INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITIONS LONDON VIDEO
Between January and May this year, Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat displayed seven pieces, paintings, sculptures and installations, at Saatchi Gallery, London with 23 other contemporary Indian artists in an exhibition called “The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today”. In a video produced by The Economist titled “Jitish Kallat: perspectives on modern Indian art”, Kallat discusses his and the other artists’ work from this exhibition.
In the video, Jitish Kallat reveals what it is about contemporary Indian art that makes it so interesting for him; Indian art today is influenced by almost every aspect of Indian culture and the repositioning of the country on the global map is aiding the development of the art scene.
“The Empire Strikes Back” shows different contemporary Indian artists expressing political statements through their work. The pieces “actually travel and gather art miles…and as they gather art miles in different locations they share and gain meaning.” For Jitish, this repetition of artists’ intentions through different cultural stimulants in different parts of the world remains a great area of interest.
As people around the world are able to access different cultures more easily they feel more empowered to deconstruct the culture code from different places around the world. However, as he states in the video, Jitish Kallat feels that “the world has this peculiar ghostly sense of sameness within which these objects travel with baggage of tales and stories and meanings and metaphors and I think I find this process exciting, challenging and also instructive.”
The first piece discussed by Kallat in the video is Eruda (2006, black lead on fibreglass, 419 x 169 x 122 cm). Eruda is a massive black lead sculpture, the development of which stemmed from a series of photographs of boys selling popular books at the traffic lights. As Kallat relays in the video, this boy represents the spirit of the city, most particularly the quintessential Indian city of Mumbai.
Related to Eruda, Kallat’s “Eclipse” series of paintings also capture these boys smiling back. The paintings represent someone who not only lives in Mumbai but is themselves a portrait of the city. One of the images in the video reveals that the hair of each boy almost merges together and is actually made up of interconnecting images of people and streets. As Kallat states on the video, this is meant to show that “everyone who lives in the city of Mumbai is somehow tied into one conjoint reality.”
Public Notice 2 (2007, 4,479 fibreglass sculptures, dimensions variable) is an installation using words from Mahatma Ghandi’s historic 1930’s speech. For Kallat, given the everyday rhetoric that has created some sort of terror-affected world, voices such as Ghandi’s become carriers of a message that can help overcome the foolishness of the contemporary world. The piece is large in size which, for Kallat, is central to the creation of the meaning of the piece. However, once the video moves in to focus on the letters it becomes clear that each alphabet is a sculpture of a letter morphed out of bones.
The final piece in the video, Death of Distance (2007, black lead on fibreglass, a rupee coin and five lenticular prints, sculpture 161 cm diameter, prints 46 x 60 cm), refers to two texts that entered the public domain around the same time. The first is the story of a girl who committed suicide because her mother could not give her one rupee for a meal in school due to extreme poverty. The second article is a press release by a telecommunications company which claimed the “arrival of new India.” The press release famously called this event “the death of distance in India” and stated that it would now cost only one rupee to call from any part of India to another.
The installation includes five frames carrying both texts on each frame. They flip according to where you stand. It also includes a coin of one rupee enlarged to a size of an average person from India. Kallat states in the video that the flipping texts “become like reality in India itself: [the] India you see on that day depends on where you stand at that particular moment.”
Jitish Kallat was born in Mumbai in 1974. He received his BFA in painting from Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art and his work has been exhibited worldwide, appearing in New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Madrid, Zurich, Amsterdam, Mumbai, and New Delhi.
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