As part of the UK-India year of culture, Mumbai-based gallery TARQ presented the work of three Indian artists last month, at Swiss Cottage Gallery, London.
Following the closure of the exhibition, Art Radar considers the profiles and practices of these three emerging artists.
“This Burning Land Belongs To You” brought together the work of Soghra Khurasani, Rithika Merchant and Ronny Sen, who work across multiple media and together, create an illuminating cross-section of the types of work being produced in India and South Asia today.
Designed to resonate with both Indian and UK audiences, the works displayed addressed themes related to environment, migration and the persecution of minorities. Working across printmaking, painting a
On the exhibition, gallery Having studied between London and India I find it fascinating how often artists in both countries are concerned about very similar, social and political issues, relating to the environment, migration and the persecution of minorities. It’s been a fantastic experience working with the team at the Swiss Cottage Gallery to discover this, and to make sure that the artworks reach as many people in London as possible, especially since we all have more in common than we think.
This sense of a common thread connecting artists and artworks is strongly felt in the exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery. Whilst Ronny Sen‘s photographs look at environment degradation and the impact that has on living environments and homes, the practice of Rithika Merchant considers migration, and the act of moving from place to place. Alongside this, Soghra Khurasani looks at the changing realities for minorities in the place of their birth.
Here, Art Radar profiles the practice of these three artists, and their work as part of “This Burning Land Belongs to You”.
1. Soghra Khurasani
Vadodara-based artist Khurasani, born in 1983, focuses on the medium of printmaking, particularly woodcuts and etchings. Solo shows include her most recent exhibition “Lay in the Midst of Local” at Gallery OED, Kochi, in 2016, her debut solo show “One day it will come out” at TARQ Gallery, Mumbai, 2014, and “Reclaiming Voices”, curated by Noman Ammouri at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hyderabad (2014).
From depicting storms and blood cells, to sculptural forms that seem biomorphic and reminiscent of body parts, her works resonate with a sense of repetition, as Khurasani’s materiality and mark making become an integral part of the piece. This was seen in her 2014 exhibition at TARQ gallery, where her prints depicted rivers of molten lava filled with red blood cells, as once intriguing and foreboding. Today, she continues to explore the analogies between landscapes and the female body, as part of her crater series. She discusses:
I started working on craters in my recent Solo show at TARQ, it looks at the form of craters as well as the form of blood ponds which represents relationships between life, death, beauty, healing and reformation. It is more about stillness of presence and peaceful protest of silence. I mostly work in printmaking mediums like Woodcuts and Etching prints, as my ideas get more freedom of handling on a bigger surface. Cutting on woodblocks or drawing on zinc plates have a more spontaneous flow, I work on hard surfaces hitting tools very hard on wood, but when the print is taken it transforms into sensitive lines and shades on paper.
2. Ronny Sen
Sen was born in 1986 in Silchar, Assam, but moved to Salt Lake City, Calcutta in the early 90s, where he is still based. He represented India at the World Young Artists Event in Nottingham (2012) and was the recipient of the Jenesys Creators’ Programme for an artist residency in Japan, on invitation by The Japan Foundation (2012).
Previous solo residency exhibitions have included one at TARQ, Mumbai, and another in Latitude 28, New Delhi. His photographs are included in the permanent collection of the Alkazi Collection of Photography. In the year 2016, he won the Getty Images Instagram Grant for his work End of Time in the Jharia coal mines.
This seminal project, titled The End, focused on a coal city in Jharkhand, and its residents. One of india’s largest coal fields and host to one of the longest running, underground fires in the world, Sen’s works capture a sense of haunting beauty alongside a sense of apocalyptical dystopia, or as his title suggests: the end of the world.
Sen’s work takes the form of a photo-book around the photo-book, blending art with reportage. Oscillating between epic and cinematic, to works that focus on political events and individuals (Sen was commissioned to photograph the Indian General Elections in 2014), his works often need a closer look: the sense of space and airiness, perhaps first perceived by visitors viewing his Jharia works, quickly collapse into landscapes of desolation.
As Sen told Art Radar:
What happens when we have extracted everything from the world? What remains after that, is what I am interested in here. My attempt was to look at the landscape, the people and objects from as far as possible in the coal fields of Jharia where an underground fire has been burning for more than a century. It’s about clinically looking at survival, in an apocalyptic landscape.
3. Rithika Merchant
Born in Mumbai in 1986 and now living in Barcelona, Merchant studied at Parsons at The New School, New York in 2008. Merchant has had two solo shows in Mumbai, “Origins of Species” in 2011, and “Mythography” in 2013. Underpinning these exhibitions and her practice, is her exploration of myth, and its propensity to draw cultures and civilizations together. She explains:
Aimed at solving contemporary strife created by a conflict of civilizations. I seek to negate this strife by locating a mythic strain of unanimity. Each piece invites the viewer to stitch together their own narrative, drawing on collective memories and signifiers to generate meanings.
I am so pleased to be a part of the UK-India year of culture, as I truly believe that mixing and allowing two cultures to each be influenced by the influx of another is key to the survival of both cultures.
Merchant’s works have a semantic depth to them, using rich colours alongside developed and detailed iconography and symbolism, to produce universal messages and meaning. Muti-layered with complex cultural references, there is a strong sense of narrative running through her practice, reinforced by the more explicit messages provided through her titles.
The universality of these works can be explained through her own personal experience; in an interview with Melt, Merchant suggests how her own experience living and travelling across cultures, has informed her work:
The combination of having grown up in India, studied in the U.S.A, travelling extensively and finally settling in Europe, is the reason for my interest in the links between cultures. I’ve been lucky enough to have explored different cultures to observe them. Both Europe and India have such a mixture of different traditions, it has helped me see parallel histories everywhere. The history of myth and traditions shows links between cultures that often isn’t highlighted in classical history.
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- Curating the contemporary biennial: Ranjit Hoskote at Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2014 – video – October 2014 – Indian cultural theorist, poet and curator talks about curating contemporary art at the Experimenter Curators’ Hub (ECH) 2014
- 6 artists contemplate freedom in “Waiting for the Wind” – in pictures – March 2014 – an exhibition in Kolkata delves into issues of militarisation, violence, captivity and freedom through the work of 6 artists
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