1 Aug 2019

Linear Perspective by Shirley Mathew

Perspectives on Urbanization

Linear Perspective, solo show by Shirley Mathew, Art scene indiaShirley Mathew's recent series of paintings 'Linear Perspective' is in response to the changing landscape of Bangalore. Watching the rapid pace of urbanization and the receding green cover, she wonders about the collateral damage which is happening at the cost of development. 

Living in Bangalore, Shirley has watched how the city has transformed over the years – from the Garden city that it used to be, to where it is now. The paintings are an effort to highlight this concern and to draw attention to the transformation, and at the same time mobilize citizens towards positive action. It is also an ode to those green warriors who strive hard to save the remaining trees, and to those who actively take up greening initiatives.

Linear Perspective, solo show by Shirley Mathew, Art scene indiaShirley’s works are based on abstract expression, deploying bold lines and varying the intensity of colours to demarcate the linear outlines of trees and foliage. She employs mixed media in her works to delineate perspectives and accentuate textures. The collection of black and white works highlight the fragile state of the environment, its negative connotations and to raise the question of survival of trees and of foliage in any urban space.

The artist elaborates, “I invite the viewer to imagine the lines of nature created on handmade paper along with mixed medium on paper and canvas. With intermingling tree lines, I have attempted to express the angst of full grown old trees being endangered, in the name of urban development yet shown rays of hope in brush strokes and composition, as a message for more awareness to save green in nature.”

Linear Perspective, solo show by Shirley Mathew, Art scene india
Shirley hopes to raise awareness about this issue, which is critically placed now, and has far reaching impacts, ranging from climate change to availability of water. The collection of works is as much about painting a grim picture of reality as it is of optimism, affirming hope of immediate actions which can positively affect the future.

She offers an ode to the groups of concerned citizens from all walks of life who have dedicated their time and immense efforts to save existing trees and to those who have initiated planting of saplings. The linear perspective of trees alludes to the undeviating passage of time and its metamorphosis.

Linear Perspective, solo show by Shirley Mathew, from 3rd - 18th August 2019 at MKF Museum of Art, 55/1 Isha Villa, Lavelle Road, Bengaluru 560001

All images courtesy the artist

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27 Jul 2019

Art News: Art in the City

An eclectic collection

The recently concluded art exhibition, curated by the well known Harish Kumar Sejekan, was held over the weekend at Phoneix Kessaku, Bangalore. It comprised of an eclectic collection, which included works that were part of a private collection with artists like Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore, and Ram Kumar whose works speak volumes about the rich history of Indian art. These were presented along with contemporary artists with an attempt to give equal importance and at the same time give contemporary and emerging artists their own space. 

Art in the City, Jamini Roy, Art Scene India
Painting by Jamini Roy

Landscapes by Gurudas Shenoy and Milind Nayak, the two well known names in Karnataka were presented. The other artists included Kantharaj N, Ganesh Doddamani, Santosh CH who are unique in their representations of the mundane life. Bharat Thakur has made his name as one of the more well known painters of the past few years due to his adeptness in abstract as well as figurative work.

Sujata Sah Sejekan’s works lay emphasis on the human spiritual and subconscious minds and their experiences with nature. Sujit Mandya’s Bulls were strongly defined. Runa Biswas, Kadambari Mehta and Ajnaba Kiev were the other artists. Soumya Chakraborthy’s depiction of Aghoris was interesting. Harish Kumar Sejekan displayed his new series of art for the first time after a decade.

Art in the City,  Art Scene India
Painting by Harish Kumar Sejekan

The exhibition was presented at Phoenix Kessaku in association with Mayin Art and curator Harish Kumar Sejekan.

Based on the press release

All images courtesy Harish Kumar Sejekan

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25 Jul 2019

The Melancholy State of Happiness

Frames of Existence

Rekha Rao’s recent series of paintings ‘The Melancholy State of Happiness’ gravitates towards abstraction - fields of colour delineated by bold lines, discrete pigments and dense textures. Conceptually, her works are anchored around her response to her immediate environment, adopting an observational approach, yet an active witness to the rapidly changing times. In this body of works, her ecological concerns predominate and represent urban issues and challenges, such as those afflicting local water bodies and other prevailing calamitous outcomes. A minimal palette paints an evocative landscape that is at times subdued and subtle, and at other moments, bold and dramatic.

