From artworks inspired by Girish Karnad’s play and the fire in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest to Hanuman in today’s times, the third edition of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week chronicles the best of contemporary art. Over 50 established and emerging artists from South Asia are being represented by the city’s leading galleries.
Another Word for Soft
Lahore-based Pakistani artist Noor Ali Chagani’s sculpture Hanging Rug II, a cloth-like structure resting on a wall, made from miniature terracotta bricks, reveals the sensitive side of a man that remains mostly hidden, when trying to appear ‘masculine’ in front of society. By replacing the soft fabric with heavy bricks, Chagani’s draws attention to the economic and social pressures that men are put through, who are force-fed dreams of owning a house when growing up, and having to stand up as a support for their families. “That is why the birth of a boy is celebrated. It is taboo for a man to be emotional. I wanted to portray a more softer and fragile side that is not allowed to be public,” he says. Another artist, a fourth generation migrant from Bangladesh, is represented at the show. Assam-born artist Sudipta Das’ finger-sized paper sculptures of an army of displaced migrants, waiting in a queue with their belongings in their hands, are another highlight.
All Set for a Makeover
Sitting atop a Royal Enfield, wearing boots and sporting a bandana, black jacket and pants, with his gada resting beside the backseat, Bengaluru-artist Champa Sharath’s rendition of Hanuman is a favourite among the shutterbugs armed with their phones. Having grown up listening to MS Subbulakshmi’s version of the Hanuman Chalisa every morning at home, it’s no surprise to see the 40-year-old lend a pop culture twist to one of Indian mythology’s most revered characters in Hanuman with Royal Enfield, interwoven with a doha culled from the Hanuman Chalisa.
Small is Big
Kolkata-born Kaushik Saha’s acrylic on canvas A piece of land within the frame 4 is interspersed with imaginary dwarf-life figures. It bears a strong resemblance to a childhood fairytale. Painted against the backdrop of an empty black hoarding, signifying the role advertisements play in the urbanscape, a pixelated tiny image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi watering a rhinoceros and a man running away with a post box are few of the narratives that emerge. Baroda-based Saha says, “These images have multiple interpretations, both positive and negative — be it Modi’s ability to tame such a mammoth animal, much like this country, or how speed-post packages lie abandoned on railway platforms, despite containing many of our important letters.”
Struggling to Fit in
Inspired by renowned playwright Girish Karnad’s popular play Hayavadana, about a creature with a man’s body and a horse’s head, Delhi-based artist Manjunath Kamath’s digital print on archival paper centres around the half-animal, half-human to speak of how uncomfortable we are within our own skin. Surrounded by what appears like one of Italian sculptor Michelangelo’s creations, he highlights how we constantly keep wishing to change parts of ourselves, especially our appearance, when trying to fit in.
In a Woman’s Shoes
Bangladeshi artist Tayeba Begum Lipi continues to attract eyeballs as always with Never Tried One and Fits on You, her sculptures of a corset and bra made from stainless steel razor blades, placed on hangers. Addressing her feminist concerns through her most preferred medium, razor blades — many of which she witnessed closer home during childbirths in her family when growing up — she zooms in on a woman’s daily life and her hardships under the patriarchal gaze. Meanwhile, Shruti Mahajan from Hyderabad draws attention to the mystery, enigma, joy and happiness of opening and receiving letters. Her work, Dastavez (a series of 25 letter books), made from paper, is littered with sound advice, love notes and questions.
Delhi Contemporary Art Week is at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, till September 7.