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Honouring the modern artist

HE HAS been called the enfant terrible in the world of art, but soft-spoken and diminutive, Bose Krishnamachari is not one to feel the weight of epithets; he wears them with a devil may care attitude and speaks with candour. And so it was no surprise that he stunned a milling audience who had gathered for his exhibition at Durbar Hall with, "I am shocked that even in a gallery of this stature there is no awareness of exhibiting works in a contemporary fashion." There was so much that was wrong. He spelt out the poor lighting in the hall, the obscure manner of hanging pictures, concluding the diatribe with, "it's a pretty clumsy way of showing art."

Bose should know. His enterprise, consisting of pencil portraits of 94 contemporary Indian artists was earlier exhibited in Mumbai's Sakshi Art Gallery, where these pictures, identical in their size and framing, were installed on the wall with hinges to take the effect of leaves from a book. As the visitor walked from one frame to the next he was conscious of flipping a page. It is a compilation of all the artists that Bose feels have contributed in the development of contemporary Indian art. These include Atul Dodiya, Bikash Bahattacharjee, Kanai Kunjhiraman, Ganesh Pyne and Bose himself, amongst the many others.

The exhibition's title, De Curating - Indian Contemporary Artists, naturally elicits the question `What is de curating?' "It's my take on the lack of honesty within the area of curatorship in India. Artists have taken the back seat while most of all curatorship is gossip-based promotion." It doesn't take long to realise that Bose is serious about documentation, borne out of his concern at the impermanence of memory. Since "end of memory is death" he is constantly trying to record things and make them worthy museum pieces. Added to this is his interpretation of the state of Indian contemporary art which is more like a trans-global hotchpotch, "wherein we are losing our indigenousness."

Three years ago, armed with his camera and lots of roll Bose travelled extensively, culling out artists and clicking pictures of all those who he felt had had a role to play in the flowering of modern Indian art. It took him six months to reproduce these photographs into drawings, which are now put up for review. A companion to the exhibit is a book by the same name as the exhibit, which was released by acclaimed filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. "It is a happy coincidence that I inaugurated Bose's first exhibition here in Kochi itself and now I'm here to release his book." Mr. Gopalakrishnan, who admits to getting his inspiration from the visual arts says, "Bose's current exhibit can truly be called monumental. What is exciting is that the portraits are not mere replicas of the photographs but contain a part of Bose's own personality. The artist's role does not stop at the plane of conception or search, his art is a work in progression."

What is worth noting is that each artwork is meticulously framed. The portraits are mounted on gold and silver leaf and the name of the artist is stuck under the portrait. Each frame is marked ICA, for Indian Contemporary Artist, and the year 2003 is written to the side. Bose pulls all stops to ensure that the show encapsulates his belief in these men and women, and whose contributions he wants to attest. In his book, the portrait is accompanied by a short write up about the artist in question. Earlier, Bose had posed the query, "How is your personal or collective memory or history manifested in your work?" Some responded. These statements too find mention. Definitely, definitely a must see, the show is on till the July 26.


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