Unveiling the next in line
This October Aakriti Art Gallery's fifth edition of GenNext spearheaded by Vikram Bachhawat sustained conviction in the younger generations of artists. Annually for the last five years the gallery has provided a substantial platform to artists waiting to prove themselves and be recognised. At a time when collectors and investors are seeking the works of established artists, this effort by a private gallery does not go unnoticed and reinforces the notion of exploring emerging talents.
Thirty two artists from across India as well as countries such as UK, Croatia, China and Italy showed paintings, sculptures, installations, using mediums as varied as digital prints to embroidery and vegetable dyes. The gallery received over a 1000 applications from which the team at Aakriti Art Gallery made the final selection to showcase the most promising artists. The works offer ample proof that the artists of the new generation are getting bolder and bolder, making unconventional use of existing mediums. It seems these younglings are breaking out of the shells and pre-exiting moulds. Take for instance the youngest in the group, Meenakshi Sengupta who is still studying at the Government College of Art. She has painted miniature format figurative works using the tempera and gouache technique with the idea of exploring subjects that are relevant to the times today. She has employed a sense of humour and sarcasm in handling the issues of fertility and sexuality, and played around with stereotypes while drawing, painting and sticking images. Also digging into traditional mediums and practices with contemporary relevance is Tisha Mandal who has employed kantha embroidery. Like the women who embroider a narrative on fabric, Tisha has built a narrative around herself and observations of her life. Santosh Andrade has included Madhubani renderings within his composition which mainly has realistic figuration. He has celebrated the everyday life in the contexts of the Madhubani paintings which have a subject of their own varying from stories of nature and Hindu deities. Shatrughan Thakur has used textiles, vegetable dyes and khadi, implements that help him follow Gandhian principles of self-sufficiency. He has observed the politics and economic conditions in his hometown in Bihar and inferred that self-sufficiency is an answer to resolve the situation. These artists have woven together their personal worldviews of life and happenings and in the process have made observations about the diverse nature of India's social reality which in turn embraces the tradition and the modern all at once. In the process, craft processes and fine art academic techniques mingle to create a renewed visual language.
The compass of the artist's interests is wide as seen here. For instance, Chandra Nath Saha's witty comment on the swings of the economic conditions influencing the art market, Muktinath Mondal's observation that old traditions are dying slowly, Mrinal Dey's talks about aspirations and desires of the present generation and Krupa Makhija's views on forgotten early discoveries that helped humanity immensely and the passage of time are worth pondering on. Each artist has made the exhibition an engaging experience.
Coinciding with GenNext V art exhibition at Aakriti Art Gallery, Emami Chisel Art hosted a symposium spread across two days and showcased the works resulting from the joint ECA and Khoj Residency Programme. Three artists, Mumbai's Oli Ghosh and Kolkata's Sutanuka Giri and Piyali Sadukhan explored the nuances of the perceptions of femininity during the four-week workshop. All three created ambitious installations. Oli collected several dozens of red bangles to create a tubular spiral form lit up from within. The use of red bangles and the visual form of a spiral addressed her concerns about feminine power in a fragile casing. Sutanuka's giant frilly dress has layers of different patterns of fabric sewn one after the other expressing the idea of how life's experiences come in different colours and forms and all get added up. The act of sewing is a historically symbolical female act which Sutanuka employs. Piyali Sadukhan created a passionate work discussing female foeticide and the survival tactics a woman requires. She wondered that through her work whether she should take the stand of a humanist or a feminist, or simply find ways to be safe and free.
The GenNext V and the Khoj works set the tone for the two-day conference at ECA. It started with young art historians Aditi Gupta and Lopamudra Pakhira who became the voices for the 32 artists from GenNext whose works they discussed and presented via a slide-show. Followed by the discussions and interactions with each artist present, the symposium opened to a range of subjects concerning contemporary art in India. The topic for the first session was 'Globalisation: Dislocation, Disorder, Dehoming: Is Art Withering Away.' Professor Parul Dave Mukherjee chaired the session which had young panelists such as Leandre Dsouza, Akansha Rastogi, Moumita Sen, Priyanka Nandy and Mrigank Madugalia. Through examples of various projects and art practices and theories, the session discussed how art has moved away from the galleries and moved to communities with the rise of public art projects that integrate culture and politics and play the role of intervention.
The second day's first session was an 'Enquiry and Search for a Democratic Art Form.' Senior art critic Pranabranjan Ray as chairperson of the session started with asking “What kind of form is democratic? Is it something that the majority approves? Or proportionately, a form that minority also approves?” He also asked, "Where excellence is the criteria, does the question of democracy come up?" The panelists included artist Sanchayan Ghosh, sculptor and installation artist Adip Dutta, art-critic Rahul Bhattacharya, Australian artist Micke Glickson, and young artists Sujay Mukherjee and Baptist Coelho.
The topic for third and the final session was 'Stretch/Expand the limits of Art and the Public Domain'. Chaired by Dr Tapati Guha-Thakurta, the session had an interesting mix of panelists ranging from film historian from JNU, Dr Ranjani Mazumdar, theatre actress Trina Nileena Banerjee, a film theorist Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, Literary Critic from MSU, Baroda Dipta Achar and Kavita Balakrishnan, an art critic.
Through the lively seminar engaging viewpoints were exchanged, interesting public art projects were discussed which left the participants with several questions and queries about the occurrences in the contemporary art scene.
GenNext V concluded on October 21 with a gung-ho with invitations to artists and preparations for GenNext VI already in the motion. Edition after edition it is hoped that artists make the most of the platform that helps them reach out to a vast audience.