A Part Apart - G. Mahesh & Raju Patel
opens 6 pm - 10pm
9 June 2016, Clark House Bombay
Art Night Thursday
Exhibition continues all days except Mondays from 10 June to 10 July 2016 11 - 7 pm.
curated by Venkatraman Divakar
Clark House commences on a path of curatorial projects by invited curators who dwell on questions of conceptualism, alternate art history and extending the reach of black arts particularly in the context of India and the diaspora. Accessibility, Immigration advocacy , Gender & Sexual freedoms , anti-caste and anti-racism become the points of departure for these projects. We hope to invite curators and artists from countries where artistic practice is precarious for reasons that may be political and economical to benefit from out ablities of hosting and low intensive production and outreach.
V. Divakar is the first of the curators invited to lead the inaugural project , Noman Ammouri from Hyderabad and Aryakrishnan Ramakrishnan from New Delhi will present their curatorial productions in the coming months.
V.Divakar is an art critic and curator based in Baroda, Western India. He began an experimental art space in Baroda calles Knots where he is a curator. ' The Baroda Pamphlet' a bimonthly edition on the arts that reflects on art practice, the confluences of art history and politics is edited by him. He is also the curator at the "Conflictorium- A museum of conflict" , Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Raju Patel ( Watercolour on Paper)
The art practice inculcated in the art schools since the colonial times and untill now have actually been able to systematically deny entry to communities who were the real practitioners of art from past. The artistic knowledge produced earlier were largely by the artisanal communities whose practice of art was not removed from their daily life. The setting up off modern art schools actually broke that relation between the individual and his surroundings and enabled in the production of artistic knowledge abstracted from the real life conditions of labour and life. If one could even gloss through the famous artists who are the champions of modernity one can easily make out quantitatively which community they belong to. The artisanal and the depressed classes who were the practitioners of the craft and art traditions are always referred to in anonymous terms to hide their actual caste status in the graded hierarchical system. The modern art practitioners clearly boast their caste status as the symbol of the cultured and modern values. The cultural capital which was inherited from the feudal era transformed into modern definition of taste not by updating and including everybody but by appropriating and destroying the communities which retained the artistic heritage.
In today's context too the same methodology continues but in even more sinister ways. The development of art market, the sprouting of numerous art schools, expansion of creative activities in every urban phenomenon, all but retained one thing, the graded caste hierarchy intact. The alternatives which have even sprouted questioning the economical disparities and social concerns in the aesthetic realm too have actually reinstated and strengthened the caste order but have not questioned it.
It's within such a clearly defined bhramanical aesthetic field today artists like Raju Patel and G.Mahesh assert their expression in their specific ways. Both these artists come from outside the bhramanic grades and belong to tribal and artisanal communities. The attempt here is however not to place their practice within this reduced identity as is the norm today. The attempt is to bring to fore the different spiritual universe they belong to as is seen in their respective expressions. One thread which may possibly bring together their works is their relation with the immediate and through it the spiritual. Each of them emphatically and sensitively subverts the exoticisation and eroticisation of the people they portray. However one can trace some references to schools and particular artists who are celebrated by the privileged they significantly differ from those references in their identification with the subject they treat. This subjective identification allows the spiritual to enter in the mundane and the ordinary as they see in their life and also in the works. It's exactly in this arrival of the spiritual, the humanity in their works bloom , breaking the aesthetic borders of differences and reduced identities that the art world and the society at large has imposed. And of course the spiritual as seen in their works and mentioned here doesn't belong to the scriptural traditions in this part of the world. They belong to the land, air, water and the living things that inhabit this world.
From the Margins to the Middle Path : Raju Bhai's other Path
( Published in Marg by Benoy P. J. )
When Buddhas wheel started turning
It was then that the fourth colour
On India's tricolor emerged as never before
And the sound of shoeless feet
Was heard as music
Like never before.
