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Four photo-artists on a ‘Docu Tour’
‘Docu tour’ is an interesting collection of four upcoming and talented photographers that looks to examine the usage of photographic documentation in the complex critique of various socio-political structures, cultural practices as well as institutions. The collective display of these promising artists seeks to explore an array of formal strategies employed to transform the photo document into a work, which is apparently taking a critical standpoint.

Bose Krishnamachari, who has conceptualized the curatorial venture at Mumbai based Gallery BMB, mentions: “As a curator in today’s new economic context, I’m extremely interested in moving forward towards an investigation of different types of artworks that were perhaps rather less prevalent in recent years. In these times of introspection and new beginnings, I find this is the ideal moment to investigate the parameters and diversity of such photographic practice.”

One among the participating artists of immense skill and sensitivity, Anup Mathew Thomas’s oeuvre is focused on an attentive and intense interrogation of the everyday concerns expressed through a formal language, deceptively pared-down. Born in Kochi, in 1977 he now lives and works in Bangalore. He did his Diploma in Art & Design from Srishti School, Bangalore. Since his stint with Gasworks residency five years ago, he is known for pointed photographic images. Both personal and specific, they tend to construct broader cultural questions. Drawing on different genres, such as fashion, photojournalism, and documentary, he unveils diverse approaches to the human subject.

His style is direct and detached, applied to analyze subjects encompassing family and friends, Episcopalian bishops in Kerala, a library located in Lahore and even Mumbai’s dizzy dance bars. The artist tries to contextualize the diverse subject matter in larger narratives. He predominantly produces work in a series format, presenting it as projected images and prints that speak for his wide-ranging interests, and also put forth a reflexive engagement with the vary modalities and history of his preferred medium.

Primarily concerned with documenting communities, identities, and the spaces they holds dear, Gauri Gill seemingly employs classic documentary approaches. She first studied at the Delhi College of Art, in 1992, and later did her masters in photography from Stanford University where she received one of five artists' fellowships. Among the other honors won by her are a Fifty Crows Award, and a Senior Arts Fellowship in 2002 at the American Institute of Indian Studies courtesy University of Chicago. Keen to break the conventions, she opts to work within genres like portraiture and cityscapes. The artist often employs a snapshot aesthetic, as evident in her recent work 'The Americans', or references local vernacular practices, as in her 'Notes from the Desert’.

On the other hand, Shankar Natarajan exhibits a curious conceptual approach to photography. His artistic concept often traverses the realm of the obvious. He uses archives coupled with various display strategies, marked by a dispassionate style, to focus on themes drawn from everyday life. The artist essentially looks to explore the way photo documents can acquire new meaning, when re-contextualized within the confined gallery space. His searching lens captures elements from the immediate surroundings that from part of his identity. According to him, it’s pointless to pick subjects simply because they are in demand. For him, a personal connection with them is necessary.

Last but not the least, Vivek Vilasini’s practice tries to reveal contradictions in cultural and socio-political realms through unexpected juxtapositions of images, which often collate humor and shock tactics. The self-taught painter from Kerala studied sculpting with traditional artisans. His works were recently featured in an international art show, entitled ‘The Sun rises in the East’ at galerie Christian Hosp, Austria. Analyzing them, an accompanying note mentioned: “The ambivalence of the symbolic depictions in his works stands for the transformation of traditional values as much as for the competition between cultural identities and globalization.”

His politically charged works offer a témoignage of geopolitical questions preoccupying today’s society. Each of his photos makes a sharp comment on the concerns - here and now. Employing a variety of styles, including documentary, staged photography and photomontage, he references art history in order to investigate contemporary issues - both local and global - with a touch of irony.

According to Bose Krishnamachari, what brings together the four talented artists is the fact that they are passionate (about their work); and are all conceptually sound. He has selected them for their uncomplicated and natural approach to an art project, as evident in their works that are based on not only a mere photo-journalistic approach, but also on an acute interest in their history - whether remote or immediate, thus making them unique.