The Month that was
by Vaishnavi Ramanathan
Art Chennai, the first of its kind event to be held in Chennai began on 19th March, 2011 with an opening of A Balasubramaniam's works at Dakshina Chitra. Art Chennai which has been convened by art collector Sanjay Tulsyan brings together more than twenty galleries and includes exhibitions, art camps and seminars.
As part of Art Chennai, Focus Gallery is hosting Notes from the Desert, a solo show by Gauri Gill. The photographs are based on the artist's journey through western Rajasthan capturing Jogi Nomads, Muslim migrants etc. The photographs are both posed as well as unplanned. Yet even the posed photographs taken at the Balika Mela do not have the awkwardness that is associated with posing since the gestures of the girls photographed are those that are apt to the context (of going to studio and having one's photograph taken) and one that we as viewers have also experienced. What is also interesting in the photographs is Gauri Gill's use of black and white instead of colour photography thereby shifting the focus from culture (colourful Rajasthani costumes etc.) to nature; an unsentimental representation of the harsh desert that shapes the life there. Furthermore, the grainy feel in some of her photographs give the feel of the works emerging from the sands of Rajasthan.
Madras Contemporary by Ashvita Arts features the works of Abraham George, Benitha Perciyal, C Douglas, Krishnaswamy, K K Raghava, Magesh, S Yuvaraj and Yuvaraj Vivek. Magesh uses the pig with its association to swine flu to express man's tendency to dominate and thereby destroy the environment. His works have a satirical edge as the pig which man kills for no fault of its, has the last laugh at man's expense. While Krishnaswamy is known for his Yoga canvases where his body becomes the subject and the form, his recent works mark a moving out of the artist's self thus exploring other selves and losing in his own sense of self in this process. Benitha Perciyal, apart from the squirrels and seeds that she draws with natural pigments, has assembled cups made out of natural materials to speak of apparent emptiness filled with the intangible presence of faith.
Apparao Galleries' is presenting A Room With a View, an exhibition of Laxma Goud's sculptures, sketches and letters. The interesting element about this exhibition was that an overall feel of the artist's work was created by displaying Kondapalli figures from Andhra Pradesh. Thus not only was it like looking at the artist's works but also meeting the people whom the artist has drawn. Many of the sketches displayed in the exhibition are done along the margins of letters written by the artist. Thus the pleasure in seeing the artist's sketches were matched by the normally forbidden pleasure, which in this case is legitimate, of reading letters written to another person! Apparao Galleries is also presenting Modern Masters of Indian Art a collection of works by artists like S H Raza, F N Souza, Ganesh Pyne, Ramkumar etc as well as a solo show of A P Santhanaraj's works. A P Santhanaraj who was one of the pioneers of the Madras Art Movement has primarily made use of the line in his works to create densely hatched abstract areas. Or when the line is used to define form it is smudged and broken to create landscapes from which figures merge and emerge.
Apparao Galleries is holding a solo show of A Balasubramaniam's works at DakshinaChitra. The show not only presents A Balasubramaniam's works that engage with the body and the self but also prints using reflective surfaces that create the feel of night skies and cosmic phenomena. At Lalit Kala Akademi, Apparao Galleries is presenting the works of over forty young artists from the four southern states. Not was this an opportunity to see the works of many young artists but for Chennai which rarely gets an opportunity to see video art, the exhibition was a chance to see videos by Abhishek Hazra and Surekha. Furthermore, the opening of the exhibition was marked by a performance by Bangalore based Smitha Cariappa. In the performance, the artist drew her body outline with Rangoli powder which she later erased with the dress that she had worn, thus drawing a parallel between the ease with which humans leave their carbon footprints on the earth and the difficulty with this damage is reversed. As the artist was performing her silhouette fell on the video of snowcapped mountains that was projected on the wall thereby evoking a sense of traveling and experiencing the beauty of nature. While the ground floor of Lalit Kala Akademi was a burst of young energy, the floor above hosted works of Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Vishwanathan, K C S Panicker, K V Haridasan and K Ramanujam. Of these, K Ramanujam's exhibition was a very rare treat for viewers since most of his works are in private collections and one seldom gets to see them. Lalit Kala Akademi also displayed Samar S Jodha's installation Bhopal - A Silent Picture.
