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Posts Tagged ‘Sheela Gowda’

Indian contemporary artist Reena Kallat: Art Radar exclusive interview

Posted by artradar on April 20, 2010


INTERVIEW INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

 Reena Kallat (1973) is one of the best-known Indian contemporary artists today. In this Art Radar Asia exclusive interview she discusses her influences, artists she admires, the contemporary art scene and the painstaking techniques used to create her renowned rubber stamp portraits.

Kallat has shown her work in many prestigious institutions including the Saatchi Gallery and Mori Art Museum in Japan.

 

Reena Kallat, Synonym (part of a series), 2007

Reena Kallat, Synonym, 2007

Where were you born, brought up and schooled?

I was born in Delhi, although I was brought up in Mumbai all through my growing years where I went to school, followed by my training at Sir J.J. School of Art.

What have been major influences in your life and art?

If I had to think of one person who influenced my life tremendously, it would have to be my mother who helped inculcate several interests at an early age. Although she died when I was young, her absence continued to influence my life in more ways than one.

There are several artists whose works have impacted my Art and my sensibilities towards art making at different stages that include Frida Kahlo, Rachel Whiteread, Jenny Holzer, Mona Hatoum, Christian Boltanski, while closer home in India the practices of artists such as Nalini Malani, Vivan Sundaram, Arpita Singh, interested me and informed my early years.

Reena Kallat, Walls of the Womb, 2007

Reena Kallat, Walls of the Womb, 2007

How long does it take to produce an artwork? What kind of space do you work in?

I like working on multiple ideas at the same time and these could be at different stages of completion. Sometimes they collectively spark off unexpected adaptations. Most are kept fluid and provisional over a period time to see if they spawn into meaningful works.

My studio is on 2 levels, ground and first floor. I usually make work on the lower level and have my books to read, write or sketch on the upper level which allows me the space and sometimes necessary distance between conceiving an idea and realizing it.

What achievement in your art career are you most proud of?

Although there is a lot to be achieved I’m not someone who’s easily satisfied, given the expectations I have from myself. But to be a catalyst in realizing certain key works that have taken me a period of time to develop, such as the series of “Synonyms” made using rubberstamps, “Walls of the Womb” a series of tie and dye silks or the sculptural installation titled “Saline” made in bonded marble amongst others, has been fulfilling. I am glad to have been part of some interesting shows in venues such as the Helsinki City Art Museum, ZKM museum in Karlsruhe, the Chicago Cultural Centre, Hangar Bicocca in Milan, Zendai Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA Shanghai, Henie Onstad Kuntsenter in Oslo, The National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai and Saatchi Gallery, London amongst others.

Are there any Indian artists you admire in particular?

Amongst the long list of artists from India whose work I have admired are Nasreen Mohamedi, Nalini Malani, Vivan Sundaram, Arpita Singh, Bhupen Khakkar, Gulam Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Atul Dodiya, Sheela Gowda, Surendran Nair besides some of my contemporaries like Anita Dube, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Bharti Kher, Shilpa Gupta and N.S. Harsha.

Reena Kallat, Penumbra Passage (Canine Cases), 2006

Reena Kallat, Penumbra Passage (Canine Cases), 2006

We have  been to the Saatchi show in London several times, and noticed that your art displayed there has been deeply influenced by historical events. How does history especially that of India, inspire you?

I think it is almost impossible to not be influenced either consciously or unconsciously by the richness of India’s vast cultural landscape through its architecture, film, crafts, dance, theatre. As we know, India has had long phases in its history of harmonious co-existence among divergent ethnic groups and communities, however in the recent past its political history has been tainted by divisive politics being played out, causing fissures amongst people. At times my work can be a comment or a critique but what interests me is that space in-between the factual and the fictional, of the sometimes harsh realities and the tender aspirations or dreams for a better future.

Could you please tell the story of how your Synonym (2007) came about? Why did you create it? How was it made?

My interest in using rubberstamps as a medium grew out of its use within official purposes and it’s associations with bureaucracy. I first started using them in 2003. I think of each name on the rubberstamp as being representative of an individual amidst hundreds of faceless people in this vast ocean of humanity. The sources of reference for the names often provide meaning or give context to the different bodies of works made.

In case of the Synonyms I chanced upon the list of names, out of official police records of those who’ve gone missing in India, through a friend who was looking for someone missing. The work stands like a screen holding up portraits formed by several hundred names of people rendered in scripts of over 14 Indian languages. From a distance they come together as portraits, but up-close they almost seem like a circuit-board of rubberstamps. These are people who seem to have slipped out of the radar of human communication, thrown off the social safety net.

