Of magic that was real

MIXED MEDIA

Of magic that was real

Celebrating self: Waswo X Waswo’s ‘Krishna’.

Here’s one art gallery that has braved the economic slump to give to art aficionados an art exhibition that showcased a wide spectrum of art practices, including painting, sculpture, video art and installation as also photography and digital art, to establish the organic connectivity of diverse art forms. Blurring the defining lines between real and unreal, Gallery Espace had chosen famous German art critic Franz Roh’s depiction of ‘magic realism’ in art as the theme for its 20th anniversary art show aptly named, ‘Lo Real Maravilloso: Marvelous Reality’.

Renu Modi, director, Gallery Espace, said: “Since the time the gallery started in 1989, Espace has always walked the unconventional path and introduced to the Indian art market new genres like sculptures and drawings when they were relatively unknown mediums. It is apt, therefore, that Magic Realism is the theme of our 20th anniversary show.”
The gallery began working on the show way back in early 2007 when it touched base with around 28 artists worldwide “whose art practices and sensibilities would respond and react to the theme.” The show now boasts of works by 36 artists amongst whom are internationally acclaimed names like Anila Rubiku from Albania, Sutapa Biswas from United Kingdom, Rina Banerjee from New York, Bharti Kher, Ranbir Kaleka, Chintan Upadhyay, Jagannath Panda, Manjunath Kamath and Shilpa Gupta among others.

Coming back to the show, it was not merely the quality of the artworks but the way they were displayed that made all the difference. One needed to walk through a specially created ambience to meet Waswo X Waswo’s hand-made ‘Krishna’, or just gape at a huge baby-faced sculpture by Chintan Upadhyay which was suspended from the ceiling. Manjunath Kamath’s life-sized fibre glass automobile wrenching white rabbits into exhaust fumes shared ceiling space with Chintan’s work while Baptist Coelho’s site-specific installation witnessed several paper aeroplanes suspended from a window. Shilpa Gupta’s interactive videowork was stunning: Your shadow became part of the projection and one could open and shut doors and walk along the brick-laid path, all part of the video!

 The drama didn’t end there. N Pushpamala’s photographic work, where she was herself the nayika, combined nuances of a horror film, Parsi theatre and fairy tale while being replete with historical, social and political meanings. The relatively newbie in the show, Lavanya Mani from Baroda, combined multiple textures, meanings and art practices in her work which revolved around fabric, embroidery, paint, textile, vegetable dyes and text!

Albania’s Anila Rubiku displayed an installation titled ‘Houses’ of the rising sun set on a Plexiglass base that consisted of 30 small house sculptures made of white perforated cards. A source of light inside the sculpture brought the feeling of hospitality and life expressed by a home. USA’s Maxine Henryson displayed photographs that traced evidence of divinity, rituals, memory and history in the West and East.

It was UK-based Sutapa Biswas’s video titled ‘Birdsong’ that astonished everyone with its unsettling simplicity yet strong storyline. Based on a conversation between the artist and her son who at 18 months, expressed his desire to have a horse living in his living room, and, who is the central character within the film, the resulting video works on multiple levels of visual poetry.

Another work that stood out for its simple yet evocative storyline was Bharti Kher’s woman sculpture titled ‘Warrior with cloak and shield’ where the artist portrayed the domestic space fraught with negotiations of emotions and placement. Said Bharti: “Over the years my work has looked at this microcosm of a space with honesty and exaggeration; horror and humour; sarcasm in its most brutal form, parody and metaphor. The series of women that have developed since 2004 are occupants of this space. They are sisters and goddesses, existing in a bizarre B-serial that turns their domestic space into a zoo of life. They are hybrid monsters that are portents for the future — they are you and me with all our frailty and awkwardness. Warrior moves forward, a banana leaf barely covering her modesty as shield, her armour a cloak (an un-ironed shirt). She moves forward but will never leave through the door. Her very strength and prowess, her magnificent horns reign her in, rendering her immobile. She’s moving, but physically going nowhere, holding in her hands instead the weight of her years and the wisdom that a great pair of shoes can make you feel like a warrior for a little while.”

Equally dramatic were photographs of the female body by Bandeep Singh whose work is deeply influenced by his cultural leanings and his deep interest in mysticism, Sufi poetry and music. He explained: “My images seek to express the feminine as an embodiment of the earth using the metaphor of the earthen pot in juxtaposition with the feminine form. The photographic abstractions of the earthen pot and the body create a metaphor within the same image. Visual depictions of concepts such as the mythical bull, lingam and yoni, yogic chakras, and the purna kumbha, vase of plenty, are created parallel to the basic theme of the work — the symbol of the body as an earthen vessel. In that, the images express magic realism in a visual language.”
And that was only a microcosm of a show where more than 36 artists, each with a magical tale of their own, set out to discover a world in which the real and the imagined, the mythical and the metaphorical, the fact and fantasy merge seamlessly together.

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