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Art that is prescient of the times

From visions of a post-industrial world to looking at the idea of isolation through a part-human, part-rat creature that lives on the edge of society, the latest edition of ‘In Touch’ stands as a witness to the changes wrought by the past year

'The night that turned in fire', (2020), Prabhakar Pachpute. Photo: courtesy Experimenter

All through last year, one saw the art world pivot towards the digital, with online viewing rooms (OVR) becoming a new way of showcasing works. Galleries came together in a series of collaborations of all shapes and sizes. Today, even with art spaces opening up, a hybrid model seems to be the norm for the new year, featuring physical exhibitions combined with OVRs and digital talks. Certain digital collaborations from 2020 have spilled into the new year, one such being the ‘In Touch’ series, which brought galleries from India and Dubai onto a single platform. Its latest edition features 13 galleries such as Chatterjee & Lal, Chemould Prescott Road, Experimenter, Green Art Gallery, Gallery Espace, GALLERYSKE, Shrine Empire, Vadehra Art Gallery, and more.

One of the highlights is a new series of works by Prabhakar Pachpute, in which he imagines the future of a post-mined and post-industrial landscape. There is a spectral quality to the works, with hunched, skeletal figures inhabiting the visuals. “A precarious visual equilibrium emerges to indicate a time that is at the precipice of change. Pachpute proposes a possible afterlife of objects and people who inhabit the landscape today, where an alternate legacy exists or even calls to action for revolution,” mentions the curatorial note put up by Experimenter, Kolkata, which is showcasing his works.

'Untitled', (set of four) by Sharad Sonkusale. Photo: courtesy Gallery Espace
'Untitled', (set of four) by Sharad Sonkusale. Photo: courtesy Gallery Espace

It’s heartening to see works by young artists being shown by Gallery Espace. Especially interesting is Sharad Sonkusale’s monochromatic Untitled work, a set of four, made with black pigment, acrylic colour, rice paper and newspaper on canvas. The works are imbued with layers of meaning, with the images from the newspaper becoming apparent from below the translucent surface crisscrossed by dabs, dashes and lines. This interplay creates a landscape of its own.

'Lured', pigment print, edition of 9, by Roger Ballen. Photo: courtesy PHOTOINK
'Lured', pigment print, edition of 9, by Roger Ballen. Photo: courtesy PHOTOINK

PHOTOINK takes one into the world of Roger the Rat, with a series of black-and-white photographs from Johannesburg-based artist Roger Ballen’s recent book. Produced between 2015 and 2020, the story follows the life of part-human, part-rat creature, who lives in isolation, at the edge of society.

Vadehra Art Gallery is presenting a recent set of spontaneous drawings, titled Mynaakam, by KM Madhusudhanan. It has been inspired by a figural bird from Harivamsa Purana, whose name translates as “the mountains have wings”. The artist looks upon this figure as a guide for the present refugee crisis.

'Redeemer Boat', (2020), KM Madhusudhanan. Photo: courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery
'Redeemer Boat', (2020), KM Madhusudhanan. Photo: courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery

A significant entry is by Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, which is showing Latif Al Ani: Photographs 1950–1970. In work spanning two decades, the photographer offered a close view of the Iraqi society, beyond the usual cliches. “The most important project I managed to do was preserve my personal archive despite the conditions of the country. The archive at the ministry of culture that I created and built over the years was lost, looted, destroyed in 2003. This is deeply painful. I know how they took it, drawer by drawer, thousands of negatives: journalistic, artistic, daily life, public figures, historical sites, everything. My own archive is a small comfort in the face of this,” mentioned Latif Al Ani in his eponymous monograph, published by Hatje Cantz in 2017.

To view the works, visit www.artintouch.in till 16 March, 2021

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