A Display of Compelling Works by Graduates of MSU at Gallery Ark in Vadodara

12 recent alumni of MS University broach themes of decay and destruction, beauty and life, at the group exhibition ‘Embark’. Know what’s so unique about these works that are on display at the Gallery Ark, Vadodara, till May 10.

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The process of learning at an art school is somewhat akin to the concept of handwriting development. Though we are all simultaneously taught to write in the same pattern, we somehow develop our own techniques of writing during the process. Like this, though every student may have studied in the same class at an art school and received the same tutelage, everyone’s perspectives, mediums and ways of representing art turn out to be utterly unique. In every show I’ve visited so far of students of MS University – like Vis-a-Vis art gallery’s Face to Face series – I’ve noticed a distinctiveness in every artist’s perspective in each of the artworks on display. I am now certain that MSU students, before graduating from their alma mater, develop a keen knack for personalising their art through a pinch of inventiveness. With a total of 50 artworks on display, the exhibition Embark brings together 12 MS University alumni of the 2017 batch, who have completed their graduation in Fine Arts, for a compelling exhibition at the Gallery Ark in Vadodara.

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Viewers gathered at Ark Gallery for Embark exhibition’s inaugural ceremony

Inaugurated on May 1 in the presence of veteran artists and art-lovers from the city, Embark is an exhibition of paintings, prints, sculptures and installations. Although the summers of Gujarat, especially in the month of May, are infamous for their scorching rage; when I received a message about Embark from Pratiti Shah, co-curator at the Gallery Ark in Vadodara, I decided to brave the dry blazing winds to travel to the culturally rich city of Vadodara from Ahmedabad. I was already familiar with the architectural beauty of entrepreneur Atul Dalmia’s gallery. But this time, I looked forward to experiencing the aesthetics of the emerging artists of Vadodara. Embark did not disappoint me at all.

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark
Rashesh Chauhan’s corroding metal artwork with acid effect

The theme of decay and deterioration occupies many of the young artists’ minds at this exhibition. Artist Sarasija Subramanian recently travelled to Ireland to see how oceanographers are organically farming corals in seabeds. She generates awareness about the deteriorating condition of sea life through her depictions of various kinds of corals and seaweeds. Rashesh Chauhan, meanwhile, plays with rusted metal and uses acid to weave windowed buildings into his artworks. Through brownish tints of corrosion, Chauhan wants to portray the deterioration of Indian architectural heritage. MD Aslam’s awe-inspiring sculptures, on the other hand, use plastic toys, wood and various other materials to portray the effects of war, and the self-destructive nature of humanity, by satirically using popular imagery.

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark
Dinar Sultana’s organic painting made with natural colours on bougainvillaea flowers Canvas

Artist Dinar Sultana portrays environmental chaos and pollution in the world by experimenting with a unique medium; she uses leaves of bougainvillaea flowers to create thick canvases and produces organic colours using elements like turmeric, catechu, indigo, henna and iron rust. In one of her artworks, she uses natural materials and their extracts. Sultana’s small dragonflies, calmly drawn on paper, and abstractly shaped patterns in paper-pulp and cloth, also caught many eyeballs at the show. When we asked her how she generated these ideas to make her artworks, she said, “Before I joined MS University, I completed my bachelor’s degree from Kala Bhavana, Shantiniketan. My artwork is an amalgamation of both the schools. Bengal taught me to use the best of materials, whereas Vadodara taught me to use these materials to express my thoughts with utmost clarity.

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark
Artist Prajith Elampilal’s humongous painting with black background

Prajith Elampilal uses the colour black as background for his huge artworks, which narrate dreamlike elements. He explained, “I used to draw on black slates in my childhood. Since then, I’ve been inspired to use dark backdrops in my paintings. They also portray how human beings are unaware of things that are in darkness until a ray of light is reflected upon the subject.”

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark
Meitreyi Desai and Shailja Sharma’s geometrical compositions and architecture form inspired etching works

Meitreyi Desai of Valsad, and Shailja Sharma, both explore geometrical compositions in space through etching. Desai creates geometrical compositions using the top roll and intaglio process of etching, while the17 etching works of Shailja Sharma explore an organised anarchy of lines that meticulously express her fascination for architectural shapes and spaces. At first look, the spiral staircases created through her etchings can be easily mistaken for sketches. Eminent artist Gulam Mohammed Sheikh spent a significant amount of time observing Sharma’s other series of animal portraits, which showed stages of their making in animation – from gridlines in software to culmination in flesh and bones.

Exploring the everyday things, artist Radhika Kacha uses oil paints on canvas to make poetic shades of sky and to show the moon and its darker side. Kacha wants to narrate how everyone perceives beauty differently, and how people are far more profound than they let on in their everyday life. Local artist Gulab Kapadiya, meanwhile, depicts a milieu of vendors at the Khanderao flower market of Vadodara, using wash techniques on rice paper with watercolours. The withered textures on his canvases lend a dramatic feel to these everyday encounters. Aiyushi Beniwal’s large figurative portraits on planks, meanwhile, stand tall in two corners of the gallery.

Embark, Art, Gallery Ark
Sculptor MD Aslam’s awe-inspiring sculpture on war and inhumanity

These 12 artists portray their innermost thoughts clearly without being swayed by populist concepts. While emerging artists of Ahmedabad often limit themselves to expressing surrealism, this group experiments widely with a variety of mediums, perspectives, flavours and aesthetics, which makes the show a rollercoaster experience for onlookers. If the organisers could make this a travelling exhibition, more people could perhaps see how enriching the art from Vadodara is!

Visit Vadodara to see the exhibition Embark. The architectural spaces of Gallery Ark will be equally worth the visit. The exhibition is open for all here until May 10, every day from 4 PM to 7 PM.

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