The week ahead promises to be packed with some cutting-edge contemporary art as the fifth edition of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week, or DCAW, gets underway. Once again, seven like-minded galleries from the capital have come together with a collective vision of educating art enthusiasts and promoting emerging and mid-career artists.
It all started when a group of gallerists started mulling over the best way to provide a platform to fresh talent. “That compelled us to develop a curated event in which contemporary and cutting-edge artists, who push the boundaries, get more visibility. And that’s how five of us started DCAW and two more joined later. It just turned out that we are all women as well,” says Bhavna Kakar, director, Gallery Latitude 28. For Anahita Taneja, co-founder of Gallery Shrine-Empire, DCAW allows them to showcase the best works of their artists under one roof. This allows the different exhibitions to enter into dialogue with one another.
DCAW, which is on a relatively smaller scale than an art fair, remains a collaborative project. According to Rasika Kajaria, founder, Gallery Exhibit 320 while a fair has the goal of increasing audiences for the arts from across India and abroad, DCAW is an independent initiative, which aims to unite private and public art establishments in the capital. However, the presentations of the partnering galleries are not curated in a unified way. “In every edition, we have a curated exhibition held simultaneously with the exhibits of the individual galleries. This year’s show has been curated by writer Meera Menezes,” elaborates Kakar.
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Titled ‘Legal Alien’, the exhibition borrows from Sting’s song Englishman in New York. According to a social media post by Menezes, the singer said that he felt so homesick when he first moved to live in New York that he went from one English pub to the other just so he could feel more at home. “The exhibition explores the notion of alienation and looks at the possible factors that could lead up to it—the rapid march of technology, which appears to connect people, but in essence produces a deep sense of alienation. Or is it the city and the anonymity it bestows on its denizens that creates this estrangement? Coming as we do out of the covid pandemic, our enforced isolation has also left many of us with a sense of loneliness,” she writes.
Menezes further writes that in the show, the artists ponder on this condition of alienation and interpret it in a variety of ways. While some of the artists explore the theme of migration—whether across country borders or from rural to urban areas—, others ponder on what it means to be a citizen of a country and still feel like an alien.
The format of DCAW allows for works that are experimental in nature. Gallery Blueprint12, for instance, is showcasing creations by Mansha Chhatwal and Kaimurai. “While Chhatwal’s practice is built around books, which have been censored over time, Kaimurai’s works are triggered by three elements—material (natural Indigo), organic forms that may be real or fantasy, and Carnatic music,” says Mandira Lamba, co-founder of Blueprint12.
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Gallery Espace is bringing a unique curation to the event—one that focuses on botany. “Evocative wall-mounted metal sculptures by Valay Gada have references to the natural world, which is being impacted by climate change. Thesewill be juxtaposed with the flora and fauna series of Paula Sengupta. We are also showing works of Amit Ambalal and introducing a promising artist Rashmi Mala,” adds Renu Modi, founder of the gallery.
Latitude 28 is presenting works of artists, who experiment with medium and material. “Yogesh Ramakrishna’s art practice often includes layers of interactivity and underlines the observations of post-truth behaviours of society. His work, titled Are we ready for Tomorrow’s Sun?, serves up dramatic acts while exploring household situations and altered emotions,” explains Kakar.In addition, the gallery will exhibit prints of Vadodara based Ketaki Sarpotdar that are inspired by traditions of fables, folktales, and narratives from around the world.
Gallery Exhibit 320 will showcase Harish Ojha’s intricate paper works. The artist feels a strong attachment with thesecolorful wooden toys, having grown up in rural India. The theme running through his paintings is of such priceless memories from his youth.“DCAW endeavours to bring together potential art collectors and enthusiasts to broaden the reach and relevance of contemporary art. It aims to inject fresh energy into the art scene in Delhi,”says Kajaria.
The fifth edition of the Delhi Contemporary Art Week can be viewed at Center for Contemporary Arts; Bikaner House, New Delhi between 1-7 September
Rahul Kumar is a Gurugram-based culture writer and artist
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