would often visit the well known contemporary artist, J. Swaminathan. Swamiji’s affectionate manner and the respect he showed, treating Venkat as a fellow artist, would always lift his spirits. Jangarh Shyam’s death in 2001, came as a severe blow to Venkat. He decided then and there that he would do nothing but paint. From culture specific painting to highly abstract themes, Venkat has done it all. He feels an artist must bring a freshness to the time honoured themes. “When one looks at my paintings, one must feel they are traditional but at the same time, there have to be new elements in them,” he says.

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Through his artistic journey of three decades, Venkat has integrated both modern and traditional stylistic influences in his work. Venkat has travelled extensively in India and to many European Countries, where his works have been exhibited. He was awarded the Rajya Hasta Shilpa Puraskar by the Madhya Pradesh Government in 2002. He was also the coordinator for an animated film of a Gond folktale, made by Tara Douglas, which won an award in the Tallest Story Competition in Scotland. His book ‘Finding My Way’ has been much appreciated by John Berger, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and others.

The show ‘A Patch of Blue’ is currently being shown at ArtZone, Pullman Hotel, Aerocity, New Delhi till 21st Feb, 2017.

Reciprocation

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Dinesh Khanna and Kathryn Myers are showcasing their works for the first time together in response to one another’s creative interests, capturing objective reality through the lens of the camera. The show aptly titled Reciprocation suggests the way they both respond to India; Dinesh Khanna as the son of the soil and Kathryn Myers as the often time visitor to this land, seemingly to blend or reciprocate the ‘insider-outsider’ discourse.

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Khanna discovers his artistic subject matter in the rural India with her unassuming folks, spirited festivities and sacred rituals radiating the fragrance of life and the eventuality of its purpose. In works from Nizamuddin the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘sublime’ reciprocate through a veiled transparent appearance, as against the contrastingly sombre pulsating waters at the Banaras Ghats, here touching the last two steps of life is symbolically represented by a brass pot with a white shroud resting in an eternal silence!

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Kathryn relates to spaces as passages; passages of movement, of inhabitation, of time, of transformation and transcendence. In her Varanasi Passage series, dark spaces are illumined by the prevailing night, casting a silent-still moment, coaxing the viewer through an underlying geometry of a vanishing-point perspective. She inherits the aesthetics of art and the instincts of a painter to articulate an engaging visual drama through her digital device. In her Complimentary series, colours and forms are seen juxtaposed; bringing out the mundane, the odd, the eerieand the comical in its profoundest form. Opposites constantly reciprocate in her work to inspire a wondrous experience!

Omprakash December 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping In-Aarti Vir

As you walk into Aarti Vir’s rustic, frightfully well organised studio in Hyderabad, you’ll notice a little space at the entrance. Arranged higgledy-piggledy with a charming negligence, this site is what she calls ‘the graveyard of failures’ – these are works that she attempted but never exhibited, pieces that cracked in firing, items that got left behind on the shelf. Taken together this collection will tell you, if you look closely enough, quite a bit of the journey of this extremely intriguing ceramic artist.

You’ll see deep browns and ochres marking pots from more than a decade ago. You’ll notice towers, conceptual sculpture that she ventured into earlier. There is bric-a-brac, various forms of houses and shelters she was once preoccupied with, the grey-white threshold forms she churned out in one phase… and the large constructed whorls that she appears currently obsessed with. It’s all there: for the casual observer, for the keen eyed Holmesian, for the wannabe psychoanalyst to draw conclusions from.

Vir works in this studio almost always alone. A few helpers stay in the vicinity and a couple of friendly stray dogs settle in the verandah but you can tell – this is a very solitary business. She seldom turns on music, preferring the occasional thump of hand on clay, and bird twitter. And working with clay – kneading, moulding, crossing – and yes, surrendering. It is, she admits, a spiritual process.

