Art Night Thursday

Something wonderful has happened to the city of Mumbai. 

Several art galleries in South Mumbai have decided to band together to create more accessibility for the public. They’ve decided to keep their doors open on the FIRST THURSDAY and the LAST SUNDAY of every month beyond the regular 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. timings by extending working hours till 9.30 p.m.

This means that if you haven’t been to the opening of an exhibition before, chances are you will now. Also, it’s a boon for those who love art but can’t go see any because they’re still at work when the galleries normally close shop for the day.

The galleries in question here are :

Chemould Prescott Road

Gallery Beyond

Gallery BMB 

Chatterjee & Lal 

Mirchandani + Steinrucke 

Gallery Maskara 


Project 88 


The Guild


Right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the shows themselves!

First up, Gallery BMB‘s current presentation, Transcience.( )

A solo exhibition of photographs, installations, sculptures and a multi-piece marker painting by Yardena Kurulkar, it is interesting. Now, I know that ‘interesting’ is a dangerous word to use, but, here I use it most positively. For some reason, the only words that come to my mind are ‘deliciously twisted’. 

As you enter the gallery, you’re confronted by a set of images to your right, of a human head moulded in clay in various states of watery submersion and dissolving. As soon as you turn away from these images, you’re standing in front of a white, lidless tank, which comes across more like a coffin than anything else, filled with water. Inside is a human form in clay, making the water murkier and heavier as it slowly dissolves into a pile of unrecognizable mush. What is troubling for the mind is that while the face has dissolved completely, the abdominal area is above the water level, and though wet, hasn’t melted away. In fact, it’s a paradoxical existence : the wet clay has cracked as though baked by the sun in a desert.

On the other side of the central wall in the gallery is a vast array of heads. Yes, heads. Stoneware clay human heads half submerged in water and an inch-thick layer of oil within glass cubes, on a rather large iron rack. A morbid collection for sure, and yet extremely intriguing. In the back room, we come across the creepiest piece by far : a stoneware clay child wrapped in moulded cloth, resting upon an epitaph-like slab on which is engraved

Rock-a-bye baby
In the tree top
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
Down will come baby
Cradle and all

All this inside a sealed glass case.

Now, you might think that this show seems so morbid from the way I describe it, but it isn’t actually. Despite the show having such a ‘creepy’ vibe to it, it’s very easy to relate to, something that was affirmed by the artist’s statements as follows :
“Yardena Kurulkar’s work is the consequence of years of reflection around the journey of Life and Death. Her work aims to capture the essence of their co-existence, their inter-dependence, the similarities between them and the contradictions they pose…The fear of death can be confronted only when we recognise its transience rather than perceive it as terminal. Death after all, is an indispensable cog in the cycle of Life.”

This is perfectly shown in a highly simple conceptual piece titled  “Death of a marker“, in which the artist has taken a brand new marker and drawn a constant, high amplitude sine wave over a series of sheets of paper letting the marker dry out on it’s own as it goes through its life cycle from being freshly opened to being completely drained of the ink, it’s life-blood. 

All in all, a brilliant collection of work, with great congratulations due to Yardena Kurulkar.

Next up : Balaji Ponna’s “Looking Is Not Seeing” at The Guild Mumbai.

The Guild is known to be a very active gallery that encourages thinking outside the box and displays all forms of art proudly. This exhibition is no exception. Balaji Ponna is a large mind in a small body, and his works reflect this. The canvasses are large, the ideas even bigger. Working on a socio-political theme since 2004, Balaji’s ideas are direct and well thought out. The paintings are oil on canvas and are summed up well by the phrases written on them in simple typography towards the bottom in the middle. The text does not intervene or interfere with the image : it “stays on the surface by virtue of its flat, two-dimensional nature”.

The show has three separate installation pieces as well, which are very nicely carried out. Paver blocks we walk on everyday on the streets have been painted various colours and have, moulded onto them, figures in various positions of repose or movement. A yarn hung from the wall is being spun into a noose. Bricks kept standing in the shape of a triangle have the top end shaped like a roof.  These pieces work well with the paintings to place a heavy stamp on ideas of political distrust, corruption and loss. Contemplation is invited, and this Baroda-based artist has created works that act as starting points for the viewer to begin from.

Over at Sakshi Gallery we have “Staging Selves : Power, Performativity & Portraiture“.

A group show in photography curated by renowned art critic, curator, writer and scholar, Maya Kovskaya. It presents work by Ravi Agarwal, Sheba Chhachhi, Gauri Gill, Samar Jodha, Tejal Shah, Waswo X Waswo, Malekeh Mayiny, Han Bing and O Zhang.

A show with several strong pictures, these artists “have made it a part of their practice to question, problematize and blur the artificial binary between the ‘staged’ and the ‘documentary’, self-consciously investigating the power relations implicit in the pretension of ‘representation'”. The images are varied in location, time and culture, but all have a strong sense of personality in common. You cannot escape these pictures, and you honestly don’t want to. The humanity in all the photographs is visible : strengths of conviction in the documented, belief in oneself in the staged. 

If  you weren’t excited about art in Mumbai before, you should be now. With shows like these following the unbelievably engaging ‘On The Sidereal’ at The Guild and the ‘Open Studio with T. Venkanna’ at Gallery Maskara last month, this season looks to only get better and better!

On a slightly personal front, these gallery hops are going to get more frequent, as well as the resulting blogposts. If you wish to join me on a gallery hop, follow me on twitter (I’m @zaiuranjit ) and look out for the #GalleryHop hashtag!

Until next time! Keep creating!

Jai ‘Zaiu’ Ranjit


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