One of Raju Patel's basic innovations in the set of paintings exhibited here is his strategy of beginning with a tonally altered and slightly muddied set of basic colours. It is, one could say, the sign of the bhoomi sparsa that he has had, as a luminal being who has had occasion to experience life on an other plane. The yellow, the red, the blue or green that he work with are no more the same as those that are available readily on a European colour card. Neither are the people or objects that he depict in any way 'fine'. But to him their everyday lives and tribulations are worthy of a micro level attention and contemplation and a splendid source of spiritual and material plenitude that comes from a long tradition of joyous and godly existence. From his early days in Baroda, his works have exhibited a micro level consciousness about otherness and its earthly presence. As a person who has a slightly different body structure, and a slightly removed social address, he was able to fabulate these perceived distances from a benignly earthly and unadulterated spiritual position, without undue greediness and a simplicity that came from the heart of darkness. The art seldom was pretensive or high brow in its demeanour, and always exhibited the subtle awareness that it would have to shave of its brow if it did so. This did not come from a lack of training, skill or academic know how, but from a heightened consciousness that the 'genealogy' of the visual was not one that traced its 'lineage' through art works connected to one another, but that found its material from the entire universe of visual repertory of the infinite which it held with a certain wonder and humility. It refused to accept for truth the secondary status that the canons would confer it, because it was connected to the underground flows of a thousand rivers, and the flights and elevations of the hawks eye. It knew the worldly crawl of a snake as well as its many dances, because it had travelled its distances with its belly against the earth.
The 'Naga' and the 'naka' ( Paradise) were never entirely separated for him, because he also was connected by streams of blood to people everywhere. In the early works one would come across a pair of shoes that was made specially for him, with erotically inserted laces and movements that happened beneath the surface, something that was easily visible for another of his kind, but almost invisible for the gaze of pomp. In it there was a litany for the differently- enabled, a noble disregard for the hegemonic and condescendingly upturned noses of contemporary art. There was also a sense of the non representational, because it refused to fall in with the taboos both on abstraction and representation. The kid as well as the old woman has a presence in it, and it was aware of its many absences, calling them forth elsewhere, wherever and whenever it was necessary.
A little object like a small hand pump for spraying poison on mosquitos or bed bugs was significant enough for it, not because of some quest for a false pretense of microcosmic non aggression which brahminical purism tried to put in place, but due to a cosmic sense of interconnectedness, and brotherhood. No little being was to be entirely eradicated to facilitate for human medical touchiness, for the world had always had a larger logic and everything in it had its own worth. The skin was dark and brown in the sun, except in those who had succumbed to the pathological logic of dis-ease. The works have a certain ease and the people, a robust life that the inquisitive glasses and anal- eyes of materialist history couldn't meet, and ears in which the wind played its tune, and the turning of Buddhas wheel , the many bodhisatwas, and the womanly presences of earth and nature that embraced his creed. There was also a hand on the shoulder of the unseen that a dog on leash would fail to smell. The scooterist's noisy and smokey ride was very well there, as well as its 'civilizational' jargon, and its amnesias, there for a careful observer to perceive. One could see that the woman was carrying a bag in each hand, similar in its posture to V.V. Vinu's self portrait with plastic bags, or to a Raghunathan's pompous and sarcastic retort to it. It held both its material and human presence with a certain respect and regard, and saw through the avante -garde gambit of a high brow sarcasm directed at the commons. As an academically trained artist from a tribal background, Raju bhai could easily see through the prescriptive formulas that were attempting to stifle the art of a tribal, and could still establish a certain connection to the painting of Jangar Singh or Anand Singh Shyam, where it painted an aircraft or a car around which birds or semi -beings were left to linger.
The stylistic 'realism' of the painting was a thin veneer within which the kineticism of other lives was expressing itself, shrouded in a certain mystery. A Ramesh Tekam would probably recognize in it certain continuities and distinctions, though not the ones that a Bourdeiu's "Distinctions" would point out. You may not find in it Buribhai's , Nankhusia Vyam's , Ramsingh Urveti's, jaydev Baghel's or RajKumar's animals but still could perceive the vast emptinesses that have been left without detail by a cruel and segregating urbanism, which have undertaken to relegate the tribal to a life on the street side and in the slums, or turned them into victims of 'criminal' nomenclatures, devalued and humiliated, as in an 'Uchalya', which Raju bhai in his work undertakes to give details to. Being aware of the 'scales' that human beings were judged by in Brahminism, by taking recourse to an image from the movie 'Freaks', Rajubhai alludes subtly to the 'ritual status' of dalits in the Purusha sukta (not obviously written by some woman) and Manu's memories which somehow had legalized the violence of the urban pot holes (obviously housed by certain 'allegators' which some 'Pomo' Pynchon's have dreaded, but which were visible to 'The man who lived Underground'). It could also carry the memories of a prolific Dasharath, albeit in a certain realism, who maybe carrying a tiffin somewhere in the background. Somewhere in them we can find an opening to the contemporaneity of the middle path, refusing the machismo of futurism, racism and Nazism and the rotten puritanism of the feudatory classes.