Indeed, if you come to look at it, hers is a spiritual journey. A journey of half steps… retreats and advances, and now, it appears, a growing certainty.One could try to read deeper into the forms she has been creating. A few years ago, her preoccupation with shelters and houses coincided most tellingly with her pregnancy. A simple seeking of security, a haven, to be within safe boundaries that keep out – and at the same time, keep in. She pondered deep and long over borders and fences. But that underwent a change, and the artist moved to a series of thresholds – ornate, beautiful thresholds… neither in nor out, poised for movement in either direction. Now, it would seem, she has committed to a course.For so many works in this showing speak eloquently of this new leaning. Intricate lines and swirls seeking their centre, and stairways that hauntingly lead, not to soaring heights, but to almost arcane doorways within.As someone influenced by Buddhist thought, as a lover of the music and poetry of the Sufis, as a spiritual seeker, Vir demonstrates that ancient axiom: the only way out is in.

As to her technique, she has always loved to experiment with glazes and slips, achieving stunning results. She bisques everything, which lets her use as many as four slips as well as a glaze on a single piece… investing her work with a certain layered sophistication. Over time, she has ventured with series of utilitarian poetry as well as conceptual sculpture. This time around, the artist has had a slight change of earth. She has been used to primarily making stoneware but she has now included porcelain in her repertoire.

There are five distinct collections in this showing. The first goes to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus for its title: ‘No man steps in the same river twice’. These are fascinating sculptures where Vir uses one element to suggest another – the medium is earth but the implication is water. Fluid wavy lines suggestive of ever flowing streams… parting, meeting, flowing, parting again… each particle ever in motion. The pieces are steel grey, with smudges of brown and wonderful patterns that the artist calls ‘gifts’ from the flyash in the woodfire kiln she fires in.

‘Seeking Centre’, by contrast, is more studied. These are portals reminiscent of a long garden pathway… is it a maze we’re in, or simply lost in the wonders of this many splendored garden? But whatever it is, we are seeking the centre of it all, the very hub. And then, reminding one of the famous stepwells of ancient India, there are the mysterious stairways that lead downward, inward…

On the same theme, but approaching it from a different tack is ‘Interconnected’– a comment on the complex connections that course through life and the universe. Connections that form, dissolve, stretch, fray, reform, reconnect. These are pieces in white and grey that enchantingly carry stains of canary yellow.

‘Fleeting’is another example where clay is made to speak for something far more insubstantial: fluff clouds. This is a varied assortment of moods and thoughts… some dark, some playful, some weighty, but all of them just coming and going. Impermanent, fleeting and perhaps, of no great value?

‘Moult’is collection of delicate, gossamer things: moulted feathers, desiccated butterfly wings. Heartbreakingly beautiful but fragile, transient. And because of the brevity of their existence, a complete tale in themselves of birth, decay and renewal.

There is an overlap of motifs that ties the whole collection together – and reminds you that this artist studied painting for six years before she turned to pottery. An ingoing stairway, for instance, has a deep scratch of feather. The portals are decorated with wisps of clouds. Here and there scratches in the ceramic hint at tributaries and strands looping back to complete a connection.

An important moment in Aarti Vir’s journey but equally for us, we who stand and stare at her work. The quest is on, and the answers are within.

Sheetal Vyas

July 2016

Sheetal Vyas is a writer and journalist. She has known Aarti Vir and followed her work since they were both students at the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication at the University of Hyderabad.

 

Shahidul Alam in the News

Kalpana Chakma, a young leader of the Bangladeshi Hill Women’s Federation, was abducted from her home by military personnel and civilian law enforcers at gunpoint on 12 June 1996. She remains missing. Through this work, part of Drik’s ‘No More’ campaign, photographer Shahidul Alam has tried to break a silence that successive governments, whether civilian or military backed, have carefully nurtured. The exhibition uses laser etching on straw mats, an innovative technique developed specifically for this exhibition. The process involved in creating these images is rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Interviewees had repeatedly talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture. That Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat. The straw mats were burned by a laser beam much as the fire that had engulfed the pahari villages.

