The Month that was
September – October 2011
by Franck Barthelemy
The festive season has started. Most of the religions are celebrating something or the other. There is a smile of everybody's face. The kids are wearing their new cloth, the sweet shops are full of fresh delicious wonders and I don't even want to know how rich they are. The summer is over and it is time to check the markets. Not the stock ones, you'll be depressed, but surely the art ones. Berlin, Singapore, Marrakesh, Toronto, Paris, Hong Kong or London -- all getting ready to surprise the art aficionados. Check your bank account and book your tickets. It's hard time to get something new and interesting for your pleasure. And if you cannot go so far, the Bangalore galleries can offer you what you are looking for. Push their doors, look at the arts, pick something you like, have it packed and go home to enjoy it.
After Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Time & Space hosted the beautiful travelling retrospective of Calcutta based artist Shuvaprasanna. In about a hundred works, the exhibition takes us through the life of the 1947 born master. It is no longer a secret that the artist has a passion for Calcutta, his city and his home. He once said "There isn't another city like Calcutta anywhere in the world. In the heart of it, I find innumerable themes and subjects". The exhibition successfully reflected it. Over the last 40 years, the artist captured various city moods, various cityscapes, various characters and they all fall together into place on Shuvaprasanna's canvases. His strokes are precise. His palette of greys and blues matches the city perfectly. He creates intensity. He creates depth. All of these with a pinch of fantasy, the kind of vision we can have in dreams and we don't want to talk about feared of being judged by others. There are many series I liked but it seems I always come back the artist's representation of the crows. "In Kolkata, you cannot ignore the crows. They're like the people of Kolkata. They're clever, jealous, witty and angry. They're survivors1". They are so representative of the city and probably the artist's body of works. I also enjoyed the Golden Flute series. The colours are appealing and soothing. They provide the viewer with that feeling of satisfaction and appeasement. Don't forget to pick up the book, Black Brown and Blue, a must have in one's library. That was a great show!
If you still have an hour to spare in your October busy schedule, I would suggest you not to miss the KK Hebbar's retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art (the exhibition is on till 20th of October). Over 100 works try to crack the mystery of the master. I thought I understood his works. The exhibition proved me wrong. I discovered Hebbar as an illustrator. Sharp and to the point. I saw for the first time Hebbar as a portraitist. Realistic and sensitive. I enjoyed Hebbar being deep rooted in the Indian folk tradition. Colourful and lively. I was exposed to Hebbar the socially committed citizen, adamant and activist. And I revisited Hebbar the king of abstraction, a master of colours and composition. All together the show proves one point: Hebbar was free. He experimented all his life. He tried all sort of media. He could absorb facts, news and events and translate them back on a canvas (or anything he could put his hand on). Though I believe the NGMA could have spent a bit more money to showcase the extraordinary range of works they have offered to the viewers, they had designed amazing programmes to provide us with reading keys. Movies, conferences, walks by curators and artists. It was a pleasure to listen to Rajani Prasanna, Hebbar's daughter, to try to put his father's works into a context. She generously offered us a piece of her life with her dad. Very insightful for the humble viewer that I am.
Probably by chance, the Alliance Française proposed us Murs entre les Hommes2, an exhibition of photographs mirroring interestingly some of Hebbar's social concerns. Alexandra Novoseeloff and Frank Neisse travelled the world for two years recording stories and images of walls. From Tijuana to Belfast, Jerusalem to Seoul, Siachen to Laayoune, the researchers explored the hidden or forgotten conflicts well though materialized by walls. The walls protect. The walls separate. The walls divide. You thought the wall was an archaic military too? The exhibition demonstrates the opposite and shows the struggle of the people living around them.
I wish to conclude this month review with an acknowledgement for one of the amazing art institution we have in Bangalore and that is unfortunately not so famous, Suchitra. Every month, I look forward to receiving the programme of the film society that screens every week movies from all over the world. I saw movies from established and upcoming cinematographers from Hungary, Bangladesh, Argentina, France, Japan, Mexico and the list is endless. Suchitra strives to keep alive the culture of cinema d'art et d'essais. Believe me, there are excellent movies that are not made in Hollywood! Suchitra does not only show those movies they also organize debates and talks. If you are a movie freak or an amateur of good movies, check Suchitra's programme from time to time. Worth doing it!
2 Walls between People