Art of all hues

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 30 May 2019

Artist Arti Kirloskar wishes she was introduced to global art fairs like biennale much earlier. “It would have helped me so much in my early years of practise as an artist,” says Kirloskar, after wrapping up her presentation on her experience at the 58th Venice Biennale at Art2Day Gallery.

Artist Arti Kirloskar wishes she was introduced to global art fairs like biennale much earlier. “It would have helped me so much in my early years of practise as an artist,” says Kirloskar, after wrapping up her presentation on her experience at the 58th Venice Biennale at Art2Day Gallery.

In her hour-long PowerPoint presentation, Kirloskar put together the works of the artists, their installations and videos which she saw at the ongoing Venice Biennale. Kirloskar, who visited the 123-year-old global art fair, earlier this month with Indian artists says, “I started visiting biennale, when Kochi Muziri Biennale started in India. I thought, ‘Oh my god! This is surprising’. Soon after, a few artists and I started doing collaterals at Kochi (collaterals are exhibition projects that take place at the time of the biennale, but independent of the main curatorial project). When I first did the collaterals, I wasn’t aware of the effort required to do the work, how to own that space for so many months. I took time in understanding what is curating and creating something to convey an emotion. The art works were not for sale.”

After that experience, Kirloskar decided she should learn more, so she visited Sharjah Biennale and such. Her visit to Venice Biennale, where India was participating after eight years, was a matter of coincidence. “I was heading that way in any case. But a bunch of Indian artists, who were all going together to visit the India Pavilion at Venice Biennale, urged me to join them. So I decided to prepone my travel. I know Roobina (Karode), who is the chief curator and director, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA). So I decided to go.”  The Ministry of Culture, Government of India, KNMA and Confederation of Indian Industry have forged a partnership to present the India Pavilion. 

In her presentation, Kirloskar talked about artist Anicka Yi, a Korean artist, whose work revolves around ‘art of smell’.  Another Chinese artist, Yin Xiuzhen made sculptures from found objects, old clothes. Interestingly, her mother worked in a garments factory. Kemang Wa Lehulere, a South African artist, worked around his history and conditions of miners in his country. 

Talking about the works that she saw, Kirloskar says, “The artists have gone deep within themselves and found where is it that they come from. They used the material which was familiar to them. They are trying to discover who they are. Homelessness was a recurrent theme and some chose paintings, some chose old worn out clothes to depict it.”

As an artist, Kirloskar realised that we have a lot of boxes in our mind about what we think art is. “We think art should be representational, we think it should stick to a theme. We put all these chains around ourselves. After seeing the installations of these artists, I think art is a bit like meditation, self-realisation,” she adds.

When asked if any trends would emerge from global art fairs like this, Kirloskar responds, “I think it depends on the curator, what s/he is seeing and what s/he is visualising. It has a lot to do with the direction that the curator takes. Pavilions of various countries are doing their own work, museums are putting up their own exhibition. At one shot, you get to see and feel what is happening around the world.”

In her talk, the artist mentioned the styles of Sean Scully, Alberto Burri and George Baselitz. Scully’s exhibition titled Human was very zen-like, thinks Kirloskar. “It has very structured forms, simple to look at, but deep within. Baselitz paintings are upside down. They break away from representation,” she says. Her takeaway from the biennale was the humanity that she came across in the art installations. “There is one artist who has done large paintings based on scribbles. When we go to a stationery store to buy a pen, we doodle on a piece of paper. The artist said, ‘That’s the only moment you are making a mark on the paper without thinking’. He has collected doodles from around the world and they all look the same! In Parasol Unit, nine Iranian artists came up with sensitive work. They had done architecture pieces, which looked Japanese to me. But inside was Islamic writing. It highlighted that we come from the same source.”

In our city too, we had Pune Biennale and Kirloskar calls it “a great effort.” “When you bring artists together, expose them to new ideas, it needs to be applauded. All of us need to get together and help that person,” she says.

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