Mumbai Gallery Weekend presented by leading contemporary galleries, is back to woo motivated collectors, curators, museum professionals and art enthusiasts
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE
Mumbai Gallery Weekend (MGW) makes a triumphant return this year offering far more to the amateur aesthetes, who descend here for a dose of the best art they can find. Thanks to its cheery patronage of the fine arts, it began in 2012 as a collaborative initiative bythe city’s leading contemporary art galleries. The aim was to inject fresh energy into the art scene in Mumbai. The scope of MGW has evolved over time to include new galleries and cultural spaces. The endeavour, however, has remained the same – to bring together potential art collectors and enthusiasts in order to broaden the reach and relevance of contemporary art. Currently, in its tenth edition, the event—an annual fixture on the city’s cultural calendar—has witnessed several uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year too, the art showcase was to take place in January, but due to the Omicron wave, it was shifted to February. But now 23 galleries —from both midtown and South Mumbai—have opened their doors to art enthusiasts with new exhibitions of contemporary art. The Directors / Curators of six museums in India also came together to discuss the future of their institutions. They talked about how a variety of public and private museums are strategizing in unprecedented times and with evolving audience expectations as part of Mumbai Gallery Weekend 2022.
To start, Kamalnayan Bajaj Art Gallery presented Ufuq, a special tribute exhibition to the late artist Zarina Hashmi curated by Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala. Ufuq or horizon in Urdu is a 2001 woodcut by the artist in which she views “the horizon as the ultimate goal of the travelling soul.” Being one of the first feminist artists from South Asia to work within a minimalist repertoire, Zarina’s vast body of work relates to the contested world order of borders, boundaries, and disputed territories in which her memories are represented as maps and constellations. Artists participating in the exhibition are Anita Dube, Ankush Safaya, Astha Butail, Hemali Bhuta, Mithu Sen, Parul Gupta, Shaurya Kumar, Shambhavi Singh, Shreyas Karle, and Waqas Khan. Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke presents “Where do we come from?”, Sosa Joseph’s third solo exhibition at the gallery — on view from January 13 to February 26, 2022 — in which she presents a body of 15 new oil on canvas paintings that were completed between 2019-21. Joseph was born and raised in a village in southern Kerala, in a house right by the river. “For us, it all began with the river. It flowed through us every day, every moment”, she says. “The present body of work is my visual exploration of this riverine world, where my memory begins. The river’s ecosystem inspired my imagination, intensified my experience of nature, informed my worldview, influenced my aesthetic, and even gave me my sense of colours and textures. I am deeply thankful. Apart from the geography, the motifs herein seem to recall people and events I knew of, and therefore seem narrative in some sense. However, portraiture or storytelling is not my motive here. It’s a remembrance of the riverine aesthetic that swathed and swamped my early existence. In that sense, these canvases are largely landscapes, thought of reminiscence.” Sosa says she was always interested in painting, not graphics, or sculpture. She prefers to paint than to comment. She explains that her imagery, which from the works in the studio includes, a Pieta like figure of a women holding the body of her dead son, a mad patriarch, a traffic accident, a poem by Bertolt Brecht about infanticide, and a rural scene with cricket and ducks, arises out of the colours and the forms of the paint, which she physically moulds on the canvas like clay, or Expressionist plasticine.
Coming to Sakshi Gallery, it’s showcasing ‘Con-contemporary,’ Jaipur-based Siddhartha Kararwal’s first solo show. The thought provoking, subversive yet surprisingly unexpected and witty works of Kararwal are a probe into the existential dualities of the current multiplex cultural fabric. They are explorations of time now, overflowing with whimsical and fantastical characters; they are a unique take on the underbelly of what is produced, consumed and trashed in today’s culture. Siddhartha deconstructs these layers, rips it apart then reconstructs works that plumbs the depths of our hyper consumer society.
Curated by Nancy Adajania, Art Musings presents ‘Savage Flowers’, a solo exhibition of Smriti Dixit. The exhibition presents Dixit’s sculptures at a point when the artist has come powerfully into her own. The exhibition features site-specific installations and sculptures, woven, variously, from plastic tags and strings of fabric: everyday materials found, made, recycled and upcycled. Dixit’s work points to the complicated slippage between the spiritual and the commercial, the organic and the industrial, the sustainable and the unsustainable. It gestures towards the struggle for survival in which the human and non-human species are engaged, on a fragile planet that they must share.
