Empty bullets pierce through the pages of a historically and politically relevant book Lanka Janthawa (Sri Lankan People) in Sri Lankan artist Kingsley Gunatillake’s book installation titled Bullet Book, as he depicts the repercussions of the 30-year-old civil war on the people of his country. These bullets embedded in the pages that discuss the social structure of a family, convey the idea of how almost every family in his country has been affected by the war. As the artist says in his note: “My books are like the cartridges where ammunition is kept; where instead of letters, words and ideas can be read.” Bullet Book is part of the exhibition “The Reading Room” at Nitanjali Art Gallery.
Organised by Blueprint 12 in association with Colombo Art Biennale, the exhibition showcases works by 13 artists from India, Sri Lanka, the US and China, who have used books as the medium. Delhi-based Amit Jain, an art collector and the curator of the show, says, “We are showing artists who have used books, by drawing in them, carving them and tearing them, to convey contemporary issues of displacement, war, fantasy, nostalgia, or history. The idea is to engage the audience to look beyond canvases, sculptures and videos.”
Mumbai-based Banoo Batliboi has used old volumes of the Franklin Library Series that sport a distinctive cover design embossed in 22 carat gold, in Deep Waves, where she has altered the pages of the book to resemble the deep waves of an ocean, without any cutting or pasting. Fifty-five-year-old Batliboi says, “I have folded pages of the books and have transformed them into book sculptures.”
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Sathyanand Mohan from Vadodara has used a set of 25 photographs of a journal written by his grandfather and framed them in Chronicle. “His grandfather was a doctor with the Indian National Congress in 1942 and many leaders stayed with him. The journal documents their time with him. It reveals how he migrated to Kerala later and how he dealt with the passing away of his mother. It is a heirloom of the Sathyanand Mohan family and their journey,” says Jain.
The exhibition is on display at Nitanjali Art Gallery, Anand Niketan Building, Basement, Building No. C-66, Anand Niketan till May 11.