This year-long series will showcase contemporary Indian artists who engage with traditional practices
Changing our perceptions, every once in a while, is good we’re told. This holds especially true with regard to India’s indigenous art practices. Revival of the dying art of Pichvai painting by Pooja Singhal’s Rajasthan-based atelier is one such an example, where a modern interpretation of the tradition helped save a struggling artisan community. At the latest endeavour launched by Beyond Malabar art gallery, Kochiites will get an opportunity to see and familiarise themselves with the works of such pioneering personalities who are both revitalising and redefining India’s artistic heritage. Having kicked off their year-long series with the works of Jaipur-based miniature painting expert, Riyaz Uddin, under the curation of Roohi Mitra, an independent art manager from Mumbai, the gallery is promising month-long exhibitions throughout the period of 2017-2018.“Though he has been a part of several prestigious international collaborations, Riyaz has never really had a solo exhibition in India. We believe that is very important to bring forth such high-calibre individuals because they dare to experiment and bring us projects that are rich in cross-cultural references,” notes Roohi, when asked about curation process involved in the series.
As one glances through the 40 plus pieces exhibited across the dining courtyard of Passage Malabar, it becomes easy to forget all about the clichéd battlefield depictions usually seen in Mughal miniature artworks. One of the first incorporate the medium of leather into the style through the use of patinas, Riyaz’s work stands apart owing to the use candy colours as well as the depiction of solitary figures. “From reimagining Hindu deity Ganesh adorned in a Mughal emperor’s finery to the use of handmade paper, Riyaz is someone who constantly challenges himself,” shares the 40-something curator. Trained by maestros including Shakir Ali, a Padma Shri-winning artist, Riyaz is known for his prowess in various schools of thought under the miniature institution ranging from Rajasthani to Pahari.
Having earned her degree in art criticism and history of Southeast Asian architecture, Roohi’s plans for the upcoming exhibitions showcase interesting juxtapositions between religion, culture and craft. “Our list includes people like Ahmedabad-based Sanjay Sithara, who was instrumental in restoring the Mata Ni Pachedi tradition which focusses on painted ceremonial clothes that are typically hung behind a statue of the Mother goddess,” she adds. Apart from bringing in segments on Indian styles such as Kalighat, this Mumbaikar is also looking forward to bringing international shows to Kochi which will showcase unique
modules such as aboriginal art from Australia.
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—Arya P Dinesh