Shilpakala Award recipient Shahidul Alam, set up Drik and Majority World agencies, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and Chobi Mela festival. Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photography Society and visiting professor at Sunderland University. Alam has chaired the World Press Photo jury. Alam also introduced email to Bangladesh. His book my journey as a witness has been described as “the most important book ever written by a photographer” by legendary picture editor of Life Magazine, John Morris. He is an internationally acclaimed public speaker and has presented at Hollywood, National Geographic, re:publica, COP21 and POP Tech.

Read more: http://www.shahidulnews.com/kalpanas-warriors-opens-in-delhi#ixzz3xnPdaENR

Ain’t I a Woman?- Mahula Ghosh’s Shifting Portraits

20151026_14283611211‘Shifting Portraits’ is a solo exhibition of Mahula Ghosh at Delhi’s Arts and Aesthetic Gallery. An exhibition that suits to the mood of the on setting winter, it speaks about the lives and times of the tea plantation workers in Darjeeling, especially the women folk who do all the culling and sorting of tea leaves in the dewy mornings at the hill slopes of Darjeeling. Mahula had spent her childhood days in this part of the world and somehow the plight of women who have been doing this slaves’ job in the plantations even during the most hostile climatic conditions got etched into her mind quite deeply. Any kind of art, whatever contemporary inspirations that it has for manifesting through the hands of an artist, definitely does not eschew the inclination of the artist to plumb into the tunnels of memory. No work of art gains the enduring quality provided if it is not softened by the dews of memories. Mahula, like most of the sensitive human beings was making memories involuntarily while living in Darjeeling. Today, as a matured artist she chooses to paint them in a very subtle way, using very subtle mediums- water colour, tea bags on Nepali Paper.

The title could be a bit misleading for it would goad the viewer to think about a series of portraits of the tea plantation workers that would reveal the hazardous lives that they are leading in the plantations. However, the exhibition is not that literal and there is a very subtle sense of femininity running as a connecting thread between and through all these works. Mahula has used stitching, pasting, cutting, colouring and drawing for making these works speak to the viewers. She has not resorted to any particular narrative structures so that the viewers could understand the living conditions of the plantations workers. In that sense, Mahula does not intend to make a sociological visual document, rather her effort is to make a sort of revisiting to the annals of her own memories that have been lying dormant for all these years. The sudden spur that initiates into this revisiting must be very personal verging to the level of identification, not really physically but experientially. The constant drudgery that the plantation women goes through must not be radically different from the drudgery that an artist like Mahula goes through in her very urban existence.This identification does not come from a sort of class consciousness but from a larger category that makes each and every woman irrespective of their social and economic standing one and the same in the contemporary world. Tea plantations carry the history of colonialism in any part of the world. And also these plantations are the standing evidences of human trafficking or forced migrations for the purpose of farm and plantation helps. There is a fundamental difference between those people who have migrated to the rich forest lands and also to the barren areas in order to tame and cultivate, and also possess the land for themselves. Plantations were regimented places and spaces where economy and the power of economic and political supremacy had consolidated their presence in subjecting human labour to the level bondage and the creation of wealth and profit. The colonial sagas always neglect the stories of women, old people and children as they are treated as third rate animals lesser than the farm animals perhaps. Births and deaths were not really marked and signed, and only the survival of the fittest made the plantation workers confident about their living even in the subhuman bondage.

