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A precursor to The Skoda Prize
The Škoda Prize is now considered among the most prestigious and influential ones in contemporary Indian art. Its organizers have just announced the long list of select artists for the 3rd edition. The works reflect both diversity and depth of contemporary Indian art practices. They include innovative site specific installations, video installations, prints, drawings, photo collages, paintings, and performance art.

Jagannath Panda ‘Metropolis of Mirage’ by Nature Morte

Jagannath Panda’s curious mix of the realistic and the mythological suggests the disoriented nature of today’s Indian identity, as it tries to straddle between the contemporary and the traditional, the imaginary and the actual, the indigenous and the international. In his works the surface of the sculpture or canvas is built up mostly with the addition of brocade fabrics, blended together so as to create the feathers of birds and skins of beasts, to mimic foliage or approximate man-made surfaces. Such hybridized surface treatment corresponds with his themes that focus on moments, locations and icons in a state of flux, caught between oppositions. The artist’s portraits of the burgeoning Gurgaon city illustrate the tensions evident there owing to over-development that outpaces both infrastructure and natural habitats.

‘Extra-Ordinary’ by Hema Upadhyay from Vadehra

The artist explores the subtexts of the ordinariness of an ‘extra’ life that the metropolis offers its citizens. Unlike the overall decorative patterning of her earlier work (often used as a visual camouflage) within which the body/city conversed, fluid design appears at the edges of these paintings, framed within frames of overlapping narratives. Fixated at the centre in sombre dark hues of polluted grey and sleazy black, the decaying city emerges out of a bordered beauty. The actual and fictive, imagined and remembered city are evoked through personal and social worlds of the artist.

Sharmila Samant courtesy Lakeeren

How do we see? What is the hidden agenda behind appearances? Is what Sharmila Samant in her monographic series, entitled ‘Listen to your Eye’, looks to investigate. The artist retrospectively draws on her earlier projects continuing her critique of globalization, genetically modified foods and commentary on current socio-political undertakings.

Manmeet Devgun from a show at Abadi

The artist almost by stating it aloud that ‘I don’t need your help’, tends to sear herself apart from the painful past as someone’s ‘wife’ or companion, the better half of someone who is supposed to rely on th person emotionally and otherwise. She seeks recognition and respect not only from the man she has opted to leave behind but also from the surrounding world as an individual complete in herself.

Yardena Kurulkar at Gallery BMB

Her work is the consequence of years of reflection around the journey of Life and Death. Her work aims to capture the essence of their co-existence, their inter-dependence, the similarities between them and the contradictions they pose. Her own creative pursuit has been fraught with questions and dilemmas around the subject. That most of us obsessively deny death despite its certainty, strikes her as ironic.

Shilpa Gupta courtesy Chemould

She creates artwork using interactive video, websites, objects, photographs, sound and public performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as desire, religion, notions of security on the street and on the imagined border.

Zakkir Hussain at Vadehra

The artist’s mixed media works on paper and canvas offer viewers a colourful and fantasy-like take on the bond between humans and nature, and are bestowed with a sense of exuberance and dynamism through his incorporation of a variety of images and influences. They come largely from the visual news media, objects, shops, streets, and smells.

Rohini Devasher’s ‘Permutation’ at Nature Morte

Rohini Devasher’s works draw inspiration from biological specimen displays, astronomical observations, and magnetic resonance imaging but rather than creating static images, her works appear to breathe and grow. Her artistic practice has long been fascinated with the sciences and the natural world. The works in her solo might, at first glance, look more at home in a natural history museum or perhaps a biology archive. They all play with organic boundaries and imaginary microcosms. This suite of videos, prints, drawings and a single sculpture works explore organic growth and evolution through a technological matrix. She has invented new species by cannibalizing those of reality. The forms she creates are familiar, albeit undeniably alien, encompassing the categories of animal, vegetable and mineral. She describes these life forms in a variety of media.

Other artists selected are Aditi Joshi (New Works at Gallery Maskara); Aditi Avinash Kulkarni (‘Alienation of the space...an ongoing experiment’ at Seven Art Limited); Adip Dutta (‘I have a face but a face of what I am not’ hosted by Experimenter); CAMP - Ashok Sukumaran & Shaina Anand -‘Two stages of invention’ courtesy Experimenter; L N Tallur (‘Quintessential’ at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum); Mariam Suhail (‘Breakdown Of Shorter Concerns’ courtesy Galleryske); Priyanka Choudhary (‘Tetanus Midas’ from Gallery Maskara); Praneet Soi (‘Notes On Astaticism’ Vadehra); Srinivasa Prasad (‘Nirantara’, Gallery Ske); T Venkanna (Open Studio: Printmaking; Gallery Maskara); Tushar Joag (‘Riding The Rocinante From Bombay to Shanghai’; Vadehra Art Gallery), and Zakkir Hussain (‘Zero Tolerance’ Vadehra Art Gallery).

Mention must also be made of artist Vishal K Dar who features in the Skoda Prize long list for an exhibition: NAAG, New Delhi. His projects often encompass digital, manual, material and monumental worlds; he looks to merge visual spectacle with socio-political concerns. The top 20 names have been chosen by the jury panel including the co‐founder of Devi Art Foundation, Anupam Poddar, and leading artist Sheela Gowda. The panel is chaired by Geeta Kapur, eminent art historian-critic.