This online show by The Guild Art Gallery showcases work created by five emerging artists as a reaction to the 'new world'

From subjects about migrant labourers, changing city landscapes, and gender stereotypes to political ideologies, these artists reflect the thoughts of the 'new normal'

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  12th October 2020 05:30 PM   |   Published :   |  12th October 2020 05:30 PM
Homecoming by Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee

Homecoming by Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee

The online art show Zones of Convergence/Divergence offers new perspectives of our world through the work of five emerging artists. The show presented by The Guild Art Gallery features new work by Arshad Hakim, Mithra Kamalam, Puja Mondal, Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee, and Umesh Singh. Each of these artists comes with a distinct creative approach that reflects their background. Although it is not bound by any theme, the curation reflects how each of their work was picked because of the evocative message it is trying to convey. “We were keen to give a platform to young practitioners who have graduated in the last five years, so we weren’t looking at a specific theme. Our idea was to look at different visual languages that they have been experimenting with and source of their visual influence,” explains curator Chitra KS.

Whether it is the artists’ take on the relationship between their past and the present or their personal experiences in the ‘new world’ since the pandemic hit us, the show encapsulates these varied ideas. In a conversation with Indulge, each of these artists shares more about their work, influences and what they think is the new order of the art world since the lockdown.

Arshad Hakim
This Bengaluru-based artist works primarily with photographs, text-based pieces and videos building narratives that are fragmented, non-linear and structurally undo themselves.

Can you give us an insight into your process of creating art?
I gravitate towards sources which in one way or another create a limit with the narratives they are situated in. These sources could be anything from cinema, mythological figures to socio-political conditions. After I find this source or figure, it starts consuming me and I start to become like it. The work that I then create is the result of this consumption and the connections I form with the source. My inspiration lies where I find my source/figure and what they are.

From the world of art, who have been your biggest influences?
It is difficult to pinpoint influences as I keep getting fascinated by everything around me. There have been films and albums that have made a lasting impression on me. To name some, Mani Kaul’s Duvidha, Amit Dutta’s films and Frank Beauvais’ Just Don't Think I'll Scream. Sound and sonic cultures are important for me and within them, I have been obsessed by with the work of Robert Ashely and (Hindustani) Dhrupads. 

What do you want viewers to take away from your work that's currently being showcased by The Guild?
What I always strive to create is an affective mapping through the connections proposed in my work. This is what I would effectively want as a residue of my work. 

How has the pandemic created a paradigm shift in the art world? What do you think is the way forward?
The pandemic has destabilised and proposed many things in larger spheres of everyday life. Like everywhere else, it has revealed the structural inequalities that exist, at the same time there are instances where peers have come together to help each other. I do not intend to say this is something that has only happened in the lockdown. Art history from the subcontinent is filled with such instances of gathering. There are benefits to everything moving online and as a way to be together, it is strange yet heart-warming. The lockdown has also brought forth the question of sustenance within the art world as public dialogue and pedagogic models that aren’t coming from institutions — with these I feel new ways of navigating the art world have opened up and I am very excited by how they would shape the field. 

Mithra Kamalam
The Calicut-based artist is known for her metaphorical narratives that she builds inspired by personal and collective history.

What is your process of creating art and where do you look for ideas?
I’m overwhelmingly attentive to painting as a medium since my practice is mainly dominated by painting. It also extends to other forms like, bricolage, sculptural installations and drawings. I develop metaphors from surroundings and experiences as my works are always a representation of personal history connected to social history. I portray people and nature which carry metaphoric expressions to demonstrate psychological states, and thus my work appears as performative, mythically fabled narrations. There is always a performative facet, when I visualise things. This theatrical perception came to me through my childhood experiences of watching ritual and traditional performances in Kerala such as Thira (a ritual dance performed in groves/kavu) kathakali, and ottan thullal. My research always addresses the issues regarding relationships, sexuality, body and gender and self. I am always exploring and referring archives, and this has driven me to Mughal miniature paintings, early Arab illustrations and folklores.