The Melancholy State of Happiness, painting by artist Rekha Rao
Red Rain
Rekha’s artistic journey has been unusual and perhaps even extraordinary, a result of an amalgamation of coincidence, destiny and circumstances. Born in 1947, during the year that India gained independence, she grew up in an artistic and politically charged environment that shaped her art practice to a large extent. In a newly formed nation, artists grappled with notions of identity and with reconciling the past with current global phenomena and trends. Politics, society, tradition and geography were key to charting discourses in the creative fields and influenced Rekha as well.

As a child, from the age of four, Rekha sketched and painted alongside her father, who went through each and every work of hers with immense pride. Hebbar believed that a formal art education would hamper her individuality and creative expression and encouraged her to study Indian History. He continued to mentor her through discussions, debates and regular practice. Reminiscing about her father, Rekha writes, he once said, inspiration from his children, especially Rekha - ‘whose view ceaselessly refreshed my own artistic perspective’.

The Melancholy State of Happiness, painting by artist Rekha Rao
Black Bat
Rekha’s first art exhibition was held at Jehangir Art Gallery in 1969. The foreword to this show was written by Karl Khandalawala, an eminent lawyer and authority on Indian Miniature Paintings, who had also been a mentor to Amrita Sher-Gil. Rekha was married the same year and then travelled to Los Angeles where she lived for two years. Khandalawala was in fact, instrumental in introducing her to the art world in Los Angeles. The experience of living in the United States enriched her understanding of global art, and writings related to feminism, gender and social inequity deepened her world view. This enabled her to revisit, review and reposition her beliefs, theories and principles related to ‘home’ and art.

Childhood memories have often been represented as a kaleidoscope of colours on the canvas, and she elaborates, “Colour has the power to embody and invoke light within each painting.” As a child her father often said that a painting is not a literal exercise where the viewer has to be supplied with a long explanation. “But it is the story of the artist, and whose vocabulary comprises the shapes, surface, texture and colour on the canvas.” Rekha remains a storyteller, weaving colours, textures and motifs into a layered narrative.

The Melancholy State of Happiness, painting by artist Rekha Rao
Drying Clothes
In 2003, she moved to Bangalore and has lived here since. She continues to work actively for issues close to her heart and runs a non-governmental organization Mali for underprivileged women. She is also a Trustee of the K K Hebbar Art Foundation, which supports deserving artists and art projects. 

Excerpted from the catalogue ‘The Melancholy State of Happiness’, recent works by Rekha Rao, written by Nalini S Malaviya.

The exhibition continues till August 4 at Saanchi Art Gallery, Bangalore International Centre, Domlur, Bangalore

All images courtesy the artist

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3 Jun 2019

Interview: Kiran Nadar on #chalomuseum

#chalomuseum: An art awareness initiative by the KNMA

In an attempt to increase awareness about the museums in our country, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) has come up with the #chalomuseum campaign. An ongoing initiative it reminds people about the wealth of art and heritage in the country. In an email interview, Smt Kiran Nadar – Founder and Chairperson of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Trustee Shiv Nadar Foundation, and Philanthropist shares insights into the museum going culture and the inroads that KNMA is making on the art and culture landscape.

NM: Why do you think Indians do not visit museums within the country and what can be done to address it?

Smt Kiran Nadar – Founder and Chairperson of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Trustee Shiv Nadar Foundation and Philanthropist
KN: I think there is a lack of awareness of art in India. Through KNMA efforts, we hope to bridge this gap and create a museum going culture in India and prove that art is not only for the elite. Building appreciation in art is a slow process but we hope to energise and invigorate the process using creative methods. I feel that the first step is reaching out to the youth, this is what we have taken on in a large manner. We invite schools to visit the museum, to participate in workshops and attend interesting sessions at our museums. We have such a great art heritage in India; it needs to be highlighted to the public. Additionally, our #chalomuseum campaign is an attempt to spread awareness and encourage the public to visit all the museums in our country, and remind people about the wealth of art and heritage in their own backyard.

KNMA, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) has come up with the #chalomuseum campaign

NM: Over the years, what changes have you observed in audience behaviour and their engagement with art?

