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Onward journey

"BA 142 — A Return Journey" features the works of ten artists, winners of the Charles Wallace scholarship

Jiten Solanki: adventurous urbanscape.

THE ENVELOPE received by this writer contained an invitation designed as boarding pass complete with a tear off. The concept behind the whole programme begins here — an exhibition of scholarship winners who would be winging their way to the United Kingdom, some of them for the first time.

The ideated invitation was for the Charles Wallace India Trust [CWIT set up in 1981] scholarship's selected candidates' [2004-2005] exhibition, being conducted by the British Council. The award is named after a British businessman in India who died in 1916, bequeathing a huge legacy, part of which was willed to the people of undivided India with a philosophy that "all possessions great or small, being acquired from or through the people, as mine were, should return to the people."

The selected artists of this show, whose works, on the basis of which, they won the scholarship are Anil Kumar for curation, Bandeep Singh for photography, Chintan Upadhyay for painting, Danish Iqbal for theatre, Ganesh Selvaraj for printmaking, Jiten Solanki for music, Priya Pereira for book making, Ranjani Shettar for visual art, Shristi Rana for textile designing and Vinod Daroz for ceramics.

Common link

The commonality running through all these artists' works is the connectivity with materials, which traditionally have had a specific domestic function, but have been dexterously transformed as works of art. These materials are as fragile as smoke either of cigarette or incense [Bandeep Singh], the sophisticated and timeless silk re-crafted with earthy colours into bed covers [Shrishti Rana], ordinary cotton cloth with fillings inside and surface ornamentation morphed into sea shells to serve as installation [Ranjani Shettar], the medicated cotton roll redefined into a spider web encased in glass [Ganesh Selvaraj], the earthy ceramic and stone wear with copper sulphate blue enhance the simple and ordinary shapes of the vases, bowls and large platters intimately associated with domestic use [Vinod Kumar Daroz], while floating forms of mannequins ubiquitous in city shop window displays take on a strange and ambiguous character as they get inscribed with details of nayikas from the Indian miniature tradition [Chintan Upadhyay]. The monochromatic music of Jiten Solanki is evocative of urban sights, while Priya Pereira's adventurous creativity in designing artistic books offers rich perceptions determined by contemporary vocabulary.

Chintan Upadhyay: mannequins and miniatures.

Bonds with roots

The concepts defined by various artists through their chosen medium have strong bonds to their roots though not necessarily through pictorial traditions or philosophies but expressed via the burgeoning mega urbanscapes in which they are embedded. The music of Solanki is a case in point, capturing the sights and sounds of city life or the mannequins of Upadhyay. Though the `reality' of India and Indian-ness is understood differently outside the subcontinent, the CWIT awardees face a challenge in projecting their contemporary outlook that is aggressively developed by the emerging young crop of artists in a globalised-local Indian space. This dimension is clarified in the curatorial note of Anil Kumar when he says, "they will find themselves in a complex position, feeling `foreign' in a multicultural nation where there is visually nothing foreign about them. At the same time their understanding and experience of contemporary Indian art frequently clashes with the projection of Indian-ness that European audiences more readily consume."

The exhibition titled "BA142 — A Return Journey" is on till September 25 at the British Council.


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