Art NOW seeks to document 'moment' that contemporary arts find itself in

Satish Gujral’s bronze sculpture
As sunrays ripple across the surface of ghats of Benaras seem to come alive on the canvas. The image seems to move, with every shift of shadow and each flicker of light animating a part of this mammoth 8 feet-by-21 feet oil and acrylic on canvas by Paresh Maity. A little ahead is a larger-than-life image of a woman attired in a coloured sari, head smeared with vermillion and arms bedecked with ornaments — at first glance, a romanticised depiction of a dusky village belle in Telangana. A closer look and you will realise that this acrylic on canvas by Thota Vaikuntam makes you see beyond the obvious and think about his statement on received notions of gender and class dynamics. Also sharing the space with these established artists is young Suraj Kumar Kashi, who captures the “in-between” states of mind and existence.


Artwork by Thota Vaikuntam
Art NOW 17, currently on view at Art Alive, New Delhi, brings together 84 works by 34 senior and emerging artists to document the vast range of current art practices in India. First held last year, at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery, the show hopes to be an annual feature. The second edition features artists such as Krishen Khanna, Satish Gujral, Sakti Burman, Anjolie Ela Menon, Manu Parekh, Laxma Goud, Jayasri Burman, Subrata Paul, G Anjaneyulu and Shantanu Das, highlighting the signature style of each while also showcasing the cultural and global influences on Indian art today. “Every moment has its significance. The ‘now’ we are in might be an important moment in history of the future. Art NOW provides contemporary artists a platform to showcase their most powerful works of the present, which will eventually become a collective of narratives of the past, present and future,” says artist Jayasri Burman, who is showing Iravati at the exhibition. 


For Sunaina Anand, founder, Art Alive, the significance of the show lies in its seeking to answer critical questions around current art practices: How are senior artists evolving with the changing times? How do younger artists incorporate their environments in their art practice? “For instance, Suraj Kumar Kashi hails from the semi-urban town of Jamui, Bihar, and has been living in Delhi since a couple of years. He looks at the cultural differences between the two. Then there is G Anjaneyulu, whose work has hyperrealism. Every object that he does feels so real that you can also see the reflections on it,” says Anand, who is presenting the show along with interior designer, Raseel Gujral.


The show also belies the notion that senior artists work only with their signature medium and narratives. In fact, between the last edition and this, there are discernible shifts in practice. “Some have worked with a completely different subject while others have handled a technique differently. Anjolie, for instance, is showing from the Divine Mothers series, which she started work on only last year. Then, Sakti Burman’s work usually has multiple figures, but here, he has used one bold figure, which stands like a sculpture and gives a 3D effect,” says Anand. The change is there to see in Jayasri Burman’s work as well. For decades, her canvases bloomed with colourful depictions of myths and legends. She has interpreted the victory of Durga over Mahishasura, and more, as metaphorical events in people’s lives. In her current work, however, while she draws on one such mythical story of Iravati, the daughter of the ocean, her treatment is more monochromatic and she looks at the singular figure, with a landscape in the background.


 Such transformations are going to be documented not only through a show but by a book as well, which will be released in 2020. “The volume will be brought out every five years,” says Anand.  Art NOW 17 is open to the public at Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi, till January 15, 2018

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