“…the artist, like the tightrope dancer, goes in various directions, not because he is skilful but because he is unable to choose only one.”
– Mimmo Paladino, 1985
The five artists in the show, despite being somewhat randomly chosen, were born in a country with a faulty economic system in the post Nehruvian era – an infrastructure that operated completely under state ownership from 1947 to 1991, almost bankrupting it. As a consequence, unable to pay her debts, India lacked self confidence. These artists have witnessed the major factors that flattened the world – the coming down of the Berlin Wall, the growth of the Web, the effects of late Capitalism, outsourcing, offshoring, the effects of the Global Supply Chain, the spread of the Wikipedia, the analog networking system going digital (which now enables the individual to manipulate the virtual, vastly altering the question of authorship) and grew up against such a backdrop.Read More
During the early 1990s the more celebrated artists as Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi in the Eastern region and their peers in Delhi – Hussein, Ara and Gaitonde were partially obscured by the younger artists. In Baroda the ambience was ripe for experimental art and already the happening artists as Pushpamala N., Vivan Sundaram and a little later the practices of Sudarshan Shetty, Bose Krishnamachari and Subodh Gupta had created a spur with their ideas among the budding artists – especially in terms of material handling. The shadow of a new kind of art was felt everywhere. The fall of the Berlin Wall made it evident how much people can learn from each other. To quote Amartya Sen, “Most learning is from the other across the border.” And for the Asian artist perhaps this is even truer, as much as his anxiety to achieve a global footing. With the growing significance of the material and the process over the product, there is now a desperate struggle for achieving a global footing and the artist, as it seemed, simply could not resist experimenting, encouraged by the first flush of Post-modernistic practices. There is a wide range of choices for the artist both thematically and stylistically, who evades doing only canvas. In no way does he want to restrict himself to one single way of articulation. The video and dialogic art practice, too, made their impact felt.
Chandra Bhattacharya (b.1962), who passed out from the Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship in the 1986 recalls, “The future seemed bleak for the artist. Commercial Art was a more rational choice for an artist’s career and it nearly outdid Fine Art.” Even then a handful of artists strove to follow their minds – to become painters and sculptors. Bhattacharya, who himself started life painting hoardings that demanded physical labour, the downtrodden; the labour class; the city getting changed into a rusty, mechanized world devouring all its freshness till the last patch of green, seem natural choices. To quote him, “… drops of rust oozing out of the machines smear the ground gradually, obliterate the last patch of green – the flora and the fauna. What remains on the canvas are only fossilized impressions of the images.” This way of relating to the objects with a platonic sentimentality is characteristic of his date.
Chhatrapati Dutta (b. 1966) is one of the few artists with whom New Media art started in the city of Kolkata. Trained at the Government College of Art and Crafts, Kolkata, and at the Kala Bhavana at Santiniketan, he has also been to Greece and Germany for further study in Visual Art. An extreme diversity of both style and theme characterize his practice. “During the 1990s there was a shift in traditional water-colour; monolithic sculpture was breaking down; fibre-glass, scrap metal, even video projection as new media was gaining popularity, and the society seemed more homogeneous than ever,” observes Dutta, which encouraged him to use anything between performances, fragmented sculptures, terracotta, motorized parts, and videos. In no way did he want to restrict himself or get bracketed in his process of objectification. Issues related to Post-colonialism, identity, migration, terrorism, the industry and the market forces are prime concerns of the artist. Equally significant is the grand scale at which he operates.
The Mumbai based Sunil Padwal (b. 1968) was a student at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, for whom like his contemporaries a propensity for found objects of everyday use and nurturing a lot of different materials was no exception during the early years. The limitations of the academic teaching made it for Padwal and his contemporaries set out in search of ‘a global language’ which “was not felt as prominently as in the works of any other artist than in those by Atul Dodiya”. At the same time, the artist’s concern for the content rather than the form generated in him a feeling that his “works should have some value for people”.
Associated with the publishing house for quite sometime, Padwal’s chooses to treat his wooden surfaces like books that invite the audience to read but in reality offers resistant owing to the impenetrable surface. At the same time his portraits from which the eyes and mouths are missing do not offer one to interact with the familiar. A silent and yet all pervasive statement voiced out, creates a strange disturbance in the audience.
A pass-out of the Delhi College of Art, Iranna G R (b. 1970) received traditional education in Karnataka, where he was born. As a child he was particularly keen on his drawing Indian deities from the temple architecture, which helps understand his later orientation of themes. He recalls one of his early sculptures having rubber, wood and metal put together into use rather than one single material used consistently. He even went on to use condoms for his pieces, which seemed more of an exigent choice. Iranna since this point of time started employing the tarpaulin, as a more innovative choice over canvas. The rediscovery of one’s own culture through the digital medium, journeying into a virtual space had prepared the artist for a new age.
Through the allegorical tableau as his chosen vehicle, he addresses issues related to terrorism and body politics tracing the destiny of a country, the way it moves. The picture plane populated with dead animal as the tiger, or blindfolded children allude to the death of innocence and the fallen.
Abir Karmakar (b.1977), completed his Bachelors degree from the Indian Art College, Kolkata, and thereafter went to the M.S. University, in Baroda to do his Masters Degree in. A product of the post-internet era, his works address issues as trans-sexuality, gender issues, identity, outshadowing a time when poster colours, cheap and locally available ‘art papers’ and copying illustrations from the popular children’s magazines Chandmama and Shuktara in the regional vernacular along with self-portraits were indispensable. By the time he went to Baroda, the internet has already entered into the life of the mass through cybercafés, which stood as sources of an excess of information, an excess of images. Suddenly there was a surplus of everything. Suddenly almost everything was possible.
Karmakar’s sexually provocative pieces subvert the expectations of the masculine and the feminine. There is a blatant exposure of flesh and ugliness – the flab, pimples, and the protruding belly. All put brazenly over the face of the voyeur, rather than concealing them, along with a search for ‘the other self’ through his ‘transgressive sexuality’. However, he resorts to oil painting in a way that the traditional seems to come to life once again.
This show explores how a dialogue gets created over time and region; what factors affect it before it manifests itself in every nuance, the way it does.