Frontlist | A new art exhibition reflects on pandemic experiences of people

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Opening new art spaces amid pandemic has its set of challenges. Just a few days before gallerist and art curator Ashna Singh could announce the opening of her new gallery in March 2020, the entire country went into lockdown and, hence, self-isolation. Singh, also a musician with a spiritual bent of mind, used this opportunity to turn her gaze inwards and curate a show that reflects the sense of quietude and self-examination that all of us have experienced in some measure over the last year. Featuring new artworks by Baiju Parthan, Khalil Chishtee, Megha Joshi, Pooja Iranna, Ranbir Kaleka, Remen Chopra W Van Der Vaart, Shivani Aggarwal, Sharmi Chowdhury, TV Santosh and Veer Munshi, the group show — titled This and That — includes painting, video, sculpture and photography. It is on at Studio Art, W-16, Okhla Phase 2, New Delhi from March 12-May 15. (Source: Studio Art New Delhi/Instagram)

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Ashna Singh, director, Studio Art said: “The pre-covid world was a world of immense exposure and collaboration, yet the emphasis on success, competition and the desire to be visible may have depleted the self emotionally. This was ‘That’ time. Then there was social media that percolated lives and didn’t make it easier. One was visible but not present in the moment. Constant comparisons and possibly an assessment of one’s worth in the eyes of the world may have impacted inner peace and personal spaces. This was ‘That’ time’. Post covid, 2020 forced corrections upon the world, compelling many to face their inadequacies. This time was all factual where peace was being restored, not through compromises, adjustments or filling voids but by simplifying the unnecessary and understanding the essentials. This time brought about strength, a sense of freedom and a reintroduction to oneself. That is ‘This’ time. Our inaugural show This and That is an amalgamation of choices humanity has been gifted with.”(Source: Studio Art New Delhi/Instagram)

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Megha Joshi’s ink and watercolour titled Wavering Faith is about the need to prioritise one’s choices. The mental act of making a choice, to believe and to convert those into action has never been more important. In a fractured society, where one’s belief (in socio-religious and eco-political terms) is shattered daily and seldom restored, believing in anything firmly becomes even more difficult. “I have explored this concept through the abstracted metaphor of the rudraksha bead. The bead is the divided self, oscillating, rotating, trying to find order in chaos…in a perpetual motion of finding and losing faith.” (Source: PR Handout)

 

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Khalil Chishtee uses trash bags in sculptural works titled Unbearable Lightness of Being and Bedtime Ritual to speak about the transience of life. “Our smartphones are so efficient that information is just a click away. And yet most of the truths are hidden. For instance, we failed to see obvious signs of an impending pandemic. We live in the age of plastic and trash bags are the lowest form of it. My trash bags have the ability to hold the content of my work with so much love and care that it bends itself for me like clay or any other traditional modelling material. (Source: PR Handout)

 

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“My work is an attempt to connect two worlds together; the world of reality and fiction, the world that we live in and the world that lives within ourselves,” he added. (Source: PR Handout)

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TV Santosh’s sculpture in bronze is titled Obsolete Objects. Society is undergoing an enormous structural change forced by technological advancement and even though it has made hardships of manual jobs much easier to execute, on the flip side it has made people more and more dependent on it. Industrialisation and urbanisation have brought in a sense of alienation, making society more fragmented. Technology is fast progressing in a way, upgrading the existing systems, and in some cases even replacing the old one with a completely new system. In the process, the world is becoming more and more like a wasteland of obsolete electronic items. Says Santosh, “Today, we live in a world of use and throw culture. My generation has lived through a period of transition, from the era of the radio to the iPod, revolutionizing our approach to listening music. These two sculptures are a kind of re-imagined documentation of obsolete objects that have become part of nostalgia today.” (Source: PR Handout)

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Shivani Aggarwal’s sculptural work titled Hangers is an extension of the series of dysfunctional objects she has been creating for long now. The work questions how our state of being is compromised by situations and circumstances. A simple wooden hanger is pushed beyond its limits so that it changes its shape and purpose to become dysfunctional. The fragility of the object further adds to its loss of purpose. These hangers echo the ethos of the times we are living in where anything and everything loses its defined purpose due to situational intervention, whether economic or ecological or man-made. (Source: PR Handout)

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Sharmi Choudhury’s sculptural work titled Inner Conversation (Korean Hanji paper and painted wood) is a manifestation of an intimate dialogue and confrontation with the self. A self, which is an assemblage of numerous identities and complex, interlinked personal histories. “Material always gives me a support to build the images. My work is a metaphor for our life experiences.” (Source: PR Handout)

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Veer Munshi’s How green is my valley is a grid of 14 photographs and a video. It is Munshi’s experience of being in Kashmir on August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was scrapped and the communication blockade was imposed. “This led to mass migration to other states and reminded me of my youth when I had left the valley three decades ago,” says Munshi.

 

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Ranbir Kaleka’s video installation with digital collage on canvas titled Turbulence, Veiled, Un-veiled is about the relentless cycle of losing and reclaiming calm in our complex lives. (Source: PR Handout)

 

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Veer Munshi’s work displayed at the art studio.

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The painting (acrylic on canvas) titled Logos and Mythos (Soul’s Sacrifice) by Baiju Parthan depicts a collision between two mutually exclusive world views presented as patterns that overlap each other. Using Charles Darwin and Alan Turing as the main protagonists, the work is a comment about the old and the new, about the world of poiesis & mythos versus the world that is arranged and perceived through reasoning and logic. (Source: PR Handout)

 

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