by Sukanya DebFeb 09, 2023
What is art without its viewers? Between the maker (artist), the creation (art), and the viewer, would the snapping of any one link, not translate to an incomplete artistic expression? Among the diverse formats that bring art to the audience, art fairs remain a popular choice. Usually concentrated into few days (four to six days), they focus mostly on the commercial aspect, the business of art. There is, however, a growing critique of such settings, that are extremely sub-optimal in engaging with visual arts. Such spaces showcase works in uncontrolled lighting and limited display options, with far too many people to allow for a quiet viewing experience, complete non-thematic curation to add contexts, and just sheer quantities of works, all leading up to the fact that the fair is not ideal for engaging with artworks. But then again, that holds true for any industry fair. Priyanshi Saxena, an art advisor and curator involved in making art fairs and building art markets in Tier 2 cities of India, says that we need abolish this duality in our minds when it comes to visual arts. We cannot aspire for sustainable economics for artists and yet be ashamed of the art business. And while extensive curations may not lead to easy engagement, especially for the uninitiated, it is valuable to see a broad spectrum of works under one roof, allowing a new perspective. If shopping malls help in increased sales, then why not art fairs for art sales?
In the Indian art scene, the India Art Fair is a leading platform, showcasing modern and contemporary art from the Indian subcontinent as well as South Asia. In its forthcoming edition, the fair will present 86 exhibitors, with over 1000 artists. The art event promises to bring the best from the region. To know what unique and engaging artworks are being presented by the art galleries, STIR has curated a selection of ‘not to be missed works!'
Rasheed Araeen; Aicon, New York
Rasheed Araeen is a London-based artist, writer, activist, and curator. He is recognised as the pioneer of minimalist sculpture, challenging Eurocentrism within the British art establishment. He was a member of several organisations fighting for liberty and human rights such as the Black Panthers and Artists for Democracy.
Anant Art is presenting a curated booth, as an homage to the medium of painting. Inspired by Gieve Patel’s 1985 essay, To Pick up a Brush, the booth presents four new voices exploring mediatic and formal possibilities, intimate to painting—Harsh Nambiar, Shailee Mehta, Tito Stanley SJ, and Vikrant Bhise. Nambiar who is debuting his work for public viewing, paints canvases that are inhabited by mystical figures, and landscapes plucked from historical lore and fantasy, alike. Inspired by the altarpieces and illuminations in the traditions of Romanesque and Gothic painting, Nambiar sustains the tension between enchantment and the uncanny. In a series of portraits, sized such that they could be mirrors or windows, viewers will find beings imbued with a chimerical aura—an admixture of gaunt flesh and soft ether, emerging from or arriving at serpentine, spare landscapes. “At Anant we are always looking for artists who are partaking in imaginative acts that revise or extend existing paradigms, straddling both artistic traditions of South Asia and the contemporary impulse. Each of the painters we are showing in the booth come from rich institutional legacies. In Harsh’s practice, the desire to transport us to a plane that is mythic and creative while being grounded in the materiality of paint—lavish layering of strokes and saturation of colours, is a breath of fresh air,” says Mamta Singhania, founder, Anant Art.
Kaimurai, Blueprint 12
Kaimurai is the identity through which Abishek Ganesh J expresses his practice. His body of work is a dialogue between organic forms and the flow of energy experienced through—Carnatic music, the Western Ghats or a sacred forest, ancient South Indian rituals and customs. Kaimurai explores the realm of raw energy—the movement, patterns, textures, and decay in nature; an inherent vibration that is omnipresent and ever evolving. His markings (from fine strokes to large brush strokes), seemingly calm and yet aggressive are characteristic to the organic nature of his work. There is a sense of minimalism in his monochromatic works, and a focus of energy on a singular element or moment; an expression executed with natural indigo. “His meditative practice, harmoniously blended with our other artists such as Youdhisthir Maharjan, Vipeksha Gupta, and Madiha Sikand—the art of laboriously repetitive process. The journey together has led us to several projects, opportunities and exhibits together in the last year and we are very excited to introduce his works at the India Art Fair for the first time this year,” says Mandira Lamba, co-founder, Blueprint 12.
