Art

Art beyond hashtags

’Comfort With Her Precipice’, archival ink-jet print (2018), by Chitra Ganesh.

From digital collages and brick wall sculptures to hand-painted photographs and installations made with Hanji paper, contemporary artists are trying to push the boundaries of their practice to create narratives around critical issues such as migration, climate change and identity. At the third edition of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week (DCAW), starting Sunday, digital collages such as Comfort With Her Precipice by Chitra Ganesh, with stylized figures in the style of Amar Chitra Katha, will share space with a series of three hand-painted photographs by Waswo X. Waswo, titled The Culture Keepers. In the latter, the artist spoofs the forces that maintain and control museums.

Seven Delhi-based galleries—incidentally, each spearheaded by a woman gallerist—will showcase several such works by 50 artists, besides curating a programme of walks, talks and workshops.

‘The Curator’ by Waswo X. Waswo, hand-painted by Rajesh Soni and R. Vijay
‘The Curator’ by Waswo X. Waswo, hand-painted by Rajesh Soni and R. Vijay (Photo: Gallery Space)

If the last edition was about consolidation and making the DCAW part of the city’s calendar, the focus this year is on seeking fresh perspectives on new waves of art-making. To give collectors a sense of the broad spectrum of contemporary art, galleries are showing a mix of artists at different phases of their careers, from senior ones like Atul Dodiya to the younger set, such as Khushbu Patel and Raj Jariwala. “Also, this year, we are focusing on affordable art—well-priced works of established contemporary artists as well as those by younger artists. We expect many visitors to be relatively new to the contemporary art scene, and it’s a good forum to introduce this at a reasonable price point,” says Roshini Vadehra of the Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery, who is showing small canvas works by Atul Dodiya, a lightbox by Shilpa Gupta, paper sculptures by Sachin George Sebastian and a watercolour by Sujith S.N., among others.

‘The Museum Of My Mind’ by Samanta Batra Mehta.
‘The Museum Of My Mind’ by Samanta Batra Mehta. (Photo: Gallery Space)

Though the DCAW started in 2017, the idea of curating a platform dedicated to contemporary art had occurred to gallerists like Bhavna Kakar of Delhi’s Latitude 28 a year earlier. “However, we had to postpone it due to the downward economic trend in India,” says Kakar. The initial three galleries have now expanded to seven—the Vadehra Art Gallery, Nature Morte, Gallery Espace, Blueprint 12, Latitude 28, Exhibit320 and Shrine Empire—but the vision remains to make art accessible and promote younger artists from South-East Asia. So you see works by strong contemporary voices from the region, such as Arshi Ahmadzai (Afghanistan), Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh), Anoli Perera (Sri Lanka) and Noor Ali Chagani (Pakistan).

The concerns range from cross-border migration, communal tensions and language politics to urbanization. For instance, Samanta Batra Mehta works with her identity as a diaspora artist and Sangita Maity has been researching the mining community in Odisha and issues of displacement. “In a hashtag culture, it is really easy to categorize art based on keywords. But our artists have evolved within their choice of subject from one body of work to another,” says Anahita Taneja, director, Shrine Empire.

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