Benoy P. J.
( love , Mahesh G watercolour on paper )
Mahesh G. ( Note on the artist by V. Divakar)
Mysore has an interesting relation with the artistic traditions in the region. Raja Ravi Varma known for modernizing the visuality of brahmanic gods and goddesses through his engagement with the western neo classical traditions has a lasting influence even today in the popular imaginations about the imagined hindu nation. Apart from that his attempts to popularize these westernized bhramanical deities through the mass produced oelographs had in a way helped in building up a consensus in the upper caste middle class for a sense of identification with the bhramanical fold elsewhere in the subcontinent. Though attempts have been made to read this mass reproduced imageries as precursors to the inculcation of the idea of nation, I would still attempt to see that this was probably the first modern visual strategy to religiously force upon the inhabitants of the geography with a thought that had to a certain extend no relevance or identification apart from within the privileged castes. My intention to talk about Raja Ravi Varma's artistic experiments through religion is particularly to talk about some visual stimulations that has informed the works of G. Mahesh. Interestingly though his works takes only the visual and surfacial textures of these oleographs and transfer them into his painterly medium particularly the oil paintings.
Mofussil towns like Mysore and Baroda owning to their importance during the colonial period has a strange mix of modernity and tradition. Still the feudal order survives intact but the outlook is seemingly modern. In the gaps of this transaction between modernity and the feudal remnants you have a bustling subculture where the people also find some carnivalesque spaces of expressing their differences with the dominant culture. These carnivalesque expressions in art, poetry and music has a continuing vibrant tradition and is a cosmos of its own where the creator, creation and the audience actively engage and exchange lot of thoughts and ideas which have immediate relevance in the active and the spiritual world. Still the city market, railway stations, bus stands, colonial structures, hospitals, educational institutes, courts and of course the melas/ carnivals. Mahesh too shares this tradition and one can say the best of this tradition. If I have to translate roughly what I am telling above, it might be near to what is called "the local' in the post- modern terminologies. But I would refrain to continue using the term for I find it wanting and reductive particularly with regards to certain time and spatial notions about the subculture. Interestingly these subcultures in these places actively thrive owing to their inseperable relation with the nearby villages. The cosmopolitanism which one see in the surface as a mark of modernity actually is the culture which is built upon by the strong relationship with rural where from the basic exchanges of life takes place. G. Mahesh hails from a village nearby Mysore and has been often travelling between these two different universes. His works too informs these journeys between the two different worlds. For him like many of the folklore spiritual heads from his region spirituality arises from this understanding of everyday in all its variations. If one has to give the example of a person like Shishunala Shariffa a 19th century saint poet in whose poems we could see a peculiarity wherein he could see the spiritual through the industries and the machineries of modernity. One can sense a surrealistic awe and imagery in his poems informed by the then current changes in the social cultural arena. Mahesh too approaches his subjects on these lines and in some ways creates a spiritually poetic rendering of life around him.
The cosmos he portrays has the beggar, bahuroopi, flower seller, madmen, prostitutes, working women, manual scavengers, his family, and his friends all in a landscape which is out there as he experiences and imagines about. All the people, flora and fauna in his works interestingly don't enact according to the role the society has imposed upon them. They subvert these discriminatory roles by becoming part of another cosmos where they become something other than their beings. They partake in a differently abled world where they become the central actors performing and building up the narrative rather than enacting some others script.
V . Divakar
Knots an experimental art space open for creative alliances where diverse possibilities of engaging with art can be attempted.
Knots, MF-15, Race course Towers, Pashabhai park, Near Nattubhai Circle, Vadodara-390007. Mb+91 9624562416.
The Space will remain open from 11.00 a.m to 2.00 p.m & 4.00 p.m to 8.00 p.m
Saviya Lopes | Solo
Preview 6 - 10 pm | 9 June 2016
Art Night Thursday
10 June - 10 July 2016 | Clark House Bombay
Art Night Thursday
Bassein on the West Coast of India shares its name with the city of Bassein on the lower Irrawady delta of Burma. Parochial concerns and practice of rechristening cities has seen both these ex-Lusitane trading centres regaining vernacular identities as Vasai the suburb of Bombay and Panthein the city now infamous for an unrecognised genocide against its Rakhine Muslim population more popularly known as the Rohingya. Borders & People are strange bedfellows as the border often denies long histories of human migration often terming and turning cousins into enemies and foreigners , or the Rohingya into Bengali Muslim land-ursurpers in a chauvinistically nationalist Buddhist Burma. The port of Vasai pre-dated the city of Bombay, to which it is now a sleeper town for a populace that travels 70 kilometres down the passenger rail to clerical jobs on the island. The seven islands of Bombay is now Mumbai. In an era of parochial authenticity the East Indians can claim along with the city's fisherfolk in clear terms an undisputed claim to Bombay as their homeland. Chauvinism is well calibrated on an engine greased by machoism. Although Saviya Lopes, as Iberian or Moçambiquen she may sound speaks fluent Marathi without having to be coerced or profess a certain religion to confirm her nation.