Marking the 10th death anniversary of artist Vijay Shinde, Tao Art Gallery is showcasing the late artist’s works. On view till March 15, 2022, the show explores Shinde’s expansive artistic trajectory. The works remind us of his words said in 1996: “Often an artist’s life is reflected through their work, the art becoming an almost memoir of paths explored, experiences had and emotions felt. Shinde’s art too is a living, dynamic and eternal embodiment of him, allowing the viewer a glimpse into the expansive internal world that once existed. His strong dialogue with spirituality and philosophy as a personal quest comes through and is relevant even today. Rather than an end goal, the creation of art was in itself a process of exploration and liberation for him: “l looks for no meaning in my paintings because my paintings depict all that my mind looks for, rendering me speechless.” Cymoza art gallery presents Ritesh Uttamchandani’s A Lease of Life, curated by Ranjit Hoskote, which is a series of photographs dedicated to the afterlives of political posters, the strange and unpredictable processes of recycling by which they are turned into awnings, backdrops to tea stalls, working surfaces in markets, and mats for pavement dwellers. These images capture the raw materiality of an economy premised on ingenious improvisations. They also convey a poignant allegorical charge. Sic transit gloria mundi, they remind us through their ironic portrayal of the Ozymandias syndrome. Alongside these images, A Lease of Life invites viewers to consider another axis of Uttamchandani’s work: a series of images from his book, The Red Cat and Other Stories. These images juxtapose the paradoxes of the megalopolis, which sustain his work: the found and the made; the posed and the spontaneous; suffering as variably experienced by the vulnerable and the voluntary. A Lease of Life bears witness to the plural practice of a contemporary photographer: as a photojournalist and an archivist of the elusive and fugitive moment; as a maker of images and a producer of books and zines; as a composer of brief, pithy texts that complement his photographs and books.
Mumbai-based Saju Kunhan’s practice lies at the clever intersection of medium, process and archive, creating visual articulations of the important question of who dictates historical narrative and the concurrent subtext of what is left behind along the path of history-making. For his second solo show at Tarq, titled Home Ground, he articulates his musings through a meticulous process of developing a personal visual archive, from which he cherry-picks to create his rendition of a historical document.
As described by Saju,”Through these works what I am trying to communicate are my concerns of history, migration, displacement, conquest and colonialism. Moreover, I am connecting my work to politics and power as well as environmental concerns. What I believe is that whatever happens today there must be a link connected to the past. So, my works are connecting the past and present through concept and methodology.” In this exhibition Saju continues to explore themes of migration and displacement through his method of image transfers on teak wood. Also featured in this exhibition for the first time, are the artist’s works on paper. This body of work investigates the more personal side of Saju’s practice, representing his ancestral home and the multiple migrations undertaken by his family. He first started experimenting with wood as a canvas. Kunhan says, “Wood is a medium I have long been associated with, since as far back as my college days when I worked as a house painter. Transferring ink from one surface to another is a meditative process for me.” Soon he became adept at transferring images from paper to wood, incorporating the imperfections caused by the knots in the wood into his vision. Kunhan creates large scale maps by stitching together hundreds of screenshots from Google Maps. Once the prints are ready, the artist might modify parts of it with paint or by burning or erasing certain sections, before transferring the ink from paper to wood. The multiple histories of each element in Kunhan’s art finds expression on his canvas, whether it’s the archival images transferred from paper or the centuries-old teak wood panels onto which they are received. The artist is just as interested in what stays as he is in what—or who—gets left out at the end of the continuous process of displacement he practices as art. Akin to Saju, Chemould Prescott Road Desmond Lazaro’s artistic practice is the ground upon which the stories of his forefathers are embedded: identity, migration, map-—making, mythology, defining and redefining ‘home’, and the geographical journeys where his family’s histories are charted. He condenses the disciplines of sacred geometry, architecture, art, astrophysics and map-making into beautiful paintings!
As one investigates Lazaro’s artistic journey, much of it is through map-making – exploring both his personal mapping (which has been a complex one), but one that has also transcended into the journeys of explorer’s, star maps and the wider cosmos, he continually looks into how we reimagine the universe within our own microcosmic journey. Lazaro’s work reinvents miniature painting, the tradition he was trained in. His is a boundary pushing art that makes this traditional craft seem especially current. Born in Leeds in 1968, Lazaro came to India in 1990 to study at the art school of Baroda. There, he became obsessed with the miniature paintings of Rajasthan and went to train for twelve years in Jaipur under late master painter Bannu Ved Pal Sharma. Lazaro chose to adopt a craft that is alien to British art education and to deploy it to describe the world around him. He has since worked in the pichvai and miniature painting techniques, and also wrote (and published) doctoral thesis on the topic. His Cosmos series for the Mumbai Gallery Weekend at Chemould Prescott Road is an inquiry into the heavens and a return to such origins. By reconnecting with the alchemic roots of pigment preparation, Lazaro has a stubborn commitment to tradition: his paintings begin with the Earth herself. Project 88 Mumbai presented Tropisms, a solo exhibition of Mumbai-based artist Amitesh Shrivastava’s new body of work, composed largely during the recurring lockdowns marking an exciting departure from his previous oeuvre; with hypnotic colours and vibrant brushstrokes, Shrivastava now composes a pulsating world on the brink of catastrophe.