Making these works is a slow process but one that throws up sometimes unexpected and startling results. I first draw out the silhouette of the portrait on plywood, then arrange the wooden pieces that comprise the rubberstamps. After painting the portrait on the uneven surface of the rubberstamps, the names are pasted and inked. These pieces are then transferred onto the Plexiglas where some additions and omissions lend the portrait its final character.

Reena Kallat, Synonym, 2009

Reena Kallat, Synonym, 2009

What are your future plans? Exhibitions?

I am toying with a bunch of ideas at this point, some of which are slowly taking shape in the studio while there are practical glitches in case of others that make the process equally challenging as it is exciting. Amongst some of the exhibitions I’m now making new work towards are for the Helsinki City Art Museum, Castel Sant Elmo in Naples later this year and the Kennedy Centre in Washington, scheduled early next year.

What are your thoughts on the contemporary Indian art scene in both the Indian and international contexts?

I think post independence it has taken a long time for India to find its place in the larger global context in most fields. Contemporary Indian Art has experienced a steady growth over the last few decades with contributions and efforts from previous generations of artists, writers, critics into developing the scene before its meteoric rise, largely attributed to the commercial success it was gaining. Given the collective vibrancy and sheer robustness of the Art being produced here, I think individual artists from India will increasingly be seen to be significant contributors to the global Art scene.

In the absence of the state’s responsibility in contributing to improve and enhance the infrastructure around Art, whether it is at the university level or at the institutional level, the private sector in India has played an important role. However there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to try and increase the presence of Art in the larger public consciousness.

AL/KCE

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Posted in Body, Indian, Interviews, Political, Reena Saini Kallat | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

India’s first art museum Devi employs student curators for its second show – review Livemint

Posted by artradar on January 11, 2009


Shilpa Gupta Blame

Shilpa Gupta Blame

 

INDIAN ART MUSEUM SHOW

Where in The World to 3 May 2009 Devi Art Foundation

Renowned Indian art collector Anupam Poddar opened India’s first art museum, the Devi Art Foundation in 2008. ‘Where in the World’ is its second exhibition and contains works from the Lekha and Anupam Poddar collection of contemporary Indian art. According to Devi’s website

This collection will be the future’s memory of this phase in Indian art. In the absence of other such collections, it may be our only memory of these years.

”Where in the World’ was curated by the students from the first class on art curating at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the result is  ‘adolescent’ says Livemint which at the same time lauds collector Anupam Poddar’s ‘noble’ efforts to promote art education.

while the curating of the show may be weak, it speaks volumes for the foundation that it chose to work with students rather than experienced curators for its second show. It shows that the foundation’s mission is to encourage education just as much as it is to display and promote art.

Happily the  ‘shaky’ execution of the display in which artworks overlap and descriptions are taped to the wall, is more than compensated for by the quality of the works

the artwork is without question some of the best contemporary art in the country.

Poddars before Jaguar in love

Poddars before Jaguar in love

In particular Livemint likes

Atul Dodiya’s mixed media painting B for Bapu, which traps Gandhi behind a rolling grill shutter and Sudarshan Shetty’s giant T-Rex fornicating with a Jaguar (the car) in Love (both of which) have rarely been displayed in the public sphere before.

And overall the show can be enjoyed for its

  sense of playfulness: Rooms hum with the clattering of typewriters and odd machines blow bubbles. Viewers must walk into Shilpa Gupta’s strange apothecary shop, Blame, where the word “Blame” pulsates off flourescent-lit glass bottles.

Newer work, such as the installation Untitled by Susanta Mandal that plays with bubbles; and the video installation piece Pan(i) City by Gigi Scaria, are also given space alongside more monumental pieces from the recent past.

In sum

While there are still some kinks to work out, the exhibit proves Poddar’s genius. The foundation is a force to be reckoned with: It is not about consumerism or the marketability of Indian art, but the simple pursuit of celebrating contemporary art in India.

Livemint

The exhibition includes works by A Balasubramaniam, Atul Bhalla, C. Nannaiah, Sheba Chhachhi, Krishnaraj Chonat, Nikhil Chopra, Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Nicola Durvasula, Sheela Gowda, Probir Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Sonia Jabbar, Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana, Susanta Mandal, N. Pushpamala, Jeetander Ojha, Jagannath Panda, Srinivasa Prasad, Ashim Purkayastha, Gigi Scaria, Mithu Sen, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, T.V.Santhosh, and Navin Thomas.

