IAF 2023: Hyderabad enjoys the renaissance of avant-garde South Asian art motifs
Artists from Hyderabad experiment with photorealism, oils, tempera and embroidery to disseminate their expressions
With India Art Fair (IAF) at the vanguard, contemporary artists from Hyderabad and those represented by Hyderabad-based galleries will be igniting the city’s art for art’s sake while also reflecting the core of humanity. Artists will be weighing in on cartography, archival history and existentialism to establish their defining voice through which they seek to elicit an emotional response in the beholder. Fair Director, Jaya Asokan tells us, “From powerful voices like Dia Mehta Bhupal, Faiza Hasan, Debosmita Samanta, Sumana Som, and Varunika Saraf, to widening base of patrons, collectors and galleries like Kalakriti Art Gallery and Dhi Art Space have played a vital role in fostering a grassroots passion for art, we’re seeing a steady rise of Hyderabad’s role in India’s art scene.”
For one, depicting the geological landscape of the city, artist and filmmaker, Amshu Chukki records how Hyderabad’s prehistoric rock formations have been declining for decades. Showcasing his art in a multi-disciplinary pattern across media — whether an oil painting on board or an experimental film — Amshu’s expressions exude a lot more than what meets the eye.
“Hyderabad is the only city in some sense with massive boulders and is one of the oldest geological traps in India. These forms are within the city, unlike in Bangalore or anywhere else where one needs to go to the outskirts to access such a landscape. For the last 10 years or so, we have been seeing a rapid disappearance of these structures. Many factors such as the expansion of the city, the disregard for its habitation, and the city’s accelerated infrastructure might be causing it. Hyderabad is one of the only places whose larger rock formations have also been deemed heritage sites,” he tells us. Illustrating and throwing a spotlight on the plebeian exploring these vignettes of a terrestrial bygone, Amshu’s string of three paintings titled, Secret Petrological Society – 1, 2, and 3 is represented by Mumbai’s Chatterjee and Lal Gallery booth at IAF.
Varunika Saraf employs block printing, embroidery and dyeing to map out society’s collective memory and past. “I am drawn towards the intimacy that embroidery provides. It is very subtle yet can be an extremely powerful mode of expression,” she tells us. At IAF, the artist will be a part of Align and Disrupt, a series of discussion about the arts ecosystem. Alluding to mythical and archival imagery, she illustrates the daunting historical accounts of South Asia and how she thinks those impact the country’s modern-day social setup. Modelled on heart-wrenching archival records of South Asian history, Varunika’s artistic voice keeps women as its primary focus. “I feel that women are forgotten if not written out of history. It just seems right to bring up the struggles women face back at the centre of discourse,” she adds. From a feminist vantage, her art highlights the conflicted marginalised group.
We also speak to Calcutta-based artist, Avijit Dutta who is represented by Hyderabad’s Kalakriti Art Gallery. Sharing what art enthusiasts can expect from his pieces at IAF, he says, “This year, the central idea of my art is the concept of life being a drama and how relevant it is in the contemporary context. The audience will get to see how consciously a visual artist has portrayed this daily masquerade that can bring them into a space that connects them to the past and present and also possibly reminds them of this routine charade that we all have to undergo no matter which role we are playing at the time.”
Surrealists are known for encapsulating the bizarre through dream-like scenes and symbolic images. To convey this aspect through his revision, Avijit interprets the spirit of spontaneity in nature, existential challenges, and personal experiences we have celebrated and outlived. In one of his artworks titled, Of Veering Moods and Conversations, he depicts two women facing each other. For this, the artist highlights the eyes of his muses. “I have used many mediums throughout my life, but I finally found comfort in tempera,” he tells us. He also confirms that he has found his true expression in subdued colours.
In a complete hyper-realistic genre, however, Faiza Hasan’s Ek cup chai, ‘borrows from what she has come to recognise as a sort of personal archive — one that has culminated over the years’. Her photorealistic art uncannily details laughter, and sorrow – or perhaps we can never know what her muses emote. Her art conveys a sense of detachment underscored by visual coolness and a smooth un-painterly surface. “This particular drawing is part of a larger body of work that is interested in and draws from objects of personal history. It attempts, in particular, to explore the manner in which objects of personal history remain entangled with the more prominent occurrences of their time,” she tells us. The painting which is rendered in charcoal, embellished and mended in gold, serves as a ‘visual record that is layered and connoted’. “It treads a space that exists between personal, official and public in their attempt to engage with the broader events of the present,” Faiza says.
From February 9 to 12.