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An iconic image inspires another masterpiece

Vishal Mathew
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“My works are more popular than I am,” said Bangalore-based multimedia artist Vivek Vilasini pointing to ‘Last Supper-Gaza’ the photograph that gained popularity in 2008 for capturing the plight of Gazans living in dread of an imminent strike from Israeli forces.

The photographic art being exhibited at the Aspinwall House as part of India’s first biennale is a recreation of da Vinci’s iconic ‘Last Supper’ featuring 13 models clad in burqas in place of Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples. The photograph was splashed across prominent newspapers the world over. The work was exhibited at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.

“The church’s decision to exhibit the work was gutsier than my decision to make the artwork,” said Vilasini.

The idea to give a voice to the cause of the people of Gaza was suggested by a friend after he saw Vilasini’s recreation of the ‘Last Supper’ featuring Kathakali artistes.

Vilasini realised that there was no semblance of peace in the land where Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, lived and preached.

The thought prompted Vilasini to shoot the photograph with the students of the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, as his models.

“I shot the image using a 45 mega pixel camera and employed a wide-angle lens and 13 lights to get the contours right. The dark background was prepared using charcoal,” said Vilasini.

Though the 48-year-old artist is primarily a sculptor, photography is his new-found passion. Vilasini’s take on ways of seeing, a series of 18 photographic works of art, is also being exhibited at the biennale, which is the fifth he is taking part in.

While Vivek Vilasini’s works is about using art to make a political statement, Mumbai-based artist Atul Dodiya’s exhibition is about the relationship between an individual and space.

A former laboratory at the Aspinwall House is the venue for Dodiya’s exhibition of still images titled “Celebration in a laboratory.”

A total of 231 photographs of artists from around the world are exhibited on the walls of the former laboratory.

“A photograph enables us to relive our memories and to cherish them. We honour a person by taking their photograph. The exhibition is all about juxtaposing the images of various artists in such a way that a chemistry is created between images and the viewer,” Dodiya said.

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