New Zealand’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery recently concluded its fifth show in an exhibition series on contemporary Asian art.
“Sub-Topical Heat: New Art from South Asia” closed on 4 November 2012 at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand. Nine South Asian artists showcased their artworks, a selection that included artist books, drawings, installations, miniature paintings, sculptures, photography, photo-media and video art.
“Sub-Topical Heat”: Regional concerns
“Sub-Topical Heat: New Art from South Asia” forms part of a series of contemporary Asian art exhibitions held at the Govett-Brewster in Taranaki, a city on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. As Director Rhana Devenport explained in an email interview with Art Radar,
The series began with the former Director Greg Burke with two exhibitions, ‘Media Arena: Contemporary art from Japan’ and ‘Transindonesia’. Over the last six years since I became director we have presented ‘Activating Korea’, followed by ‘China in Four Seasons’ and now ‘Sub-Topical Heat: New Art from South Asia’ at the gallery. ‘New Nature’ in 2007 presented artists drawn from the Asia and Pacific region whose work addressed a common thematic concern. ‘Sub-Topical Heat: New Art from South Asia’ [is the] the fifth in a series of exhibitions on contemporary Asian art by the gallery.
The nine selected South Asian artists in this exhibition are Bani Abidi, Sheba Chhachhi, N S Harsha, Raking Leaves (a publishing house), Naeem Mohaiemen, Imran Qureshi, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Sharmila Samant and Gigi Scaria. In the interview, Devenport spoke about the selection of artists and artworks for the exhibition,
For ‘Sub-Topical Heat’ the criteria was first an engagement in topics of urgent concern both regionally and internationally; second I was looking broadly at the region to be able to present a diversity of approaches to artistic practice and art form investigation; and third there was a strong desire to present artists who were unknown to New Zealand audiences. … Artists from South Asia have been rarely seen in New Zealand to date and this exhibition goes some way to redress that.
She also discussed the double-meaning behind the exhibition name ‘Sub-Topical Heat’:
The [exhibition] title references the considered attention by many artists in the region to topics of urgent discussion such as access to clean water, the introduction of genetically modified food, the place of political protest, violence, rapid urbanisation and globalisation. The play with the word ‘sub-tropical’ is intended to present a double take on superficial readings of this complex region, and to suggest that the works themselves can be read on multiple levels…, which register on many levels of research, inquiry and sensory encounter.
“Sub-Topical Heat”: Artists and artworks
Below we bring you selected images from the exhibition accompanied by a brief biography of each artist provided by Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
Bani Abidi (b. 1971)
Abidi divides her practice between Karachi and New Delhi, India. She explores political and social issues surrounding her cultural and national heritage through documentary-style performative video and photographic works. Investigating the problematic political realities in Pakistan and India, Abidi looks at the processes and construction of political histories and tensions against similarities between nations in a contemporary global context.
Sheba Chhachhi (b. 1958)
Chhachhi’s practice traverses the fields of documentary photography and multimedia installation. Simultaneously a protagonist and chronicler of the women’s movement in India, Chhachhi investigates the politics of representation, social violence, cultural memory, and analyses the devastating consequences of rapid hyper-urbanisation in India.
N S Harsha (b. 1969)
Harsha uses a variety of media – figurative painting and drawing, sculpture, multimedia installations and community-based collaborations – to investigate relationships between contemporary globalisation and the human condition. His works embrace modern Indian narratives to present commentaries and observations on social and political issues such as the collision and synchronisation of cultures, human labour and rights.
Raking Leaves (est. 2005)
Independent publisher Raking Leaves commissions contemporary international artists to create art projects in the form of books and special editions. Founder/Director and curator Sharmini Pereira established Raking Leaves as an alternative to the exhibition format, with the aim of providing other strategies through which contemporary art can be created, viewed and collected.
Naeem Mohaiemen (b. 1969)
Mohaiemen works in Dhaka and New York, using essays, photography and film to explore histories of the international left, hyphenated migrant identities and utopia-dystopia slippage. He also works on activist projects, exploring the contradictions between Bengalis in marginal migrant status in North America and Europe, and majoritarian (and authoritarian) status inside Bangladesh.
Imran Qureshi (b. 1972)
Qureshi rejuvenates the Mughal heritage of miniature painting from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, reclaiming the tradition’s original function as a narrator of contemporary society. He produces social, political and cultural commentary in elegant, abstract, figurative and realistic forms. Political tensions, violence and social conditions with universal familiarity are rendered in delicate repetitions of symbolic foliage and layering of colour.
Nusra Latif Qureshi (b. 1973)
Qureshi recontextualises traditional Mughal painting techniques to articulate present day ideas about migrant identity, engaging in unexpected ways with the complex visual histories of South Asia. She intertwines past and present, rearranging a fragmented history to construct new narratives. Interspersing the imagery and language of Mughal miniatures with symbols of power and freedom from both her native land of Pakistan and adopted land of Australia, she questions what constitutes cultural history and identity for diasporic communities.
Sharmila Samant (b.1967)
Samant uses her multi-disciplinary art practice – installations, objects, photographs and video works – as a vehicle for social justice and change. Her socially engaged works explore justice within local, global and environmental contexts. She uses her art practice and the capacity of the art gallery to intervene, raise awareness and engender social change. She explores how indigenous identities can be sustained in the face of consumer culture, colonisation and migration and the impacts of these on the integrity of the landscape.
Gigi Scaria (b. 1973)
Scaria’s art practice focuses on the rapid transformation of cityscapes to investigate and the critique political, economic and geographical territories and the realities of present-day Indian mega-cities. … Concerned with global impacts on personal/private and social/public spaces, he analyses urban architecture to investigate the chaotic demolition and ruthless displacement throughout poor urban areas.
Did you visit “Sub-Topical Heat” at the Govett-Brewster? Would you like to see more South Asian art exhibited in the Oceanic region? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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