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No limits for material and media
Yes, the masters were there, spanning different phases of their evolution. But this edition of India Art Fair not only challenged the limits of imagination but also made everyday look exotic and beautiful. Art critic UMA NAIR makes her selection
Anne Samat’s Freedom 3
Anne Samat’s brilliant work Freedom 3 at Richard Koh’s Fine Art was created out of rattan sticks, washers, yarn rakes, PVC chains, home kitchen, garden utensils and stationery items. It set the tone for the marvels and the extent to which we could make use of the least credible materials. It made us forget about usual media such as paper, pen, canvas and paint.
Gallery SKE and Photoink
The best collection of photographs, however, belonged to Photoink both in its portrayal of numerous monochromatic pictures as well as its historic culling of Amrita Shergil’s archives in its yesteryear aura and magic. Devika Daulat Singh of Photoink is also the curator of the Chennai photo Biennale this year and just walking into B1 gave art enthusiasts an experience of looking at an interior setting that had been quaintly and deftly designed by Sunitha Kumar Emmart of SKE. Instead of the spare empty white cube space, here was a central room with rattan features done in the Bahaus tenor from Phantom Hands in Bengaluru. Also in B1 was a series of reclaimed wooden vases by Sudarshan Shetty along with a magnum opus — 84-inch long table created by putting three tables together on top of which were about 60 odd objects/vessels no longer in use. This is part of an ongoing venture by Sudarshan Shetty, who is working at condensing 100 objects in a book titled What the Earth left Behind. SKE and Photoink added doses of fashion to the fair by wearing saris by Raw Mango and attracting eyes of appreciation and admiration.
Nityan Unnikrishnan’s Hall of Fame
The India Art Fair 2018 became an exercise of discovery and immediacy as well as spontaneity in intent and cerebral aesthetics. If Samat set you thinking about the power of ingenuity and innovation, then there was Mumbai’s Chatterjee and Lal gallery with a powerful mixed media work on paper by Delhi-based artist Nityan Unnikrishnan, who made a comment on the demolition of Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations in Pragati Maidan. Unnikrishnan trained as a ceramicist and now works in a variety of media. His work “creates a dynamic relationship between the self and his or her landscape,” says Mortimer Chatterjee, who has a yen for picking out talent that stands out in a crowd. The success of the composition is its eloquent representation, the ash and smoke on the broken facade raised over the base plank rendered with strokes suggestive of destruction.
Whereas dynamic sculptural details distinguish the triangular architectural features, the humans in the action in the foreground are comparatively more expressive. Unnikrishnan presents the haunts of history, proving that time and tide wait for none. It is in this angst and despair as physically flawed but remarkable entities that the watercolour replicates the magnetism of the action in the painting; the human/power effect made possible by de-emphasising the physical setting with the choreography of characters. The strength of Unnikrishnan’s images lies in his fascination with the relationship between portrait and balancing the landscape, namely our capacity to understand the sadness of actions that destroys and causes despondence.
A number of photographs were there at the fair. While Wonderwall had two brilliant photographs by S Paul and Karan Khanna’s Kashmir landscape, one wondered why the gallery director Ajay Rajgharia included his work in the selection. It smacked of conflict of interest. At Gallery Ragini was a brilliant photograph by Sanjay Das — Char Bangla — a Shiva temple located in Central Bengal stood out for its sense of ethos and the point it made about architectural heritage calling out for conservation and preservation. The beauty of this image lies in the fine detailing, in the fervour that it exudes with its facades and presence as well as the imprint of the years and years of devotion.
Sumit Roy’s Hope and Hype
Sumit Roy’s Hope and Hype at Gallery Latitude C4 was an example of young thoughts and candour in the idea of juxtapositions in composition. Roy is a design genius, who has won many awards and accolades. He is a graduate from Baroda and is also a performance artist who participates in gigs at night. However, his inheritance of art and aesthetics from his illustrious father Sudip Roy bestows him with a fine sense of the canny as well as the uncanny — his understanding of contour and the ability to inject humour into his intention is what makes his work one of intrigue and interest. A wry dig at the way perceptions change — the white elephant on a jean-clad model can speak about overtones and undertones.
At Gallerie Nyvya was Jayasri Burman’s watercolour Gautam — a work that translated her patience and penchant for the poise and power of expression, both in tones of colour properties as well as in the brilliance of bringing together the choreography of multiple characters. Classical and coherent in terms of the balance of contour and dulcet expressions, this work held its own.
Vemula’s crowded perfection
Art Heritage had the national athlete and artist Gauri Vemula’s drawings that were detailed and fine in rendition. A determined athlete, who had to give up her chase while fighting asthma, she took to art to express her inner angst. And crowded her canvas with her individualistic passion. A passion that celebrated the tiniest moments of life. Vemula’s Ganapati was a vivid pen and ink drawing at once dense and deeply enriched by her skilled use of pen and ink to give us a spiritual mosaic that entices and enchants. It’s the density of her detailing and treatment that makes her works look like a surreal landscape with mythic figuratives, animals and human figures as well as magical objects and motifs from the natural world.
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