Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tehelka : Palettes Borrowed from the Sun

Curated by Ranjit Hoskoté, an ongoing exhibition of contemporary Goan art is one of the finest in living memory, says Sonia Faleiro

As shadows shiver across the waterfront, Panjim’s Escola Medica Cirurgica de Goa lights up, vast rooms to voluminous corridors, and bathing in the glow are Goa’s new cultural marvels — its young artists. There’s Shilpa Mayenkar Naik, watching bees burst from banana leaves in charcoal Tranquillity, and Siddharth Gosavi, a slim figure standing beside Instincts, a voluptuous cheetah head snuck into a human torso, boot-shod feet sticking out towards the canvas edge. This is “Aparantã: The Confluence of Contemporary Art in Goa” (April 11 to 24), 265 works gathered by curator and poet Ranjit Hoskoté from the 2006 Farmagudi “Palette on the Hills” art camp — the genesis of the project — and from private collections and museums, to create Goa’s finest collaborative art exhibition in memory.

‘Madonna and Child’
by Angelo Fonseca

Sanskrit for ‘that which lies just this side of the Beyond’, Aparantã is a feat in expansiveness, offering a taste of a pioneering contemporary Goan, and in fact national, art heritage with the father of Indian Christian art, Angelo Fonseca (Madonna and Child, 1960), the founder of the Progressive Artists’ Group of the 1940s, FN Souza (Still Life, 1960), and Laxman Pai, who helmed the Goa College of Art in the 1970s. These older works anchor the exhibition, and their stories tell of the conflict of being Indian after 400 years of Portuguese rule; of the influences of a nomadic life in Paris and New York on an already Westernised, if conservative, sensibility; of Goa’s vibrant intertwining of Hindu and Christian socio-cultural mores. As fascinating is the other important axis of Aparantã: abstract memories in lush acrylics by the Tanzania-born Alex J. Tavares and by Antonio e Costa, born in Kenya, whose presence unveils a vital characteristic of Goan society — the Goan Christian’s search for escape and opportunity in Portugal and its colonies in East Africa, Timor and Brazil, as far back as the 16th century. (That ambition still remains, with only a change in place from Africa to the Middle East.) Hoskoté understands this well for he spent seven years in the town of Margao and the next 25 in Mumbai, terrified to confront the changes time had wrought on his birthplace. A nod to life’s inevitable migrations resulted in the inclusion of Delhi-born Dayanita Singh (who now lives in the village of Saligao where, in 2002, she presented her ongoing, iconic “Saligao Women’s Series”), and Keralite Baiju Parthan, who studied at the Goa College of Art and presents a series of mixed-media works.

by Viraj Naik

Aparantã’s great success, however, is its unveiling of Goa’s astounding crew of young artists. Mayenkar Naik, Pradeep B. Naik, Chaitali Morajkar, Viraj Naik, and Santosh Morajkar are all under 35, while Gosavi, the youngest at the exhibition, is 26 years old. Nothing about their work suggests Goanness, if there is such a unilateral thing, and the very defiance of expected images makes their work fresh, cosmopolitan and very exciting. Says Hoskoté, “These artists have a richness of process and a variousness of material which ensures that they are not plagued by the interchangeability which defines many of their contemporaries in Delhi and Mumbai. Their work combines a unique dialogue with the ancient past, the colonial period and, in the case of some, a preoccupation with a science-fictional future.” B. Naik, who is inspired by Goa’s Indo-Portuguese architecture, tears his paintbrush into sober acrylic images in which animals and humans co-exist; Chaitali Morajkar crafts hard-eyed female nudes; Santosh Morajkar has eye-popping mythical creatures, while Viraj Naik’s mixed media is Alice-in-Wonderlandian, in equal parts charming, terrifying and gratifyingly absurd. “Goa has exceptional young talent,” avers Parthan. “These young artists have a distinct cultural talent given the political background of Goa, and their work is intense and introspective.”

by Shilpa Mayenkar Naik

But for how long will these children of Goa remain at home, their state of ironies, where people come to retire from work but not to work; a place to which strands of contemporary Indian art are traced but whose influence on the national art scene appears non-existent? Much has to be done: an active gallery system is necessary, as is curatorial involvement, so young artists can feel mentored while remaining independent of the throng of their metro counterparts, whose submergence in Page 3 culture is financially advantageous but inevitably encroaches on the isolation serious artists cherish. Unless these talents are nurtured, Goa will continue witnessing its migrations, and this will impact not just its contemporary culture but also those who desperately wish to shape it. Shrugs Gosavi, whom Parthan sees as a rising star along with Viraj Naik: “The transition from Goa to Mumbai or Delhi will be a natural one. The Goan art scene is changing, but slowly.”

Being Kumari’ from the series
by Vidya Kamat

Just how slowly is summed up by Mayenkar Naik, who says that before meeting Hoskoté she didn’t know what a curator was. B. Naik, who won the Goa State Art Award in 2006, points out that it took Aparantã for gallery owners outside Goa to recognise his work. Viraj Naik, however, isn’t waiting around. The most prominent of the young artists — with multiple state awards, shows in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, and a solo show scheduled for Mumbai this June — he has, along with a few friends, started an artists’ collective in the industrial town of Vasco. “There are no government facilities for artists, or studio spaces available in Goa,” he explains. “One can’t always travel to another state. It’s so important for me to educate myself in universal art trends and to be aware of my artistic environment, so it made sense to create a space where artists work and interact, and can meet their counterparts from across India who stop by when they’re holidaying in Goa.”

Naik’s is the sort of initiative Sanjit Rodrigues, md, Goa Tourism Development Corporation — who conceived of what will now be seen as a landmark art camp — can relate to. “Art is an important cultural aspect of Goa,” he says. “But it took Aparantã to show Goans what a top-notch art show is; to explain the need for a quality catalogue, lighting and curatorship. People asked me when I’ll be taking Aparantã out of Goa. But artists like Viraj Naik, Pradeep Naik and Siddharth Gosavi now have gallery owners coming to them at home, in the state.”

And that’s something Hoskoté can certainly take credit for.

Apr 28 , 2006

No comments: