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Friday, May 20, 2022

India Art Fair returns to capital after Covid hiatus

Art is a reflection of society and artists often urge viewers to ask questions. Right at the entrance is a Madhukar Mucharla portrait of Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution who fought against caste discrimination.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: April 30, 2022 1:43:14 am
This year sees the return of contemporary artist Shilo Shiv Suleman with an installation and Debanjay Roy also has new-age Gandhi talking on his cellphone.

The pandemic led to the cancellation of the India Art Fair (IAF) last year, but as it opened its doors this week, despite the sweltering heat, it saw the coming together of the art community. All masked and with their Covid certificates checked at the entrance, once inside its grand tents, the threat posed by the rising infections seem to have been forgotten, as art took centrestage. In its 13th edition, it has on display works brought together by over 60 galleries and 14 institutional participants.

Raising Concerns

Art is a reflection of society and artists often urge viewers to ask questions. Right at the entrance is a Madhukar Mucharla portrait of Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution who fought against caste discrimination. Inside the fair tent, Riyas Komu’s Eighteen Steps to Nasreen Mohamedi (2022) too emphasises on nurturing a sense of community. “This work seeks to prise open the various intertwined and submerged plural pasts that are now ominously and violently being set for closure. It is an attempt to retrieve from the flux of time, memories and the ebb and tides of the multi-layered culture that we are and ought to be,” says Komu.

 

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There is also an attempt to document violence and call for peace. If TV Santhosh explores global conflicts and historical injustices through his works at The Guild booth, Gulammohammed Sheikh’s “Ecce Homo”, prompted after the fall of Kabul, is an interpretation of events from world over in the last two years, that induces viewers to confront socio-political and religious realities. While Arpana Caur refers to Gandhian ideals in her recent canvas Charkha, Mithu Sen puts together a collage projecting numerous instances of violence over the years, from racism she witnessed in South Africa in 2012 to the terrorist attack in Paris in 2015 and the most recent war in Ukraine depicted through a “bombed tree”. “Through the collage, I am attempting to map events as memorials of violence and the precarious global climate,” says Sen.

Larger than life

There are instances when some works also attract attention due to their medium and method. At Gallery Art Positive Ankon Mitra is drawing crowds with delicate works in origami. This year sees the return of contemporary artist Shilo Shiv Suleman with an installation and Debanjay Roy also has new-age Gandhi talking on his cellphone. At Museo Camera Booth, multiple projects come together, from an installation by Gopal Namjoshi to a wall that documents the life of Dev Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, the exiled Nepal premier, through the archives of Bhuvan Kumari Devi. In a new set of works, Bangladeshi artist Tayeba Begum Lipi contemplates life during the pandemic related lockdowns. Tapasya Gupta dedicates her fibreglass and resin works to her father, who she lost to Covid.

If Sudipta Das talks about displacement and migration with handmade doll-like figures crammed in a box-shaped installation, Baaraan Ijlal archives narratives of loss and violence in ‘Mourners and Witnesses’. Rajyashree Goody’s wall installation with garlands, on the other hand, is a comment on food politics.

The Modernists on View

The IAF has a range of modernists, from the Bengal masters such as Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Somnath Hore at the Akar Prakar booth, to KG Subramanyan at Art Heritage. A tribute is being paid to artists Satish Gujral and Rini Dhumal, who passed away recently, in the ‘In Memoriam Section’. There is a room dedicated to MF Husain by Crayon Art Gallery.

While Dhoomimal Art Gallery is showcasing FN Souza, Amrita Sher-Gil and Jamini Roy, among others, the DAG booth has 200 years of Indian art capsuled in an exhibition that this includes, among others, early Bengal oil paintings as well as works of MF Husain, SH Raza and a Dhanraj Bhagat sculpture. Attracting attention is a large canvas by Madhvi Parekh, where the artist depicts a “Christian theme” in a naïve Indian folkart style.

Celebrating indigenous art

Special effort has been made to highlight indigenous art. So among others are Gond paintings by Jangarh Singh Shyam, rare bhuta bronze masks from Kerala and Karnataka. If the Pichvai Tradition & Beyond has works by artists from its atelier, Delhi Crafts Council has Rajasthani artist Sangeeta Jogi’s dot drawings depicting the many new roles performed by women. Ojas Art has Santosh Kumar Das’s Mithila paintings in varied hues.

Engaging with the audience

The audience can also be part of the art project. At their booth, artist duo Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra are educating them about the effect of greenhouse gases and asking them to bring it to zero in a game titled ‘2030 Net Zero’. They are also discussing the problems faced by farmers through another game, ‘Weeping Farm’. At the Khoj booth, meanwhile, one has to learn to survive as a woman from the agrarian community despite the various challenges.

There are also live performances planned. In ‘Reflex’, British-Gujarati artist Hetain Patel will be seen exploring his inherited family history shaped by the Gujarati language and his diasporic experience (Saturday, April 30, 5.00 to 5.30 pm).

In a performance titled ‘360 Minutes of Requiem’, (Saturday, April 30, 3.00 to 6.00 pm), Arpita Akhanda will deconstruct a 360 feet barbed wire fence to reflect on “notions of nationalism, borders and partitions”. The last day will see artist Gurjeet Singh covering himself in mud, referencing the common origin and end in the earth (May 1, 5.00 to 6.00 pm).

India Art Fair is on till May 1 at NSIC Ground, Okhla. Tickets on bookmyshow.com

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