Waswo X. Waswo, Gallery Espace
Waswo X. Waswo is showcasing a solo exhibit, titled Last Ride in the Wild, Wild East. Waswo has two new collaborators on the project—Chirag Kumawat and Dalpat Jinger—who break away from his familiar utopian landscapes. He addresses sombre themes affecting the world today, such as ecological destruction, political polarisation, and the global rise of invasive technologies and authoritarianism. Drawing on Hindu mythology of Kali yuga, heralded by the coming of Kalki, the last incarnation of Lord Vishnu, on a winged horse, Waswo infuses a sense of anticipatory doom through his works, with surreal elements referring to contemporary happenings in art history. His practice is rooted in traditional visual practices, while addressing themes interwoven from history, colonialism, and contemporary identities. “Waswo’s new works reveal an evolution in his stylistic vocabulary, his customary miniature landscapes fused with a greater degree of realism, and overt, pointed references to and incisive critique of contemporary events. The gallery has always supported its artists as they extend their practice and explore new directions,” says Renu Modi, director, Gallery Espace.
Nandan Ghiya, Exhibit 320
Nandan Ghiya will be presenting his works, that forge at the horizon where chaos and history conceived in the by lanes of the Pink City, intersect. His multi-framed photographic installations establish connections with disparate yet overlapping values of the past and present. Documenting glimpses of surviving histories, some personal and some the city’s own, Ghiya’s works shift perceptions with relentless irony. “Exhibit 320 showcases contemporary art from India and the subcontinent, creating a platform for new thoughts and ideas. The emphasis of the exhibition space is on new media, and it structures as a place for creative endeavour, aesthetic exploration, and furthering visual dialogue. Our aim is to discover and encourage new and emerging talent,” says Rasika Kajaria, director of Exhibit 320.
Yogesh Ramkrishna, Latitude 28
Latitude 28 will show works of Yogesh Ramkrishna, working with multiple mediums, whose works revolve around the feeling of no longer being protagonists of our own stories. It underlines the observations of post-truth behaviours of society, manipulated information, and evolved meanings of spaces, and relations to our surrounding world. His practice is marked by the appearance of theatrical characters, sometimes masked, inspired from local, folk traditions and narratives. The contemporary artist attempts to draft the evolution of human personalities with respect to the socio-political conditions that transform us into completely new species. “We have always focused on showing and advocating emerging artists experimenting with medium and genre, who respond to the critical conversations of our times or the annals of their surreal imaginations. Yogesh’s art practice aligns with our vision that way, since it is commenting as well as contemplating on current concerns. The artist morphs his characters into evolutionary beings, their reality leaps into Fantasmic futures where the mundane meets the extraordinary as they merge to create a path for themselves,” says Bhavna Kakar, founder of Latitude 28.
Shine Shivan, Sakshi Gallery
Shine Shivan is showcasing Nidhivan, a private pastoral that resides between retelling and reliving. He references the myriad tales of Radha Krishna, and eternal tropes like love, eroticism, play, and devotion. The works evoke wide-eyed childish innocence, with risqué underpinnings, and unabashed love for the idea of Krishna. “Sakshi Gallery has endeavoured to develop a strong program, working closely with important Indian and international artists as well as introducing many emerging ones. It has held exhibitions of Indian art all over the world and has introduced to the Indian audience work of illustrious international artists such as El Anatsui, Gregory Crewdson, and Julian Opie,” says Geetha Mehra, founder of Sakshi Gallery.
Sajan Mani, Shrine Empire
Sajan Mani's durational performance at the Shrine Empire excavates the very idea of ‘politics of food,’ set against the Indian political weather. Lying on a banana leaf, Mani presents himself as an edible body, extending questions of political body, space, time, and food culture. Mani is known for maintaining political and socially relevant discourses through his practice, and works with indigenous, locally rooted aesthetics. For the Indian Art fair, he will also be showing a series of performative drawings, as well as serigraphs on natural rubber. “Since its inception, Shrine Empire has consistently focused on promoting artists from the South Asian region whose practices emphasise process, research, and conceptual use of media and material. The gallery’s programming has created a unique identity for the space through curated exhibitions and propositions, as well as commissioned projects which explore crossings between aesthetics and social/political concerns of its immediate context,” says Anahita Taneja, co-founder, Shrine Empire.
Khanjan Dalal, 079 Stories
Khanjan Dalal, a debutant at the India Art Fair 2023, will present Enigma of Absence at 079 Stories. Dalal’s works employ the format of speech bubbles in different shapes and styles, freely borrowing speech markers from popular culture and digital chat box avatars, stripping them of their original meaning and looking at them as visual objects. “079 Stories was conceptualised to create a platform that could cater to the need of design, art, and creativity, and also bring art and culture together while making it accessible for the people. We felt that most people see art as a very intellectual platform, difficult to understand and as expensive: almost difficult to afford, this made us create a space which bursts these preconceived perceptions about art,” says Purva Damani, founder, 079 stories.
Click here to read more about India Art Fair 2023 which is taking place from February 9-12 at NSIC Exhibition Grounds Okhla, New Delhi.