KN: I started my journey few decades ago as an art collector and have come a long way since then. With the launch of the museum almost a decade ago, we have managed to make great inroads into art education of the youth. I feel that there is an increased level of interest that springs from the young children of today. The adults are a little harder to convince but we hope that through their kids, they will also be able to enjoy and appreciate our vast and wonderful art heritage. My passion lies in raising awareness of the incredible art and culture surrounding us in our nation. I always wanted to create a museum culture in India and prove that art is not a choice of the elite few. Abroad, art is not just for the elite, it is enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

KNMA, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) has come up with the #chalomuseum campaign

NM: What are the challenges that KNMA faces when it comes to curating art exhibitions and in creating audience engagement?

KN: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art as an institution-builder looks holistically at the ecology of arts in India and the support systems that are needed for contemporary art. Having said that, whatever one might say, exhibitions do tend to happen under different kinds of pressure and productive friction. KNMA did initiate several processes pertaining to curation and bringing the artworks to the readiness required.

In India, Delhi specifically doesn’t have a very interested art scenario unlike Mumbai or Kolkata. Delhi has a large floating population and it takes time for an interest in art to evolve. In India we don’t look at art seriously or as an investment category too. We have realized that art education is the way to engage audiences, therefore we host a number of educational initiatives by collaborating with schools, colleges, NGOS, trusts etc. Screening of films, stimulating curatorial programs, and curated walks form an integral part of the museum’s itinerary, all with the focus of audience engagement. We have recently also tried some out of the box engagement ideas like flash mobs replicating a historical painting, and Heritage Art Project where we set up one day workshops at heritage sites such as Qutab Minar and others across India

Mrs Kiran Nadar at India Pavilion, Venice Biennale

NM: What do you feel about the role of private-public partnerships with respect to art museums and its efficacy in the Indian context?

KN: With the comeback of India Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, we have taken a great step forward in terms of private-public partnerships in the sphere of Art. After 8 long years, India once again marked its presence at the art world's oldest Biennale in Venice. As principal partners, KNMA curated the India Pavilion. However, this would not have been possible without the support of the Ministry of Culture, NGMA and CII. We all have come together to make this comeback a huge hit at the Venice Biennale. This in itself is a huge step towards putting India on the International art map, which in turn we hope will help increase awareness and appreciation of art in India itself. Our participation has not come a minute too late and will hopefully continue hereafter. It will bring greater visibility to the artistic talent in India and the comprehension of its diverse, multivalent practice.

Watch the video on #chalomuseum here 

All images and video courtesy KNMA

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10 May 2019

Art News: Artist Shubigi Rao to curate Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020

Singapore-based India-born artist Shubigi Rao to curate Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020

Singapore-based Indian-origin artist and writer Shubigi Rao, a compulsive archivist and visual artist known for her complex and layered installations, has been named the curator of the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) that begins on December 12, 2020.

The selection committee, which made the announcement in Venice on Thursday, unanimously decided to appoint Rao for her “exceptional acumens and inventive sensibilities” to curate the upcoming biennale.

The appointment is in keeping with the tradition of an artist helming the contemporary art festival that debuted in 2012. 
Art News: Artist Shubigi Rao to curate Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020
Artist Shubigi Rao, Curator, Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020
Mumbai-born Rao, whose work featured in the fourth edition of the KMB (2018), is also a writer and her myriad interests include archaeology, neuroscience, libraries, archival systems, histories, literature, violence, acts of cultural genocide, anti-censorship, migratory patterns, ecology and natural history.

The decision to choose Rao, 43, was announced at Istituto Europeo di Design, Palazzo Franchetti in Venice—the Italian city that hosted the world’s first biennale (in 1895). The announcement came after lengthy deliberations within a search committee comprising Amrita Jhaveri, Gayatri Sinha, Jitish Kallat, Sunita Choraria and Tasneem Mehta, besides Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) trustees Alex Kuruvilla, Bose Krishnamachari and V Sunil.

Rao expressed happiness about her appointment. “Biennales are sometimes floating cities that are unmoored from their locality/regionality. Kochi-Muziris Biennale is rooted in the intertwined histories and cultural multiplicities of Kochi, while providing a crucial platform for larger discourse of the critical, political, and social in artistic practices,” she said. “To shift the lens through which we read the spectacle of exhibition, we must reposition discourse and practice through acknowledging intersecting contexts. I believe it is possible for the Biennale to retain regional realities and histories through cementing existing affinities and establishing new commons.”

Krishnamachari, who is a co-founder of the 2010-instituted KBF, described Rao as a “brilliant and original” artist. “Responding to the Foundation’s interest in selecting a young curator with varied interests, the section committee chose Rao for her exceptional talent,” he noted.

