Nature morte's succinct selection-DCAW 2018
Sometimes its good to walk into the Visual Arts Gallery when no one is present. The Delhi Contemporary Art Week edition of 2018 was one such occasion. While Gallery Espace had evocative works by Vipul Kumar and Manjunath Kamath, I walked straight into the powerful pathos filled commentary by Jitish Kallat on the wall. Nature Morte showcased artists of international repute.
Jitish Kallat's works have always been imbued with autobiographical, political and artistic references. Through his ingenuity with different media and titles that run into literary allusions and allegories, Kallat forms a narrative of the cycle of life in a rapidly changing India. Weaving together strands of sociology, biology and archaeology, the artist takes an ironic and poetic look at the altered relationship between nature and culture. This Untitled (4 PM / 2 Leaves and 18 Clouds), created in 2012, is an acrylic on canvas with a bronze gargoyle. Jitish reminisces about the work and says: " I completed this painting more than six years ago. Clutched within the mouth of a gargoyle, the painting appears like an utterance emerging from the sculpture. Each seated figure is a composite of many stories... everyday traffic, people and animals pile up like a crumbling cascade of narratives interlaced with their hair as if it were a manifestation of their internal ruminations."
Thukral and Tagra have just finished an epic debut in Thailand. Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra work collaboratively with a wide range of media and new formats of public engagement as they attempt to expand the scope of what art can do. They break out of mediated and disciplinary worlds to create multi modal sensory and immersive environments.
Their recent work has dealt with the interpretation of Indian mythological narratives and symbols in ways that renew and enliven a largely pedantic and static area of cultural material. From a pop visual character to a predominantly abstract visual approach and compositional philosophy, Thukral and Tagra constantly shift in terms of their grammar and vocabulary. The abstract suggestions of an everyday experience of architecture and urban design in Gurgaon (Haryana, India) and Chandigarh (Punjab, India) is embedded in their visual language. They have offered sociopolitical commentary that is implicit in their aesthetic for the past fifteen years. Rama 3 looks like a modern millennium abstraction on mythic codes. The sky and the sea in varying degrees of Prussian Blue run through the canvas – superimposed on each of the sky and sea – blue backgrounds are fragmented human torsos – one below the sea and another saffron robed silhouettes with elements like the conch shell, the white beaded rosary, leaves and verdant evergreen forests. The brilliance of the work lies in the conception and the idea of transposing Indian mythology into a modern context by rejuvenating narratives and symbols to give an updated dimension to our traditional understanding of cultural matter and living in ethical solidarity.
The third work worthy of scrutiny was Asim Waqif's Crush 2018. Crush is a work that dictates dilemma and dynamics. His recent projects have attempted to crossover between architecture, art and design, with a strong contextual reference to contemporary urban planning (or the lack thereof) and the politics of occupying, intervening in, and using public spaces. Some of his projects have developed within abandoned and derelict buildings in the city that act like hidden activity spaces for the marginalized. Waqif grabs you by the eyeballs with his weaving of narratives- concerns of ecology and anthropology often weave through his work and he has done extensive research on vernacular systems of ecological management, especially with respect to water, waste and architecture. His artworks often employ manual processes that are deliberately painstaking and laborious while the products themselves are often temporary and sometimes even designed to decay. He has worked in sculpture, site-specific public installation, video, photography, and more recently with large-scale interactive installations that combine traditional and new media technologies. This work embraces the power of abstraction through multiple dimensions.