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Even as Indo Srilankan cultural relations date back to about 2500 years in the context of spread of Buddhism at the behest of Emperor Ashoka, when Srilanka was not an independent modern state, the modern cultural ties started and are commenorated with reference to the state’s separation in 1948 as a consequence of Indian independence. An official agreement signed in 1977 formalises these special cultural ties and there are entities like the ICCR that pursue these objectives in the present times.
There is thus a significant occasion in the cultural relations between the two countries as they mark the 75th year of their existence in the current year 2023. An interesting initiative in official channels has already been seen in the holding of an exhibition about the architectural contribution of Geoffrey Bawa, a celebrated architect from Srilanka. This exhibition opened in New Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art earlier on March 17.
“The Beauty of Unveiling” a joint group show of art by 16 artists of the two countries that opened in Ahmedabad on Tuesday comes in this backdrop too, as a reminder of the long association and similarities of traditions and culture between the two countries, some hiccups here and there notwithstanding.
And yet, its timing is totally coincidental and it’s organized and hosted purely by private individuals like its curator Atul Mahajan, a pass out of MSU now practicing art and devoting his time in annual Indo Srilanka Art Shows. His initiative has been matched by the Archer Art Gallery who have hosted this third show of this informal group of artists from the two countries. This is in fact the first in India while earlier two versions have been held in Srilanka between 2020 and now, one of which was cut short in the face of impending lockdowns due to Corona in March of 2020.
The Beauty of Unveiling (the Truth of the Art) was opened at the well-visited centrally-located Amdavad Ni Gufa, Art Gallery without any fanfare except the presence of a few Srilankan art students (not the participants), a few participating artists from here, as also the two organizing hosts Manan Relia and Atul Mahajan and the art lovers in good numbers.
The show has on display a wide variety of colourful as well as some intensely thoughtful visual expressions in a similar variety of media and sizes as the two ‘schools’ put their best foot forward.
The topics on Srilankan side vary from an aesthetic portrayal of humans to animals to vegetation or other motifs to a call to have a psychological encounter with inner beauty of individuals to larger concerns of indebtedness of nations at the social, economic and political levels; and further to reliving the memory of, or actually facing the renewed concerns about Corona. The pandemic in fact keeps on lingering and resurfacing every now and then since the man-made curse was first unleashed and suffered by humanity hugely all over the world in 2020 and thereafter; and hence its reflection in artistic concerns.
Sobhitha Wimlajeewa, Namal Kumara (whose three works about Bulls offer an interesting alternate perspective to Saumya Bandyopadhyay’s Bulls right now on show at 079 Stories in Ahmedabad); Anusha Gajaweera (Untitled Image series 1-4), Kasun Pathirana (Inner Gaze & Inner Beauty 34-37 series); Kosala Kumar (White Helmets, Map is not the Territory and Orhrs); Sanjeewa Kumara (Uncanny Personality 1-5) Sanjeewa Kaumari (Full Boom – or is it Bloom? series) and Sanjeewa Liyange (Matrimonial Series of 4) comprise and offer a representative perspective of the Stilankan contemporary art with its unique visual idiom and eye-catching flights of imagination.
On the Indian side, we find Artist Rahul Mukherjee has dwelt on life and people from Sikkim as he showcases a number of figurative portraits of Sikkimese people in common as also of the families and households there. Mukherjee’s art works have come out as part of a wider project of research in the social life in the Himalayan state.
Vijay Raghavan also from the Indian side has created works with unusual media and tools like a laser cut with mixed media on plywood to highlight perhaps a political being’s urge to occupy and retain the chair of power. Another work on plywood by Vijay titled Voice of Seed tends to highlight the blossoming of life in its wide connotations.
In an interesting coincidence, this “blossoming”finds a counter-perspective in the “Transformation” series of works by Curator Atul Mahajan “. These works tend to portray degeneration and withering decay in all forms of living organisms and by extension in human life under the forces of Nature that interact as its five elements.
Two more works by Vijay titled Nostalgia 1 and 2 look like memories of living in high-tech metros. Juxtaposed to this urban phenomenon is the dilemma and question of setting up a cozy intimate home which is apparently the concern depicted by Dushyant Patel in his works about homes and house (on an elephant). He has also displayed a series on animals and birds, thereby nature per se.
Monali Shroff offers very interesting visual representations of the feministic kind in solidly painted figurative works with a contemporary touch! Her works show off a certain playful exuberance and comic streak strewn therein with light poetic verses; one of her works even mentions April 01 on its top right corner!
Prantik Chattopadhyay uses Gouache on paper to create his Untitled Compositions a set of 12 with a plethora of objects filled in each frame. His other two works Page 5 and Page 8 are replete with imagery about science and life on planet earth.
Yogesh Ramkrishna is also showing his multilayered creations in Wash and Gouache like The Protest Towers 1 and 2 and The Promised Land, etc which are political in nature and seem to raise existentialist as well other concerns of governance for populaces all over and not merely in the developing world. Nitish Chaudhary is perhaps the second artist who has contributed water colour/charcoal works as a set of about six with various concerns.
The show with its off-beat creations offers for the discerning eye the comparative insights into the creativity of the fine arts practitioners of the two neighboring countries. Even if limited to a small set in each of the two nations going by the sheer scale of overall practice of art here, these insights can be significant going forward.
The show will be available till next Sunday, April 09.
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