Secretary Sunil described Rao as a multi-faceted artist with interests in a range of subjects. “We look forward to another exciting edition of the Biennale under her curatorship,” he added.

Besides featuring in the fourth edition of the KMB, Rao participated in the 10th Taipei Biennial (2016), 3rd Pune Biennale (2017), the 2nd Singapore Biennale (2008) and the Singapore Writers Festival (2016, 2013). She was also selected for residency programmes in Singapore, Germany and India.

Since 2014 Shubigi has been visiting public and private collections, libraries and archives globally for Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book, a decade-long film, book and visual art project about the history of book destruction. The first portion of the project, Written in the Margins, won the Juror’s Choice Award at the APB Signature Prize 2018. The first volume from the project was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize 2018. The project has two of its proposed five volumes released.

*Press release

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10 Apr 2019



By Nikhil J L Purohit

The compulsion of reading textual works is found to be influential for all kind of scripts, with the reader trained to read the text or not. A logical mind is aware that the texts, unlike the visuals, have a relatively higher probability of correct interpretation of the message. Yet the diverse modes of linguistic constructs succeed in maintaining the barrier for direct communication.

The artists grouped together in the exhibition curated by Shubhalakshmi Shukla have congregated from various cities, with their individual responses to the curatorial concept of Pure Text as a point of entry for the viewers. The separation of retinal pleasure (of visuals) is a crucial element followed by most artists succeeding in a rendition of the textual-imagery invoking subtle yet unpoetic assimilations and metaphoric, direct, intriguing array of words striking the visual-readers.

Work by Jeetandar Ojha, Art Scene India

Through an irregular display of works, quick surprises are sought as some works are minimal with a strong punch of socio-political critique, satire, and anecdotes. Perhaps the larger perception relays an insight to the positions of each artist responding to the ideas of ego, presence, inaccessibility, societal disparities, personal associations to city, land, neighbourhood, body, and gender. Perhaps this show is an extension of how art today is blurring the boundaries of different disciplines of arts viz. performing and plastic arts. 

Work by Prasanta Sahu, Art Scene India

One observes Moutushi Chakravorty’s ‘Home Body Soil’ are the hand-written gestalt images comprised of existential dialogues explaining…immortality, vanity, building, breaking, urban-rural etc relevant to each encapsulating word of home, body, and soil. Mithu Joardar’s works titled ‘ID’ that reads Intra-dermal/ Inner Diameter are allegorical and bold in stating the sexual urge of the beings of pleasure principle and mutual exchanges. Nilesh Shilkars’comment on the violence within oneself has an exciting tactility provoking the viewer of the need to shun the violence within.

Work by Moutushi Chakravorty, Art Secene IndiaWork by Moutushi Chakravorty, Art Secene India

Work by Moutushi Chakravorty, Art Secene India
Work by Moutushi Chakravorty
The sentences ‘Art without Penance is Dead,’ ‘My grace is sufficient for you,’ by Jeetandar Ojha are subtle, yet intriguing, offering a sense of compatibility and equation. The idea of grace hints at the Gandhian peace movement provoking far-reaching action. Roul Hemanta’s simple handwritten lines on the wall are easy yet satirical pointing to the major banking frauds that have occurred in the recent past of our country. The lines interestingly state ‘Apply lime to the Bank walls, jump over the wall’ (बैंक के दीवार में चुना लगाएं । दीवार के ऊपर छलांग लगाएं।). They incite an amusement of a rural smart humour.

Less emphasized facts of city life where our neighbours are shadows, and we all stay under the same water tank formulates the works highlighting the unobserved by Yashwant Deshmukh. An interesting twist to the show is the inclusion of Marathi rappers’ troupe comprising Mayur and Yugal Waikar, Ankit Hachekar, Ashok Kadam, and Pranav Rajput with their rapping critiquing, a sympathizer of the downtrodden, underdogs and taking a stand against the governmental enactments.

We rely on the medium of textual review to stray into the actual works in anticipation of reducing the communication barrier for an afterlife to the dialogue of the ephemeral nature of words.
The exhibition was held at Gallery Art and Soul, Mumbai

Images provided by the curator

About: Nikhil Purohit is an artist and a pedagogue working in arts management, writing, arts documentation and archiving. He is also the editor of India Art Journal.

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