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A series of international solo and group shows involving top Indian artists
Three of India’s most important artists of this generation, Riyas Komu, Jagannath Panda, and Hema Upadhyay featured in a significant group show courtesy Studio la Città in Verona, Italy. The title of the exhibition, derived from world-renowned writer Salman Rushdie’s controversial fictional account, drew a critical applause.

The book revolves around children born around the time of India’s Independence. As a result of it, they became ‘sensitive’ and irrevocably tied to something both secret and profound, rather independently of any kind of visible exterior element, such as social class, religion, sex, wealth, or intelligence: in this particular case to be construed as a metaphor for art language, as reflected in the works on view.

Over the years, Studio la Città has looked to deepen its interest in contemporary Indian art (with many study-trips organized to the country); the first visible outcome of this engagement was group show ‘India Crossing’ held in 2008, followed by several solo. Today, in the firm belief that globalization is a positive challenge and not merely a convenient label to act as a substitute for the typical ‘internationality’ of the modern age, its curatorial team has continued investigating a few generations of evolving Indian art in order to do away with facile exoticism, issues related to ethnicity, and labels that are so widespread as to be banal: like simply being Indian…

This thought process well reflected in its latest curatorial venture as well as the choice of artists for it. A curatorial note explained: “The participating artists respond to deeper criteria than just belonging to a particular nation (though that too has its significance): the peculiarities of the three demonstrate, on the one hand, a mutual cultural feedback related to their very roots (among other things, they all belong to in Mumbai); on the other hand they are very much interested in new global languages, above all in their evident tendency to ‘narrate’ stories through evocative images and constructions.” All three are concerned with the concept of sculpture/installations underpinned by mythopoeia, as can be seen in the works specifically created for the show: in the airy installations by Hema Upadhyay, individual and poetical yet probably not without concerns about the condition of women; in the strength of dialectic contrasts shot through with subtle irony in Jagannath Panda’s sculptures and paintings; and in an openly historical and ideological-idealist manner for Riyas Komu.

Incidentally, Hema Upadhyay also presented a major installation ‘Think left, Think right, Think low, Think tight’ at the Aichi Arts Center, Japan. Drawing from her principal themes of personal identity and nostalgia, which stem from migration and human dislocation, the sensitive artist made this installation - with slums in Mumbai as a motif. It referred the suffocation engendered by the tension and the chaos in an urban setting, seen as unwanted results of the mindless development in the city.

On the other hand, programmed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games handover ceremony from New Delhi to Glasgow, ‘Take off Your Shoes and Wash Your Hands’ is celebrated artist’s Subodh Gupta’s first solo in Scotland. It includes both existing works and new work made especially for Tramway, Scotland’s most internationally acclaimed venue for contemporary visual and performing art. As is known, the artist reflects both on India’s economic transformation, as well as his own life and memory. His work is therefore both personal and universal, a manifestation of someone both wholly of his own culture who is also reflecting on wider global issues. The exhibition will include both existing works and new work made especially for Tramway.

Simultaneously, Berlin based Arndt & Partner (ARNDT) presents a Jitish Kallat solo show, entitled ‘Likewise’. The wide array of work captures the psychological strains of the mega-metropolis and evokes the themes of survival and sustenance that recur through his practice. The grotesque-surreal and ironic imagery is composed of video, sculpture, photography and large format paintings. ‘Eat or to be eaten’ seems to be the question asked by the intricately treated sculpture of a gigantic, oversized kerosene stove titled ‘Annexation’. The sculpture has on its surface over a hundred images recreated from those found within the porch of the VT station (now renamed) building that is the hub of Mumbai’s railway commuter action. The decorative architectural friezes of this structure, quite curiously, carry several images of animals that are devouring each other and clinging onto different kind of foodstuff; viewed together on a single sculpture, this particular turmoil is not unlike the day-to-day grind of survival, which this porch always witnesses.

The two large triptychs, seen in conjunction with the sculpture, evoke this very struggle daily. Like a crumbling cascade of narratives - cars, busses, people, animals, all pile up, interlaced with the hair of the persons, painted from photos snapped at railway stations. Stains and drips, descend from beneath the mouths of the bronze gargoyles that, in turn, clutch the paintings in their mouths. A black, oily substance appears to seep out and form speech bubbles – their edges formed by an urban horizon line comprised of water towers, factories and houses. The backlit photo ‘Conditions Apply’ is reminiscent of schoolbook diagrams of lunar cycles. However, rotis (the Indian flatbreads) can be identified, on closer observation, representing the moon’s varied phases. ‘Forensic Trail Of The Banquet’ is a video projection that simulates a journey through dark, cryptic and hypnotic space. When viewed a little longer it seems like floating cellular formations, suspended tumors etc. morphing the insides of the body with the dark, indeterminate cosmic space and evoking notions of survival, sustenance and mortality. With his photo-series ‘Chlorophyll Park’ (Mutatis Mutandis), the artist literally pulls the rug out from under the city’s chaotic traffic.

Another international gallery with deep interest not only in the art and culture of the past but also in the vibrant and innovative art being produced by talented contemporary Asian artists is London based Rossi & Rossi. One among them, Jaishri Abichandani examines the political ramifications of our individual and collective identities through the lens of her experiences as a South Asian-American artist. Her works in a new exhibition ‘Dirty Jewels', coinciding with the Frieze Art Fair, incorporate a diverse range of media like sculpture, photography, installations and mixed-media painting, using acrylic paint, dildos, fabric, feathers, jewels, metal studs, nails, Swarovski crystals, whips and wire. They project overt political messages played out through a deft selection of imagery that blends the contemporary and the traditional, often crossing opposing figures found in mass media to present novel interpretations of current events. The power of fetish reigns high in her work, whether it be of leather whips and foreign scripts as found in ‘Allah hu Akhbar’, or of veiled women, as in ‘Mother of All Believers’, or of powerful black women, as in ‘Hearts of Darkness’.