20151026_142831623141Women carrying baskets hanging from their heads or shoulders and snipping tender tea leaves in chorus silently, steadily and rhythmically provide a very beautiful romantic backdrop for the backpacker who visits these plantations as a tourist. Popular culture has always made these locations into backdrops for the romantic love to thrive and jive. Plantation workers, in these magical conversions of the spaces, either become props or when the imagination runs wild, become chorus who move behind the singing and dancing lovers. In the blurred faces that grin from ear to ear as if they were experiencing immense pleasure in becoming just props, we fail to see the hardships that they go through and even the horrendous histories of colonial exploitations etched on their faces. Mahula is definitely not a backpacker tourist. She had lived and had made memories there. She had thought about the plights of the migrant populations that neither belong here nor there. They are the creatures of labour who are devoid of all kinds of human rights. In a very poignant effort to give them their rightful place in the contemporary discourse of human rights and aesthetic consideration Mahula has come up with a very sensitive body of works in this exhibition titled ‘Shifting Portraits’. As I mentioned above, what envelopes all these works is a subtle sense of femininity which is fast disappearing from our own female artists these days. Femininity, a majority of them see as a weakness. Keeping the western art historical traditions as a point of reference, most of our feminist artists are a bit vary of using ‘feminine’ sensibilities in their works. Still, as women they just cannot go out of the feminine experiences either. This is a very interesting conundrum that they try their best to negotiate. Many, by overtly using sexual imageries or sexual bodies as mode of communication go to the extreme of expressions, which is bold and beautiful (at times) and daring experiments in the conventional art scene of India. Many, by being overtly sentimental about the issues of women, paint or sculpt them as ideal beings which often end up as decorative pieces. Hardly we see those women artists who could manage an in between path where both boldness and beauty converge to highlight the strength and integrity of feminine experiences. We had Nasreen Mohammedi with that sense of femininity using very straight and slanting lines (can you just feel it?). We had Rumanna Husain and T.K.Padmini. In the contemporary art scene we have Shobha Broota, Madhvi Parekh, Arpana Caur, Nilima Sheikh, Anju Dodiya and Arpita Singh with such feminine sensibility. Mahula Ghosh belongs to this league of artists though she is young in age. One may wonder why I left the names like Amrita Sherghil who is considered to be the epitome of feminine or feminist voice. Also one may wonder why I am not talking about Rekha Rodwittiya. Amrita Sherghil was competing with the modernist male artists of her time and one could see the ‘male’ visual language. Rekha started off as a sloganeering feminist artist and has turned her feminist protagonists in her works into icons that oscillate between tradition and modernity, not finding an escape route to transcendence. Mahula does not paint like any of them. One has to really look hard into the paintings to see portraits of women and children. But they are all there. On the tea bags, on the stitched and cut and pasted pieces of paper, one could see the floating figures. Stitching that one has learnt in schools come back to Mahula’s scheme of painting and she uses it as a ‘mending’ activity of women than a ‘decorative’ activity. They are coarsely done but with a purpose of survival. That is the way women in plantations do. Mahula in a very quirky twist connects women and machines. Machines in the tea factories are often run by men. But the raw materials are culled by women. One could say that women themselves become the raw materials for the machines, while in turn they all become just hands and shoulders that cull tea leaves; they are just machine parts so that the gigantic machine of colonialism of different sorts could work smoothly. This connection is repeated in most of the works done by Mahula. She chooses to work in watercolour because she feels that in tea plantation there is always moisture and dew. In watercolour what binds the images and colours is wetness. For her, when she touches the paper with watercolour she does it with the morning dews from Darjeeling that still moisten her memories. Two little pieces of ceramics in the form of two obscure machines are really sensitive works and Mahula could work more in this medium.

20151026_14283611‘Shifting Portraits’ drew me particularly because recently by providence I had the chance to involve in the tea plantation workers’ strike in Munnar, Kerala. Women workers, under the common banner of Penpilai Orumai (Women’s Unity) came to the streets asking for wage hike and they could persuade not only the managements and the state government but also the conscience of the people in Kerala. Women, in a bold move chased away all the political parties that came down to declare support to the striking women workers. They did not allow any political leader to sabotage and hijack their strike. It was a legendary and historical strike by women. As a social worker I could join hands with a few intellectuals in Trivandrum to support this strike. When I look at Mahula’s pictures I remember the solidarity of those women down south striking for better wages and human dignity. Those women reverberated the question raised by the first black feminist and the ex slave, Sojourner Truth, ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ In Mahula’s paintings I hear the same question in a conscience pricking murmur.

