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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Time & Tide // Karan Kapoor // TARQ

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Andheri, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1981© Karan Kapoor.

In collaboration with Tasveer, Tarq gallery in Mumbai hosts an exhibition “Time & Tide” by renowned London based photographer Karan Kapoor. Debuting with his first exhibition in India, the photographer pays tribute to the dying Anglo-Indian identity in Calcutta and Bombay, and the Catholic community in Portuguese Goa during the 1980s. Born to Anglo-Indian parents himself, Kapoor’s work is more than just an effort to induce nostalgia, further tracing how overtime these communities continue to survive in a considerably different social milieu and number today. The photo exhibition captures a series of rare, personal memories combined to tell an extraordinary tale.

An outcome of the colonial legacy in India, the term Anglo-Indian refers to the children born out of intermarriages between Britishers and Indians. However, by the time colonial rule had come to an end, the Anglo-Indian identity had become stigmatised. Soon, names like “half-castes” and “blacky-whites” become synonymous with their identity. Thereafter, left with a distinctive culture which was neither British nor Indian, the Anglo-Indian culture started to fade into oblivion.

The remarkable breadth of the exhibition features 45 monochromatic photographs done over a period of 12-13 years. The photographs are produced in silver gelatin prints and portray a distinct presence of a fast disappearing community. The first half of the exhibition is devoted to Kapoor’s interaction with the older generation of Anglo-Indians who resided at one of the premier country clubs of India – The Tollygunge Club in Kolkata (Calcutta). Kapoor writes, ”I was more interested in the older generation as they seemed to be the last remaining remnants of the British Raj – people who remembered the railway cantonments, the Marilyn Monroe look-a-like contests, the ‘Central Provinces’, and so on, a world long gone.”

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Mr Carpenter, Tollygunge, Calcutta (1981). Photograph by Karan Kapoor

Kapoor’s subjects are iconic in their own way. There is a subtle, yet an affective quality to Kapoor’s black-and-white study of what appears as ordinary portraits. That is certainly true of Kapoor’s image of an old Anglo-Indian couple titled “Mr and Mrs Carpenter”. The image shows an elderly man playing an instrument which seems to be a banjo. Jazz was played quite frequently during the British Raj at Calcutta’s clubs and hotels. The musicians who performed at such elite institutions tended to include members from the Anglo-Indian community. Perhaps the banjo could symbolise the passing down of western instruments to the generations of a post-independent India.

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Lovers Lane, Byculla, Bombay #2; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor.

Each of Kapoor’s protagonists are mostly framed in a threshold space, a verandah, or a window, a point of link between the domestic and public space. While each picture strikes a different emotional note, so does each facial expression, offering a unique insight to the photograph. Some shots evoke laughter, some melancholia, the collection has something for everyone. In a partly candid party staged photograph titled “Lovers Lane”, Kapoor captures a middle aged man gazing upwards as though he is blending his historic past and living imagination, weaving a thread of stories to tell the photographer. Kapoor’s photographs seem to be defined by a liminal moment, where the subjects are caught in-between an Anglo-Indian identity of a collective imagination and a transforming identity of the 21st century.

The second half of the photo series documents the radically changed social landscape of Portuguese Goa. The photographs let the viewer move along the sands of time, identifying a commonality in all the photographs — vestiges of a glorious past in Goa. The audience gets a glimpse of some of the ritualistic traditions of the Goan Catholic community through images of young boys dressing up for a church fete, musicians performing at a local feast, a bride wearing a traditional Goan Catholic wedding dress.

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Rachol Seminary, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor.

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Emiliano’s House, Loutolim, Goa #2;
Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor

Currently, Baga beach in present day Goa is a much known haven for hippies and travellers. However, the Baga beach through Kapoor’s lens shows a troupe of fishermen dressed in traditional loincloth casting the net as the only human presence on the secluded beach. Kapoor’s photographs of Goa can be perceived as an effort to hold on to a piece of his past. “Nobody knew things were going to change so much in Goa, but for, instance, the picture of the fishing boat coming in, that no longer happens. That part of my village no longer has fishermen. They’re taxi-drivers, work with tourist operators, they work in shacks.”

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Joseph fixing a net on our verandah, Goa;
Silver gelatin print; 1981 © Karan Kapoor.

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Baga Beach, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor.

Unlike the Anglo-Indian community which is fading into history, the Goan Catholics are not a dwindling community yet. However what is fading are old ways of living. From the exterior facade of the ancestral Portuguese Goan homes, to the exquisite rosewood furniture, to well preserved dining rooms which boast of a spectacular collection of blue china ceramics, all are till date kept alive by the inheritors and the local Goans themselves. Even though the vintage architecture represents a beautiful melange of Indo-Portuguese History, the Goa reminisced by the photographer is a heterogenous culture before it became a commercialised tourist destination.

A series capturing a time travel through portraits of Anglo-Indian and Goan Catholic communities, the exhibition truly exposes an intensely personal relationship between the person behind as well in front of the camera. Kapoor, who photographed his birth community, took a dual risk — he could have either distanced himself too much becoming an absolute outsider, or got involved too much, getting caught in an emotional web. However, Kapoor worked his way around by maintaining a healthy distance, thereby counter-balancing the ethnographic gaze : portraying the subjects as active participants living in a social landscape of a transformed Bombay, through everyday social interactions. Moreover, Kapoor’s show promises to highlight the fact that dwindling communities in India are very much a part of the nation’s collective past, and must not be overshadowed.

Photo courtesy: Tasveer