Encounters: the curated sector at Art Basel Hong Kong presents 14 large-scale projects
by Rahul KumarMar 22, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Urvi KothariPublished on : Apr 14, 2023
An exhibition at Saskia Fernando Gallery opened on a very intriguing note with a title borrowed from American artist Agnes Martin, renowned for her abstract art, her quintessentially famous series titled With My Back To the World (c. 1997). Its title encapsulated Martin's worldview—that art sits outside of the cares and corruption of the world—and her hermetic lifestyle. Endorsing this thought as well as on the occasion of International Women’s Day, curatorial duo Mariyam Begum and Ashini Nanayakkara curated an exhibition for the women, by the women artists, and of the women, putting together 12 strong contemporary artists raising female voices. Their works asked the viewers to observe, feel and respond to the subtleties in art making. "The exhibition title is a nod to the defiant attitude, assertiveness and grace with which Martin, as well as many female artists before and after her, pursued their interests and passion, and continue to do," said Begum
"This exhibition helps in underscoring the innovations and contributions female artists are making towards the development of art in the region—both Sri Lanka, as well as South Asia. We want people to notice this and realise it. This is also the reason why in this exhibition we focused on the process of their work, more than that of their identity as female artists,” added Begum. Thus, the show was an invitation to actively engage with process and the tactile conversations that emerge across different disciplines. Whether it be embroidery, beadwork, woodblock printing, painting, sculpture, assemblage, or photography, there is much that transpires within the silent interstices of subtle gestures.
As I interact with diverse mediums and the intrinsic process of art making, I try to initiate the very act of meaning-making that lies on the floors of Saskia Fernando Art Gallery. Possibilities emerge when a needle punctures through a surface, grazes, or pricks it. Sabeen Omar invoked the subtractive and addictive role of needles. The idea behind this installation goes down the memory lane. Omar's artist statement started with: “I remember my mother messaging our foreheads with tiger balm when we couldn’t go to sleep……… Like the motion of my mother’s massage, I use patterns repetitively, making intricate lattice structures.” Omar used needles to scrape and expose layers while also embroidering crochet patches to fill in the negative spaces.
Departing from the idea of memory and embroidery, Hema Shironi deeply resonated with her personal stories of displacement, migration and experiences of living in Sri Lanka. The house as an embodiment of shelter and a repository of the human values which reside in it has consumed her. The house and the home that it once was, moved with her, recalling and documenting times of conflict. But the artist transcends pain and invents ways of healing. These are contained in the signs which mark the new pathways of recovery and rejuvenation. Additionally, Shironi’s running stitches remind me of the Kantha stitching practice which is synonymous with the Bengal partition. “Fabric which can be folded, hung, stored away and rearranged to be folded and carried away in a suitcase, in Shironi’s work becomes a metaphor for the homes which have constantly changed," curator Begum commented.
On a complete contrasting note, Anomaa Rajakaruna’s photograph documented a female prison cell with dry baked walls and casting deep shadow the clutches of the barbed fence wires above. The photograph reflects on the collective memories and histories of the challenges imposed on women by family, society, religion or preconceived beliefs. Juxtaposed with this photograph is the depiction of urban landscapes by three artists incorporating extremely different mediums—Ashini Nanayakkara’s photographs that imagine urban spaces as sites of transience, Sumi Perera’s hybrid prints exploring the geometry of architectural spaces and Chaturika Jayani interrogative quest on the moral conduct of growing urbanism. Interestingly, the end result for all three artists' works are extremely layered incorporating an amalgamation of diverse techniques.
The entire curation comes full circle with Fabienne Francotte’s clay sculptures, drawings, and paintings of lips, which she impetuously stitches and reworks to reflect on sisterhood, loss, and trauma. The most impactful one being The Thickness of Silence. This is a series of disembodied lips that are embroidered in a fashion half open or half closed. Begum commented, “What one can begin to observe are the folds which are created as the needle pulls through the fabric— tightening the two separate pieces of fabric together—a movement which seals shut the two lips. One can begin to think of the fabric as skin—and the immense discomfort and pain that the passing of a needle and thread could cause. The work is a reflection on the trauma of loss and the inability to adequately process the loss—the unbearable pain and the suffocation.”
The dialogue between the artist and the medium becomes crucial in contemplating on the invisible social strata, hidden traumas, pervasive power structures and the status-quo above all. Here, the act of making takes precedence over the finished product—every action or gesture is oriented towards a purpose and serves towards creating the overall meaning of the work. As opposed to decoding the meaning of a work, the exhibition is an invitation to slow down and engage with the process of art making, even when it isn’t discernible in the final work.
by Dilpreet Bhullar May 29, 2023
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by Manu Sharma May 26, 2023
Russian artist Maxim Zhestkov discusses his virtual reality project that blurs various creative disciplines.
by Vatsala Sethi May 24, 2023
The modern photography exhibition 'A World In Common' by Tate Modern looks at the dynamic landscape of photography and video from the African diaspora.
by Sukanya Deb May 22, 2023
Rijksmuseum's extended research and curatorial project brings scholarship and conservational insight relating the 17th century Dutch painter to the digital realm.
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