Drawn Space // Vishwa Shroff // TARQ

Vishwa Shroff’s latest exhibition at TARQ entitled “Drawn Space” — her first major solo show at the gallery — explores a dynamic way of rendering architectural images that include spatial elements of elevation, plan, and perspective. Curated by London based writer Charlie Levine, the exhibition displays four series of works by the artist, through which she embraces the concept of space as the fundamental focus of her work. The artworks project a spatial playfulness, oscillating between the inside and outside, further enabling the audience to grasp characteristics of urban phenomena.

img_3298
Transitions,
Watercolour, Acrylic and acrylic medium
on archival paper
8.25 x 10.5 inches
2016

img_3296

Geometrically poetic, with a meticulous attention to detail, Shroff’s works imbue the mundane with meaning. In her series of drawings entitled ‘Transitions’, she mimics the floor of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) with the use of  watercolours. Each drawing has perfectly straight edges along with beautiful lines which are clean, precise, and dynamic. Placed in a chronological order, the visually serene artworks resemble a mosaic with a fusion of geometric patterns blended with earthy tones. The drawings allow the viewer to step in a location, much different from the gallery space, thereby constantly keeping the audience engaged.

img_3294
Transitions,
Watercolour, Acrylic and acrylic medium
on archival paper
8.25 x 10.5 inches
2016

For the artist the notion of space is something which, is constantly subject to change, unable to ever achieve a sense of equilibrium. Shroff confronts the audience with the understanding that any given space goes through a cyclic process of wear, tear, and rejuvenation..or at times left unaltered. Shroff’s practice — lodged between architecture and urbanism, pushes the viewer to go beyond the intricate details of her work. For instance, in a few of her works, there are certain areas where the colours appear to be fading away, implying that the works themselves are also in an ongoing state of transition. Therefore, through her practice, Vishwa makes a strong point  — that architecture is as much about feeling as it is about seeing.

img_3286
Party Wall
Watercolour, Acrylic and ink on Paper,
Aluminium sheet
2016

IMG_3290.JPG

Vishwa’s fascination with space can also be seen in her work involving the partisan or “party wall” (a common wall that is shared by two adjoining houses) where she throws light on the voidness of space. By beautifully capturing the ordinary on paper, the artist elevates the mundane into art. However uneventful partisan walls may be perceived as, the notion of sharing a common wall which could perhaps belong to two completely unrelated families in a way, forms a connection between the two parties. The artist has also employed faded colours of yellow and blue to her works to perhaps indicate a sense of loss and emptiness. Moreover, through the artworks, understanding architecture as space prompts the viewers to visualise the experience of a built environment, spatial boundaries, and connections.

IMG_3320.JPG

Completely different in effect, are a range of monochromatic large-scale drawings done as part of her Corridor series which allow the audience to step into a world solely conceptualised by the artist. Within each work, the audience gets a view of voluminous form, towering lines, along with dramatic patterns. The sharp dimensions made by the artist in each work invites the viewer to locate her or himself in the space, ultimately resulting in a conversation built between the audience, the gallery space, and the space within each drawing. Through this, we understand that architectural space symbolises the coherence between the interior as well as the exterior of buildings.

img_3310

img_3330

Postulating Premises’, a series that is accompanied by a photo-book, offers a remarkable window into the designer’s mind at work. Through using drawing as her medium, the artist has overcome the challenge of achieving spatial complexity, while keeping in mind principles of minimalism and simplicity. Inspired by the concept of cut out paper doll houses, Vishwa has created a series of architectural blueprints, keeping the furniture present inside the houses on a separate wall. Perhaps the purpose of doing so was to let the audience themselves visually arrange and conceptualise the placement of the furniture in desired areas of the floor map. Additionally, a  human figure has deliberately not been placed. Reason for that being  that the mind of the viewer should be freed from solely having to focus on the figurine, further trying to decipher what has been presented. As a result, the process  initiates a dynamic and active mode of interaction that goes beyond mere observation.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-12-50-05-pm
Eames House
Watercolour, Acrylic and acrylic medium on archival paper
installation dimensions variable
2016
Photo: Courtesy of TARQ

The fact that the show has been executed with clarity, along with keeping in mind a common theme, is what truly makes it successful. Each individual collection complements the other, thereby producing a visual balance for the  gallery visitor. Perhaps, as a part of her Transitions series, the artist could have added a floor map of the Victoria and Albert Museum as an aid to help the audience get a better understanding of the artist’s work.  Nevertheless, Vishwa Shroff has indeed created a spatial experience, which is dynamic, not relying on what has been constructed, instead focusing on what is not constructed — space.

