Art News & Views

The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India Featuring Photography, Sculpture and Video


by Natasha Sikdar

San Francisco, California. The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India, organised by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts started on October 15, 2011 and continues till January 29, 2012. It is an exhibition of photography, sculpture and video by artists of India living inside the country as well as in the diaspora. Inspired by material culture, literature, spirituality and social and political aspects of the history of the South Asian region, the exhibition is organized around three thematic threads that resonate from contemporary Indiaembodiment, the politics of communicative bodies and the imaginary. Whereas sculpture and painting have a long history within both sacred and secular traditions of Indian art in recent years, photography and video have emerged as significant media as well. The show will feature three segments namely Photography, Sculpture and Video with a varied range of artists participating.

Photography: Photographer Tejal Shah recently turned to relational performance as a form most suited to her interest in alternative gender and sexual identities. She is a Mumbai-based visual artist working with video, photography and installation, and focusing on feminist, queer and political issues. She has exhibited widely in museums, galleries and film festivals including the Asian Triennial Manchester, Cornerhouse, Manchester, 2008 and others. Solo exhibitions include What are You? etc. In 2003, Tejal Shah co-founded, organized and curated Larzish, India's 1st International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality.

Sunil Gupta alternates between the imaginary and the reality of gay life styles and the AIDS/HIV epidemic. He is an Indian-born Canadian artist and photographer based in London and New Delhi. After attending college in Montreal, Gupta moved to England to study photography at the West Surrey College of Art & Design until 1981 and at the Royal College of Art in London until 1983. Gupta has presented numerous solo exhibitions, including The New Pre-Raphaelites, Grosvenor Vadehra, London, 2010; Imagining Childhood, Sepia, New York, 2009, etc. Gupta's work has also been featured in group exhibitions such as Self and the Other, Espai 2 - Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona, 2009 and others.

Anup Matthew Thomas captures images of India in a characteristically seductive aesthetic while presenting a subtle critique of the validity of society's lawmakers and moral ambassadors. Born in Kochi, Thomas is currently based in Kottayam and Bengaluru, where he works with photography, exploring questions of institutionalization, identity and representation. His recent solo shows include Anup Mathew Thomas, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo, 2010; View from Conolly's Plot, Gallery SKE, Bengaluru, 2010 and others. Recent group shows include Notes on the (Dis) Appearance of Real, presented by Shrine Empire Gallery at Stainless Gallery, New Delhi, 2010 and others.

Pushpamala N. inhabits various female characters including icons from Indian sacred traditions and French painting and photography. Born in Bengaluru, Pushpamala N is a video, photo and installation artist, writer, theorist, and curator living and working in Bengaluru and New Delhi. Recipient of several awards her work has been shown at numerous international exhibitions, biennials, and festivals, including Nature Morte, New Delhi, 2008, Bose Pacia Gallery, New York, 2008; Saatchi Gallery, London, 2008 and others. Her work is part of several major collections such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Saatchi, London.

Nikhil Chopra embodies multiple personae from the colonial era to explore and document, in large scale drawings, spaces undergoing change, communicating a sense of nostalgia for a past era and of adventure in the seizing of the future. The Kolkata-born and Mumbai-based artist works at the boundaries between theatre, performance, live art, painting, photography and sculpture, devising fictional characters that draw on India's colonial history as well as his own personal history. Chopra has presented his work in a number of solo exhibitions, including Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing X, Chatterjee and Lal, Mumbai and Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, 2010 and others. Chopra's work has also been exhibited in several group shows, including Production Site: The Artist's Studio Inside-Out, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2010; 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, 2009.

Dhruv Malhotra rediscovers India's streets through the personal and intimate lens of people sleeping, in turn unveiling a private space within a very public one. Malhotra grew up in Jaipur and is currently based in New York. His work focuses on urban areas and engages with issues of progress, modernity and the otherworldly. Malhotra's photographs were included in a group exhibition at the Hyères Festival, France in early 2010 where he was awarded a residency by the School of Visual Arts in New York. His first body of work, Noida Soliloquy was exhibited at Photoink, New Delhi, 2010. Photographs from his subsequent body of work, Sleepers, were included in the exhibition, New Ways of Looking, at the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennial.

