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ART SALON: SHIREEN GANDHY'S CHEMOULD

Shireen Gandhy – soul behind gallery Chemould’s functioning is more than a mere gallery persona; it wouldn’t be wrong to say she holds the pulse of the contemporary art movement in India and unravels shows that promise the heartbeat of a string of artists who command class and rhythm, writes Uma Nair.

Mumbai's premier gallery Chemould brings to the Indian Art Fair a booth that exemplifies a cabinet of curiosities in the world of contemporary art.
India art's ambassador
Shireen Gandhy the soul behind its functioning is more than a mere gallery persona – she is the face of Indian contemporary art in the Art Basel map of the world – she is on the roster of empowered panellists who call the ingredients of art fairs in Basel, Hong Kong and India. It wouldn't be wrong to say she holds the pulse of the contemporary art movement in India and unravels shows that promise the heartbeat of a string of artists who command class and rhythm.
Perhaps this is why Dr Homi Bhaba said: Chemould exemplifies "an indigenous cosmopolitanism, a place for the development of a new urban movement." At Booth B2 you can see all this and more panning out.
Gandhy functions like an ambassador of sorts – she frequently lends artworks from her private collections for internationally curated shows, including the complete set of Atul Dodiya's Antler Anthology (2003/04) to Documenta 12, held in Kassel in 2007. In November 2009 Chemould collaborated in commissioning a work by Hema Upadhyay for a large exhibition, Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art, at the Mori Museum, Tokyo. In September 2013 the gallery completed fifty years of its existence. It was Shireen Gandhy who had a huge role in the global attention and appreciation garnered on the brilliant installation artist Hema Upadhya.
More than five decades
Founded by Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy in Bombay in 1963, Gallery Chemould is one of India's oldest commercial art spaces, and has nurtured and represented many of the country's leading artists since then. Under the directorship of Shireen Gandhy since 1988, the gallery has expanded its roster of artists to represent those working in experimental and alternative mediums, and its exhibition program spans younger, mid-career, and senior artists.
The gallery relocated in February 2007, as Chemould Prescott Road, to a modern, loft-like space equipped for large-scale exhibitions; that have included experimental, cutting-edge installations by Atul Dodiya, Anant Joshi, Vivan Sundaram, LN Tallur, Wolfgang Laib, and Gigi Scaria; exhibitions of new media work by Rashid Rana, Jitish Kallat, Tushar Joag, Shezad Dawood and Shilpa Gupta. Chemould has collaborated with public institutions and galleries in Europe, Australia, and South Africa to present Indian art at major international venues.
In an interview years ago, artist Anju Dodiya stated: "She doesn't resist the unconventional. She understands the artist's conceptual path. One doesn't face market pressures, which gives an artist amazing freedom. She allows creativity to flourish."
In the exciting mélange of works, we have Atul Dodiya to Dhruvi Acharya to Nilima Sheikh.
Atul Dodiya
Atul Dodiya's painterly explorations in these first time ever, small-scale, landscapes take us through his mental bank of embedded memories, ideas and concepts from decades of travel and thought. From freewheeling journeys through land, and sea, figure and form inspired by the Italian painter Carlo Carra, to the quintessential dry banyan tree from this part of the world, this work espouses the sheer need to be free and captures the stillness of time, in that freedom.
Dhruvi Acharya
In this vicissitude, Dhruvi explores the arduous emotional and psychological processes of reconstructing one's self and returning to a purposeful life. It exposes the numbness, the disbelief and the deafening screams in one's head, where battles have to be fought in order to understand and accept a new, altered reality. The myriad visual detailing in Acharya's work lures viewers to reflect on their own experiences and sentiments, making the specifics of the stories and the meaning of each image unimportant and allowing for the contemplation of our shared human existence.
Nilima Sheikh
Created for the solo show at Chemould Prescott Road to accompany her Terrain installation of 16 recto verso scrolls, these small Casein Tempera paintings espouse the lament in Nilima's language of documenting contemporary history. Partaking in making landscapes which are mourning the distance and loss across civilisations, these works carry the vulnerability and strength of conveying emotions that are raw and universally felt.
Bijoy Jain
Set deep in the world of organic materiality, Bijoy's recent work is a presentation of a process, which combines the elements of air, water and the earth in their most natural form. Water binds the initial layer of lime with cow dung and bamboo matting, which have been nourished by the earth. A final impression of jute string dipped in pigment paint forms the finishing layer, and the sunlight cements all of these together.
Like the form of a structure, for example, a Tazia construction, embodies the spatial and temporal culture of its time. The unique application in this artwork is a codified formlessness of that, and every other form. Jain believes that this work is an open-ended conversation about the points of intersection between form and formlessness.
Tallur's Hot Seat
Dramatic and full of the haunts of history is LN Tallur's Hot Seat. Inspired by the mythological story Trishanku, who is suspended in his own heaven as a compromise between the earth that he belonged to and the heaven that he sought. This word, Trishanku, has come to denote a middle ground between one's goals or desires and one's current state or possessions.
Not a mere layering of chains, but skillfully creating the perfect lock system of these chainmail coverlets in use since medieval times. It's almost like a weapon proof cover for the wearer. Metaphorically, this imagery connotes the tension point between the reality of what you are and the desire of what you want to be, and the feeling of being on the precipice of that shift in self.
Jitish Kallat's Wind Study
The elemental, meditative work titled Wind Study (Hilbert Curve) derives its form from clusters of Hilbert Curves, which are continuous fractal space-filling curves first described by the German mathematician David Hilbert in 1891. Through a carefully plotted arrangement of various orders of Hilbert Curves and connector lines, a template forming a portion of the infinite dimensional space known as Hilbert Space is formed. Sometimes an entire drawing is formed by a single curling line and this is overlaid one line at a time with an inflammable liquid and set aflame.
Within moments this line undergoes phase transition – from liquid to semisolid to fire to finally arise as dark fumes that record for posterity the movement of the wind at that moment in time; the elemental drawings become instruments to eavesdrop on a silent conversation between wind and fire registering invisible atmospheric flows within the drawing.
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