Ashvita’s launched its permanent exhibition space in the heart of Chennai’s cultural node, Mylapore, on 18th September, with the exclusive exhibition, The Savage Nobles. With a name that in itself evokes diversity and fusion, the show encompasses everything from paintings and photography, to ceramics and sculptures. Curated by Peter Nagy, the renowned artist and founder of Nature Morte, this event brings together some of the biggest names in Indian contemporary art, such as Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, L.N. Tallur, Bharti Kher and Thukral and Tagra.
Located at 4, Second Street, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai - the site where Ashvita has held over 320 auctions in the last six months - the space is now set to become their permanent flagship facility that will serve as an auction house, exhibition gallery and centre for knowledge-based events.
As you make your way through the upmarket Mylapore streets into the exhibition space, the contrast between this somewhat raw environment and that of a traditional art gallery is immediately apparent. The large space is housed in exposed walls with natural textures, and metallic projections that run all across. The traditional thinnai-like space draws in viewers, leading to sunlight-filled courtyards, which provide the perfect backdrop for the beautiful works of art on display.
The brick-wood-glass-plain intermix in the wall plane echoes the idea behind the exhibition’s namesake, by symbolising the coexistence of its contrasting elements reflected on the surface material. This superimposition of contemporary works over traditional elements of South Indian art and architecture creates an interesting juxtaposition that highlights the unique features of two divergent periods and styles.
As you enter the space, your eye is immediately drawn to the winding galvanised wires wrapped over a deity, in the cryptically titled, Spiritual Calibrator, by L.N. Tallur. The element of mystery in the form is amplified by the opaque overlay of industrial painted iron over a bronze core that traditional Hindu iconography customarily projects.
Right across from this sculpture is the contrasting, circular work of bindis dominating the canvas in a vivid depiction of the artist Bharti Kher’s interpretation of the phenomenon, The Splitting of an Atom. The repetition of the circular profile strengthens connectivity to the core that symbolises an atom. Depicting the splitting of that core is the transition in chromatic levels - the distribution of the monotonous bindis on the coloured canvas that gradually decrease towards the end of the profile.
The fresh narrative of cultural substance is apparent in the work of Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. The series of paintings titled, Mythological Induction are a reinterpretation of Hindu mythology, bringing the significant cultural references together. Kalki, the final avatar of Lord Vishnu, reflects in the visual story as a collection of both physical and metaphoric elements that humans perceive as spiritual energy.
Shifting focus back to 3D perception are the works of Subodh Gupta. The Tilted Brass Thali Always Has A Mystery and No Ritual No Spiritual Just A Form are captivating examples of exquisite form. Being the artistic contemplation of everyday substances such as utensils and cutlery, the works bring about contemporary interpretation of traditional material.
Jitish Kallat, whose exhibit Covering Letter was recently included the Indian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, showcased a series titled Anagram. With deep visual language brought by the depth in colour and textures, the paintings transcribe the forces of nature and cosmic relation as abstracts on canvas.
The beauty of the entire experience, in addition to the rich artistic expressions, is also owed in part to their arrangement. “I hang them according to how they adapt to the space, and secondly, how they relate to each-other” says Nagy, speaking on how the artworks have been distributed across the space.
He adds “I wanted to show works that may not be expected of these artists, at least to the gallery audience in Chennai”. Being true to his words, these exhibits leave the viewer with a lasting impression of creative exploration.
The visual story of the exhibit covers the complete spectrum from art to architecture, with unique works that take their place amidst the consciously designed space. In an attempt to inculcate ‘old-Madras vibes’ to blend in with the culturally rich location, the space takes architectural design inspirations from the past, such as traditional columns and bracket styles, that take a contemporary disguise with modern sustainable materials. This harmonious coexistence of art and architecture marks the apotheosis of the event.
By Akshaya Muralikumar