Mysticism and Modernity in Landscape Art being presented by Gallery Sri Parvati features works that in some way engage with landscape and spirituality. Tamara de Laval's paintings do not have too many colours yet the translucent tracing paper gives the work a certain layered feel. V Ramesh's works too have a layered feel with the multiple outlines for a figure creating a sense of movement. C Douglas has exhibited works from his Blind Poet and Butterflies series where the absence of vision is complemented by the presence of butterflies who 'see' for the poet. RM Palaniappan who has worked with maps and scientific diagrams before has exhibited photographic prints that capture the abstract design in skyscrapers. Apart from these, artists like Akhilesh, Nupur Chatterjee, Sam Adaikalaswamy etc are participating in the show.
Cholamandal Artists' Village is exhibiting the works of Muralidharan, P Gopinath, Richard Jesudoss, S G Vasudev, C Douglas, S Nandagopal, V Vishwanathan, D Venkatapathy and others. Along with these artists, the works of younger artists such as B O Shailesh, Uma Shankar etc are also displayed. Far Away Tree is presenting the works of M Natesh, Aneesh K Rajan, Ebenezer Sunder Singh, Suresh Panicker, Aparajithan Adimoolam and others while Asharaa has put together a well curated exhibition of photographs by Amit Pasricha, Nandini Valli, Pushpamala, Waswo X Waswo, Raghu Rai etc. Art and Soul, a recently launched gallery and Safion are jointly presenting Gestural Figuration an exhibition of works by C Douglas, K Muralidharan, S G Vasudev and Rajashekaran Nair. The severe tones of C Douglas's works and the solidity of Rajashekaran Nair's sculptures are complemented by the works of the childlike quality in Muralidharan's canvases and the ethereality of S G Vasudev's works. Ayya Art Galleries is presenting the works of predominantly Andhra Pradesh based artists like T Vaikuntam, Chippa Sudhakar, Fawad Tamkanat, Ramesh Gorjala etc.
At the time of writing this review several Art Chennai exhibitions were yet to be inaugurated. This included the exhibition of sculptures at Forum gallery, Gallery Sumukha's Dolls curated by Marta Jakimowicz, R Baala's solo show at Prakrit Arts, Art World's exhibition of works by artists like Asma Menon, Amitabh Sengupta, Nandagopal, R B Bhaskaran, Senathipathi, Dhiraj Choudhary, Alphonso Doss etc and the shows presented by Safion. At Athreyaa Art Gallery's Gestural Abstraction-II, Safion will showcase the works of Athiveerapandian, G Gurunathan, M S Murthy and others while at Lakshana Gallery's Gestural Abstraction it will present the works of veteran artists like L Munuswamy, K M Adimoolam, P Gopinath, Achuthan Kudallur and RM Palaniappan. At Safion's own premises an exhibition by C Dakshinamoorthy, P Perumal, M Suriyamoorthy and S K Rajavelu will also be held. Along with these exhibitions, an art camp has also been inaugurated with Arpana Caur, Chandra Bhattacharjee, Puja Puri, Lavanya, Mithu Sen, Rajan Krishnan, Babu Eashwar Prasad, Parvathy Nair, C Douglas, N N Rimzon and others participating.
From 24th March onwards until 26th March, 2011, Art Chennai will present Art Conversations which will discuss topics like the Curatorial Eye, Collectors' Corner, The Art Critic and The Art Market with writers, artists and curators like Chaitanya Sambrani, Parvathi Nayar, Arshiya Lokhandwala, Oindrilla Maity, Bhavna Kakar, Abhay Sardesai, Ashrafi Bhagat etc participating. Apart from this, Gallery Espace, Project 88, Open Eyed Dreams and Gallerie 88 will be presenting art exhibits and a video lounge. The Video Lounge will feature works by Ranbir Kaleka (Man with Cockerel), Shilpa Gupta (Blame Video), Murali Cheeroth (An Old Story), Monali Meher (Breathing) and many others. Art Chennai will conclude on March 26th with an art auction.