Talking about India, Pakistan and Kashmir through art (With Images)

March 14th, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) India-Pakistan relations and militancy in Kashmir are some of the geopolitical concerns of the sub-continent that leading contemporary artist Shilpa Gupta talks about through her new-age art.

The works of Gupta, whose second solo show in the capital opened Saturday, are technology driven - combining installations, interactive video projections, photographs, music, objects and performances and public spaces.

Her solo exhibition at the newly-renovated Lalit Kala Akademi here makes powerful comments on Kashmir, India-Pakistan ties, the growing irrelevance of Gandhian values and the ambivalence in the spirit of nationalism.

“I believe in the role and purpose of art and try to understand the world around me through my works,” Gupta told IANS during a sneak peek at the works at the Akademi.

Gupta is one of the art market barons, with her works commanding prices at par with contemporary masters like Subodh Gupta and Atul Dodiya. She is also one of the few artists who do not use paints but rely on videos and installations.

One of her installations, “In our Times”, touches upon a disturbing aspect in the historical ties between India and Pakistan.

It makes use of a microphone, a see-sawing human figure and speeches made by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah on the eve of Independence and talks of failed promises and botched aspirations.

The artist uses extracts from Nehru’s “Tryst With Destiny” speech, which she delivers in a monotone, along with a speech by Jinnah in August 1947.

“The content of both the speeches were identical. Both the nations were asking for the same things, but what happened to the aspirations? It is my take on how we have divided the two nations,” Gupta explained.

In another video installation, “100 hand-drawn maps of India”, which projects maps of India drawn by 100 people - none of the outlines match.

“Perceptions of nationalism and its geography differ from person to person,” Gupta said.

A video projection-cum-installation of clothes - baggy white garments hanging from clotheslines - and a woman marching with a flag made of the clothes, symbolise the agony of the women in Kashmir, whose men have either deserted them or have died in militancy.

“It is associated with death, widowhood, personal angst and the blood that has been shed in the task of nation building,” she said.

A video footage of six minutes and 28 seconds, “National Highway 1″ - covering a stretch of the Srinagar-Gulmarg highway, is a visual and an oral love story that ends abruptly under the shadow of a security gun on the picturesque highway.

“The footage of my love song develops a glitch which is actually an Indian soldier - who brings a sense of discomfort. I try to show that the border is not free,” Gupta said.

A concept photograph, “Looking for Kurukshetra”, tries to identify the mythical war ground of Mahabharata through a combination of “history, distance and validity on a landscape”.

“I have driven around in search of Kurukshetra physically, but failed to locate the exact spot,” she said.

The works are characterised by wisdom that is far beyond’s the artist age and a measure of mature austerity that technology brings.

Gupta, who also works on public art projects to promote amity between India and Pakistan, is concerned about younger artists.

“As I am interested in the role of art in society, I feel independent artistic thoughts must be encouraged in the age of mass production. More and more artists are talking about things that are not being shown on glossy advertisements - art has to be a see-saw between aesthetics and content. Younger artists need more infrastructure and encouragement,” she said.

Gupta, born in 1976, lives and works in Mumbai. She graduated from the J.J. School of Fine Arts in Mumbai. She has exhibited solo at the Galleria Continua, San Gimignamo and La Laborataire in Paris.

Later this year, Gupta will participate in the exhibition, “The Generational: Younger than Jesus” at New Museum, New York, and the “Biennale Cuvee-World Selection of Contemporary Art” at the OK Centre for Contemporary Art in Linz, Austria.

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