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Significant showcases revolving around Indian art
In another indication of its growing stature in the domain of art internationally, the 2011 Prague Biennale comprises a ‘Crossroads: India Escalate’ segment curated by Kanchi Mehta.

One of the biggest and most keenly awaited art fairs in central Europe, this is the fifth edition of the biennale with a newly added India pavilion. The four-month long event has given a place of pride to contemporary Indian art, which is getting the long due recognition and much deserved fame thanks to such events in Europe and other parts of the western world.

The ‘Crossroads’ section at this year’s Prague Biennale includes extremely talented artists like Sudarshan Shetty, Nikhil Chopra, TV Santosh, Riyas Komu, Gigi Scaria, Sarnath Banerjee, Monali Meher, Shreyas Karle, Nikhil Chopra, Anita Dube, Minam Apang, Sonia Jose, Ranbir Kaleka, Sakshi Gupta, PS Jalaja, Justin Ponmany, Tejal Shah, Charmi Gada Shah, T Venkanna, Avinash Veeraraghavan, and Vivek Vilasini among others. There around 50 interesting works, incorporating a mélange of forms, themes and multitude of mediums skillfully explored by all of them. The curator wants to represent the way contemporary Indian art scene is shaping up, imbibing an array of influences from the life and people around, to analyze them with an open mind.

Another significant show takes place at London based Aicon Gallery. About his solo ‘Dislocation’ (Milljunction Part 2) Baiju Parthan elaborates: “Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city, consists of a floating population of immigrants from various parts of the country. Each one of these communities and individuals has their own version of Mumbai as their recollection of getting to know and comprehend it.” In some works, different styles of painting exist within a single frame, in others it seems like two different time zones are pictured simultaneously. The artist also subtly uses mirroring within some of them and in a few the surface is interrupted by dripping computer code. This gives rise to a dizzying sense of multiplicity. His new series is both celebration and lament, archaic and super-technological. His use of mirroring, time-lags and alternate realities suggests a realm, or a mind that is disintegrating, the products of a restless gaze that never settles on one thing, or one time zone, for long.

On the other hand, third installment in ‘The Word of God Series’ at The Andy Warhol Museum located in Pittsburgh, which examines major world religions and their texts through contemporary art, is currently featuring works by Chitra Ganesh. An explanatory note to ‘The Word of God(ess)’mentions: “Sacred texts are considered by many to be the direct words of God to man. How this Word is passed down and received is dependent on the people, languages and cultures in which it is presented! The works explore the questions like: what is the best version of the Word of God; and does the artistic rendering of it enhance understanding or is some essential truth lost in translation?”

A 21 part piece, ‘Tales of Amnesia’, is based on Amar Chitra Katha, a popular comic strip. It’s a testimony to the artist’s practice that combines an array of visual languages, curious cannons and diverse cultures, including Bollywood cinema, comic books, iconic Hindu goddesses etc. The artist creates cross-cultural narratives about sexuality and power that may smartly fit in comic book frames wherein interior thoughts are revealed in bubbles or hover in psychedelic space - as in her wall installations- with three-dimensional elements that tend to protrude into contemporary reality.

Another significant body of work at London-based Tate Modern by US artist Taryn Simon draws its title from the series on a faceless person from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. ‘A Living Man Declared Dead & Other Chapters’ produced over a time span of four long years starting 2008, saw Simon crisscrossing across the globe, meticulously researching and documenting bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the ‘chapters’ that collectively reflect the crux of the series, the external forces of circumstance, religion, territory or power collide with the internal forces of physical and psychological inheritance. The subjects documented include feuding families, victims of genocide in Bosnia, the sufferings of people in Brazil, and the ‘living dead’ in India.

Her pointed artistic comment, which maps the complex relationships among the various components of fate, is at once arbitrary and cohesive. Shivdutt Yadav’s depiction is a case in point. A column in The UK Independent by reviewer Laura McLean-Ferris explains: “The poor fellow discovered that he and his family members had been listed as dead; the land ownership transferred to other relations. Simon has documented that they’re very much alive.” Among the images present on the footnote panel is something chilling, albeit attention-grabbing - A body, dead from leprosy floats in the River Ganges – one bleached white, the eyeballs swollen and pale, the face almost turned black with blood.

Curiously, an off-beat exhibit, entitled ‘Bollywood Cinema Showcards: indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s’, is a vivacious visual journey through the history of Hindi movie advertising. The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents the North American debut of this show curated by Deepali Dewan. She elaborates, “The idea is to explore the evolution of a specific form of advertising associated with the Hindi commercial cinema. This combine of paint and photography encompasses a unique aspect of South Asian visual culture. They were originally produced by local artists but usually thrown out at the end of a film’s run. It is remarkable that this collection has survived at all.”

Last but not the least, through painting, sculpture, photography and installation, ‘One, Another’ at the New York based Flag Art Foundation explores coupling and interconnectedness in the realms of love, nature and spirituality. The separation of the two words by a comma emphasizes the distinction of a whole and its parts. Emanating from the painting, ‘The Lovers’ (1963) by Remedios Varo, the exhibit incorporates reoccurring motifs of mirrors, nature, cosmos and existential forces to investigate themes such as transformation, sexuality, love, narcissism and identity. Apart from several internationally renowned artists, Subodh Gupta also forms part of the show curated by Stephanie Roach.

The interesting exhibitions divulge diverse curatorial practices that exude tradition and modernity, blend religion and technology, signifying spirit of contemporary India.