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Frieze New York: The art of healing

From Atul Dodiya to Shilpa Gupta, Frieze New York’s latest edition features some of best names in South Asian art

Detail from 'Untitled 2021' by Ayesha Sultana.
Detail from 'Untitled 2021' by Ayesha Sultana. (Ayesha Sultana and Experimenter)

If you’re feeling helpless and overwhelmed by too much reality at the moment, consider a brief reprieve in art. Frieze New York’s latest edition, whose online viewing rooms are live until 14 May, features some of the best names in contemporary art from across the world—including a glittering array of artists from south Asia. The latter—Shilpa Gupta, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Gulammohammed Sheikh, among others—have created intensely cerebral, yet aesthetically engaging, work over the decades. Their art, represented by some of the best galleries in India, not only act as windows into the world we have inherited, but also as portals into the recesses of our collective consciousness.

Particularly striking are Ayesha Sultana’s oil paintings, presented by the Kolkata-based Experimenter gallery. A young Bangladeshi artist, Sultana has distinguished herself for her strikingly minimalist work. Meditative in its affinity, usually characterised by delicate applications of colour, her paintings have the gift of plumbing emotional nuances. In her series of oils depicting slivers of sky seen through windows, the interplay of clouds and light become reminders of the shrunken lives we live now—that is those of us lucky to have a roof over our heads and windows to look out from, as well as the luxury of letting our weary eyes rest on wispy cloudscapes.

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Biraaj Dodiya, daughter of the illustrious artist-couple Atul and Anju, compliments Sultana’s gentle realism with her darkly abstract paintings. Like sleepless creatures that lurk in the night, her paintings hum with life, the heaviness of their colours offset by occasional soft hues. In the Canadian Moyra Davey’s work, the last of Experimenter’s featured artists, the eye wanders among the chaos and ruin of interior spaces, while occasionally looking beyond, again through windows, at the changing lives of trees. Most of these works were made before the outbreak of the pandemic, but the expert curation creates a synergy among the artists, and also a resonance with our difficult times.

A sense of urgency is also palpable in the selection presented by New Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery. From Anju Dodiya’s experimental dioramas to Shilpa Gupta’s edgy No Fear photographic series that boldly challenges systems of power to K.M. Madhusudhanan’s interrogation of colonial legacies, there is much to mull over—dots to join between the present and the past, and scenarios to conjure up for the future.

Frieze New York’s online viewing rooms are live until 14 May.

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