Concept drives contemporary Indian art

Source: Times of India

Concept is driving contemporary Indian art to probe new frontiers beyond the conventional formats.

"There is a new interest in conceptual discourse in art in India. The thought processes going into a work of art is much more serious and theoretical now because India is functioning in the global realm," curator and critic Heidi Fichtner, said in an interview.

Fichtner, the programme director of the Seven Art Gallery Limited in the capital, works with concept artists across different media.

Fichtner said leading galleries in India were promoting artists who could hold their own in the international framework.

"At international art fairs, Indian artists have to compete with foreign artists who have more theoretical and conceptual grounding," she said.

Concept art as a mainstream artistic genre gained currency in the late 1990s when a talented young group of artists like Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya, Bose Krishnamachari, Shilpa Gupta, Riyas Komu, N. Harsha, T.V. Santosh, Jitish Kallat, Mithu Sen, Bharati Kher and several others began to work on "concepts or ideas" - both realistic and abstract - in multi-media.

Vadodara-based Japanese artist Shinobu Mikami's works are grounded in a personal concept of change.

Mikami, who studied art in Japan and France before coming to India, uses glass, fabric, language, drawing and experimental memory to create delicate translucent shapes, nebulous landscapes and shadowy figures on paper, canvas and three-dimensional objects.

"Glass as a medium attracts me because of its presence and absence. It helps me create intimate images," Shinobu Mikami, a student of sculpture at Vadodara (Baroda) in Gujarat, said in an interview.

Her glass works include a broken drinking glass in which the cracks fan out like tentacles of a spider and the shards lie in abstract abandon. Mountains of blasted glass powder fringe her landscapes of glass.

Comparing Indian and Japanese concept art, Mikami said: "Indian art was still more grounded in figurative drawing and manual interventions unlike Japan where contemporary art was totally conceptual and driven by high-technology."

Chennai-based artist Ganesh Selvaraj's new series made of paper shreds from old magazines rely on the notions of time, infinity and artist's personal experience of the world.

"The concept of the series is seed, which can represent an idea, a thought or the centre of the flower. Each shred of paper is a seed," Selvaraj said.

Selvaraj is preparing for its next project which is an "ambitious plan to drive a public carrier - either a truck and or an auto-rickshaw in Chennai to interact with his audience - the people".

"It is a human art project I am thinking of," he said.

Asim Waqif, who teaches at the Delhi School of Architecture and Planning, uses bamboo, rope and hi-tech micro-electronics for his installations to "link the old with new -tradition and technology".

"I am taking a bamboo installation using traditional tying techniques and fitted with sound and touch sensors to Art Hong Kong, an international art fair in Hong Kong in September," he said in an interview.

Nearly 260 galleries from 38 countries will take part in the fair.

"My work speaks of the constant desire for newness which often makes one forget the importance of vernacular systems that were there before. I am trying to break the barrier and making people respond to the old systems with the help of electronics," Waqif said.

Indo-Brazilian artist Vijay Patchineelam, who will also be exhibiting at Art Hong Kong, creates books. Crafted stylistic books, books with open sheaves and spread-eagled books in monochrome are symbolic of the consistency that the artist uses as his concept.

"I think colours distract viewers from the real work of art," the artist says.

Artists Subhdarshini Singh, a former health journalist, uses medicine and health as her concepts for her art.

"It is a new concept and there is nothing like it in India. The first medical art dates back to 15,000 years in rock caves located in the South of France," the capital-based artist said.
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