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Prominent contemporary Indian artists shine globally
In collaboration with one of India’s premier contemporary artists, Subodh Gupta, Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Thun hosts his first ever institutional solo show. Besides artworks specially created for the show, many noted monumental works are on display. They emphasize very different and unique aspects of his work. Done in wide variety of media such as sculpture, painting and video, it exudes deep connection to the traditional rural and religious society.

The works that form part of the exhibition, entitled ‘Spirit Eaters’, encompass the conflict field of global and traditional values and points to their modification or perhaps even loss in a fast growing industrial society. As base material for his sculptures, the artist often uses and combines objects used in daily Indian life like dishes, ceramic vessels, bicycles etc. In the process, atmospheric images of a socially, economically and culturally complex landscape emerge. The Kunstmuseum Thun in the former Grand Hotel Thunerhof is located at the centre of town, directly on the river Aare. The building was constructed in the 1870s and was the first luxury hotel built in the town. It has housed the museum on the groundfloor of the right wing since 1949.

Meanwhile, the Contemporary Arts Center located in Cincinnati, Ohio presents works by two renowned Indian artists of this era, namely Atul Dodiya and Hema Upadhyay. She looks to address aesthetic aspects of the everyday via imagery drawn from Mumbai’s densely populated neighborhoods and slums, in particular. The centerpiece of her exhibit, Moderniznation, is inspired by Dharavi slum community. Once it occupied an undesirable piece of marshland just outside of the city, but as Mumbai started expanding, the area occupied by the slum became a central part and highly contested, subsequently. She is attracted to the juxtaposition of vibrant colors and diverse materials there, as well to the microcosm of the slum and its relationship to the surrounding posh neighborhoods.

The installation recreates an aerial view of the slum on the floor of the gallery made up of the materials the buildings themselves are comprised of - aluminum sheets, car scrap, enamel paint, plastic sheets, and found objects. In it many visual signifiers are distilled into a minimalist patchwork of squares. This is Hema Upadhyay’s first exhibition in the US. Atul Dodiya melds the Eastern and Western cultures’ iconography via film, literature and popular culture. His installations and paintings, deeply personal in nature, reflect on his own narratives with reference to the art history and that of the home country. The artist’s imagery created on storefronts’ metal shutters is salvaged from the Mumbai streets. A symbol of security, it marks the sharp change in the aesthetic between day and night. At times, they become armor that protects the various goods of shop owners from the dangers of the outside world. He invites the viewer to interact with them – to open and close the shutter with its original pulley mechanism in order to see their entirety as both the front and interior of the shutter work is meticulously painted. Apart from metal shutter paintings, the exhibition features some masterfully painted watercolors as well.

On the other hand, Netherlands’s Van Abbemuseum presents a retrospective of works by Sheela Gowda. It includes an overview of the artist’s photography and painting, revealing her exploration into the makeup of images, which runs alongside her sculptural practice. The showcase forms part of the series of major solos at the venue in 2012-13, which has thus far included David Maljkovic, Yael Bartana, Piero Gilardi and René Daniëls. Programmed to highlight the acclaimed Indian artist’s visual concerns, 'Open Eye Policy' will occupy the classic space of the Oudbouw (old building) and will span the last twenty years of Gowda’s practice, including the artist’s large scale installations, painting and photography, as well as smaller sculptural works. It’s probably the first time that the different elements of her practice are being shown alongside one another, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the artist’s historical and cultural significance.

Initially trained as a painter, since the 1990’s she has increasingly developed a sculptural and installation practice, employing materials to draw out references to the social and cultural context of India. Her artworks, both sensual and unsettling, conjure some of the darkest aspects of human experience, wherein poetically invested materials evoke. The artist terms them ‘the insidious nature of violence, overt and insidious in our psychic makeup’. An accompanying note states: “Her use of unconventional materials is highly evocative: the tactile qualities of thread, hair, traditional dyes, pattern and weaving are transformed into socially loaded objects and configurations, located within the network of production and distribution of India’s socio-political legacy.”

Last but not the least; Art13 London, a new modern & contemporary art fair, claiming to present a global perspective, showcased works from 1945 onwards until the present day. The inaugural edition featured 129 galleries from around 30 countries that showed paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints and multimedia works. The event specially acknowledged the quality of art being produced in countries like China, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, and India, to complement galleries from Europe and the US, emphasizing its global reach.

Ranbir Kaleka’s single channel video projection on painted surface, titled ‘Cul-de-sac in Taxila’, provided a narrative puzzle, dwelling on desire and struggle. The work features a man dressed in a black suit sitting still and holding a hammer. When he suddenly raises the hammer to strike the air, a white horse appears before him. The title springs from his fascination with the city of Taxila, an important stop on ancient trade routes as well as a centre of learning, destroyed in the fifth century. It suggests that the man has aspirations to explore Taxila but can’t find the road to it. The horse appears and disappears, and the man’s interminable wait is only disturbed by the persistent sound of a drop of water falling into a pan behind him. The artist was presented by Mumbai-based, Volte Gallery. Gallery Sumukha (Bangalore/ Chennai) was another Indian gallery that took part in London’s newest art fair.