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South Asian artists in QAGOMA’s Asia Pacific Triennial

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In the 10th edition of QAGOMA’s Asia Pacific Triennial (APT10), the exhibition hopes to look to the future of art and the world we inhabit together.

APT10 includes 69 artworks with new and recent work by emerging and established artists and collectives, about 150 individuals from 30 countries have contributed to this collection.

This time, 11 South Asian artists have enriched the exhibition with their stories of ‘how to navigate through time and space, reimagine histories and explore connections to culture and place’.

The free and expansive onsite exhibition will be on display across both galleries, QAG (Queensland Art Gallery) and GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), featuring a wide variety of materials and techniques, with large-scale installations, immersive multimedia artworks, sculpture, textiles, paintings, photography and video.

Here are some familiar links to India and neighbouring countries; Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Mayur and Tushar Vayeda

The Vayeda brothers, Mayur (29) and Tushar (38), live and work in Ganjad, India.

Mayur and Tushar Vayeda are brothers who proudly belong to the indigenous Warli people of Ganjad, Maharashtra, India. While carrying forward the ancient practices of Warli painting from a young age through family members, the brothers quit other career prospects to explore, document, and share their culture.

vayeda artists qagoma
Source: QAGOMA
They seek to explore new avenues for the historically coded tradition of Warli art — to ‘move Warli tradition forward, without diluting its essence’ — while maintaining cultural protocols and being aware of its vulnerabilities today.
“For APT10, the Vayeda brothers’ recent painting projects document Warli narratives on an unprecedented scale and level of detail, translating it for new contexts and social conditions.”

Rathin Barman

Barman, 40, hailing from Tripura, India, lives and works in Kolkata.

He records stories of migration and home-building in order to study the social fabric of cities, by highlighting the quirks that are etched in urban architecture. A regular visitor of Kolkata’s migrant neighbourhoods, he researches the history and transformation of buildings and gathers stories from families and communities.

Rathin Barman. Source: QAGOMA
Source: QAGOMA

“In particular, he considers how ambiguous ownership and tenancy structures result in hybrid communities occupying buildings in different ways, leaving visible traces in the architecture.”

Barman’s sculptures combine everyday industrial materials such as concrete and steel with more precious materials — polished brass. From monumental installations to small, detailed sculptures, his work records the nuanced evolution of urban structures.

Shubigi Rao

Rao, 46, hailing from Mumbai, India, lives and works in Singapore.

Shubigi Rao’s work primarily focuses on research into libricide — ‘the destruction of books, songs, stories and dialects — as a factor in broader ethnic disparities and cultural genocides’. Collectively titled Pulp, this research has manifested in the form of films, installations, and two award-winning volumes of writing and photography.

Source: QAGOMA
Source: QAGOMA

Rao’s installation A small study of silence comprises a film, photographs, and ink drawings. In this work, Rao draws on her formative childhood experience of living within the rich acoustic space of the Nainital jungle, in the Himalayan foothills, where each sound is part of an intricate communication network.

3AM

3AM is a performance art group from Myanmar, made up of three artists Ma Ei, Ko Latt, and Yadanar Win. After participating in a group exhibition in Sweden, in 2016, the trio decided to begin collaborating together. They are also the first performance art collective in Myanmar and each member maintains their own individual performance and multimedia practices, as well as signalling the important role performance has played in the development of contemporary art in Myanmar.

3AM
Source: QAGOMA

Improvisation, live public performances, studio productions, and on-location photographic series, all form 3AM’s body of work highlighting the country’s ongoing political instability, as well as issues of gender, sexuality, inequality, and other social situations.

Interestingly, the artists rely only on their physical bodies and each other to convey the ‘urgency and threats in the subjects they target’.

Pala Pothupitiye

Pothupitiye, 46, from Deniyaya, Sri Lanka, lives and works in Colombo.

In Sri Lanka’s contemporary art scene, Pala Pothupitiye’s practice draws on both international history and local ritual. In particular, he questions European colonial paradigms and their legacies regarding the development and perception of the SL’s art, culture, and identity.

Source: QAGOMA
Source: QAGOMA

A majority of his work is dedicated to manipulating and re-appropriating cartographic devices, particularly old maps of the cities, ports and forts of Sri Lanka, including those made during the country’s Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial periods.

“He also actively revives and draws attention to native Sri Lankan artistic practices: his parents are artisans in the small village of Deniyaya, where he was raised — his father is a craftsman of ornate costumes and objects for healing rituals, and his mother is a practitioner of indigenous medicine and traditional reed-weaving.”

Bani Abidi

Abidi, 50, hailing from Karachi, Pakistan, lives and works in Berlin, Germany, and Karachi.

