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On the road to Romania

The works of seven artists from the State areheaded for a festival in Romania

The works both attack and provoke the senses.

ARAD, THE capital city of Arad Jude{scaron} county, western Romania, may not figure prominently on any tourist map. But it has quite a bit of interesting history tucked under its belt. Located in the lower Mure River valley close to the Hungarian border, the city's first documented mention dates back to 1156. Once a Roman outpost, then a Turkish territory, it later came under the control of Austria. During the Hungarian rebellion of 1848-49, it was captured by the Hungarians who made it their headquarters. After the rebellion was put down, with the assistance of Russia, 13 Hungarian generals ("the martyrs of Arad") were executed there on October 6, 1849. Arad became part of Romania after World War I and was named a county capital in 1919. Now the artists of Karnataka are forging links with this historical place. Conceived by a consortium (made up of the Arad County Council, the Arad City Hall, the Vasile Goldi West University of Arad and Terra dell'Arte Association, Italy), The Arad International Biennale of Contemporary Arts aims to stimulate the development of contemporary arts by creating an environment of dialogue and exchange of ideas among artists from all over the world.

First edition

The first edition of the biennale is being hosted in May this year. It is being coordinated by a 15-member International Artistic Committee, which includes our own well-known painter Yusuf Arakkal.

Seven other artists from Karnataka are taking part in the biennale. Although they have not chosen a single theme to work upon, their works collectively have a well-orchestrated idiom, combining their local concerns with global vision. There are also instances where the troubled times we live in are thoughtfully and eloquently probed.

K.T. Shiva Prasad, known as much for his social and political activism as his creative endeavours, has come up with a work titled Scape. In the foreground is set a laidback sea sequence with wooden boats, fluttering flags, and hovering white clouds against a deep blue sky. The upper half of the vertical frame features snow-capped mountains, intriguing both by their gigantic presence and inverted pretence. Between these two incongruous settings of the cool mountain range and the seafront stands a huge crocodile-like battleship. Its presence is quiet, and yet disturbing, particularly with a clutch of ready-to-attack airplanes on it coming into view. With its deceptively calm façade, which also hides a feeling of anger and anxiety, Scape is a fine example of the artist making a strong comment without reducing it to a slogan.

T.M. Azis's image, depicting two modern day warriors seen in encounter with each other, is held together by its dense structure, intense colour tones, and contrasting moods. Two crouching figures watching the conflict with disinterest add their own imprints.

C.F. John's work is a collage of political impressions, placing on the national map a variety of images and newspaper headlines of temple stampede, Godhra train blaze, and international military alliances. Shantamani's Reconstructing Venus is a curious assemblage combining complimentary and disparate elements of human anatomy and natural landscape, while Shibu Arakkal's photograph holds a lyrical note on mood and motion.

Ravi Kashi's delightful painting is one of action and colour. Divided into two parts, the upper portion shows a jumping figure in a moment of ecstasy, briefly conquering gravity, while the bottom half has the spring board with a small computer icon clicked on it. Rendered with a stark yellow background which includes symbolic pot-shots at computers, the work revels in its design and intrigue.

A teaser

Babu Eshwar Prasad's video, Dus Ka Bees, is a fascinating journey into our film culture which swamps our cultural map. A stunning audio-visual teaser, worked with a rapid-fire swiftness, the work has painstakingly jerry-rigged the film poster in its variegated forms, including the blatant sex and violence motifs and senseless romantic interludes. Edited and sound-mixed to near perfection, the video attacks and provokes the senses.

A preview of these works is being held at Galerie Sara Arakkal till March 9.


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