by Pallavi MehraJan 12, 2023
Imaginations reap seeds of stories—some wild while some fantastical! These stories become nurturers of the visual lexicon that contemporary artists choose to fathom, narrate, and eventually present with diversity in medium and forms. So 'let me tell you a story' of an artistic exploration within a new space nestled in Mumbai—a space that will platform many such stories within the city's ever-expanding artsy landscape. Akara Contemporary collaborated with Brazilian Portuguese art curator, Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, for its debut summer exhibit titled Let Me Tell You A Story. The East meets the West as various artists reflect on aspects of nightfall—silence, darkness, and the notion of things coming to an end.
Apart from the art gallery's debut, what sets this curation apart is the spectacular space and the interweaving of the contemporary with the ancient. High ceilings, decorative arches, floral motifs on glass-stained windows and an abundance of natural light through the geometric balconies, elevate the space giving it its own unique aesthetic identity. This century-old archetypical British Raj structure platforms its very first visual story narration. Designed by Indian architect Rajiv Saini and lit by vis a vis, the gallery comes alive, and has the potential to be more than a white cube.
Curator Luiza comments, “The idea of past and present in dialogue; of tradition and novelty; furthermore, offering a great context for themes of memory or identity to be unravelled, even if in a more abstract way. Also, I always tend to think of my exhibitions with care and respect for the context where they are taking place, even more so, if it is happening somewhere that is new to me, as was the case with Mumbai, so I guess the same kind of respect is to be taken when showing something so contemporary in a place with such historical meaning, never undermining this significance— embracing it even.”
As I entered through the wooden doors, I was welcomed by Korean artist Haegue Yang's signature Clotheshorse Dressage as it stood magnificently behind a glass pane. Yang’s ghunghroo or steel bells ring a homage to the Indian tradition of invoking the gods and goddesses before the beginning of something new. The bells bring a sense of auspice into the new space. Adjacent to Yang’s art installation is Indian artist Dhruva Mistry's stark red octopus-like creature that sits on floors, almost observing itself being observed by the beholder. Mistry’s Doodledom draws a stark juxtaposition with Scotland-based Rebecca Sharp’s Sea Events. Completely different in mediums, both artists poetically induce a sense of the fantastical to the aquatic world, which largely remains a mystery to mankind. “There is, in fact, an interesting conversation between the East and the West when it comes to utopian creatures. I guess it is because both cultures have imagined fantasy creatures that represent their respective ideals and cultural values,” mentions the curator.
On a completely different tangent, the other Indian artist Bhagyashree Suthar's landscapes oscillate between the manmade and the biological. Her heavy forms and weighty structures abstractly suspend amidst a world of pure concrete existence. This also adds to the social commentary of the concrete jungle like the city of Mumbai itself. Japanese artist Keita Miyazaki’s exhaust pipe installation echoes a very similar sentiment. Titled White Current, the installation artist juxtaposes the delicate origami symbolising nature with the exhaust pipe, a representation of the manmade. The works together almost form a repertoire of a post-apocalyptic reconciliation. “I think these similarities and intertwining are so important as they come to show how cultures can impact and inspire each other, even when they are so geographically distant,” adds Luiza.
Speaking about geographic distances, Mona Hatoum’s wool carpet depicts a world map overlaid with yellow seismic rings. The Palestinian artist deliberately destroys the topographical alignment, suggesting the potential danger the world is heading towards. There is almost a sense of calmness before the storm hidden behind this installation. Ironically, another spectrum of a rather therapeutic calmness hides behind journaling the waxing and the waning of the moon. This very idea is reflected in American-British artist Sarah Morris' Lunar as she calendars the moods and muses of the moon in the month of April for two consecutive years 2020 and 2021.
This exhibition will be presented in two parts, alluding to the simplest yet most beautiful of all opposites—night and day. It takes the former as a departure point, and just as in A Thousand and One Nights, the mother of all storytelling books, the intention is that night becomes day, that they somehow meld into one another, craving for the other to come and then never go away. “It will have a different feeling to it, as works will be more vivacious, referring to themes around brightness, day, awakening and beginning,” shares Luiza.
'Let Me Tell You A Story' Part 1 is on view till June 10, 2023, and Part 2 will open on July 1, 2023.