Bharat Sikka documents contemporary visions of India in the faces and forms of people and spaces that harbor an inherent sense of calm and solitude, presenting an alternative to traditional images of India steeped in vibrant color and activity. An Indian-born photographer, he lives and works between Europe and India. Sikka's work has been displayed in numerous national and international exhibitions. Solo exhibitions include Matter, Nature Morte, Berlin, 2011; The Road to Salvador do Mundo, Sunaparanta Art Centre, Goa, 2010 and many others. Group exhibitions include Concurrent India, Helsinki Art Museum Tennis Palace, 2011 and others. Sikka has contributed to magazines and publications such as the New Yorker, I.D, Vogue, Vogue Homme International, Details and Time Magazine, where his work was featured amongst The Best Photographs of 2005.

Gauri Gill's intensive relationship with one village family in Rajasthan yields a large body of work that reveals the intimacy of family bonds and friendships. Gill was born in Chandigarh currently lives and works in New Delhi. Gill's work has been exhibited widely in India and across the world. Group exhibitions include USA Today: After Katrina, Institut d'art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, Lyon, 2010; Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Whitechapel Gallery, London and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich, 2010 and others. Solo exhibitions include What Remains, Green Cardamom Gallery, London, 2011; Notes from the Desert, Nature Morte, New Delhi and others.

Sculpture: Sculpture has a long tradition within both sacred and secular art of India, and its rich legacy of materiality and iconography have had an impact on contemporary art. This is evident in an adherence to traditional forms as well as in expanded imagery and physical forms signaling the future. Sculptors Thukral & Tagra focus on the globalization of the art market and its repercussions. The New Delhi-based artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra work collaboratively in a wide variety of media including painting, sculpture, installation, video, graphic and product design, websites, music and fashion. Their solo exhibitions have included Thukral & Tagra: Match Fixed, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2011-2010; Middle Class Dreams, Arario Gallery, Seoul, 2010; Low-Tech Family Vacations, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 2010 and others. They have also participated in various group exhibitions, including the Lyon Biennale, 2011 and various others. They have received a number of prestigious awards, including 101 Emerging Designers of the World, Wallpaper Magazine, Global Edit, 2006 etc.

Sudarshan Shetty who combines pop sensibilities with Hindu ritual was born in Mangalore and is currently living and working in Mumbai. Shetty's recent solo exhibitions include Between The Tea Cup and a Sinking Constellation, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, 2011; This Too Shall Pass, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, 2010; The More I Die the Lighter I Get, Tilton Gallery, New York, 2010; Six Drops, GALLERYSKE, Bengaluru, 2009; and Leaving Home, Gallery Krinzinger, Vienna, 2008. Shetty has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Paris- Delhi-Bombay, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2011 and others.

Shilpa Gupta whose politically forthright work is set within an elegant conceptual and linguistic framework was born in Mumbai, India where she currently lives and works. Gupta received the Transmediale 2004 Award, Berlin, 2004, the Sanskriti Prathisthan Award, New Delhi, 2004 and was a runner up for the Leonardo Global Crossings Award, 2005. Gupta's work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions, including Shilpa Gupta, Darling Fonderie, Montreal, 2011; A Bit Closer, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, 2010; Half A Sky, OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, 2010; and While I Sleep, Le Laboratoire, Paris, 2009. Gupta has also participated in international group exhibitions, including Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon, the 4th Auckland Triennial, Auckland, 2010 and others.

Anita Dube whose deep relationship with materials, feminism and the politics of social upheaval push sexual metaphor to the brink of violence, was born in Lucknow, India and currently lives and works in New Delhi. Dube has presented numerous solo exhibitions, including Recent Works, Bose Pacia, New York, 2008; Inside Out, Bombay Art Gallery, Mumbai, 2007; and Phantoms of Liberty, Gallery Almine Rech, Paris, 2007. Dube has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Paris- Delhi-Bombay, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2011; Conundrum, Nature Morte, Berlin, 2011 and others.

Rina Banerjee (New York), whose fantastical sculptures constructed of found objects that typify eras and spaces throughout history, reclaim specific colonial concepts from the perspective of complex diasporic experiences. Born in Kolkata, Rina Banerjee is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in New York City. Banerjee's work has been exhibited internationally in solo exhibitions that include Chimeras of the India & the West, Musée Guimet, Paris, 2011; Forever Foreign, Haunch of Venison, London, 2010; Look into My Eyes and You Will See a World Unexplainable, Out of Place, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Brussels, 2009; and in group exhibitions including What is Sculpture, CRG Gallery, New York, 2011; Wild Things, Kunstallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark, 2010 and others.

