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Art Basel | Hong Kong May 23 - May 26, 2013
The Baptism Certificate, 2013
The Baptism Certificate - Study, 2013
Angry Birds, 2013
Nilima Sheikh's series 'Studies for Rozgar' consists of brush drawings and stencil printing
that precedes her large scale series 'Gained in Translation' shown at the Art Basel
Statement 2011. As with her other work in the past decade this series constitutes a
further attempt to bring a layered visuality to the strife-ridden state of Kashmir. Sourcing
oral and written histories, lore and poetry, journalism and a wide spectrum of craft and
visual traditions, Nilima Sheikh lays bridges between the historical and the contemporary.
Her interest lies in the cultural histories embedded in images and translating them into
her own pictorial language.‘
Studies for Rozgar' translates from a 19th century manuscript, most likely commissioned
by the British, that is a rich record of craftworkers and other professions in Kashmir. By
drawing on this manuscript Nilima Sheikh pays homage to the labour of the Kashmiri
craftworkers attempting to bring dignity to their struggle against the circumstances of
their survival in the past and present. The delicate drawings, even though a typification of
labour, almost dematerialize labour, imbuing it with stillness and a staying power.
A recurrent theme in Aditi Singh’s drawings is the anatomy of flowers. Drawing flowers
for over one decade they still continue to enthrall the artist, or as she puts it: ‘At a certain
moment a form chooses you and won’t leave you in peace’. These flowers are not
typically meant to decorate or beautify. They survive in extreme climate and their
ephemeral character contradicts the tenacious nature of their existence. The organic and
geometric structure and their skeletal fragility point to the invisible mysteries inherent in
natural phenomena. Exploring the countless nuances and vagaries of those phenomena
reveals the artist’s intent to capture the stillness of an infinite space within the limits of a
temporal reality. The floral implosions, even though rendered in dark hues, exude an
internal luminosity that radiates down to the vast emptiness surrounding the forms, their
floating denying gravity and weight.
The process of selecting the paper is an integral part of Aditi Singh’s drawings. The
paper acts both as space and skin. Skin that protects, bears the traces of living by
witnessing the process of evolution and dissolution. The paper’s texture and materiality
create a symbiosis with the subtle colors and shapes of the floral forms, thus standing for
the ‘metamorphosis of the One into the Other’, a process that describes the gradual
reduction of distance between the work and the self of the artist.
While her exploration of the human self through the experience of her own interiority
forms a focalizing point for her work, Anju Dodiya has taken inspiration over the years
from a variety of sources, historical and contemporary, esoteric and popular. In this
series, she draws from sports photography and nineteenth century Japanese Ukiyo-e
woodblock prints, whose depictions of Samurai figures evoke for Anju Dodiya the world
of sport, and mimics some of "its desperate moments of winning and losing".
The tragic/heroic aspirations and semblances of death that the artist and her image
narrate within the works, display an almost martial energy. The carefully structured
tableaux are characterized by a ritual of rigour and tension emerging from the dual
elements of concealment and display. Yet this theatrical telling of the artistic self, its
private emotions and its secrets, are played out with irony and humor and warmed with
the gossamer-light touch of earnest humanity that is the artist's special gift.
In this work, stars of all flags from recognized and several unrecognized countries have
been traced and stitched on top of each other. Not only in this most recent work, but also
in the past, Shilpa Gupta has engaged with the matter of borders and geographies. The
assertion of new identities on the basis of nations is rather young compared to the
existence of communities that have been around for much longer.
Flags as symbols of nations and boundaries that are strict lines drawn for political
reasons cannot avoid that violence and terrorism make borders invisible. Similarly
languages, customs and relationships that are critical to identity building are not stopped
within boundaries. The concept of nation was actually only born in the age of
Enlightenment and Revolution. Demising an ancient social order the nation stood for the
emergence of a modern world and citizen. Therefore, its claim to be very old is to be
reconsidered not only in the light of ethnicity and cultural practices that have much
deeper roots, but also in the light of people that have always been there, as no nation
could exist without its population.
House and home are recurring themes in Desmond Lazaro’s work. The search for home
and identity run deep in the artist’s life who grew up in England and then moved back to
India. In the earlier blue house series the artist has looked at the idea of home and
belonging, himself having travelled so extensively and straddling 2 continents. Upon his
return to India he started relentlessy searching for his Indian ancestry. Finally he
succeeded in obtaining his great-grandfather's baptism certificate.
The work 'Baptism Certificate' mentions amongst other the name of his great-grandfather
who lived in Madras during the 1800’s. Found in a Catholic Church in Chennai the record
is far more than a mundane object. It forms part of other records bound as books that
exude a certain beauty due to stained paper and the sober handwriting of an unknown
The records unfold different stories of different people, each entry proving of another
marriage, another death, another birth. Even though the other people mentioned in the
Certificate are unknown to the artist he finds something that connects him to them, a
connection that finally represents the long wanted home coming. The 'Baptism
Certificate' and 'Baptism Study' read as a celebration of this overwhelming feeling.
Therefore, the series sheds a new light on earlier works like the blue house series that
spoke of the contradiction of having and not having a home, whereas Desmond Lazaro
has now found a space that is devoid of longing but manifests the genuineness of being
Hema Upadhyay’s work at most times is engaged with the notion of migration and
urbanization within the city she inhabits - Bombay/Mumbai. Mumbai, one of the most
expensive real estates in the world, continues to attract people everyday, the statistic
being close to 200 migrants coming into the city every day. ‘Angry Birds’, a large scale
collage, refers to a video game that the artist got interested in by closely studying its
characters and social structuring. The birds in the game stand for the migrants who are
deprived of their most fundamental rights to housing and land by a ruthless urbanization.
Whereas the birds in the game take revenge on the pigs that represent real estate developers and corrupt politicians, in reality the migrants are haunted by the daily
struggle of survival that does not provide them with the means necessary to fight for their
Hema Upadhyay is not only preoccupied by the social, political and aesthetic framework
of the city, she also addresses the mental and psychological space of its inhabitants by
using texts that are taken from thinkers on modernization and development in context of
the megapolis. The birds that appear colorfully in her large drawing against a sober
cityscape are non-migratory birds which are, like the migrants, constantly displaced and
deprived from their ecological resources.
'Eclipse' is a ten part black and white photo-piece that might collectively appear like
planetary forms or astral imagery. In fact the forms derive from medical DICOM outputs
realised in a doctor's radiology lab by placing platters of food on a x-ray bed. The x-ray
image was then converted into photographs whose black background could be seen as
reminiscent of an empty night sky onto which an eclipse is inscribed. Exploring the formal
analogies of planetary forms and food, 'Eclipse' in is line with Jitish Kallat's piece
'Conditions Apply' shown at Art Hong Kong last year.
In the later piece the phases of the waxing and waning moon where represented through
the “roti” or Indian bread. The “roti”, a staple diet in India, is a metaphor of sustenance,
there one day and vanishing the next, much like the cycle of the moon that oscillates
between abundance and dearth. Likewise the immersive video 'Forensic Trail of the
Grand Banquet' refers to a cosmic field through x-ray images of food. An image of
sustenance evokes notions of galaxies and orbits that change their forms from small
seeds to giant like structures traveling through the cosmic field like stellar remnants.