Faith in focus

At a time when everybody is taking note of the contemporary Indian art world and its engagement with urban issues, here is an exercise taking an alternative route. Touching the spiritual dimension of India, Martin Gurvich, Director, The Museum of Sacred Art (MOSA) in Belgium, together with Sushma K. Bahl, has created “Forms of Devotion: The Spiritual in Indian Art (2015 – 2020)”, a project that focuses on devotional and spiritual art of the nation. A grand exhibition, a book and a film will take a definite shape by next year and will then be launched in India at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The project will then travel for five years around the world before it reaches its destination, the Sacred Art Museum in Durbuy. “By then our permanent building to house the Indian collection will be ready where it will be exhibited,” says Martin, whose interest in Indian art was triggered after he joined ISKCON. Even in Durbuy, the museum is located within the ISKCON campus.

In the last few years, he has been guided by curator Sushma Bahl in this zeal. “I know there is a danger of it being looked at as archaic but these works raise questions about today. Each work was selected for the ethos it evoked. Vivek Vilasini’s work is about devotion and how we treat it. We have also broken down the compartments of tribal, folk, contemporary, new media, etc,” says Sushma, who adds that the planned book would also have similar content. “It has 12 essays by people like Devdutt Patnaik, who talks about popular culture; George Michell talks about sculpture and architecture, Mushirul Hasan will give a historical perspective on it.” The two-volume book titled “Forms of Devotion” designed as a boxed set of 500-plus pages each, will document a substantive collection of Indian art held in MOSA in Belgium and its branch in Florence, Italy.

The collection comprises around 200 artworks by more than 100 artists from different regions of India. The works have been culled out by the curators from the exhaustive collection of Martin that boasts over a thousand works. In varied media and mostly by living artists, there are paintings, drawings, collage, digital work, sculptures, installations, videos, films, as well as sound, interactive, site specific, and mixed media works by the likes of S.H. Raza, Satish Gujral, Shuvaprasanna and senior artists Paresh Maity, Yusuf Arakkal, Arpana Caur, etc.

“There are Warli artists, Madhubani art, miniatures by artists from Udaipur, Pichwais, Gond art, Tanjore works. There is a project on the Ganga that three women artists had exhibited at IGNCA last year which has digital art, photography ad sculptures. The project on Kabir by Shabnam Virmani has videos and photos so it is really an exhaustive collection. What’s unique about India is that modernism and past co-exist well. And no matter how far it goes in terms of progress, its connection with spirituality will never go away and a lot of people around the world are eager to know more about this. The project will cater to those people,” says Martin.

Other elements

It will also have a film, “Studios of Devotion” by Goutam Ghose, which will probe the ‘nature’ of devotion and artists who make devotional art. It will give a glimpse into their world capturing what it is that inspires them.

A festival of spiritual arts is also on the agenda which with its representation of various faiths and their aural traditions aims to encourage inter-faith dialogue.

The project will be launched in India in January 2015.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 5:43:35 PM |

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