Tell us about the autobiographical nature of your work.
I find archetypes and showcase them in the context of the immediate present. Though it appears autobiographical in nature, there is an attempt to readdress the notion of indigeneity and vernacular idiom. I am interested to explore the ‘vernacular’ idiom as a language which is untamed, and is as instinctual as love, hate, and fear.

Who are your influences and what continues to influence you?
My quest for figuration insists that I look for artists who are brilliant at figurative practice with an immense awareness of being void. But I am not naming the artists I look for since there are too many to name. I would just like to recall Timothy Hyman’s words, “Their figuration acknowledges the void, even if they rebound from it. They are aware of the claims of abstraction- as a transcendence, as a purification, as an autonomous pictorial language – and it affects their art.” This quote helps me stay thoughtful and stimulated. He explains how vernacular idiom is an alternative account of resistance itself. We strongly strive for renewing a visual dialect aside from the abstract counterparts. This alternate is both corrective and refutation but as a recognition of diversity. I am also influence by Alice Walker’s and Nawal El Sadavi’s thoughts of Democratic Womanism. The more I started reading and understanding, I acknowledged the perspectives I have, so they are important. Among other things, works by Chimamanda Adichie, K Saraswathi Amma, Rajalakshmi, Bell Hooks and Meena Kandasamy have influenced me a lot. I like how they have grasped the urgency of self-love/ respect and individual ownership of women over their own spaces, bodies and identities. They consciously extended the role of women from family to public and political spaces. And in cinema, I am specially influenced by Agnes Varda, Chantal Akerman and Marleen Gorris who portrayed solitude of women, intensity of female love, sexuality and atypical body.

What do you want viewers to take away from your work that's currently being showcased by The Guild?
This online group exhibition is a new experience for me, and I have presented two distinct bodies of works including two paintings and a series of sculptural objects. The series is called ‘Corrective Measures’. I have used the concept of repetition, where the arrangement of repeated ‘emotional objects’ acts as a therapeutic expression. Here the action/method becomes more important than the pictorial imagery or the product. I wish my work evokes restlessness.

Puja Mondal
Baroda-based Puja creates a different emotional experience by marrying poetry, popular visual imagery and text.

Can you give us an insight into your process of creating art?
To talk about my process of creating art, my practice is been informed by multiple factors. I had my formative years of training in Faculty of Finearts, MSU, Baroda, it allowed an interdepartmental education practice. I could freely access the studios of mural, printmaking, and sculpture at the same time. It lacked watertight boundaries in terms of methods and medium which aided me to work in paintings, murals, frescos, etching and casting. Also, the two worlds of miniature painting and the Jaipuri fresco technique of Arayash have been my guiding forces. I attended a miniature workshop by artist Ajay Sharma during my under-graduation years and was immediately fascinated by the medium. In some works, I prepare the base for my painting and often grind pigment by hands to make colors; the process is very meditative and cathartic to me.  I am interested in re-contextualizing the older techniques in my present context.

Who or what has influenced you as an artist?
When I came across the book Our Ancestors by Calvino, I was fascinated by how the protagonist showed resistance against his family just by the way he conducted his whole life, this is also when I realised that my work can be a tool of my resistance.

What do you want viewers to take away from your work that's currently being showcased by The Guild?
I as a young art practitioner am always confronted with insecurities to voice my ideologies and set of beliefs. There is no way by which we can alter this state, without any kind of ‘serious rupture’ – in terms of social, political, economical and ideological aspects. And for me the people I choose to portray are these ruptures. I have a deep sense of gratitude for them and their courage to stand strong against the ‘lion’s strength’. I hope that the viewers will also be able to empathise with my intention.

How has the pandemic created a paradigm shift in the art world? What do you think is the way forward?
I think I am too young and inexperienced to comment on the shift in the art world. Therefore, I will only speak for my little experience and what this time has done to my art practice. With online exhibitions, my work has got more visibility. Irrespective of the geographical location, social media, specifically Instagram has been a great platform to showcase my work.

Umesh Singh
The artists who is currently staying in his native village Kurmuri in Bihar is known for his work that reflects the struggles of communities, especially the farming community.