Abidi’s works revolve around the contemporary conditions of Pakistan and its immediate region, like issues of security, democracy, urban and social change, and the ‘instrumentalised’ patriotisms that form the basis of the relationship between Pakistan and India.

Recently, after Abidi’s international travels, her work has also emphasised imbalances in the telling of histories.

bani abidi Source: QAGOMA
Source: QAGOMA

Her work Memorial to Lost Words 2016–18 pays homage to the memory of more than a million Indian soldiers who served in WWI — including some 70 000 who gave their lives — and whose accounts have been largely excluded from history. The work is presented through an immersive sound installation produced by Abidi and an arrangement of letters drawn from the book Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914–18 (1999) by David Omissi.

READ ALSO: Kirthana Selvaraj in her ‘green suit‘ at the Archibald

Karan Shrestha

Shrestha, 36, hailing from Nepal, works in Kathmandu and in Mumbai, India.

karan shrestha art
Source: QAGOMA

Karan Shrestha is an artist who concerns himself with the social and political structures of Nepal, he does this through an experimental mode of practice that combines video, drawing, photography, and text.

With firsthand footage stitched together with documentary and found footage, his final video works contain layers of history, violence, natural disaster, military mobilisation, mass gatherings, and ‘acts of waiting’.

Shrestha also creates intricate ink drawings that incorporate a similar approach, displaying symbols and characters from reality, mythology, and imagination. The artist’s works construct a dense vocabulary of ‘Nepali narratives, peoples, and histories’.

Sumakshi Singh

Singh, 41, born in Delhi, lives and works in Gurgaon, India.

In her artistic career, Sumakshi Singh has developed a candid and reactive approach to material and space.

In her practice, she rigorously explores aspects of spatial intervention that ‘play in the gap between conditioned knowledge and direct perception, and in the spaces between physical objects and illusory experiences.’

sumakshi sinha art qagoma
Source: QAGOMA

The architectural features of Singh’s grandparents’ house in Delhi feature majorly in her recent sculptural studies in thread and shadow. In Afterlife, ‘groundless thread drawings’of windows, doors, staircases and other architectural elements capture the house frozen in time, ‘like a flower pressed between the pages of a book.’

Subash Thebe Limbu, Yakthung people

The 40-year-old artist, born in Dharan, Nepal, lives and works in London, UK, and Kathmandu. In his art practice, Subash Thebe Limbu explores the relationship between art and social change, which results in sound, animation, music, performance, and painting.

Most recently, he has had a particular interest in sci-fi, speculative narrative, indigeneity and climate change; which are the focus of an ongoing body of work titled Ningwasum. A film that places his own Limbu community from eastern Nepal in a futuristic space travel scenario.
subhash limbu art at qagoma
Source: QAGOMA
“It imagines an indigenous astronaut and time-traveller from the future, where her indigenous nation coexists with other nations and allies in the future and has created its own advanced technology.”

Adeela Suleman

Suleman, 46, lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan.

She is known for her sculptural works, which often bring to the fore themes of political urgency. For the last eight years, Suleman has produced painted works on obscure found ojbects. These works aim to explore history to consider violent conflicts and how they have been depicted. Her paintings feature techniques and motifs of South Asian miniature painting and draw on different historical events, sites and artistic traditions.

adeela suleman art at qagoma
Source: QAGOMA

In a related series titled ‘Home Front’, painted metal cleavers display delicate paintings of the Himalayan mountain range, drawn from postcards that circulate in Pakistan.

“Through these idealised landscapes painted on flesh-cutting objects, Suleman recognises the ongoing conflict in the region.”

Kamruzzaman Shadhin & Gidree Bawlee Foundation Of Arts

The works of Kamruzzaman Shadhin (48) and the Gidree Bawlee Foundation Of Arts (established in  2001) are also showcasing their work at APT10. For over two decades, artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin has developed new possibilities for contemporary art in Bangladesh. In 2001, he founded the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts in order to work with local communities and to ameliorate social inclusivity through collaboration.

b'desh art org qagoma
Source: QAGOMA

His work The fibrous souls, constructed with 70 giant shikas (embroidered, reticulated bags typically made of jute strings that are tied to an exposed beam), explores part of Bengal’s colonial history, inspired by the families that followed the railway tracks after the British East India Company established the Eastern Bengal Railway and later displaced in Bangladesh.

“Working with 13 women from jute-making families to construct the shikas, along with a handful of local craftspeople to create the pots and connecting jute ropes, Kamruzzaman and Gidree Bawlee have constructed a giant hanging system of shikas, laid out as a map of the historic railway.”

(The installation of this artwork has been delayed due to changing freight and logistics conditions during COVID-19. It will be installed in February 2022.)

The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Aart (APT10) will be on until 25th April 2022.

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