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Posted in Anupam Poddar, Atul Dodiya, Bharti Kher, Collectors, Curators, Emerging artists, Gigi Scaria, India, Individual, Mithu Sen, Museum shows, Museums, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Surveys, Susanta Mandel, TV Santosh | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mixed reviews for Serpentine’s Indian Highway show in London – Evening Standard, Independent

Posted by artradar on December 18, 2008


N S Harsha Melting

N S Harsha Melting

 

INDIAN ART OVERVIEW SHOW

Indian Highway to 22 February 2009 Serpentine Gallery London

Indian Highway, a show of 25 contrasting artists from India, is billed by the Serpentine as a “snapshot of a vibrant generation of artists” and “a timely presentation of their pioneering work following the remarkable and rapid economic social and cultural developments in India in recent years”. 

The show which  incorporates architecture, art, literature and performance, will continually grow as it tours internationally to different institutions for the next four years. After London, it will be presented at Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, from 4 April to 21 June 2009, where it will expand with the addition of new works as well as a section curated by Bose Krishnamachari.

M F Husain Naad Swaram Ganeshayem

M F Husain Naad Swaram Ganeshayem

The show features the following artists some of whom have already made an impact on the international art world:

Ayisha Abraham
Ravi Agarwal
Nikhil Chopra
Raqs Media Collective
Sheela Gowda
Sakshi Gupta
Shilpa Gupta
Subodh Gupta
N. S. Harsha
M. F. Husain
Jitish Kallat
Amar Kanwar
Bharti Kher
Bose Krishnamachari
Nalini Malani
Tejal Shah
Dayanita Singh
Kiran Subbaiah
Ashok Sukumaran & Shaina Anand

In an inevitable comparison with Saatchi’s show of Chinese art, Indian Highway comes out on top in the Evening Standard.

Everything that Saatchi gets wrong with his Chinese show the Serpentine gets right in its Indian one. While the Duke of York’s Baracks show is a chart of the cheesiest Chinese auction house hits, the Serpentine is a treasure trove of subtlety and surprise.

There are new history paintings from India’s 93-year-old Modernist master, a multi-screen documentary of cinematic quality about terrible violence against women, sculptures made from whistles and rotating microphones about sectarian division, and a wall drawing of super-sized technicolor bhindis.

Typical of the shrewd tack taken is the way the exhibition handles the two shooting stars of the Indian contemporary art boom, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta. Kallat’s large portraits of impoverished Indians, painted in a colourful screen-printed style, with their turbans transformed into intricate urban scenes, have become must-haves for aspiring billionaire collectors. Nothing that predictable here, though. Instead we have a series of photographs of dilapidated urban India, often decorated with stencils of Hindu gods.

But Kallat’s photographs are lenticular – that kind of 3-D photo with a fuzzy surface which takes on depth and reveals hidden details as one stands at an angle to it – a kind of photography you will know from souvenir postcards of tourist attractions, cartoon characters and Princess Diana. Kallat’s process turns a photojournalistic essay into not only an alluringly colourful spectacle but also a conceptual work which plays on where tourists find beauty in India and ennobles a popular visual idiom.

ravi_agarwal___kite_102525a

Ravi Agarwal Kite

Subodh Gupta is India’s best-known contemporary artist, whose trademark works are made out of Indian cooking utensils. He won early fame with a set of shelves with neat piles of stainless steel pots and pans, organised according to minimalism’s simple geometries.

At the Serpentine, however, there is not a trace of his kitchenware. Instead, he presents an evocative installation based on the interior of an Indian county court. There are worn wooden tables, half-broken chairs, ageing electronic typewriters and bundles of creased files. I had become rather disillusioned by all the repetitive pots-and-pans pieces I’d seen by Gupta over the past few years, and I loathe the terrible spin-off photorealist paintings of the same kitchenware which have been on show in every auction preview. The new work shows what resources this artist can tap as long as he doesn’t pander to the tastes of his dimwitted market of millionaire collectors.

Alongside these shooting stars, there is also India’s most famour post-war artist MF Husain, born in 1915. He is represented here in depth by a large number of canvases including several which have been exhibited – in another imaginative act of curating – on the outside of the building.