Posted by JohnyML at 12:17 PM

Curator’s Note

The basic premise of the LAND project is the second world war and the issues around it. I have been trying to find out the essence of Man and despite all the progress in our civilization why Man can’t live without war? Why is war necessary? What are the compulsions of engaging in a war? LAND is the fundamental question of any aggression, adventurism and occupation by force, whether it is the savages, barbarians or the sophisticated /advanced NATION, they all get pleasure out of such actions. To my mind there have been two most devastating wars since the beginning of the civilization, the Mahabharata war and the second world war. As a non european researcher of the second world war, I have been curious to find out the effects of war on WOMEN, or how were they treated by the NAZI PHILOSOPHY? I have tried to raise the GENDER issue through this project and particularly though the art practices of two young and talented women artists , Aditi Raman and Tanvi Jain who did their Masters from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan. I am not trying to make any definitive statement on the Gender issue but it is a learning process for me and raising an issue which may have been overlooked all these years.

Amit Mukhopadhyay
Curator
Kolkata, 2015

Art India 2015 | Of Palimpsests and Stains | Georgina Maddox

Kathryn Myers and Gopika Nath’s show at Art and Aesthetic, New Delhi, from the 7th of August to the 6th of September, could well be described as a serendipitous juxtaposition of two artists whose practices share many commonalities yet retain obvious differences. Titled Fragments and Fragmentation, this refreshing exhibition brings together a kaleidoscope of experiences, emotions and aspects of the artists’ life and work.

Both Myers and Nath invite the viewer to be intimate with their work. Myers, a painter and Professor of Art at the University of Connecticut, creates palimpsests of texture and colour. She grapples with the reductionist label of a ‘realist painter’ through a body of small – scale gouache paintings on paper that are really ‘fragments and montages of cities’ she has visited. It’s difficult to locate the cities that house the edifices and streets in her paintings. Are they situated in New Delhi, Benaras or New England? She subverts the realist label without renouncing the desire to ‘document’ her surroundings. Her gaze has been trained over years of visiting India and eschews the touristy, exotic vista, for a grittier vision. One is led through labyrinthine stairways of the ‘common  man’s home’ that never fully opens its doors and remains mysterious. The few figures that appear remain obscure; they are seen from a distance or through a barrier.

On the other hand, Nath, a textile artist and writer, is rather candid in her evocations, though her abstract, fabric-based works may be harder to ‘read’ than her video and interactive installation. This cloth-based series is marked by the recurring motif of a circular form inspired by the ‘lowly’ tea cup; the burnt material, the stitched beadwork and the singed paperwork lend themselves to be read as wounds unravelling the various layers of the self. Interestingly, the video captures the artist singing and stitching. Both these activities are usually relegated to the realm of the non-heroic narrative that folk artists, designers and women who ‘sew as a hobby’ are burdened with. However, by documenting her process and sharing its complexity, Nath manages to question the stereotype. She also makes the works interactive  by setting up a corner called the Chai Project, where viewers are invited to share stories of ‘stains’ that they have encountered – life’s different difficult moments that they have grappled with and overcome.

Georgina Maddox

Mahula Ghosh – About the Medium

Moisture as an indispensable element of the tea gardens has prompted me to use water colours as a medium to capture the subtle nuances and sensitivity of the theme I paint. My training at Santiniketan has helped me cultivate the technique of using this medium on various textures and surfaces like the rice paper, handmade paper, Nepali paper and fabric that form a part of my work. I have also combined the tone and colour of the paints with drawing and stitching to produce a distinctive visual language. My research methodology involves exploring places, maintaining visual records of my travels and field trips and making a systematic study of people, objects as well as landscapes. Back in the studio, I play with the imagery, combining organic and industrial materials like fresh and used tea bags, tea stains and tea liquor along with water colours to give expression to my ideas.

