Works of contemporary giants like Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta come to Chennai

Ashvita’s throws open the doors of its new art gallery with seminal works by some of India’s leading artists

September 23, 2019 04:56 pm | Updated 04:56 pm IST

Raw and relatable — these two words form a loop that echoes in my head as I walk into Ashvita’s recently-opened art gallery. Nothing about it looks like a typical gallery, be it the rough, cemented and seemingly ‘unfinished’ floor or the metal brackets that jut out in neat rows from the roof. These are a few of many elements that set the gallery apart from glitzy spaces that one usually associates with an exhibition, that reinforce the idea that most art caters to a niche audience.

Nestled inside the quiet premises of Seethapathy Hospital on Dr Radhakrishnan Salai, the white two-storeyed building is still undergoing some finishing touches. Grey concrete is everywhere. Small earthen lamps, on the unfinished verandah fashioned like a traditional thinnai , break the hue and welcome one into the gallery which opened with Savage Nobles, an exhibition curated by Peter Nagy, featuring the seminal works of five of India’s leading contemporary artists.

Plain, white and brick-layered walls are complemented by other, glass ones, through which one is introduced to small gardens — needless to say, natural light is in abundance. “Art is best shown against a grey or a white background — anything that’s neutral makes the colour in the work pop out. The building itself encompasses various aspects of Madras’ architectural heritage, including the courtyard through which you walk in. Almost every element is from an ancestral home. So, the idea was to get people to walk through the traditional elements to enter a contemporary space which is the gallery,” says Ashvin E Rajagopalan, co-founder of Ashvita’s which has been functional as an online gallery and auction house since 2018.

In addition to it being a gallery, Ashvin says that the space will be used to promote art education through specially curated programmes, including talks and panel discussions. “Whenever there is an auction, a preview of sorts will be arranged in this space, where people can have a look at the actual physical items.”

I enter the space to find a LN Tallur’s Spiritual Calibrator — a seminal work featuring the sculpture of an idol, wound by coils of galvanised wire, a powerful statement at that. On the opposite wall is Bharti Kher’s circular work — comprising bindi s on painted board — Algorithm for Making Snow in Delhi Summer . Surrealistic works by Thukral and Tagra, the artistic duo comprising Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra, follow. Subodh Gupta’s work with utensils stand out as installations and renditions in acrylic on canvas, one of which, titled Brass Thali Always Has Mystery , draws me in with its gyre-like structure. Jitin Kallat’s series The Hour of the Day of the Month of the Season is replete with little notes in pencil that clearly mark out the angles drawn with a compass.

Savage Nobles is an interesting mix of contemporary work, which the city does not get to see much of. These artists are well-known in India but rarely seen in Chennai, as curator Peter Nagy puts it. He does not pre-plan shows — “ I hang them according to how they adapt to the space, and secondly, how they relate to each other.”

Speaking of the inception of this display, Nagy continues, “I wanted to show works that may not be so expected by these artists, at least to the gallery audience in Chennai.

The artists are well known, but the works chosen for the exhibition show different facets of their production and hopefully may be surprising to some people. The idea was to show that even though these artists may be very established [nobles, in a sense], they still challenge themselves within their practices and works, taking risks and trying new things [being ‘savage’].” And, hence the name.

Savage Nobles will be on display till October 15 at Ashvita’s gallery at 4, Second Street, Dr Radhakrishnan Salai, Mylapore, from 11 am to 7 pm.

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