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Prominent Indian artists feature in major international shows
Hauser & Wirth hosts an exhibition of monumental new sculptures and the ‘Cosmos’ paintings by Subodh Gupta in its new Zurich space. The celebrated artist’s ideas take shape in a variety of innovative and offbeat media like steel, bronze, marble, paint etc. Different materials are encountered for their intrinsic aesthetic virtues and as conceptual signifiers that signify diverse connotations. The mass-produced utensils have played a significant role in the artist’s creative processes. They project an ambiguous symbolism: whilst they are considered as exotic and representative of intriguing Indian culture in the West, to people in India they remain common objects, used almost daily in every household. He intelligently harnesses these hybrid associations, letting them quietly resonate in his viewers’ mind.

The works feature utensils as the central motif, and relate to the earlier ‘Still Steal Steel’ series, and to the sculptures he constructs using innumerable tiffins and thalis, as well. The artist makes the utility items represent the Cosmos, for the universe as a harmonious and orderly system; each airborne metal item symbolizing the matter and energy out of which everything is created. New marble sculptures complement the painted works. Simultaneously, recent works by the internationally acclaimed artist are on view at Arario Seoul, South Korea. He also features in a sculpture show at Chatsworth House in Britain alongside Damien Hirst, Ju Ming, Eduardo Chillida, Manolo Valdés, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Lynn Chadwick, Yue Minjun, and Barry Flanagan, among others

If Subodh Gupta resorts to ordinary objects like a drum and bucket, several prominent Indian artists show us the way in which water flows through all of us and how it has historically reflected one's soul. At a major group show at Walsh Gallery, Chicago, they explore the way art and water Intersect. Vivan Sundaram, Reena Kallat, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, and Sheba Chhachhi alongside Song Dong, Miao Xiaochun and Wang Wei from China showcase photography, installation and video based works.

In Reena Kallat's series of photographs depicts women knitting letters that form the line ‘Our Bodies are Molded Rivers’ by German poet Novalis. What interests her is the allusion of the body as a channel since so much of the human body is made of water. Vivan Sundaram’s project involves Delhi trash pickers. He has fastened together 8,000 plastic bottles gathered by them to form a raft to be floated down the river, carrying several passengers. The project culminates with its dismantling for the water bottles to be recycled. A photo montage by Gulam Mohammed Sheikh represents the pictorial traditions of both the East and West, whereas Sheba Chhachhi's surrealistic video probes the sediment of memory and time, encouraging us to read the subterranean histories and mythologies of water below the urban jungle.

Simultaneously, New York based e-flux presents an installation by Raqs Media Collective that combines historical photographs (from the Alkazi Collection, New Delhi and the Galton Collection at University College, London). It incorporates video, animation, and sound. ‘The Surface of Each Day is a Different Planet’ builds sequential scenarios that move across time and space, while considering collectivity, anonymity and the question of identity through history, fantasy and speculation. The work was commissioned and exhibited at the Art Now: Lightbox by Tate Britain, last year.

Open-ended and anti-documentary, it’s presented within a setting suggestive of a lecture hall; there’s the anticipation of discourse: microphones and chairs are seen on raised platforms but speakers are absent. The setting evokes the lecture-performance format often used by the artists, but they, their bodies themselves, have somehow vanished. Their voices are left behind, along with entire cabinets of curiosities.

Another noteworthy exhibition at RL Fine Arts, New York presents selected works by legendary artist SH Raza. His masterful paintings express the nature’s beauty through watercolor landscapes, through to dynamic abstractions, and into captivating compositions concentrated around the bindu. La Terre (1985), a masterpiece on view, marks the crucible period wherein he was moving into the area of more geometric paintings built around ancient, totemic symbols and shapes away from abstracted landscape.

On the other hand, Bindu (1992) celebrates the joy of life, nature and creation with SH Raza building a composition around many devices that offer multiples of meaning: tree of life, kundalini, yin-yang, bindu, which collate in a frenzied unity of color. Germination, from the same year, testifies the painter’s mastery over color and tone. The repeated shapes woven around the bindu reverberate to lead to a meditative state. Nad Bindu (1995) expresses the beauty of white and black as the artist deliberately removes the bright primary colors to explore the different variations in monochromatic tones.

Another milestone event is a major retrospective exhibition of photographic works by Dayanita Singh at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam. The Indian photographer is internationally renowned for the highly expressive and poetic quality of her work, whose incidence of light and visual construction are meticulously composed. They comment on society and her own past. By the early 1990s she was snapping at her immediate surroundings, discarding journalistic approach. Her series on the eunuch ‘Mona Ahmed’ marked a critical point at which she chose to go her own way as a photographer. ‘I am as I am’ (1999) was an intimate series that portrayed female inmates of an ashram in Benares.

Her portrait series ‘Ladies of Calcutta’ and ‘Privacy’ depicted the world of her own origins - that of her family and friends from the higher class. With ‘Go Away Closer’ she started working in an increasingly free and associative manner. The absence of people was manifest in empty rooms and spaces and in remarkable still life images of day-to-day objects. ‘Blue Book’ and ‘Dream Villa’ remain omnipresent in details and even in the color and light.