Mahula Ghosh
Oct 2015

Mahula Ghosh – Artists’ Statement

This set of paintings is an expression of my engagement with Darjeeling tea gardens and its people. Having spent my childhood in Darjeeling, my interest in the burgeouning tea industry of 1960-1970s was natural. However, the romanticism of the picturesque and gentle undulating hills lined with women tea pluckers adorning cane baskets of my childhood days soon gave way to concrete realities in the form of shopping and housing complexes in the recent times. My art has been informed by the socio-political changes that have taken place, for instance the rampant exploitation and forced migration of the tea garden workers has rendered them jobless while women labour has fallen prey to human trafficking. My work traces the shift in the social imagery over the last few decades in my recent body of works.The narrative of my art in the current exhibition depicts the transition from a mimetic representation to an imaginative portrayal of the subject matter. The select works on view are dated 2010 onwards.

Mahula Ghosh
Oct 2015

Gopika Nath

 

Gopika Nath is a textile artist and writer. In the two persons show ‘Fragments and Fragmentation’ she presents a few works from her in-depth, 6 year long, exploration of marks in the tea-cup, which are presented as mind-stains. Gopika works with needle and thread, as an artist-craftsperson.  Material and process are integral to her practice as an artist, as also to the evolution of artistic concepts. Her presentation includes her poetry, a video – The Sound of Stitch, and an on-site installation which invites viewer participation at the Stain Tea Party. She uses the needle, thread and other embroidery implements, as any artist would use the pencil or brush, deconstructing the fabric and then re-structuring it through what are traditional embroidery styles and stitches. This deconstruction of the fabric is akin to deconstructing the fabric of being, her life and its thought patterns, to unravel, understand and re-formulate thoughts, in an attempt at better mind-management. Embellishing fabric allows for something beautiful to emerge from the wounds and burns of self-examination, incessant internal probing and watchfulness. The embellished fabric now becomes a celebration of what was, which has been transcended.

 

 

11th July 2015

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Kathryn Myers

 

Kathryn Myers is a painter and Professor of Art at the University of Connecticut. In “Fragments and Fragmentation” she exhibits a selection of gouache paintings on paper, created over the past decade, that combine observed and invented architecture and space from India where she has travelled extensively over the past fifteen years, and New England where she resides in the United States. Through her immersion in details of surface and structure described through layers of transparent and opaque paint, her painting process of accumulation and erasure results in a palimpsest of texture and color. Animated by sense of material and human presence, the spaces in her paintings often suggest ambiguous narratives.

Fragments And Fragmentation

Kathryn Myers and Gopika Nath –

Through an incremental accumulation of marks, colors, shapes and surfaces, fragments of detail coalesce and disperse in the embroideries of Gopika Nath, and in the paintings of Kathryn Myers. While Gopika often suspends the recognizable appearance of quotidian objects by evoking the essence of form through her material or meditative processes, the architectural structures that Kathryn constructs are a fusion of factual and fabricated information based on the journey undergone by materials, process, and imagination. The modest scale and painstaking techniques that both artists employ necessitates a magnified focus, which, alongside the minimal physical movement required to create their art-work, provokes a state of hyper-reflection. Using paint to construct, abrade and erase; the stories unfolding in Kathryn’s spaces evolve in cycles of appearance, fragmentation and dissolution. Distilling emotional cycles through her technical processes of stitching together fragments of abraded, pulled, torn and burned fabric, Gopika’s embroideries, which serve as catalyst for psychic catharsis and material ingenuity, may also be viewed as remnants of an enterprising exploration of mind and material.

 

Coming together for this exhibition, Gopika and Kathryn celebrate a friendship initiated by their Fulbright Fellowships, of Gopika to the United States and Kathryn to India. Discovering the common ground and contrasts in their subject matter, methods and materials, and acknowledging how Indian art, culture, geography and daily life have informed their work in diverse ways, the current exhibition, showcasing their work side by side, presents these parallels and contrasts through fragments that form part a larger body of work, and exploration of their respective focused studies of the internal and external world.

