Red might traditionally signify danger but, at the eighth edition of the India Art Fair, artists have used multiple hues to represent the raging issues, from discrimination based on caste to cow slaughter. As people entered the 20,000 sqm expanse of the fair that opened in Delhi yesterday, right outside the entrance to the twin halls was LN Tallur’s Wow… Cow…How, with cows in stone forming a small well with water filled within.
Anita Dube has peering eyes collectively looking through the red that is scattered on a white sheet underneath. It could be a red alert or even the blood of people who are losing their lives or the sheer loss of freedom of speech and thought. But Anita Dube does leave a clue in the title of the work Beef or Mutton. Being shown by Lakeeren gallery, the Delhi-based artist’s work drew attention because of the political debate it raised. “No one knows if it is beef or mutton, but there is this constant supervision and threat that people are living with,” says Dube.
She was seen introducing her works to viewers, pointing out that holding the eyes within themselves are pipes chopped into pieces (like flesh) and covered with velvet. “Symbolically, the eyes are of people who are victims of this fanaticism,” says Dube. She juxtaposes this work with another. Titled Portrait, this one pays tribute to BR Ambedkar. The wall has a garland of white paper flowers strung together on a green thread, dipped in blood red. “It’s the tri-colour but the saffron has gone red,” says Dube, looking on the floor, where she places a stone on Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste, again with red spattered on its pages. “It’s the weight that we carry,” says the artist. She adds that her studio has two assistants, both Dalits. “The issue perhaps affects me more than others because for me they are family and they are being affected by what is happening right now,” says Dube, reflecting how one of the assistants, Chandraprakash, has been a victim himself. “He hails from a village in Uttar Pradesh and his father was crippled because some people from the upper caste wanted to grab his land and they thought it was their right,” she adds.
Palette Art Gallery has Om Soorya’s They Think we are Mere Dirt, Because We Clean their Dirt, with digital images of people cleaning washrooms and railways tracks. The graduate in painting from the College of Fine Arts, Kerala University, reflects how untouchability is not a thing of the past. “An artist has to respond to what is happening, and what is happening is tragic. Imagine a student committing suicide because of this discrimination. It is absolutely tragic,” adds Dube.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines