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‘2012: A Further Global Encounter’, ‘Approaching Abstraction’ and ‘Alone | Together’
A grand new exhibition that coincides with the 2012 Olympic Games is being hosted at London-based Grosvenor Vadehra in London. The sporting extravaganza is the centre of whole world’s attention. It showcases the best athletes from across the globe. During this exciting and happening time, the gallery has selected thirteen leading Indian artists to represent India in London. The Olympics are more about the spirit of mutual understanding and brotherhood less about competitiveness. Engaging with these sporting and spirited notions, the artists are exhibiting works in which they endeavor to address the specific moment in which all these nations across the world come together so as to endorse ideals of team work and sportsmanship.

The 2012 edition is opening up the city of London to a vast resource for immense creative potential by talented artists in all disciplines. By utilizing this great moment as a blank canvas space, Grosvenor Vadehra aims to thread together creative experiments and artistic knowledge; transcending the environs and realms of our daily urban life. Changed boundaries along with fresh perceptions of how contemporary people live and survive around the world are invariably the foundations of global encounters, apparently the pinnacle of which are the Olympics Games this year.

‘2012: A Further Global Encounter’ includes the best of Contemporary art from India. A press release states: “The exhibit explores contemporary issues and ideas not only local and specific to India, but those that look to deal with aspects of the global panorama. We’re expecting a large Indian audience visiting London to watch the Games and view the best of Indian Art at the same time. The selection process has not been anywhere near as competitive or rigorous as for the Games. However, each participating artist exhibiting has been chosen for their personal contribution not only to the local art scene but also to defining the perception of Indian Art overseas.”

Most of the participating artists have been exhibiting internationally and the UK as well at the various shows courtesy the Serpentine, Hayward and Initial Access. Those participating in the exhibition include Prajakta Palav Aher, Aditya Pande, Jagannath Panda, Pranati Panda, Zakkir Hussain, Shibu Natesan, Sunoj D, Shilpa Gupta, TV Santosh, Gigi Scaria, Hema Upadhyay, Atul Dodiya, and Anju Dodiya. Another significant show of Indian art ‘Approaching Abstraction’ is the second of a three-part series at the Rubin Museum of Art, Chelsea. It examines art from post-independence and post-Partition India. Building on the explorations between abstraction and figuration begun in ‘The Body Unbound’, it distinguishes streak of abstraction in modernist Indian art from that in Euro-American modernism. The idea is to show the independent trajectory of Indian abstraction, especially during post-Independence phase. In addition to paintings, it includes experimental films created by painters like M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta in the late 1960s, displaying them for the first time in a holistic museum context, juxtaposed with the respective artist's paintings.

Spelling out the purpose of the event, an accompanying essay notes: “For many of the top artists at the core of our progressive artistic and intellectual discourses in this time period, figuration was an apparent link to socio-political and broader community concerns. Abstraction was considered more personal and individualistic in nature. At the same time, it was also linked to international trends visible in modern art. The exhibition continues the thematic exploration of art from post-independence and post-Partition India launched with ‘The Body Unbound’. It builds on and expands the framework suggested by the first part of the series: to explore the relationship between figuration and abstraction in Indian modernist art. It will help define and discern the characteristics that distinguish abstraction in modernist Indian art from abstraction in Euro-American modernism, and show the individual, independent trajectory of abstraction in India after Independence.”

The thematic show, curated by Beth Citron, incorporates an audio tour to help define the individual, independent trajectory and characteristics of abstraction in India after Independence. The next two parts of this series, entitled ‘, titled Modernist Art from India”, will be hosted later this year. ‘Approaching Abstraction’ and Radical Terrain’ will focus on abstract art and the modern Indian landscape, respectively. Meanwhile, a joint exhibition of works by Riyas Komu and G. R. Iranna, entitled, ‘Alone | Together’, takes place at Aicon Gallery, New York. It features a selection of paintings and sculptures by the two highly talented contemporary artists from India who have been long at the forefront of Indian art scene. Both artists, a natural counterpart to one another, resort to representations of the human figure so as to draw upon the sociopolitical implications that are inherent in the country’s post-colonial culture as greatly affected by themes of gender, identity, religion and media.

Riyas Komu’s hyper-realist portraiture focuses relentlessly on the individual to establish a unique identity. As a painter, sculptor, installation artist and cultural commentator, he draws inspiration predominantly from manifestations of gender and religion as defining notions of the individual. He is predominantly known as a portraitist, having recently completed a series of commissioned large-scale works of prominent South Asian political figures for The New Yorker, On the other hand, G. R. Iranna examines the dynamic tensions between the individual and the societal group, particularly in his sculptural groupings of blindfolded naked figures. This celebrated sculptor and painter creates disquieting canvases and large-scale installations.

Like Komu, his predominantly figurative works are concerned with broader sociopolitical subjects. Synthesizing a confluence of varied inspirational strands of thought, Iranna poses interpretations of agrarian life and allusions to Buddhist philosophies alongside imagery evoking captivity and alienation to chart man’s problematic journey through life. His shifting focus evokes a fluidity of spatial and social contexts, often questioning the blindness of faith in both religion and the mass-consciousness of teeming societies. Steeped in notions of restrained or passive resistance, the works are abstractedly realistic in their minimalist modality.

If Iranna’s sculptures follow a similar concept, their tactile quality and submissive postures evoking feelings of empathy, isolation and horror in the viewer, creating allegories of the collective experience, as conveyed by individuals captured in attitudes of waiting, foreboding or memorializing, Riyas Komu gives prominence to the faces of his subjects, literally giving expression to the wider hardships of which they are a part. The theme of globalization and the movement of power from individuals and communities, into the hands of corporations and governments is a central concern of his practice.