Srestha Premnath, born in Bengaluru and currently based in New York, combines an interest in historical icons with the avant-garde's adherence to aesthetic formalism. Premnath is an interdisciplinary artist, as well as the founder and editor of Shifter magazine. Premnath received the Art Matters Foundation Grant, 2011; the Civetella Raniere Foundation Fellowship, 2011 and various others. Premnath's work has been presented in solo exhibitions, including Leo (procedures in search of an original index), Gallery SKE, Bengaluru, 2010; Zero Knot, Art Statements, Art|41|Basel, 2010; and Black Box, Gallery SKE, Bengaluru, 2008; as well as numerous group exhibitions, including Before and After, Galerie Balice Hertling, Paris, 2010 and others. Premnath has also curated On Certainty, Bose Pacia Gallery, New York, 2009, and the ongoing Project for an Archive of the Future Anterior, 2010.

Siddhartha Kararwal whose mutated figures mark a new, more relaxed attitude towards form making and permanence when considering the politics of materiality and the embodiment of unnameable forces. Currently living and working in Vadodra, Kararwal received the Best Display award from Maharaja Sayajirao University in 2009, and was a FICA runner up in 2010. Kararwal has participated in group exhibitions, including Urban Testimonies and Size Matters…Or Does It?, Latitude 28, New Delhi, 2010; Sakshi, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 2010; and First Look, Project 88, Mumbai, 2009.

Video: Some of the single channel videos provide a unique window into the lives of ordinary people. Video also provides an opportunity for shaping multi-referential narratives examining contemporary conditions such as displacement and community formation, unlikely personages and lost artistic legacies, often against the backdrop of colonialism and other forms of occupation. Video artist Ayisha Abraham tells stories about Bengaluru. Born in London she currently lives in Bengaluru. She has had several solo exhibitions in New York and India and has been exhibited in numerous group shows. Her short film One Way, was screened at the Directors Fortnight at Cannes in May 2007. She is a member of Bengaluru artists collective, BAR1 and works as a visual arts consultant at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bengaluru.

The Raqs Media Collective (Delhi) blends poetics with archival footage to forge a new philosophy about progressive global cultures from the Indian perspective. Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta founded the Raqs Media Collective in 1992. Their work, which has been exhibited widely in major international spaces and events locates them at the intersections of contemporary art, historical enquiry, philosophical speculation, research, and theoryoften taking the form of installations, online and offline media objects, performances, and encounters. Their recent solo exhibitions include Surjection AGYU, Toronto, 2011 and others. Recent group exhibitions include Paris- Delhi-Bombay, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2011 and others.

CAMP (Mumbai) is working with underrepresented populations in a variety of countries that form a cross-cultural compendium of the impact of religious fractiousness on daily life within urban villages; CAMP was founded in November 2007 by Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran, along with Sanjay Bhangar, as a collaborative project linking and discussing independent artistic and media projects across the city of Mumbai. Shaina Anand is a filmmaker and media artist who has been working independently in film/video since 1997. Anand has exhibited work at Khoj International Artists' Association, New Delhi; Ars Electronica Linz; Frankfurter Kunstverein; The Power Plant, Toronto; Serpentine Gallery, London; Gasworks, London; Cornerhouse, Manchester; and the biennales of Dakar, Sharjah, and Taipei, among other venues. Ashok Sukumaran studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, 1998, and art at UCLA, 2003. Sukumaran's public projects, films and installations have been shown widely in recent years, and have received many awards, including a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica 2007, and the Jury Prize at the 9th Sharjah Biennial, 2009 (as CAMP) among others.

The Otolith Group (London) uses archival footage to doggedly investigate temporal slips and Utopian dreams of the past. Founded in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, It is an award winning London-based artist-led collective and organization that integrates film and video making, artists writing, workshops, exhibition curation, publication and developing public platforms for the close readings of the image in contemporary society. They have presented several solo exhibitions, including A Lure a Part Allure Apart, Betonsalon, Paris, 2011; Thoughtform, MACBA, Barcelona, 2011; In The Year 2103, Experimenter, Kolkata, Seven Arts, New Delhi , 2010/11 and others . Recent group exhibitions have included Biennale de Lyon, 2011; Alias Survey, Krakow, Poland, 2011 and others. They have also held events, presentations, and screenings at various international venues, in addition to curating and co-curating a number of exhibitions.

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