Indian artist Ashta Butail wins 5th edition of BMW Art Journey

The Indian artist represented by GallerySKE is the winner of BMW Art Journey 2017.

Ashta Butail won over shortlisted fellow artists Julian Charrière and Lin Ke, whose works were presented in the Discovery section at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2017.

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

The BMW Art Journey has been jointly presented by Art Basel and BMW since 2015 to recognise and support emerging artists worldwide. It is awarded twice a year, to artists exhibiting in the Discovery section at Art Basel in Hong Kong and in the Positions section in Miami Beach. For each iteration, an international jury selects three shortlisted artists who are invited to submit a proposal for a journey to develop their idea and work. The jury then will select the winner based on their project. Past winners include Samson Young (Hong Kong, 2015), German video artists Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr (Miami, 2015), British artist Abigail Reynolds (Hong Kong, 2016) and Max Hooper Schneider (Miami, 2016).

The winner of the fifth edition of the Journey was announced on 7 June and is Indian artist Ashta Butail, whose work was presented by GallerySKE (New Delhi, Bangalore) at Art Basel in Hong Kong in March 2017.

The international jury who selected Butail’s proposal was composed of Claire Hsu, Director, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; Bose Krishnamachari, President, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India; Matthias Mühling, Director, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich; Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator of Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Pauline J. Yao, Curator, Visual Art, M+, Hong Kong.

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

Who is Ashta Butail?

Ashta Butail was born in 1977 Amritsar, and now lives and works in Gurgaon, India. Her practice revolves around the use of geometry as a means of inquiry in order to understand how different elements of one single entity relate to the whole. In her work, she tackles themes of memory and time, notions of the archive and collaborative authorship, such as in her A story within a story (2012-ongoing) project, an archive of books filled by collective contributions by an audience invited to write, draw, engage and react to a note on a prompt card.

At Art Basel Hong Kong in 2017, Butail presented Turning towards pure white (2017), which included an assemblage of wall- and floor-based elements, framed panels, three-dimensional pieces and a participatory book.

Butail held her first solo exhibition at GallerySKE, and has exhibited in group shows at Experimenter in Kolkata, Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon and Masquelibros Artists’ Book Fair in Madrid.

Astha Butail, 'Turning Towards Pure White', 2017, presented in Art Basel Hong Kong's Discoveries by GallerySKE. Photo: Jessica Hromas for Art Basel.

Astha Butail, ‘Turning Towards Pure White’, 2017, presented in Art Basel Hong Kong’s Discoveries by GallerySKE. Photo: Jessica Hromas for Art Basel.

For her Journey, Butail has proposed a project entitled In the Absence of Writing, concerned with memory and living traditions passed down through teaching and oral poetry. The artist has described it as “a homage to the intangible oral traditions that are still alive today”. Butail started her research on systems of cultures in 2009, when she also began learning Sanskrit and subsequently memorised a collection of hymns. For her proposed journey, Butail plans to conduct an investigation into Zoroastrian Avesta, Jewish Oral Torah and Indian Veda traditions. She will observe and record the different memory techniques used in the three traditions, and she will interview scholars and practitioners of each one of them. Butail will travel through Yazd in Iran, Jerusalem in Israel, London in the United Kingdom, and Varanasi, Pune, New Delhi and Mumbai in her native India.

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

Ashta Butail. © Ashta Butail

The BMW Art Journey jury praised Butail for the multidimensionality of her proposal, stating:

We were struck by its sensitivity and range, and how it expands upon the artist’s prior practice of investigating her own history and identity. The journey brings together ethnography, spirituality, and sociology. We were especially taken by Astha Butail’s interest in tracking down endangered oral traditions, which she will document with the tools of an artist and interactions with scholars and spiritual leaders. In a digital age, when knowledge is fragmented, meaning is evanescent, and face-to-face contacts are fleeting, this project reconnects us to a slower world, where ideas were shared through deep and sustained personal interactions. Last but not least, we are excited that this Art Journey will bring the artist to regions that previous artists in the series have not yet visited.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Indian artists, art about memory, historical art, awards, art fairs, events in Hong Kong, news

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