Husain is a sure-footed master of colour and texture and his compositions are boldly drawn – a mass of charging horses, elephants, mountain ranges and dynamic figures. He has only just begun to receive the recognition he deserves, but a demanding viewer may feel his old-fashioned mythological modernism owes too much to Chagall and Kandinsky for comfort.

The show makes plain some of the shortcomings of younger contemporary artists in fast-developing economies that will have flashed through the mind of anyone familiar with contemporary Chinese art. There is a sense of these artists having quickly learned to speak the foreign language of conceptual art-ese. They get the basic grammar – take a material of symbolic significance in your home country and make a big sculpture of something else with it

Overall, the work is of sufficient interest to push these criticisms to the back of the mind. The Indians don’t make the worst mistakes of their Chinese counterparts – there is no subcontinental equivalent of Wang Guanyi’s gimmicky Maoist propaganda posters peppered with Coca-Cola logos, or Zhang Xaiogang’s cutesy soft-focus paintings of bug-eyed Cultural Revolution families. The Indian artists engage with the politics of the present, not nostalgia. The work has an impressive discipline and severity, from which flashes of fairytales suddenly burst forth.

Evening Standard review

While the Evening Standard gives legendary MF Husain and the show overall a wavering thumbs up,  the Independent has nothing much good to say starting with the show’s guiding theme. “There must be some agenda, some network of contacts, guiding the selection. A more knowing person than me could tell you what. ” And the presence of ‘Picasso of India’ s MF Husain’s work confuses matters further:

The difficulty with Husain’s art is a matter of reputation. Why should he be rated as an even remotely interesting or important artist? His crudely cartoony pictures seem to belong, not at this gallery, but across the park, on the railings of Bayswater Road. Yet in an Indian context he has been a major figure. And so a baffling cultural gap opens up, about which the show leaves us none the wiser.

There’s no such gap with the work of the younger artists. On the contrary: it looks exactly like the kind of thing you’d find at the Serpentine. Its content is often Indian, but its forms are the established idioms of international contemporary art. You’ll find all the familiar fixtures: the room-filling installation, the multi-screen video projection, the enormous colour photograph, the found-object assemblage.

If you have any doubts about the embrace of artistic globalisation, Indian Highway will settle them. You could give the show a brisk walk-through, and almost not notice where things came from.

Where Indian culture is referenced, the Independent finds the motifs and usage too obvious.

Bharti Kher makes everything – or covers everything – in bindis (adhesive forehead dot decorations). Bose Krishnamachari makes much use of tiffins (the much-used metal cylindrical lunch box). Slightly obvious ideas, true, the sort of idea you can imagine an Indian artist having rather easily – and it turns out they’re used in rather an obvious way, too.

Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta

I found myself feeling that too often. The work is plausible enough, but nothing special. Shilpa Gupta’s In Our Times puts two old-fashioned microphones see-sawing on a stand, broadcasting the Independence speeches of Nehru (India) and Jinnah (Pakistan), delivered by a woman’s voice. Well, if I was pretending to be an Indian artist, that’s the kind of thing I’d do!

Or there’s Subodh Gupta, who’s been dubbed – well, it had to happen – “the Damien Hirst of India”, but here he appears more in the character of “the Mike Nelson of India”, with a room filled with a run-down and packed-up office. But then, same problem again: compared with Nelson’s dense and atmospheric environments, this is a very thin and under-imagined space.

I thought Nalini Malani had something, painting flights of female figures on clear acrylic panes, where swirling smears of pigment get transformed into snaking bodies. And Kiran Subbaiah’s brief video, Flight Rehearsals, about an introverted young man climbing the walls of his bedroom, was tight and funny. And Amar Kanwar’s The Lightning Testimonies used that unpromising form – the eight-screen all-around projection – and nearly made it work. But there’s nothing to bring you running.

An India-focused show looks like a good idea. But if it turns out to be a dud, then it’s a very bad idea. Anything disparaging you say about it is likely to become a disparaging generalisation about India itself. And if none of the art seems much good, you’re tempted to think that there’s a general cultural problem. The artists may seem fluent in contemporary art, but this language is clearly a Western invention. They have adopted it in an efficient but derivative way, as a badge of contemporaneity. They lack the confidence to take it over and reshape it.

Maybe. But an alternative explanation is available. It is simply that the artists in this show are stymied by the almost universal problem of not being very good artists. It can happen to artists anywhere. And then the question is, why the Serpentine didn’t find better ones?

Independent

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