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A confluence of renowned and talented artists from the Indian subcontinent
During recent years, Indian artists have received increasing appreciation globally in spheres of contemporary art. Through diverse forms of expression and perspectives they pose questions about what it means to live in present-day India, a country whose social, economic and cultural development has been accompanied by tumultuous social changes. An international exhibition now gives an opportunity for the Swedish art lovers to glance at their work. ‘Samtidigt/Concurrent’ presents several noteworthy artists with roots in India and Pakistan, featuring names like Sheba Chhachhi, Chitra Ganesh, Shilpa Gupta, Archana Hande, Rashmi Kaleka, Anita Khemka, Nalini Malani, Pushpamala N, Reena Saini Kallat, Gigi Scaria, Bharat Sikka, Vivan Sundaram, Thukral & Tagra, and Hema Upadhyay.

Indian mythology and history are the point of departure in several pieces that illuminate the position of women. Stereotypes and clichés concerning how women have traditionally been portrayed and represented are incisively, albeit humorously exposed. Their condition in daily life and in the wars that are continuously being waged in the name of nation-building owing to the protracted conflict between India and Pakistan since the partition is another recurring theme.

Urbanization and migration leave clear traces; maps are re-drawn and cities grow by leaps and bounds, the boundaries between city and country become fluid and shifting, and the living conditions for many people change rapidly. In this complex context, consumerist society and an expanding global market are often the focus of these artists’ work. They depict the possibilities, the challenges and the risks involved in a new world order in which everything that happens has two sides – simultaneously.

Another milestone exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern Art showcases works by late Nasreen Mohamedi, the late artist’s first solo in London. Characterized by a coherent commitment to the languages of abstraction, her unique and singular oeuvre is now belatedly establishing its deserved place within the context of the Modern canon and art history’s international avant-garde. An accompanying note elaborates: “Until recently little-known outside her home country, the exhibit brings together an eclectic selection of her drawings and photographs. They present an essence of her practice; works in which a sense of her sublime personal vision is expressed with humility, grace, and assured belief.”

On the other hand, a selection of works from the captivating contemporary art collection of Saatchi Gallery is on view in France for the first time. The show at Lille 3000, Euralille surveys the work of over 30 contemporary artists from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, and India. ‘The Silk Road’ (La Route de la Soie) is a reference to the ancient trade routes between Asia and Europe, which linked in particular China and the Middle East via India (from the 2nd century BC). Incidentally, three are the three regions whose contemporary works of art arouse increasing interest in the international art world. A curatorial essay states that the theme revolves around exploring an Oriental art that is resolutely contemporary and is the expression of societies in change, caught between age old cultural traditions and an overwhelming modernity.

Interestingly, visitors can choose their own route around the exhibition. Designed essentially around the powerfulness of the installations - from the resonance of the paintings to the significance of the backdrop - the presentation encourages them to freely move around, and to view independently each of the works, including those by renowned Indian artists like Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, Tallur L N, Kriti Arora, Schandra Singh, Atul Dodiya, Chitra Ganesh, TV Santhosh, Reena Saini Kallat, and Subodh Gupta.

Last but not the least, another significant group show of contemporary Indian art, entitled ‘India Awakes: Under the Banyan Tree’ is currently on view at the Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg in Austria. Focusing on contemporary currents and tendency, it complements last year’s much applauded exhibition, ‘Chalo India’, devoted to the established art scene of India. The new edition incorporates a blend of photography, sculpture, painting and installations. Curator Alka Pande has selected the works by 34 talented artists, including George Martin, Sonia Mehra-Chawla, Sunaina Bhalla, Gautam Bhatia, Zuleikha Chaudhari, Prajjwal Choudhury, Abhishek Hazra, Manisha Jha, Ayesha Kapur, Shreyas Karle, Abir Karmakar, Sandip Pisalkar, Prajakta Potnis, Antonio Puri, Prasad Raghavan, Sumedh Rajendran, Bandeep Singh, Baptist Coehlo, Vibha Galhotra, Gurdeep Singh, Suhasini Kejriwal, and Riyas Komu among others.

The banyan tree in the title symbolizes ‘the miracle that is India’. Marked by a prolific and tightly interwoven aerial root-system, the tree is said to have the miraculous power to grant wishes. Legend has it that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment while sitting under it in Bodhgaya. Nowadays, the shade-giving tree is a popular place of encounter or recreation. As Karlheinz Essl notes in her preface: “In the context of the exhibit, the banyan tree symbolizes the innovative power of young Indian artists, who are devoting their abundant creative power to an exploration of the developments and themes of tomorrow, and also the prophetic qualities ascribed to artists in India.”

In essence, the ongoing exhibitions of Indian art showcase works that reveal strong connections to their nation’s history and simultaneously echo contemporary realities. They provide viewers with a realistic sense of the prevailing socio-political conditions wherein traditions and structures are being challenged and values being tested even while, much remains as it always has been…