The concept of the nation was alien to the South Asian until the Portuguese lead an inquisition as the foreground to their colonial dominions and subsequently failed by alienating their subjects who were confused with the Vatican's intrusion into their lives. Vasai had been a prosperous trading centre and was home to Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Nestorian traders who travelled from the port to as far as Sumeria and Ethiopia. Encouraged by the patronage a wide range of artists specially musicians settled in Vasai migrating from as far as Kalinga - modern day Orissa on India's eastern coast , who then became the ancestors of the present day Samvedi Brahmins and Samvedi Christians of Vasai. The Portuguese were driven away by the Maratha legions who returned to a welcoming populace that were tired of Lusitane cultural intrusion. The Portuguese also gave away Bombay as dowry to the British Monarch when he wed Catherine de Braganza. The native Christians of Bassein then became British subjects ; quick to understand the competing colonial interests and subsequent enmity between Britain and Portugal they took on the nomenclature of East Indian Christians borrowing the title from the East India Company - as Catholics who swore loyalty to the English Crown.
They dropped their Portuguese creole for an English dialect that maintained lusitane grammar. The city was changed but ingrained into their diet this history, as 'batata vada' - a potato patty - using the portuguese word batata held between the 'pao' or a portuguese bread bun. The East Indians were soon recruited into the lower levels of the English colonial bureaucracy , but a large number of them tended to take on jobs on ships that sailed between Bombay and the Imperial Universe, from deckhandlers to stewards and fitters they captained ships. Technical education allowed them to work in factories and acquire blue collar jobs in an India aspiring to be modern. John Lopes was one such man who found a job as factory supervisor in Freetown, Sierra Leone moving there from Vasai. He helped build the world's largest commodity trading firm Olam International also run by a peculiar Indian diaspora who originated from the region of Sindh now in Pakistan. John Lopes eventually lost his life in Sierra Leone in an accident and like many immigrant workers remained anonymous. Until Saviya Lopes uncovered those letters and photographs he had sent her grandmother in the years of expatriation in Africa.
Saviya Lopes (1994) is Clark House's youngest member and a recent graduate from Rachna Sansad Academy of Fine Art. Her research thesis takes form of a confession where she confronts various identities. A confession of claiming virginity , which is an unfortunate taboo in a patriarchal society , vertical portraits of her lips, a red lipstick impression that reads ' I Don't Bleed Blue' in red , commenting on sanitary pad advertisements that always represent menstruation in blue, and where she stitches onto fragile Vietnamese rice paper the words : ' A stitch in time saves three' . These works articulate a hypocrisy that we are well versed with but refuse to shed often using the cudgels of culture. Small ceramic elephant tusks and terracotta sculptures made in Ayodhya stand aside scratched blocks of sandalwood paste that become her travelogue to her first trip to North India. She juxtaposes analog printed brain scans of herself to photos of her mother conducting quotidian tasks at home even though she is a banker. From the doorframe hangs an object placed to mimic a charm that wards of evil but in fact is a swiss army knife whose levers she has modified to hold the symbols of various religions.
Saviya Lopes presents a solo pop-up in Clark House's first room designed as a confession to her being born as a woman in a society that disregards it as a mistake, burden and a bad omen, using a vocabulary that at times comically illustrates itself as a Girls Guide to Saudi Arabia that imitates road signs to communicate clearly restrictions placed on women. For the Dakar Biennale in 2016 responding to the plot of the biennale she printed a set of her grandfathers photos from his time in Sierra Leone that were presented with a printed version of the Olam website that celebrated its founding family's contribution to West Africa. An untold story confronts one that is well articulated much like her own as a woman.
Clark House Initiative is a curatorial collaborative and a union of artists based in Bombay.
Poonam Jain and Rupali Patil are the current directors of Clark House. It was established in 2010 as a curatorial collaborative and artist union concerned with ideas of freedom.