Thursday, January 22, 2009

Museum brings together South Asian art

A ground-breaking exhibition featuring emerging artists from South Asia will be launched at the new-look Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.
Artists currently living in India and Pakistan will make their international debut at the venue in Through Other Eyes: Contemporary Art from South Asia at The Herbert in Jordan Well in the city centre from January 23 to April 19.
Curator Gérard Mermoz spent three months travelling to the continent to find the drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, films and prints by recent graduates to bring their work to a British audience.
He said the exhibition would focus on the perspectives of young artists who are coming to terms with traditions, values, beliefs, tensions and aspirations in the wake of globalisation.
Gérard, who has had artist residencies in Bangalore and India, put himself in danger to find the new talent.
"I formed an idea for an exhibition while I was doing my artist residency in India but I also wanted to seek artists from Pakistan," said the 61-year-old.
"The day I walked out of the Pakistan embassy in Delhi to collect my visa, the former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was shot so my contact advised me not to come for two weeks.
"The day before I arrived there was a big blast killing 50 people near the art college I was visiting. It was dangerous but they took outstanding care of me and put me in a top secure hotel and drove me everywhere.
"I was interested in looking at South Asian art before it gets entangled with the commercial sector.
"I wanted it to be from a different perspective because all private galleries in India are commercially led so we have selected artists before they have left art college.
"These artists work on their own so to see themselves in context of an exhibition they were very appreciative of the fact that they were able to see what other artists are doing elsewhere in their countries. It was a unifying factor and selling their work is a great boost to their confidence.
"I’m encouraging them to work collectively to add another dimension to their education.
"There are no artists involved in the exhibition aged above 30 except for the tribal artists who are older, and a substantial proportion are women, which I didn’t anticipate when I set out to put the collection together."
One such artist is Durgabai Vyam whose tribal art painting of The Bhopal Disaster reflects the story of the chemical incident which killed 1,000 people.
Gérard continued: "Durgabai lives in Bhopal and this is a truly outstanding piece of work which compares with the film and recent books based on accounts of survivors and witnesses.
"She uses rotary pen on the canvas so she has adapted to new techniques. She uses the same black and white linea style.
"There are 140 pieces in the exhibition and this is ground-breaking as a concept."
Rosie Addenbrooke, senior exhibitions and events officer at The Herbert, said the exhibition would appeal to people interested in contemporary art as well as a general audience.
"I think people will be inspired to see such a big exhibition of work coming from India and Pakistan because the work is very different from art produced by artists from other parts of the world," she said.
"We have a packed events programme to run alongside the exhibition featuring talks, workshops, music and dance and the film The Bhopal Express as well as an artist in residence for six weeks.
"The Herbert will then be touring this exhibition nationally and with the venue having had its official re-launch following a £20 million transformation this is a really exciting time to visit."
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