Thursday, January 30, 2014

3000 art works, 1000 artists at India Art Fair 2014 - Colours explode on opening day


New Delhi, Jan 20, 2014 

The sixth edition of the India Art Fair 2014 which opened to enthusiastic response on Jan 30 with a VIP and a Press preview has brought to the Indian national capital the best of the international and national contemporary — across genres of paintings, new media, sculptural installations, performances and conceptual projects — with 3000 art works by at least 1,000 artists from over a dozen countries in 90 booths at the sprawling NSIC Grounds in Okhla — an industrial neighbourhood in the capital. The focus is on new waves in Indian contemporary art movements and its role in the global contexts as viable aesthetic and business proposition in an art market valued at nearly 250 million dollar. The showcase, is accompanied by education sessions, discourses, book launches, trade conclaves and cultural understanding initiatives that has drawn 30 eminent speakers from spheres of art and culture, delegations from China – which is looking at Indian art - collectors, artists and representatives from the premier international art museums to acquire art works from country that has seen steady enhancement in quality and business in the last 10 decade. The success of the fair has brought on board a host of corporate sponsors – including leading sponsor Yes Bank — in a new display of corporate-arts synergy, fusing business and core aesthetics. The fair opened with a media briefing by the owners and stakeholders at the venue
Some snapshots from the India Art Fair         

Absolut Anish Kapoor
Leading contemporary artist Anish Kapoor, known for avant garde and futuristic sculptural and installation art unveiled his an exclusive artwork, “Absolut Kapoor”   - an abstract rendering of the bottle of the Absolute Vodka, a leading liquor brand that uses art as its brand positioning in the international market. The work is being shown for the first time. The dramatic work that makes plays on the colour red in a light landscape, experiments with space and illusion through two impressions of the bottle. He brings elements of light, structure and negative-positive space notions to define the relationship between the viewer and art. In one of the installations, the bottle appears upside down and in the other head up.”Absolut has a long history of artists from Andy Warhol to many of my great colleagues. The idea was to encapsulate whatever it one does in a single moment… It is a strange notion, but one I felt I could go in pursuit of,” Kapoor said. The artist said art as a visual expression was “all about transformation”.”It is about taking a piece of metal or a lump of clay, a bit of cement or whatever else and turning it into something that isn’t. That fundamental transformation is indeed mysterious…Something that is in way wondrous. And I feel that intimacy with the viewer is something we have to hold on to,” Kapoor said.

Sotheby’s global gesture in India  
Leading British auction-house Sotheby’s, which is in New Delhi to coincide with the India Art Fair 2014 unveiled for the first time in India works by Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney— a selected panorama of works from is forthcoming London sale of contemporary arts — alongside leading Indian modern masterpieces, the highlights of its New York sale of its modern and contemporary South Asian art. The collection was opened to the public at the heritage Imperial Hotel in the national capital for Asian collectors, media and institutions – who have flocked to India for the India Art Fair.  The preview opened with a lecture on global art market by Lord Poltimore, deputy chairman, Sotheby’s Europe, James Sevier, senior specialist, contemporary art.  The contemporary highlights at the Hotel Imperial include a rare and recently rediscovered early David Hockney portrait (estimated £150,000-200,000), an iconic Andy Warhol Dollar Sign from the collection of Jade Jagger (Estimated £180,000-250,000), and a captivating work by leading Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki (estimated £300,000-400,000). The highlights on view from the modern and contemporary South Asian Art sale have come from a number of distinguished American and European private collections. They include Buffalo Among Flower Bed, an important landscape by Bhupen Khakhar (Estimated $150,000-200,000), Maqbool Fida Husain’s dynamic canvas Untitled (Three Horses) (Est. $100,000-150,000), and Ram Kumar’s early abstract Untitled (Est. $80-120,000). The Andy Warhol Dollar Sign is one of his most iconic images. That is immediately recognizable. The Dollar Signs serve as a playful reminder that famous works of art are also valuable commodities – something of which Warhol was very aware. By 1981, Warhol had become as famous as many of the celebrities he painted. Mick Jagger (of Rolling Stones fame) and his wife Bianca were regular guests at the Factory where Warhol worked. The artist recalled Jade with great fondness. His work, dedicated to Jade on the reverse, is an affectionate gift from the father of pop art to the daughter of a pop star. Sotheby’s currently holds the record for an Andy Warhol work having achieved $105,445,000 (for his Silver Car Crash) in New York, November 2013.
Yamini Mehta, Senior Director, Sotheby’s International Head of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, London and New York said the auction house was thrilled to bring a variety of artworks to India which it felt would cause “real excitement in the market place”. “We believe there is real hunger among Indian collectors to experience well-known international contemporary artists and so we are delighted to be showing important works by David Hockney, andy Warhol and Chinese master Zao Wou ki for the first time. Along the contemporary pieces, we will be showcasing prime examples of Indian Modernism that are new to the market”.    

