Indian links at APT 8

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Some wonderful samples of Indian art in the traditional styles came to Brisbane recently as part of Kalpa Vriksha

The Queensland Gallery (QGOMA) concluded last month the eighth edition of Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT 8) which began in November last year.

This year, the focus was on artists from Asia, the Pacific and Australia. It centred on recent work in performance art, video, kinetic art and figurative painting and sculpture, with themes encompassing the cultural, the social as well as the political.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Kalpa Vriksha

One of the main attractions of this exhibition was the collection of contemporary art from India titled Kalpa Vriksha. This is a term which symbolises the divine wish-fulfilling tree from Hindu mythology.

Tarun Nagesh, co-curator in the international department of QGOMA told Indian Link that the exhibition came to fruition after intensive travel and collaboration with contemporary artists from India. The artwork displayed in the Kalpa Vriksha collection was facilitated through co-curator Minhazz Majumdar who is based in New Delhi, India.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Kalpa Vriksha

Tarun said, “Initially we were hesitant to approach anybody as we have to invest a lot of trust. However, we were incredibly lucky to have a long and successful relationship with Minhazz which led to the astounding success of this project.”

Tarun recollected his trip to India and Nepal outlining how the differences between the regional neighbours stood out in stark contrast. In India, the artists were supported by a vast network whereas the artists in Nepal worked with few resources. However, despite the obvious geosocial differences, the art community in both countries came across as extremely generous and talented.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam’s birth

Kalpa Vriksha brought together artistic traditions from eight rural-based communities in India. The various communities have diverse artistic approaches, such as the Warli, Gond and Patachitra communities whose artists employ scroll painting, the Mithila artists who depict histories through vibrant visuals, the Kalighat paintings which depict daily life, the Rajwar community’s clay sculpture techniques, and the Kaavad and Phad paintings that tell stories from their song and performance traditions.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Kalam Patua’s Restaurant

In recent years there has been an upsurge of interest in the art of these communities, with many invites for exhibition from out of India as well.

Kalpa Vriksha encapsulated not only the themes from the rural background but also had a huge contemporary context. The special feature was that a lot of the paintings have never been displayed before, as they are traditionally done on the walls of the houses and as part of traditional architecture.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Pushpa Kumari and Pradyumna Kumar’s Village Life

Some of the prominent works were by Pushpa Kumari and Pradyumna Kumar who painted ‘Village Life’. Another piece, ‘Kalam Patua’s Restaurant’ captured the essence of the high living society with its obsequious waiters, bearded intellectuals, men in business suits and dreamy eyed young women seated in the foreground.

Kalyan Joshi’s ‘Holi’ was self-explanatory as one looked at the myriad colours splashed across the canvas depicting Maharana Udai Singh, the sixteenth century Mewar ruler celebrating the spring festival of colour with courtiers, noblemen, ministers and the royal ladies.

Other notable artists whose work was on display included Venkat Raman Singh Shyam whose ‘Mahadev Gaura’ and ‘Under the Tree’ were admired and Madhu Chitrakar whose depiction of Yamaraj, the lord of death, gave a surreal feel to the exhibition.

Kalpa Vriksha.Indian Link
Kalyan Joshi’s Holi

The exhibition also included film screenings and an extensive kids program, with workshops from artists not only from India, but also Mongolia, South Korea, Malaysia, Iran, New Zealand and Australia.