One Art Fair Many Voices
by Georgina Maddox
Showcasing a plurality of creative expression and underlining the unexplored the IAF in its 2023 avatar had many new things to bring to the table. We chose to highlight some of the interesting projects at the IAF 2023.
Interesting Projects at the IAF
Measuring Faith and Belief
Delhi-based artist Shivani Aggarwal was showcased by Studio Art and she created outdoor as well as indoor works for the India Art Fair. Featured prominently at the entrance of the Studio and Auditorium Space was her larger-than-life sculpture of a scale that ‘‘challenges our attempts to measure love, joy, intimacy, trust and truth.’’ The work is constructed of steel-finished fiberglass and is bent and contorted in a signature style that one has begun to associate with Shivani. “The structure ultimately fails to measure emotions that are intangible. This paradoxical work questions the dysfunction and inappropriateness of trying to measure the immeasurable and invites audiences to reflect on the nature of emotions,” says Shivani.
Shivani’s work is an emotional premonition of her own situation and the thoughts that emerge from there. Over the past few years she has been involved with creating, enlarging, bending and twisting common everyday objects that she finds in her regular environment. They are symbolic of functionality where the personal, political or societal are constantly being challenged. Her art practice has evolved into three-dimensional installations in wood, fiberglass, terracotta and thread.
Outdoor Sculpture Shivani Aggarwal
The booth also featured Megha Joshi, Khalil Chishtee and Sachin Tekade. Currently, Joshi has an ongoing solo at the Studio Art titled Rite of Passage, where the works lend themselves to contemplation of faith and religion. The large ‘relief-sculptural’ works that hang from the ceiling envelope the viewer into the concepts of architecture and time, bringing them to a point where they can touch their inner questions and calm their inner doubts. Chishtee’s work also touches upon identity origins and script, with Urdu, Arabic and even English text merging with the bodies of galloping horses and charging bulls. Sachin Tekade presents a contrast with his highly minimal and abstract work rendered in white paper that allows the viewer a glimpse of his process of ‘renewal’ and ‘silence’. For him, ‘white’ - encompasses the spirit of purity and evolution. The artist believes that this minimalist exploration is also a way of ‘unburdening’ for him.
Many Stories One Gallery
Premiering among the new galleries at the Fair, 079 Stories, an Ahmedabad gallery, debuted at the IAF with a two-person show titled Enigma of Absence featuring Khanjan Dalal and Vipul Prajapati. The artist Prajapati, draws his inspiration from his frequent visits to Alang, the largest ship-breaking yard in Asia. The enormous sea vessels, at the end of their lives, are broken apart, piece by piece, by sore eyed industrial labour. He tries to talk to them only to fail miserably. There is a heavy melancholy in the atmosphere, which makes him ponder the absence of reason in the space. This experience manifests in his canvases as isolated objects, grey colourless fields and leafless Gulmohar trees dot these acidic landscapes.
Khanjan invokes his query by the quoting the speech boxes from popular culture and digital chat rooms, but he transforms them and marks them with his investigation towards the use of language. Undoubtedly one of the most important and effective tools in human history, that allows us to communicate and record our past, like everything else, it has its flaws. The artist reasons that language and miscommunication is often responsible for our decay, wars and our losses. Khanjan’s work takes the format of speech bubbles in different shapes and styles. He freely borrows avatars, only to strip them of their original meaning and look at them as visual objects.
Having Serious Fun
Viraj’s Khanna’s collection titled ‘Ineffable’ highlighted a contemporary and global take to the traditional Indian embroidery techniques such as Aari and Zardosi, that he has worked with in the past. The textile medium is a legacy for him, given he is the son of ace fashion designer Anamika Khanna. While Viraj has embraced the medium he has also entirely converted into a different kind of ‘art’. Ancient techniques of Zardosi and Aari go beyond their usual floral decorative motifs and instead create complex abstract contemporary figures. The methodology is the same but the intent is completely renewed. He hopes to give hand embroidery the global position it truly deserves – of being acknowledged and appreciated as an artwork in and of itself.
Themes of self-reflection and transformation have always been central to the artist’s practice both in the content but also the medium. Coming from a background of fashion, he has perceived the world and its people closely since a young age, wondering on the themes of identity, culture and beauty.
The visual aesthetic and its perception by the audience are questioned by him through his exaggerated stylized figures and use of vivid colour and texture. Just like his unique creations, the layers in the thought behind it are interesting to explore. Often, veiled by the idea of how we should be regarded, we seem to add dimensions to our essential selves and Viraj comments on this phenomenon by deconstructing and reconstructing what we see to be true! His art is both an acceptance of but also a challenge to the audience. Through this much needed intervention, Viraj establishes himself as the non-conforming hybrid child of fashion and art.
Having Serious Fun Viraj Khanna
Let Us Breath Again
Ranbir Kaleka is one of India’s perhaps most senior (b. 1953) multi-media artist known for his amalgamation of painting and digital work. Recently he dropped his first NFT at an international event hosted by Engendered and now at the project booth hosted by MASH, he did a surround sound digital video work that focused on the moving stomachs of different people, while they were breathing. Kaleka’s video work, is not just timely, it is also visionary and it brings to the fore one of the major issues facing humankind to this day—the air we breathe.
It has been said that human beings can survive without food for three days, without water for perhaps a day and a half, but not for more than two to three minutes without breathing. Yet we are often not conscious of our breath, and more importantly we have taken the air we breathe for granted. Nothing has taught us this better than COVID where people just fell to their deaths without life giving tanks of oxygen and where taking a breath was not even possible because of the severity of their infection.
People across the spectrum, irrespective of their class, caste, gender and all the other social divides were rendered meaningless in the face of the pandemic that rendered us homebound, terrified to step out and in some instances for many, lying dead and forgotten on the streets. Kaleka’s work is not laden with heavy rhetoric, but the heaving breathing bodies, of people belonging to different genders and ages, their stomachs moving in and out rhythmically as they gasp for air, controlling their breathing, perhaps even giving a sense to meditation, says it all.
IAF Ranbir Kaleka
The fair was also marked by a few more solo presentations by artists like Jayashree Chakravarty (represented by Akar Prakar), whose large explorations of her space around on handmade paper bring in elements of collage and evoke a sense of a ‘healing nature’ that reveals to us how the post-colonial urban, despite its dystopian overgrowth, still nudges humanity to survive. Waswo X. Waswo working with his Karkhana of miniature artists presented a series of his humorous portraits. Mid-career artists, Anni Kumari and Digbijayee Khatua also showcased solo projects at his solo booth supported by Gallery Espace. Ojas Art presented Indian traditional art with a contemporary twist showcasing art from Worli, Gond, Madhubani, Pattachitra, Kalamkari, Bhil, and Chamba Rumal.
Fair Director Jaya Ashokan concludes, “As the market for Indian and South Asian art continues to expand, we invited visitors to immerse themselves in a world of creativity, and to embrace and proudly own their culture.