Performance and Projects
Two of the major spotlights at the India Art Fair are Performance and Projects- both on the site and as collateral events around the city— in an example of how is moving from the confines of institutional space into living venues among people and opening direct dramatic dialogues with viewers. The inaugural day of the fair began with a special performance by Anindita Dutta, “Everything Ends and Everything” Matters, presented by Gallery Latitude 28.  In her performance, Dutta begins to smear mud on the walls and surfaces on which her drawings and patterns would be inscribed in a spiral manner. Once the surfaces are layered with mud, she etches an original set of drawings on them. Once the inner surfaces are covered with mud and the original drawings are inscribed, Dutta begins performance with a group of National School of Drama Graduates - who interact against the mud spirals on the surface in an exuberant manner to symbolize the flow of energy and the aura we radiate in our daily lives. The performance leave new imprints on the mud – overwriting the original drawings to state that nothing in his world is static- events and things are constantly morphing, fluxing— and exchanging energies in a confined walls of our existence. Dutta, who is based United States, combines her extensive training in sculpture with performances. The major projects at the fair include Riyas Komu’s Collectors’ Room ( set of boxed images by three photographers), Path Finder by L.N. Tallur, Listen Up by Diana Cambell Betancourt and Tim Goossens, Aura by Subodh Gupta and File Rooms by Dayanita Singh. A project based contemporary art intervention INSERT 14 at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts will address the impact of cutting edge contemporary art practices on the country’s art and culture space.                             

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Artist Zarina Hashmi's journey in geometry - across borders, geography towards closed doors


