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Madras Art Weekend returns in a bigger, bolder avatar this year

The second edition of the Madras Art Weekend features panel discussions, workshops, site-specific installations, and exhibitions featuring over 100 artists

An artwork by Gary Archer

By Indumathy Sukanya

LAST PUBLISHED 30.11.2023  |  10:00 AM IST

December in Chennai is generally considered the kutcheri season, with venues across the city gearing up to host Carnatic music concerts that draw hordes of music lovers. This year, however, the month kicks off with a visual art event. Madras Art Weekend, organised by the International Foundation for the Arts, features workshops, panel discussions and interactive art shows across venues in the city till December 3.

In its second year, the event is occupying more public spaces and has forged a lot many partnerships with galleries and organisations in Chennai. Twenty-two emerging artists from the city, two international ones and over a hundred artists from across the country are taking part in the various events of the week. The highlights include a four-week travelling show by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, a textiles of Tamil Nadu exhibition at Raw Mango and a site-specific installation, ‘Auto’, by environmental artist Steve Messam from the UK.

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“Madras Art Weekend is bigger, bolder, brighter than last year," says Upasana Asrani, curator, founder and chief executive of the event. “What was a weekend affair last year is almost a weeklong festival this time. The theme revolves around children, community and compassion, therefore partnerships with not-for-profits like NalandaWay Foundation and Kairassi give a platform to artists and children from marginalised communities to create and showcase their artwork.

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On 30 November, there is a panel discussion on ‘Guardianship of Legacies’, which seeks to explore the past, present and future of some of the most powerful women at the helm of the art, with speakers like Kiran Nadar, founder, KNMA, Radhikaraje Gaekwad of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda, and Lavina Baldota, textile revivalist, curator and head of CSR at Baldota Foundation.

Another panel at the British Deputy High Commission, themed on interdisciplinary collaborations in art, design and fashion, with artist Steve Messam, Braille artist Clarke Reynolds, interior design consultant Vikram Phadke and Rochelle Pinto, editor of Vogue India.

A work by Kavita Sunderrajan

On 2 December, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai, Oliver Balhatchett and his wife Raylsi, will open their home to visitors for Spotlight on the South, a showcase of artwork by emerging and established artists from the city. Over the weekend, Amethyst Chennai will host an exhibition of the artwork by the late jeweller and artist Olaf Van Cleef, who was famous for his Swarovski-studded paintings. Other venues such as DakshinaChitra, Chennai Photo Biennale, Gallery Veda, Ashvita’s, InKo Centre and ArtWorld Sarala’s will also be organising parallel exhibitions during those two days.

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Kavita Sunderrajan, an emerging artist from the city, is putting up two of her paintings at the Madras Art Weekend and is excited about it. “We are all connected. The only reason we differentiate ourselves from one another is because of the space between us. But what if that space wasn’t there? Animals and other creatures see this simplicity, a child intuitively understands this too. I use my art as a means to ignite this discussion within the viewer. My hope is to inspire people to reflect upon life in a world that seems to be moving further away from reality," she says.

Narayan Lakshman, 45, sold three of his paintings at Madras Art Weekend last year and is returning with three more this year. They feature abstract expressionism inspired by late Indian painter VS Gaitonde, “and hopefully create a sense of peaceful excitement in the viewer," he says. “Art exhibitions in the city tend to be isolated events covering specific themes. An event of this scale is the first of its kind in Chennai. I’m excited to experience the whole gamut of talks, workshops and installations planned for this year.

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Indumathy Sukanya is a Bengaluru-based writer and artist.