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Art from an activist’s angle

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VARIED VISUAL LANGUAGE Davide with his installation
VARIED VISUAL LANGUAGE Davide with his installation

Davide Graziole’s installation, on display at Artworld, makes a powerful appeal for the preservation of the Earth

Art is a bridge across souls.”

The gallery space at Artworld offers a different aesthetic experience with an installation. The walls are painted with decorative clouds and the space further enhanced by skulls painted in watercolours, embroidered cloth wall hangings of a world map replete with ‘disturbed’ ocean currents and trees collapsing with decay.

Commanding centre stage is the installation created by Italian-born artist Davide Graziole who now lives in Berlin. The assemblage shocks because of the polarities of the objects used — the skulls and the lotus flowers. This is because Davide is an activist-artist, who believes in living his cause. Intensely passionate about addressing issues concerning preservation, he had worked towards this ideology in Chennai from 2003, when his works gestured towards preserving the skill and profession of billboard artists. Davide’s choice of Asia to advance his concepts is predicated on the confluence of spirituality and everyday life.

In the second series of works which he showcased at Bologna in 2006, Davide turned his attention to addressing the issue of preserving endangered species of animal life. The display here was a conglomeration of sculptural fragments — the horn of a rhino, the foot of a tiger or the other animals such as the elephant — together with embroidered wall hangings with a focus on the declining tiger population.

In this exhibition, Davide furthers his progression of ideas with the use of organic material to interface with the animal subject, which echoes the fragile balance of the animal world. Davide straddles the two worlds of Europe and Asia, creating a bridge between modernity and tradition, through which the versatility of his concepts finds varied visual language from painted art works and sculpture to installation and embroidery.

Each medium offers him a site and space that he links with his philosophy centred on ‘preservation’ and translates into imagery or form. This nomadic approach of Davide, investigating mediums across countries to fulfil his vision, allows his artistic journey to de-contextualise and demystify geographical locale and polity because his concerns are universal, affecting ‘life’ as a whole.

Save the earth

In this site-specific installation titled “Before we Go” at Artworld, Davide adds extra mileage to his ideology, by encompassing the living planet earth in his appeal for its preservation. His dramatic installation makes use of conventional material and iconography. The objects which he mediates with call attention to death and life, by using skulls and lotus. The former is a symbol of death while the latter is an important symbol in Indian philosophy representing eternity as well as the qualities of survival since the lotus grows in swamps and the murkiest of waters, and hence serves as an emblem of the productive powers of both spiritual and physical nature. By referencing this duality of eternity and mortality, Davide glances towards optimism and pessimism, clearly implying that Mother Earth is for us to save with concerted efforts.

The installation comprises 30 skulls (some with gold teeth) made of organic incense, spread on a carpet of 600 white lotus flowers. Davide’s use of the organic material myrrh in the making of skulls – a substance used by Egyptians and other ancient peoples for preservation, also associated with Christianity – becomes a symbol of rebirth and eternity. This makes the entire artistic creation fragile, indexing its impermanent nature, as the skulls are burnable therefore carrying in themselves the transience of being here, but potentially gone in smoke soon. The use of gold teeth implies the rampant consumerism and materialism that pervades every dimension of life. The laceration of the planet and its repercussions (embroidered world map with disturbing ocean currents) is passionately explored by Davide through his aesthetic sensibility, making an emotional appeal for its preservation. Says Davide, “Working with such a highly symbolic material as natural incense is an intense experience,” ending jokingly, “I am using a 4,000-year-old new medium.”

The exhibition is on at Artworld, Ganeshpuram till July 25.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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