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Highlights from the 2018 Edition of the India Art Fair

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Highlights from the 2018 Edition of the India Art Fair
Sanjay Barot, Passage Through the Veil 3, Acrylic on Canvas, 74 inches x 68 inches, Image courtesy Rukshaan Art.

India Art Fair returns to New Delhi with sixty-five galleries and and fifteen art institutions.  Led by the newly appointed fair director, Jagdip Jagpal, whose goals for the fair involve, “inspiring visitors to discover the best of the local and regional art scene, from its fascinating history through to its modern-day icons and emerging talent.” 

While majority of the booths housed prominent Indian galleries, the presence of up-and-coming, noted international galleries, and various local art organizations, collectives, and councils certainly did not go unnoticed.  Through juxtaposing works by modern masters with those of celebrated contemporary names, and traditional craft inspired pieces with the creations of young emerging artists, the fair aims to offer a broad survey of the scope of Indian art.  South Asian regional coverage, mentioned as a priority by fair organziers, was additionally fulfilled to a certain extent by some exhibitors. 

Exemplary of this were Jhaveri Contemporary and Shrine Empire, whose regionally diverse artist roster distinctively emphasized the female perspective.  Shrine Empire’s list included nine women artists out of ten, hailing from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India.  Featured as part of the Projects section of the fair, Zoya Siddiqui’s Loop, a rather experimental video, investigates the dimensions of space and time in relationship to the viewer, who watches it played on loop.  Also on view are Tayeba Begum Lipi’s compelling range of household items constructed from razor blades.  An ironing table, iron, and blender - common place domestic objects convey feminist enquiries into societal standards enforced upon women. In direct contrast, Samantha Batra Mehta’s subliminal compositions ponder the effect of memory, stirring up a sense of nostalgia. 

Zoya Siddiqui, Loop, Video Installation
Image courtesy Shrine Empire

Tayeba Begum Lipi, Together
Image courtesy Shrine Empire

Samantha Batra Mehta, Museum of my Mind
Image courtesy Shrine Empire

From Jhaveri Contemporary, the vibrant geometric ‘folds’ by the acclaimed Rana Begum, play with the boundaries of painting and sculpture, and source inspiration from visual childhood memories in Bangladesh, as well as from London.  Monica Correa’s colourful tapestries draw upon the rich history of textiles in India while using techniques from weaving to induce 3-D optical illusions. Also expanding on the widening practices influencing and incorporated in art, are the architecturally inspired spatial installations of Lubana Chowdhary.   

Rana Begum, No. 761 SFold, 2017, paint on mild steel, 54 x 49 x 21cm
Image courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary

Monika Correa, Connections, 2012-2013, warp: black cotton, weft: hand-spun unbleached cotton and dyed wool, 178 x 89cm
Image courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary

Indicative of medium driven trends, that tend to employ incision making techniques on found images, are the visual texts of Saubiya Chasmawala, showing with Mumbai based TARQ gallery.   Although minimalist in aesthetic, the imagery is richly layered in content, ultimately questioning the meaning of self identity in regards to gender and religion and expressing vulnerability unique to her personal experience. Also on view were Ritika Merchant’s vivid gouache and ink (on paper) mosaics. Inspired by myths, each individual piece serves as a re-told allegory adapted to vocalize concerns for the present day world.  

Saubiya ChasmawalaUntitled, 2017, ink over printed photograph on hand made paper, 27 x 12 inches
Image courtesy of TARQ

Saubiya ChasmawalaUntitled, 2016, watercolour, charcoal and incisions with blade over a printed photograph on cartridge paper, 14 x 32 inches
Image courtesy of TARQ

Ritika Merchant, (clockwise from top left) Ancestral Home, Forest Mothers, Descent into Nidra, Iron Tooth, 2017, gouache and ink on paper, 12.5 x 12.5 inches (each)
Image courtesy of TARQ

Also making a case for intricate paper-based works, Nepalese artist Youdhisthir Maharjan, shown Blueprint 12, was found in the platform section of the fair. Drawn to books, and especially their titles, Maharjan’s labour intensive practice involves cutting individual letters out of the text of each page (except the title).  With those letters, he creates pattern resembling paper cut-works within that page, making each a novel creation of its own, depicting results of a repetitive and meditative process.
 

From paper works to sculptural installations, a vast array of mediums were observed, including painting.  Ubiquitous throughout the fair were the now considered classic, abstractions by the modern masters.  In addition to these, the complex and layered paintings of Sanjay Barot, subtly challenging the conventional perceptions of the medium were found at Rukshaan Art.  Evoking a sense of mystique and excitement through the act of discovery, Passage through the Veil, conceals a great number of hidden details through complex layering.  The frame of the paintings serve as borders, composed at times from individual portraits of known figures alluding to the content. Upon close inspection, viewers find minuscule symbols and imageries serving as clues that eventually lead to a literal bigger picture, producing a captivating effect. 

Sanjay Barot, Passage through the Veil - 1, Acrylic on canvas and wood, 80 inches x 74 inches
Image courtesy of Rukshaan Art

Amongst returning Indian galleries, Chemould Prescott had displays that reflected the intention of exposing audiences to a diverse spectrum of mediums explored by eminent contemporary artists.  Amongst them, Gigi Scaria’s bronze figurines appearing to be half embedded in the walls, showed the diversity of Scaria’s practice and his fascination with exploring the human form and the false conception of control we think we have over circumstances. Also alluding to the unpredictability of existence, were Reena Kallat’s meditative photo pieces Saline Notations.  Consisting of poems inscribed in the sand with texts made of salt, which submerge with a rising tide, contemplating the transience of nature.  Natural elements such as lime, cow dung, bamboo matting and, jute, are utilized by Bijoy Jain to create textural, sculpted canvases hinting at his architectural background.  Shilpa Gupta’s collaborative 100 Maps reimagines India in one hundred different ways.  100 people were tasked with drawing the map of India, resulting in different illustrations, conveying the uncertainty of borders.  

Gigi Scaria at Chemould Prescott Booth, India Art Fair 2018
Image courtesy Chemould Prescott

Bijoy Jain at Chemould Prescott Road, India Art Fair 2018.

Nature Morte,  also showcased works by a comprehensive selection of distinguished artists including Subodh Gupta, Tanya Goel, Imran Qureshi, Thukral & Tagra, Jitish Kallat, Asim Waqif, and LN Tallur.  Another regular participants of the fair, Kolkata based Experimenter, featured pieces relevant to developing and cutting edge artistic practices. Notably,  Praneet Soi’s multi medium paintings and Ayesha Sultana’s graphic compositions. A critically-acclaimed program, Experimenter also has a well rounded regional focus, a feature yet to be obtained by many Indian galleries.

The commitment to presenting the highest quality of Indian art in respect to country’s history, contemporaneity and future talent, is evident in the initiatives of this year’s India Art Fair.  The importance of the platform it provides, is highlighted through the increase in non- profit and public institutions that participated in this years fair, more than any year before, enabling and forming connections between the artistic community and the public.  Giving international visitors and those new to the world of Indian art a solid introduction.  Though representation from neighbouring South Asian Nations is slightly inadequate, Jagpal’s determination to use the fair as an “opportunity to explore and test ideas to shape the long-term future of India Art Fair, to ensure that it reflects the cultural diversity and distinct identity of the region,” shows promise of expanded regional focus in the future, bolstering the local and international presence of South Asian art. 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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