New Delhi, Jan 2014   
Leading contemporary artist and printmaker Zarina Hashmi has turned to her inner self — to investigate her spiritual convictions and its impact on the greater universe — in her new solo exposition, "The Folded House" (at Gallery Espace in New Delhi). The 77-year-old artist has assembled from her signature Islamic iconography, minimalism, diversity of solid material, geometry and print-making techniques and — 24 carat gold — to craft a series of subliminal icons that speak of her life in hindsight, her journeys, crossing of borders and progress in life from Aligarh to United States in an evolution from paper, ink, wood, prints to gold which comes across as a glitering symbol of being on the centre-stage of "international contemporary arts"— reprersenting the power of Indian womanhood as a creator of new sensibilities and aesthetic triumph. 
The exposition (that opened January 23, 2014), is named after a seminal collage work— The Folded House which is the centrepiece of the show. The Folding House is a colony of closed doors with 25 collages on Indian handmade paper stained with gold and sumi ink - a Japanese pigment from pine wood soot —  mounted on Cover Buff Paper. The collages are of houses with pointed roofs that are closed in frontal profiles — like geometric pentagons that broadens at the base and tapers into angular roofs. All the houses have closed doors — in different stages of closings that are mute and curt in their rejections of the world.
"At my age, the closing house means I am looking at mortality," Hashmi told this writer. The doors close in a gradual manner as the artist becomes more introspective and internal to explore the "self" , inured to the pressures of the material world. 
 Devika Singh in her catalogue essay of the exhibition says: “Drawings of houses have long acted as portable repositories of Zarina’s migrant biography. The variations she developed throughout her career on their shapes, sizes and floor plans form a recurrent presence in her prints. Zarina’s houses encapsulate through simple signs much of her relation to the world. Folding House (2013) thus charts the progression of a house as it swells and contracts". 
Singh says much of Zarina’s work concerns the life she had before becoming an artist, which was marked by the aftermath of Partition and the experience of exile. With intermittent stays in India, Zarina has since lived in Bangkok, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and New York where she settled in the late 1970s. 
"Perhaps as a consequence of this unique trajectory, her work is not bound by established forms and conventions. Across her career Zarina has borrowed with great confidence from different artistic traditions. Her works packs in the learned references of her childhood, including Urdu literature and calligraphy, but also Japanese printmaking and zen Buddhism, which she discovered while living in Japan in 1974,” Singh says. 
Looking back to reflect on a life meaningfully-spent sets Hashmi's works in the "Folding House" showcase apart from the rest. They are minimal to the point of being stark — a trait that Islam teaches it legions of followers. The mathematic geometry which guides her forms is sharper than usual, reduced to strips of horizontal gold plates, comsic dots in a black night sky as lonely companions in twilight, zen circles of life, larger than life rosaries and native wisdom that age enganders with exprience. The richness comes from the material in use — 24 carat gold, exclusive handmade Indian paper, rare sumi ink, maple wood and archival print papers which she devices as "heft" in her simplistic and iconic repertoire of spiritual reflections. Most of her new works occur in collages.     
The artist's grounding in Islamic texts trace its origin to her days on the campus of the Aligarh Muslim University, where her father was a teacher of medieval history. Family road trips to historic places nearby like Fatehpur Sikri sparked her interest in architecture and elements of which remain references in her work today. She studied mathematics in college because she wanted to work as an engineer.  Her family stayed in Aligarh for more than a decade after Partition, but left India in 1959. By then, Hashmi was married and was travelling extensively with her husband, a member of the Indian Foreign Service.
Aligarh occupies Hashmi's nostalgic mindspace. A collage series, "Dreams from My Verandah in Aligarh - 2013" — a set of geometric shapes emanating from an arched balcony created with  pewter leaves gold dust on Somerset cream paper — connects to her childhood when Aligarh was a centre of secular learning and her  baptism rite to knowledge about  India, a moderate Islam and its global outlook. The arched patterns of her verandah open to a broad cosmos - lighted and infinite, bearing the winds of Sufism. 
A portfolio of Urdu proverbs in 10 woodblocks on handmade paper with explanatory icons — from Islamic aesthetics — shows Hashmi's crossover across cultures combining her Urdu and Hindustani sensibilities. The visual and textual manifestation of simple proverbs   — like "Nauso CHuhe Marke Billi Haj ko Chali (The Cat goes for Pilgrimage After Slaughtering 900 mice), Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi (Night over, words over), Saap Mar Gaye, Par Lathi an Tute (The Snake is Dead, but the stick is intact), "Sanjhe ke hundiya, chowk mein phute (The evening jar splinters at the cross-sections)  and several more — is an intelligent portrayal of Indian common wisdom tempered with humour and easy iconography, refreshing and wise reflecting the "kitty" of Hashmi's silver head. 
Gallery Luhring Augustine of New York, which has hosted Hashmi, says the artist explores "geographical borders and contested terrain, particularly those areas scarred by political conflict" in her work. Language plays a vital role in her art   as a tribute to Urdu, her mothertongue as a language in decline.     
Hashmi is now working on a new series of work, "Crossings". "It is about the major crossings in my life - straddling  India,Pakistan and United States - and the various countries I have visited and the borders I have crossed. The crossings have stayed with me," she said. Hashmi's crossings do not have a "definitive narrative"; they are spontaneous and karmic. 
"There is nothing we create on our own, because you don't have anything when you are crossing," Hashmi introspected about her lifetime's as an artist traveller.
-Madhusree Chatterjee