Can you give us an insight into your process of creating art?
I am an independent art practitioner and usually do not follow any set pattern or routine in making my artworks. I react emotionally towards contemporary issues and am provoked by the injustice in society. I then present my reactions through the medium of poetry or drawing or any other suitable medium. The society where I have been brought up and the surrounding environment complements my work. My artworks are a manifestation of my emotions.

Who has influenced you? Who or what continues to influence you?
My surroundings, my childhood, and my native place constantly inspire me. As I belong to a small farmer's family and I have always witnessed the declining situation of farmers. Many artists such as William Kentridge and Huma Bhabha have lured me with their work. My current work is a result of the societal changes I am witnessing. My current work on display is a reflection of a life-changing journey from Varanasi to Arah. During this lockdown, I had insufficient stationery and was left with only a few papers and a sketchbook. By government arrangements, I returned home with nil social distancing and precautions. In this journey, I travelled with migrant labourers and poor students like me. All of us were bundled into buses and would wait on roads in the heat and sun for the next bus. This journey will remain in my mind and soul like a dark spot forever. I travelled a distance of 5 hours in 40 hours. Meanwhile, my family assumed that I was missing. Every time I sketched, I expressed the experiences of this journey.

What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
My art is not hypothetical, but it is easily understandable. I want people to understand and enjoy it. These sketches reflect the pain of migrant labourers and the existence of problems that we often overlook. I wish the viewers talk more about the injustice being meted out to the poor and the truth that is being hidden.

How has the pandemic created a paradigm shift in the art world? What do you think is the way forward?
The art world is a part of the world and it suffered more than all fields in terms of business. What other developed countries taught us was that they supported their artists with a number of grants and subsidies but our country’s government did not help the art community in any way. But some private organisations and NGOs supported young artists. The things I enjoyed the most were the online lecture, events, and talks that made the world a small place and I was able to listen to many inspirational artists in this period. This wouldn’t have happened if not for the pandemic.

Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee
Baroda-based Sabyasachi uses the digital medium and playfully manipulates static images into moving narratives featuring complex collages of urban landscapes.

Can you give us an insight into your process of creating art? Where do you find inspiration and where do you look for ideas?
My process of creating artwork involves observation, documentation, and collecting information from my surroundings for a particular period of time, through sketches, photographic documentation, as well as a collection of found images and sounds.  Collecting such materials is a daily process. Whereas for a particular body of work juxtaposing these visual materials happens through creating a theoretical premise for a particular context. These theoretical premises also formulate through a combination of socio-political and scientific understanding of the surrounding world, which then gets translated into a fictional landscape, that takes place in my audio-visual works.    

Who has influenced you? Who or what continues to influence you?
Amongst many people and various things that keep influencing me daily, the people around me, my peers have a great influence on my practice. The interaction and engagement with people from my immediate surrounding help me a great deal. Other than that films have a great influence on my life and work. Even though I am not very selective about watching there are a few filmmakers from past and present generation that keep fueling my practice. Some of them are Andre Tarkovsky, Satyajit Ray, Deepa Mehta, Lijo Jose Pellissery and Geethu Mohandas.  

What do you want viewers to take away from your work that's currently being showcased by The Guild?
As we live in a time where we are constantly fed with new information the line between true and untrue has blurred. Based on the information that I collect from my surroundings I create narratives which get combined into one space creating pockets of stories for each frame for my audio-visual works. The work showcased in the current show at The Guild is made with this idea, which rather than making a statement, illustrates our surrounding experiences altogether for a duration of time. I would like the viewer to experience what they might find familiar according to their own experiences which is very subjective and take away all that is there for the time they spend with these works. 

How has the pandemic created a paradigm shift in the art world? What do you think is the way forward?
The pandemic has changed a lot of things regarding our lifestyle and our interaction with our locality. And obviously, there are a great many changes that happened within the art world itself that is so different from how we experience and interact with artworks. It has its pros and cons. And maybe this change is not permanent, but there are things that we can take forward from all that we learned at this time. Especially the learning process has changed as it's not just concentrated in one place or to a certain institutional space, maybe one thing we can learn as to how to make it more inclusive and reach out to as many more people, even from the remotest part of the world. 

The show can be viewed on The Guild Art Gallery's website until October 31