 

Gopika draws upon her textile design background and study of Indian textiles to develop her embroidery in a fine-art context. She often channels through her materials and methods a conversation, with events unfolding at a distance and in intimate proximity. Through her blog Garam masala chai and her online Stitch Journal she has fostered a dialogue about art and culture while also connecting a global community of embroidery artists and enthusiasts. Her teaching workshops help provide a new sense of relevance for embroidery traditions in an increasingly electronic world. Through her writings that reflect on her work and process of embroidery, and her poetry inspired by the work themselves, Gopika opens up the possibilities for a new language of thread. Using thread as a metaphor for living, she lends a contemporary dimension to this philosophical thread prevalent in ancient texts such as the Rig Veda and also in the poetry of saint poets Kabir and Namdev, among others.

 

Kathryn has studied diverse types of Indian art over the past fifteen years through numerous visits to India, including Fulbright fellowships in 2002 and 2011. Through her role as a professor of art at the University of Connecticut, she has shared her connection to India with her students and colleagues by hosting visiting Indian artists and scholars, curating exhibitions, creating new art courses, and more recently her Regarding India video interview series featuring Indian artists. Her artistic and educational community has been likewise broadened and enriched by opportunities to exhibit her work and direct workshops in India. As aspects of Indian art and culture have been integrated into her life and work, her association with India has immeasurably transformed Kathryn’s creative practice, which encompasses painting, photography and video.

 

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Mahabharata – Pop Up Installation | Sankha Banerjee

The art works are poetic representation of the stories of Mahabharata, the most widely critiqued and appreciated epic of India centres on the war of Kurukshetra. The works reveals much about the nature of Dharma, prolonged discourses on ethics and the model of ancient Indian state systems in an Iron Age culture.

Here, Mahabharata talks about the polity, men and women, their tribulations, cast politics, race, land conflict, the subjugation of the masses by the overarching systems of politics and religion. The epochal war as a one fought between potentates over their occupation of land and kingdom. Gradually after the devastating war and lamentation, we arrive in a state where the victory and the defeat are the same in value.

Most of the artworks are handmade pop-ups and made with acid free paper. They on the one hand represent a long tradition of India’s handmade craftsmanship and on the other hand arouse the memory of our tactile relationship with pop-up books.

Your Form Is My Creation | paintings-lithographs-sculptures | Bhaskar Hande

DREAM INSIDE A DREAM
‘An earthen pot full of nectar’ and ‘a gold vessel full of wine’. Think a while and decide what will you opt for.
-A Marathi abhang of Sant Tukaram

It would be futile to look for Western origins in the abstract colours and shapes of Bhaskar Hande (born in Umbraj, Maharashtra, in 1957) – painter, poet, filmmaker, photographer and philosopher who’s been living in The Hague, Holland, for a number of years. The abhangs of Marathi mystic saint Tukaram, born more than 400 years ago, are integral to his abstracts. What is art after all? True art involves giving up the gold vessel brimful of wine and savouring the drops of nectar from an earthen vessel. Tukaram exhorts one “to see the inner light” to attain the peace of mind and we can see that magical glow in Bhaskar’s abstracts. Tukaram says that when the mind disintegrates one needs patience to bring it back to health and achieve well-being. This patience is the hallmark of Bhaskar Hande’s shapes and strokes.

Hande spent 17 years of his life in his village, and then spent nine years in Bombay as a cinema billboard painter, student of Applied Art at J. J. School and as a designer with an advertising firm. In 1982 he moved to the Netherlands – the land of masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Mondrian. For the next two years he studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts there. Thus, he is one Indian artist who has lived in Holland for 32 years. But his link with his village, his state, his city never snapped. Rather, over the last few years this relationship has become deeper, and more lively and meaningful.