Photo Courtesy: Stuti Kakar (writer)

Colour in the City of Mumbai| Eye on Poland: An Exhibition of Vibrant Polish Graphic Designs

Whether one acknowledges it or not, we are witnessing the dawning of a new age — that of an image based culture, where the power of the visual, especially that of graphic design, is affecting a significant part of human life. One such prominent example is that of Polish poster art, which has established a unique position in the field of graphic design in the European subcontinent. It is in this context, the ongoing exhibition at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum titled ‘Eye on Poland’ aims to bring Polish graphic design to the forefront for the audience of Mumbai.

In collaboration with the Polish Institute New Delhi, the exhibition is co-curated by Magdalena Frankowska and Artur Frankowski, showcasing the evocative, yet aesthetically pleasing graphic design visuals. The exhibition displays an array of cinema and concert posters, CDs, album covers, providing an insight into the contemporary art practices of poster design prevailing in the Polish field of design. The exhibition is not only awe-inspiring in terms of the visual language, but also reflective of the complex historical and emotional engagement with poster art in Poland.

A tradition which is over a century old, the emergence of Polish poster art can be traced back to the communist rule which dominated the country during World War II. During that period, Poland was a victim to censorship and oppression, and the only art form which prevailed was that of the poster — mainly for cultural propaganda. As a result, leading Polish artists invested all their passion and effort solely in the enrichment of poster art, which later on laid the foundations for the ‘Polish Poster School’. Poster art then, often became perceived as a form of escapism from the dull atmosphere created by the communist regime.

However, even though Polish poster art during the 19th century carried with it undertones of a socio-political milieu, contemporary Polish poster art has transformed into an art form in search for a new expression of visual vocabulary. This growing tradition has been incorporated in the current exhibition, which brings together works of Jakub de Barbaro, Edgar Bak, Ada Bucholc, along with many other contemporaries.

For instance, in the exhibition, Grzegorz Laszuk’s poster titled ‘Romeo Juliet’, reflects the mood of tragedy, capturing Romeo falling into the hands of his ill fate, evoking feelings of desolation and hopelessness adding on to the viewer’s aesthetic experience. Equally intriguing is Ada Bucholc’s illustration for the cover of British magazine ‘Little White Lies’, which is renowned for its movie reviews and iconic covers. This cover, inspired by the movie — Maps to the Stars, features legendary actress Julianne Moore. The cover uses bright hues of pink and yellow, resembling prints made by pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Another piece titled ‘The Locomotive/Ideology’, depicts a monochrome text designed by artist Małgorzata Gurowsk, showcasing images of trains, Jews, troops, homosexuals, as well as animals. This poster carries undertones of anti-semitism and racism, further signifying the dark days of Polish history. Equally fascinating is the poster titled ‘Animals’, designed by Robert Czajka, which shows various animals in warm tones or orange and brown. The design template has given a modern twist to children’s story books by using the technique of minimalistic drawing.

Furthermore, other art works in the collection combine robust colours, mottos, and ordinary symbols to send out concise messages while keeping in mind a certain aesthetic sense. As curator Frankowska remarks, “The idea behind the exhibition is to take the viewer on a voyage through a wide range of styles, attitudes and design strategies reflecting the richness of the current Polish graphic design scene.”

However, one must keep in mind that the art of producing Polish posters is viewed as well as sold exclusively in spaces of museums and art galleries. Nevertheless, the sophisticated, vibrant, and aesthetically sound posters in the current collection have typified the spirit of the tradition of Polish poster art, aiming to make these posters accessible to a worldwide audience.

Megapolis India| Without Walls | Studio X

article-lojkxqghei-1461503860.jpg

The process of making a city ‘modern’ has brought joy as well as anomie – joy because people are getting exposed to new forms of information and communication technology, integrating sections of society, anomie because modernisation tends to shun the unprivileged even more. The changing dynamics of Mumbai’s infrastructure and economy have resulted in patterns of spatial segregation  – which have denied the poor their right to the city. The homeless, classified as the “other”, are rendered passive in the changing urban landscape. However, in recent times, the plight of the poor has witnessed a certain revival in popular imagination. A co-curated multimedia exhibition by Megapolis India and Studio X, along with inputs from NGO Pehchan, has focused on the plight of the homeless by exposing the everyday struggles faced by them.

