A variety of artworks made in various media, ranging from sculpture to photography, greet the visitor of 1x1 Gallery in Alserkal Avenue’s Summer of 2017 exhibition. One is immediately drawn to Mithu Sen’s surreal mixed media collages at the end of the room. Displayed in light boxes, the focal point of the composition are the watercolour brushstrokes strewn across the canvas depicting anatomical forms, both human and animal. With the figures ostensibly split in half, there is an allusion of dissection – everything is exposed.
“Exposed” is a key concept that is prevalent throughout the exhibition. Given that the summer show consists of the gallery’s collection from its repository, naturally, a theme would be difficult to pinpoint. However, upon closer observation, several pieces by contemporary Indian artists seem to depict memory as their main focus.
'Bronze Head' and 'Sustainability' sculptures by artists G Ravinder Reddy (front) and Cristiana de Marchi (back) respectively
Perhaps the most evident representation of this theme is shown through Pushpamala N’s The Arrival of Vasco da Gama. The artwork is a reinterpretation of Jose Veloso Salgado’s orientalist work, depicting Vasco da Gama addressing the Zamorin’s court during his visit to Calicut. The piece is a celebration of how the ruler of Zamorin’s court, being unimpressed by Gamas’ offering, refused to trade with him. It is reminiscent both in the subject manner as well as its style due to its late Renaissance aesthetic.
At first glance, Sachin Bonde’s The World seems to be merely a map. However, it invites one to delve deeper with enamel lines shown starkly against the gold leaf background. The map serves as a graph, bringing to light the world’s network of oil pipelines to explore the movement of petrol and kerosene. Touching upon a subject matter that has caused a power struggle between the East and the West, Bonde’s work is, ironically, the least obvious illustration of memory, yet offers the most poignant message.
M Pravat. Formation of Transformation (2). (2016). Drawing on architectural board, transformation of the same drawing into brick and slate. 59 x 39 cm each
Zarina Hashmi captures her recurring themes of displacement and memory through her minimalist works. Their simple forms, reminiscent of what is essential, stand out in comparison to the majority of more ornate pieces on display. The artist’s fascination with geometrical shapes and mathematics becomes an evident form for seeking structure when lacking a permanent “place” or home. The artist, who prefers to go by her first name, is known to explore personal recollections as well as sentiments of dislocation within a diaspora in work.
Chittrovanu Mazumdar. Untitled (2017). Mild steel, porcelain, electric bulbs and wiring. 102 x 152 x 24 cm
Known for his illuminated structures, Chittrovanu Mazumdar also uses home as a repeated reference to his memories of Kolkata. Triggered by the glow of a single bulb the first time he saw a television switched on, Mazumdar uses bulbs to express a sense of detachment that he felt as a child to Jharkhand, his fathers’ village. This sense of feeling like “… an intruder in one’s home,” he noted in a personal statement, is illustrated through the artists’ fascination of the oppositions that objects carry within themselves – such as flower petals “entombed” in industrial, rough casing.
All in all, the Summer of 2017 exhibition endows visitors with a greater understanding and appreciation for Indian contemporary art in the UAE. The show leads one to ponder the natural human urge to reminisce.
Summer of 2017 runs till 31 August. For more information, visit 1x1gallery.com.