by Rahul KumarMar 15, 2021
The reality of the virtual experience of the art during the times of the pandemic crisis could never override the pleasure of watching the artworks displayed physically. The virtual proximity of the art tours in the galleries and museums kept the viewers’ right to gauge the layers and textures of the art piece at bay. Defying these limitations, the sixth edition of ASIA NOW: Paris Asian Art Fair, from October 21-24, 2020, at Avenue Hoche during Paris Art Week underscored the prerequisite necessity to experience the world of art in real life. Founded by Claude Fain along with his daughter Alexandra Fain, since the first edition of ASIA NOW in 2015, it has strived to present the new perspectives and issues for contemporary Asian art and its market. As a springboard for discussion and interaction on contemporary artistic creation from Asia, the ASIA NOW besides offering a curatorial platform also offers space to lead special projects, including a series of off-site installations, artist video screenings, and a cycle of performances and conversations.
Five years down the line, ASIA NOW this year had Indian art as its special focus point. The works by the historical and contemporary Indian artists aimed to epitomise the diverse voices available within the fabric of India art scene. The collaboration with the international galleries and Indian artists - Galeria Continua and Marella Rossi with Shilpa Gupta, Jeanne Bucher Jaeger gallery’s presentation of Zarina’s (Hashmi) work (the first retrospective in France since her death in April 2020), Nathalie Obadia gallery with the artist Rina Banerjee, Perrotin with Bharti Kher, Templon with Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and Anju Dodiya spearheaded the conversations on the convincing presence of the Indian art on the international contemporary art scene. Along with these artists, the artist Remen Chopra W. Van der Vaart’s solo show was presented and supported by Gujral Foundation. The Nature Morte gallery presented the work of Reena Saini Kallat at the Heidelbach Hotel of the museum.
Artists Rina Banerjee, Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and Anju Dodiya play with the materials to lend a new meaning to the traditional art practice of painting, sculpture, drawing. If on one side of the spectrum the artists forge a bond of interconnectedness between traditional arts and contemporary material to flag the global conversations, on the other side of the spectrum, artists Zarina and Remen Chopra W Van Der Vaart relook at the political histories of their home-nations and beyond as a site to draw the visual narratives of their works.
The history of modern India rooted in partition, migration and its memory find resonance in contemporary Indian culture. More often than not, if the high politics is an extension of the patriarchal voice of stoicism, then the female artists over the years have represented the idea of the history of loss, connection and reconciliation through their art practice. Works by the artists Zarina, Banerjee and Van Der Vaart are a manifestation of the same. The minimalist works dotted with non-linear patterns of lines were Zarina’s way of tracing her home of pre-partition in India and post-partition in Pakistan and its memories. Having travelled and lived in different continents across the globe, Zarina’s art carries the universal quest of a displaced to search for a sense of belonging through the fractured memories of home.
The multi-disciplinary artist Van Der Vaart, born in Calcutta before moving to England and later to the USA, has a lineage of family history that goes back to Tehran, Rawalpindi and Shimla. The personal stories were narrated to her by her grandmother. As part of the exhibition, the artist created a site-specific installation Memory's Cut: Its Deep Embrace at the National Museum of Asian Arts – Guimet. The intangible memories are mapped through the series of found objects and fine threads of embroideries with the work articulating the desire to preserve the richness of personal history. As a visceral response to the library space of the National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet, Van Der Vaart’s work Memory's Cut: Its Deep Embrace mapped the cartography of fragmented memories, by using mulmul panels, personal archives and objects, photographs, drawing, sculpture, and sound.
Reena Saini Kallat’s work Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso are long scrolls of cloth dyed in blue-black hues by artisans of the town named Bhuj in Gujarat. The text on the scroll reads the preambles to the constitutions of countries that either faced division to achieve independence or are/were embroiled in political conflict. The preamble of the nations including India, Pakistan, the US, Cuba, North and South Sudan, Bangladesh, North and South Korea restored the belief of its citizens in the dictums of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
Like the interactions across the geographical locations – whether through waning memory or found objects – saw a breathing life in the works of the artists, the ASIA NOW: Paris Asian Art Fair reiterated the belief to let the art move conversations despite the physically distanced spaces, lest it numb the emotive human selves.