Art fair opens tomorrow: Artists set to seduce the eye, tickle our imagination

The eighth edition of India Art Fair (IAF) is set to kick off this week at NSIC grounds, Okhla Industrial Area. With participation of 60 galleries from India and abroad, the four-day event (January 28-31) is expected to present to the viewer a range of artworks in different mediums including painting, sculpture, installation, photography and video.

While big names in the art world will draw the crowds and rising stars try hard to attract attention, we pick three international artists – a German painter; an Iranian photographer, and a Rotterdam-based Chinese collage-maker – who will make heads turn at IAF 2016.

Michael Kunze  
With his complex, powerful, monumental architectonic landscape paintings Michael Kunze (born 1961/ Munich, Germany) unravels secret corners and contours of a mysterious world. The captivating labyrinths of his canvas carry elements of immense secrecy and shock. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, his work seduces the viewer with meticulous brushstrokes and raw imagery.

Kunze’s constructs defy easy categorisation. They seem to have their own logic, and hide many secrets which one can sense but never truly see. 

“His architectural landscape paintings depict places that cannot be found on any map, places that are devoid of a specific history or identity,” explains Berlin-based art historian and curator Jaila Adeli.

“In them, we encounter a mysterious dreamlike world of solitude, which operates on a typological use of architectural structures instead of creating clear references to existing buildings and sites. It is a universe, which does not show the apparent, but works on a level of signs and historical references; which addresses thoughts and feelings … that are expressed in terms of potentialities rather than assertions.”  

On his part, Kunze explains that for him, nothing is real and as certain as one thinks it seems to be.

“My task is to create a new textually embedded image that brings to the spectator a visual memory of something that he never experienced. He recognises many things but doesn't know why and how he recognises them.”

AzadehAkhlaghi                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
On June 29, 1976 hundreds of heavily armed agents of the Pahlavi regime backed by helicopters surrounded the hideout of Hamid Ashraf, leader of the Organisation of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas.

In the ensuing battle which ran for hours, Ashraf and other high-ranked guerillas were brutally killed.

The bloody episode is still remembered as the Mehrabad house fight.
In her compelling series of pictures titled By An Eyewitness,, photographer Azadeh Akhlaghi (born 1978/ Iran) has recreated 17 notorious death scenes from Iranian history.

Besides political figures, the series includes recreation of the deaths and torture of artists, sportsmen, activists and clerics.  

It took Akhlaghi three long years of research before selecting the events for the series.

 “Most of the killings represented are not only tragic but crucial turning points in the particular kind of struggle they represent. In other words, you could always say if any of them hadn’t died in that particular moment, our history would have been different.”

Akhlaghi had just one month for pre-production and 20 days to shoot all 17 pictures.
“We had to be very quick, with only one day to shoot each picture. We had a very low budget so we couldn’t hire actors, and we mostly used friends or extras. But like a movie, I had a professional team with a make-up artist, set designer, assistant director and everything.”

Akhlaghi who has assisted well-known film directors Abbas Kiarostami and Manijeh Hekmat, says she has been influenced by classical painters like Caravaggio and Van Eyck. Over the years, Akhlaghi’s ‘action’ shot photographs have attracted wide attention. She has produced several other collections of photographs with a variety of themes, including Reflections of Self, Suspension in Tehran, Storytelling, The Passage of Time, and In Praise of Writing.

Zhuang Hong Yi
 Zhuang Hong Yi’s exquisite ‘flowerbeds’ are crafted out of delicate pieces of painted rice paper.

Working laboriously by hand, he creates thousands of rice paper flowers as meditations in colour, form and texture; they are then coordinated with layers of acrylic and oil paint to fashion large-scale flowerbeds on canvas.

Seductive in feel, sculptural in form and striking in allure, Zhuang’ s floral motif honours his native China as well as his adopted base of Holland where flowers have organic, sensual and spiritual connections.

To appreciate the 53-year old artist’s exemplary skill and visual power, one needs to go close to his work. As if by magic, the same work viewed from three different angles provides as many visual experiences.

Zhuang, who maintains studios at Beijing and Jingdezhen, travels to China every year to work, collect new materials and to get inspiration.

He says that his works represent “beauty, sophistication and a high level of perfection with a clear presence of Chinese influence”.

Zhuang’s work with his unmistakable signature style has featured in gallery shows across continents; events including the Venice Biennale; and international auctions.  His wide collector base reportedly includes the likes of King of Morocco, Prime Minister of Qatar, and several Hollywood celebrities.

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