Upon entering the exhibition, one sees a series of video interviews displayed on a projection screen, where women, young and old, reveal their daily struggles living on footpaths. For instance, Meera, a woman in her 30s, along with her family has been living on the footpath for years. She says, “This is where we were born and raised, where our children were born and raised.. Where will we go, even if you chase us away?”. This powerful statement gives us a glimpse of the lives of the homeless, making the urban city dweller question whether or not the homeless have a right at all to decide upon what type of urbanism they want. The series of video interviews made me raise certain questions — on whose ideology does the city run on? Is urban planning done taking into consideration the homeless/poor? Has urbanisation completely become a capitalist endeavour? Are the homeless completely left out of the process of globalisation? 

One whole wall of the exhibition is assigned to maps of areas where the homeless dwell, along with photographs which display the areas where the homeless reside. Thus, as a viewer when I began to engage with the map, there seemed to be a sense of loss of identity and belongingness. In my opinion, the larger than life map displayed on the wall seemed to be overwhelming, further making the observer feel displaced. There seems to be a “growing amnesia” towards the poor, making them appear as overlooked elements of society, as political scientist Rajni Kothari recalls. The homeless seem to be perceived as an unchanging, mundane aspect of the urban dweller’s life.

As an observer, I also find it amusing to see how the visual space of the gallery can transform mundane aspects of life to sacred. The homeless are seen as inhabitants of a space, but who do not seem to catch the everyday pedestrian or a car go-er’s gaze. However, when the lives of the homeless are displayed in a gallery, they instantly become noticed and valued. The visual space of a gallery has the power to alter the perception of an object/group of people. Furthermore, the public then starts to pay attention to the plight of the homeless population.

Moreover, as one walks through the exhibition, a certain sense of a nomadic lifestyle seems to prevail in the images. As a viewer, I feel as if Mumbai’s homeless are living as urban nomads. The temporary lifestyle — similar to that of a nomad, lacks privacy, makes a person succumb to loneliness, keeps an individual always thinking of new places to rest and work in. Nevertheless, the exhibition is an eye opener and can be looked at as a tribute to Mumbai’s homeless.

Saviya Lopez| Menstrual Art?

Messages Image(722031428)

The year 2015 has witnessed an extraordinary focus on the menstruation of women in social media. For instance, the photo-sharing website/app – Instagram got itself tangled in a controversy of events when it decided to remove photographs of artist and poet – Rupi Kaur, who had posted images of herself lying on a bed with a period stain. This ‘censorship’ of menstruation photos has resulted in a wider process of encouraging the taboo around the word ‘period’. However, after the artist challenged the removal of the image, it was restored back on the website.

In this day and age, there is a dire need for people to transform from a more passive to an active audience. Furthermore, there is a need to demystify the aura around menstruation, and recognise the agony which is faced by women from around the globe. Artist Saviya Lopez, who is currently exhibiting her work at the Clark House initiative, a Mumbai based gallery, has targeted this mystification around the politics of menstruation. Her work, which is being displayed as a part of a larger exhibition titled ‘River with a Thousand Holes’, addresses the link between the status of women and the degradation of the environment.

In the image above, one sees that the bloodied words speak out against the discrepancy between what is real and what is being represented in the advertiser’s practice of showcasing blue instead of red on sanitary napkins. As the artist beautifully captures the parallels of dual realities of menstruation, the exhibition has strong political overtones of ecofeminism. Eco feminist epistemology forms a link between ecology and feminism. Furthermore, the approach shows how women and nature have a strong commonality, thus are united through their shared history of oppression by a patriarchal society.

However, the issues surrounding menstruation lead me to question : how should one fight for women’s rights if the category of ‘women’ is not homogenous? Unlike previous ideologies, which for the longest period of time have looked at women as a uniform category, today’s feminist ideologies go beyond homogeneity and move towards heterogeneity. There has  been a significant shift in feminist movements, which has paved the way to give enough room to acknowledge each individual’s subjective bodily experiences. Women are certainly different from men, but even more from one another. Thus, an upper caste Brahminical woman will certainly have different notions and perceptions regarding menstruation compared to a lower caste Dalit woman.

As the topic of menstruation seeps into the work of women artists, women have started to be even more vocal about confronting their subordinate status in society. Art, as I feel, is being used as a medium to convey strong ideas that have deliberately been silenced by androcentricity. After looking at a work of art, one tends to converse or write about it in order to share one’s thoughts with a wider audience…..resulting in a large encompassing process of social change, big or small.