Photo Gallery – Impressions from the India Art Fair

February 3, 2015

“No red wine here, please,” photographer Dayanita Singh said as a few visitors, including myself, walked into her booth holding glasses of red wine.

As the preview of the seventh edition of India Art Fair wound down last Thursday, I noticed Singh stamping her books. A large tray held dozens of stamps. A young man, seated in front of her, watched her.

Her latest project is a book as well as an exhibition. The book has 88 images and 88 covers, and it hung at her booth during the art show in Delhi, which ended on Sunday.

“What is it that you’re doing?” I asked her.

She was “individualising” each book by putting stamps of titles from her previous works, she said. “Understood?”

“Yes.” I wasn’t sure if I did.

The world of an artist can be hard to map. And here was a big galaxy. The art show has 80 galleries showcasing paintings, sculptures, installations and more. But looking past hundreds of works of art and captions written in art jargon that I couldn’t comprehend, I found some interesting stories.

This year, two installations stood out at the fair. In one, a toppled Kashmiri home sits in a far corner. “Serenity of Desolation” contains photos of people affected by the flood that hit Jammu & Kashmir last September. The tragedy has found resonance in many cultural events in Delhi. Last year, artisans from Kashmir travelled to the capital to find a market for their goods.

TV Santhosh’s “Threshold into a Dream” is a tilted wooden installation of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks. Besides representing the popular idea that it’s a city of dreams, and which never sleeps, the work explores the idea of shifting historical perspectives. For, the massive gothic structure, originally called the Victoria Terminus, is also a symbol of India’s colonial past. The railway hub was the target of the 2008 attacks that rocked the city, an event that inspired Santhosh to make this installation.

In “Sons of the same soil”, Viveek Sharma paints Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the canvas. Both were born in Gujarat. “The artist feels that Gandhiji is pleased; and that he wants to give Modi a chance,” the caption reads. The pigeons are meant to convey peace, but one doesn’t know what the chessboard is doing there.

I shot this at a gallery that had 100 faces sculpted from construction rubble. What is the artist trying to say? You may leave your house and move to a new one, or you may destroy the one you have to build something anew, but a part of what is gone remains in a person’s identity. “Gawar” is a Hindi word we often use to suggest that someone is ignorant or unrefined. But what happens when the “gawar” person uses the words of his tormentors in his own language? Confused? Check out this photo –

Here are some more photos from the event:

While the artists cannot be seen inside their creations, Iranian photographer Azadeh Akhlaghi plants herself in the frame. Not surprisingly, her series is called “By an eye witness”, from which two photographs were shown in Delhi. Showcased in London’s Somerset House last year, her pictures recreate several deaths – natural and unnatural – that have taken place in Iran’s history. Being a trained filmmaker, she lends a cinematic appeal to her photography. In these handouts, find her behind the window on the extreme right in the first photo and in the second she’s seen in the corner wearing a red scarf.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan. Follow him on Twitter @bobbymacReports and Ankush @Ankush_patrakar | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.)

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