Recently, Holland was listed among the 10 countries with the best quality of life. In October 2008 I had an opportunity to stay at Hande’s art centre in The Hague called Artimediair for a fortnight and spent considerable quality time with his paintings. The centre has been shut down since. But during my stay there I was often amazed by the atmosphere in the prostitutes’ lane right below the centre (a lane where one could observe them beckoning one with their lascivious poses from magical, glass-lined houses). Right opposite Artimediair stood the house of the great philosopher Spinoza. As part of its policy, the Dutch government was promoting the setting up of cultural centers around the lanes occupied by women of pleasure.

Coming back to his village from this other world and joining a 20-day journey on foot to discover the artist within him was a major challenge for Hande. The great journey called Palkhisohala, from Sant Tukaram’s village of Dehu to Pandharpur,( the place of temple of Lord Vitthal ) was the biggest challenge in the development of his art. Many other artists were also part of this journey. And not only city artists but young artists from village schools as well. The artist’s agenda included unearthing the hidden secrets of the Marathi culture. He also realized the secret of keeping the mind and body fit: “Walking keeps the mind fresh and the body fit.” For Bhaskar this journey had become even bigger – the journey to India from Holland to Turkey via Georgia, Iran and Pakistan. In 2008 he joined some Dutch artists on a truck as part of the project ‘Show Your Hope’ which had artists from 86 countries out to transform ‘Hope’ into a big dream.

Tukaram has written: “I was sleeping when Namdeo and Vitthal stepped into my dream. ‘Your job is to make poems. Stop wasting time,’ Namdeo said. Vitthal gave me the measure and gently aroused me from a dream inside a dream.”

All of Bhaskar’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, videos, photography and poetry are marked by a sort of ‘dream inside a dream’. There is the inner light of meditation, the strict discipline of art, and an attempt to understand the real dharma of art while proceeding on a grand journey on foot. His philosophy has been: Art is a place for unlimited experimentation.

Many Indian artists have remained in focus whether they settled down in the West or returned home. But Bhaskar Hande is courteous, modest and a poet at heart and I am sure this show will emphatically underline the significance of his art.
Vinod Bhardwaj

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When Marco Polo Saw Elephants

Ebenezer Singh, Jason Wallengren, Kathryn Myers, Rose Ebenezer,
At: Art And Aesthetic,F-213/A,1st Floor,Old M.B. Road, Lado Sarai, New Delhi 110030 INDIA
In our uber-paced world, global systems of movement and transportation are substantial and easily available. To hop on a airliner and see the penguins in Antarctica is not necessarily just a dream but a daily reality for those with resources. But to truly travel is more than ‘sampling culture’. It is deliberate movement and displacement of oneself for many contrastive reasons. One who travels moves through space and time, constantly mapping mentally and physically observed space, both deliberately and unconsciously compelled to seek out and receive experiences. These movements can take many paths and often lead to a sense of displacement and division between the individual and their homeland.
The four artists in When Marco Polo Saw Elephants are connected to different geographies and cultures. They find meaning in ways that resonate both within their creative practices and their lives. Jason is an American living in Southern Germany. Ebenezer and Rose are Tamil Indians living in Brooklyn, New York, and Kathryn is an American who divides her time between India and the United States. All four artists engage in research and creative work that reflects their original locations and cultures. Jason, Ebenezer, and Rose are intentionally displaced artists living in foreign countries, trying to decipher and grasp their new surroundings. Kathryn mirrors their positions by engaging with Indian culture while remaining grounded in America. All four artists are alternately and simultenously displaced and rooted, which is the thread connecting their work in this exhibition.
The title, When Marco Polo Saw Elephants, calls attention to a habitual nomadic criss-crossing of the globe, physically, politically, and spiritually. Marco Polo has become a symbol for the Wanderer who searches and encounters the unfamilar, drawn into new experiences and seeing, for the first time, what is both fantastic and ordinary. Wandering and seeking meaning, dislocated and settled, Jason, Ebenezer, Kathryn, and Rose create nomadic maps that span the globe.
– See more at: http://www.artandaesthetic.com/blog/2015/01/20/when-marco-polo-saw-elephants/#sthash.NtirEEiq.dpuf