Inaugural exhibition seeks to spark dialogue through region’s contemporary art practices. 

Kolkata’s Ganges Art Gallery hosts the first in a series of exhibitions taking an in-depth look at South Asia from its past to its complex present and beyond. 

Aye Ko, 'Transfixed Look', 2010, digital photographyl 20 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Aye Ko, ‘Transfixed Look’, 2010, digital photography, 20 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist.

“Things Lost/Remembering the Future” is a pan-South Asian exhibition curated by visual artists Kurchi Dasgupta and Amritah Sen. The exhibition at the Ganges Art Gallery concludes on 20 April 2017. A presentation by Kala-Bhavana, Visva Bharati University senior lecturer Soumik Nandy Majumdar will be on 8 April 2017. 

Pala Pothupitiye, 'Fractured Prosperity', 2017, Ink on paper, 16 x 20 in. Image courtesy that artist.

Pala Pothupitiye, ‘Fractured Prosperity’, 2017, ink on paper, 16 x 20 in. Image courtesy that artist.

The inaugural show brings together work from 14 performance and visual artists including Ashmina Ranjit (Nepal), Aye Ko (Myanmar), David Alesworth (Pakistan), Huma Mulji (Pakistan), Maimoona Hussain (Maldives), Mustafa Zaman (Bangladesh), Pala Pothupitiye (Sri Lanka), Rahraw Omarzad (Afghanistan), Sunil Sigdel (Nepal), Tayeba Begum Lipi (Bangladesh), Thisath Thoradeniya (Sri Lanka) and Thyitar (Myanmar), as well as the two curators.

Kurchi Dasgupta, 'Displaced', 2017, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Kurchi Dasgupta, ‘Displaced’, 2017, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Exhibition co-curator Kurchi Dasgupta (b. 1974) is an Indian national who moved to Nepal in 2005. Dasgupta holds an advanced degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. In addition to being a visual artist, Dasgupta also writes about contemporary art for several print magazines and e-journals, including Frieze Magazine, Hyperallergic and the Asian Art News.

Dasgupta’s artwork is a response to modern-day life. Often, topics are referenced and located on the internet and address “whatever issue was bothering me most at that moment”. The artist’s work has been shown in India, London, Qatar and Nepal.

Amritah Sen, 'Lost Times', 2017, hand constructed flip-flop book, water colour, found paper collage and memories on Fabriano paper 5 x 5 in (folded). Image courtesy the artist.

Amritah Sen, ‘Lost Times’, 2017, hand constructed flip-flop book, watercolour, found paper collage and memories on Fabriano paper, 5 x 5 in (folded). Image courtesy the artist.

Amritah Sen (b. 1973) successfully earned her BFA and MFA from Kala Bhavana Visva Bharati University, West Bengal and is based in Kolkata. According to a press pack for the exhibition, Sen prefers to work through quiet observation and is a “hunter” of stories:

Amritah Sen investigates the personal, and brings it to the public realm. She collects private stories from different places on a particular theme and creates books that explore whether certain basic emotions can actually bind people across man-made barriers and differences.

Mustafa Zaman, 'Witnessing the Witnesses', 2015, digital print on archival paper, 23 x 25 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, ‘Witnessing the Witnesses’, 2015, digital print on archival paper, 23 x 25 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Both Dasgupta and Sen hail from Kolkata, the former capital of British India and an important cultural hub for many years. Sen spoke to Art Radar about why the location for the inaugural exhibition was particularly relevant:

For us it was absolutely crucial that we start this from Kolkata, as it is the home town for both of us. The city had been a cultural hub of India for many decades holding stalwarts of every genre of art. Lately, particularly in the field of visual art it is going thru a low period, and many of us over here are quite desperate to make the art scene palpable here once again.

Rahraw Omarzad, 'Gaining and Losing', 2012, single channel video 5mns 18sec. Image courtesy the artist.

Rahraw Omarzad, ‘Gaining and Losing’, 2012, single channel video, 05:18 min. Image courtesy the artist.

The strength of the show is demonstrated in its breadth of artists, some just recently out of school and others well-established. The artists represent countries reaching well throughout South Asia, ranging from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka. The fusion of techniques and talent is uniquely suited, as was indicated in the exhibition’s curatorial note, to reply to the region’s history:

The works were selected with an eye on the unexpected in terms of media and content. Some of the artists are globally established names, some are comparatively new, and a few are fresh graduates. Our one aim was to magnify those rare, incisive voices that are consciously commenting on, critiquing and resisting the xenophobic and gender-biased, mainstream idea of the region’s history. The other was to give space to the forgotten and the personal, hoping this would evolve into an inclusive identity map that differs from the currently available version.

Maimoona Hussain, 'Sculpture I', 2017, inkjet print on Hahnemuehle photo rag, 10 x 15 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Maimoona Hussain, ‘Sculpture I’, 2017, inkjet print on Hahnemuehle photo rag, 10 x 15 in. Image courtesy the artist.

The germination of the project came about over several years, with Dasgupta writing about contemporary artists for select publications and Sen travelling the Indian subcontinent, gathering stories for a personal art project. As Dasgupta told Art Radar, the exhibition was a natural next step once the two eventually met:

What became obvious during the curatorial process was that contemporary artists working in the region shared a certain common sensibility and understanding of history that informed their approach to and execution of artworks. And it was this ‘channel’ that was the first to open for us curators in the sense that we could see the artworks start speaking to each other without our intervention. Our job was to make visible, or point out, the threads and resonances along which they aligned themselves.

Ashmina Ranjit, 'Same River- but the Water?', 2016, single channel video 15 mns 34 secs. Image courtesy the artist.

Ashmina Ranjit, ‘Same River – but the Water?’, 2016, single channel video, 15:34 min. Image courtesy the artist.

This common ground shared by the fourteen artists examines the region’s political/historic reality through both private and public memory. The exhibition’s 26 pieces look at “loaded” topics such as child abuse, civil war, the injustices of the caste system and the region’s rush to forget the past in an effort to cleave towards the idea of progress and rapid modernisation.

David Alesworth, 'Record Room Series' (D46), 2008, archival Print on Hahnemuehle photo rag, 38 x 26 in. Ed. 2/5 + 2 AP. Image courtesy the artist.

David Alesworth, ‘Record Room Series’ (D46), 2008, archival Print on Hahnemuehle photo rag, 38 x 26 in. Ed. 2/5 + 2 AP. Image courtesy the artist.

Regardless of the rich dialogues that emerge from “Things Lost/Remembering the Future”, the curators hope that the exhibition will be a stepping-off point, with more to follow, including artists from the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. As Dasgupta relayed to Art Radar, this is just the beginning:

We are planning to start exchanges, residencies, discussions that will strengthen these dialogues and remap the routes along which cultural exchanges take place in the region. That will be the next step. We also hope to make the exhibition into a traveling one, usually with a slightly different list of artists and artworks. This will no doubt expand the scope for new perspectives to filter through.

Lisa Pollman


Related Topics: Afghan artists, Bangladeshi artists, Burmese artists, Indian artists, Nepali artists, Pakistani artists, Sri Lankan artists, historical art, identity art, gallery shows, events in Kolkata

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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