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Capturing the basics of life

Capturing the basics of life
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Elementary, my dear Watson. So said Sherlock Holmes to his sidekick, and indeed, some things in life are elementary. Like our basic needs. Civilisation hasn't changed them much – we still need to eat to survive, a roof over our heads, and clothes to cover ourselves.

And that is the premise of an ongoing multi-artist exhibition titled Roti, Kapada, Makaan. This inaugural show at Ojas Art began with a performance by American artist Zachary Becker called Trained in Excess – Sweeten the Artist's Mouth, as a part of which she ate more than 150 gulab jamuns.

The name of the exhibition, one argues, is quite
filmy
. Anubhav Nath, Curatorial Director, Ojas Art, agrees. 'Roti, kapda, makaan' [food, clothing, shelter] has been the war-cry of politicians in India for long. In the pre-industrial revolution in Europe, it was the same. That's how the concept of the show came [about],' says Nath.

The participating artists span generations and styles; there are Raja Ravi Varma oleographs on one end, and then there is Kavita Singh Kale, whose works deal with the concept of 'size zero'.

There are paintings, photographic prints, sculptures, video art, installations and graphic art by 23 artists. Headliners include Arunkumar HG, Balaji Ponna, Hindol Brahmbhatt, Jinson Joseph, Ram Rahman, Rameshwar Broota, Sachin G Sebastian, and TV Santhosh. The exhibition is also showcasing old archival works of noted artist Zarina Hashmi.

The works explore the theme and interpret it in myriad ways. Take for instance Varma's works. The vastram or the embellished piece of zardosi that formed a part of his oleographs became the fashion of the day. That's how his works relate to the theme of 'kapda'.

Broota's famous photograph Roti, that captures roti being made at Tihar Jail, is also part of the exhibition. Jinson Joseph portrays weddings, the basic premise of which is a commitment to protect, clothe and feed. Garima Jayadevan explores the idea behind the goddess of wealth, Laxmi – the prime factor needed for all three basic needs. She has used coins of all denominations to stress her point.

On one hand, people are starving, and on the other, there are people who willingly starve themselves to stay thin. That is the message Kavita Singh Kale gives through her work, Craving Bubbles, which talks about the irony of the 'size zero' craving. Another work shows girls inside feeding bottles.

Also on display are some of Ram Rahman's famous photographs. One captures a man sleeping on a charpoy on the Red Fort lawns, while another was taken at an Iftar party, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, veteran politician Sitaram Yechury and senior journalists sitting with plates of food in front of them. There's a 1980 photograph of office-goers enjoying their lunch break in front of Turkman Gate. In stark contrast is the one which shows Ramvilas Paswan's opulent home.

Deepak John Matthew explores the concept of 'makaan' with his camera which captures the fate of the once-luxurious palaces of Rajasthan, most of which have now been converted into resorts so that the erstwhile royals can sustain themselves.

The exhibition raises many questions in your head, not all of which might have answers. But it is still worth it.

At: Ojas Art, 1AQ, Qutab Minar Roundabout
Till: May 13, 2012
From: 11 am to 7 pm, daily
Call: +91-11-26644145
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