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A GEM of a show of Indian Contemporary art
In the wake of overwhelming attention that contemporary art from India is grabbing, a new generation of artists from the country is breaking into new territories, literally. A Dutch museum now showcases works by three top Indian artists for the first time ever in a clear indication of this trend.

Aimed at providing a glimpse of the vibrant contemporary Indian art, the works on view at GEM are collated to bring out how Indian artists now combines a latent understanding of the western canon of art even while retaining its cultural nuances and origins. Blending of both influences is crucial to their visual expression and concepts in their creations. In its new exhibit ‘India Contemporary’, GEM museum hosts works by Riyas Komu, Jitish Kallat and Sudarshan Shetty. There are grand installations and paintings done by them, including Jitish Kallat’s ‘365 Lives’ (365 photographs, c-prints, in black frames) and ‘Autosaurus Tripous’ (resin, paint, steel, brass), and ‘Collidonthus’ (resin, paint, brass) on view. Riyas Komu’s ‘Last Pass’ (an installation from wood and metal) and Sudarshan Shetty’s ‘History of Loss’ (aluminum, polycarbonate, stainless steel fastenings) and an untitled work make a compelling display.

Riyas Komu’s work ‘is a pointed commentary on the increasing fundamentalist tendencies that are causing a culture rift. The artist amalgamates traditional woodcarving with images stripped of their pre-conceived everyday meaning in his installations. His photo-realist portraits reflect a less outspoken side to his Communist ideology in which a concern for humanity is depicted in highly charged images of faces. His portraits celebrate the humble faceless person in the crowd, bringing out beauty hidden in the ‘unremarkable’.

Much of the work by Mumbai based Jitish Kallat tends to incorporate the twin codes of pop and agitprop. It addresses some of the classic themes of art, birth, death, survival and the endless narratives of human struggle. The highly populated and congested city of Mumbai, where he lives, is almost a theatre where the codes of day-to-day struggle for existence get pushed to the extreme. This continually percolates his practice.

His art incorporates modern technology and popular essentials such as the photocopy machine. The images evolve out of curious texts and captions, popular phrases and song titles. The relationship between images, words, traditions and contemporary symbols, remains central to his work, whereas by stimulating nostalgic memories and the people’s playful mind filled with curiosity, Sudarshan Shetty cleverly albeit subtly escapes from the phenomenon that homogenizes the world and deftly plots to do away with the existing value system.

In a way, he strives to escape from the defined social framework, and simultaneously, tries to gather scattered fragments of day-to-day life. Through the process of meticulous editing and applying these collected fragments, he then superimposes various intriguing facets of contemporary society. Explorative in medium and well as material, he explores the trajectories of human history, personal and social memory and desire, to conceive an eclectic post- modernist vocabulary.

Underlining the significance of art on view and its creators, an introductory note mentions: “GEM show of works of three leading Indian artists makes it the first Dutch museum to offer a clear picture of contemporary Indian art. The artists also present works made especially for the exhibit. The three belong to a generation (of artists) who smoothly bridge east and west, seeking inspiration from both the old and the new world. Their vibrant visual idiom draws on western art movements such as Pop Art, Social Realism and Surrealism. However, they make an intelligent usage of the best elements of the contrasting cultures for creating innovative and refreshing work.

”Each artist adopts a specific position on relevant socio-political and economic issues. Each has a comment to make in one’s own inimitable way: often humorously, sometimes ironically or even in a confrontational manner at times. They shun vague philosophical concepts or mystical metaphors, and opt for everyday images they enlarge, shrink or mutilate to express themselves.” The exhibition, curated by Willem Baars, with support from by Vyjayanthi Rao, Shaheen Merali and Deepak Ananth, a renowned curator and art critic.