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Indian participation at The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art
The 7th Asia Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT7) courtesy Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) in Brisbane is renowned for being probably the lone major event to exclusively focus on contemporary art trends from Asia, the Pacific and Australia. Now in its seventh edition, it continues its founder’s forward-thinking vision and approach to explore history and culture in context of current scenario and geography, to fathom how the prevailing issues are explored in the work of talented and innovative artists of this era.

In keeping with its original motto, the younger-generation artists are drawing special attention this year too, at the flagship contemporary art exhibit of Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. Incidentally, this edition marks the 20th anniversary of the APT. It presents an excellent opportunity and opening for reflecting on the major transformations, which have taken place in the Asia-Pacific region over the last couple of decades. Key themes to consider include transforming landscapes at a broader level, varied individual engagements with the city, and the local culture’s adaptability in today's globalized world. APT7 features a wide array of new and recent works by 75 artists and artist groups – both senior and emerging - from 27 nations across the region. These include works of eminent contemporary Indian artists, namely Rina Banerjee, Sheila Makhijani, Neha Choksi, Raqib Shaw, Dayanita Singh as well as major new commissions by Atul Dodiya and LN Tallur.

Rina Banerjee’s sculptural assemblages are fantastic combinations of materials she sources in New York junk shops - textiles, clothing, antique furnishings, taxidermy animals etc- that are configured into new and exotic arrangements. Using a visual language steeped in fairytales and mythology, and a similarly diverse range of objects, she presents a series of recent wall-based sculptures. Neha Choksi is represented in APT7 by her lyrical video and related paintings that document a group of rural actors as they denude a Bodhi tree, leaving behind a single sprig. Themes of absence and erasure pervade her work, and here the near-stripped tree becomes a potent symbol of decay and renewal.

On the other hand, Sheila Makhijani creates abstract paintings on canvas, drawings in gouache on paper, stitched paper works and papercuts. The artist’s works quietly advance the tradition of abstract art in India, revealing new variations on how line, shape and color might layer and unfold, whereas beneath the glittering surfaces of artist Raqib Shaw’s extravagant paintings lies a fantasy world of animals and mythical creatures. Pulsing with suggestions of violence and eroticism, these are rendered with extraordinary flair and detail. A vast range of sources, from English literature and Renaissance painting to Japanese kimono and Chinese cloisonné techniques, informs their hybrid imagery. Their visual opulence derives from his unique process, which builds up surfaces using stained glass paint and enamel, teased into shape using a porcupine quill, and finished with gems, glitter and rhinestones. This labor is so demanding that the paintings take months, even years at times, to complete.

For all their flourishes, Shaw’s works reveal both a highly resourceful imagination and a singular, innovative commitment to the process of painting. Renowned as a photographer, Dayanita Singh likes to describe herself more as a ‘maker of books’. Containing little or no text, her books convey their themes and narratives through images. Portraits, street scenes, interiors and archives from cities across India are constructed as interconnecting short stories, drawing on her early career as a photojournalist, as well as on literary fiction, producing lyrical combinations.

LN Tallur’s sculptures blend traditional craftsmanship with high technology and social critique. His ‘Chromatophobia’ series uses currency and the gold standard to invoke the contradictions of global exchange. Works featured in APT7 include a traditional Hindu sculpture in which the central figure has been displaced by a mass of concrete and coins; and an ornate votive chariot based on the shape of the largest nugget ever found, unearthed during the Australian gold rush. A major figure in Indian contemporary art, Atul Dodiya draws on politics, art history and folklore for his work, as well as Indian and American popular culture. He also produces vitrines filled with a host of objects, artifacts, photographs and appropriated artworks, providing provocative new contexts. The idea for the works highlighted developed after a 1997 visit to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, a recurring figure in his work. Noticing a cabinet of personal effects, documents and photographs, he found a way to express his fascination for how such a personal collection of belongings can shape lives and become part of a collective memory. APT7 also features a new series of cabinet works looking closely at regional art histories.

Last but not the least, on view is a project by Raqs Media Collective in a section, titled ‘The 20 Year Archive’ in which the APT acknowledges its history by bringing together artists who work with archives. Jeebesh Bagchi (born 1965, New Delhi), Monica Narula (born 1969, Delhi) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (born 1968, Delhi) before extending into visual art, explored urban geography through experimental documentary film and television. For APT7, they delve into their own past, bringing together publications, documents, interviews and project proposals that mark the moment in which they were made, as well as anticipating the future.