Monday, June 6, 2016

Visiting Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Kolkata

Birla Academy of Art & Culture has played an important role in forming modern and contemporary Indian aesthetics. Currently Birla Academy is planning 50th year golden jubilee celebrations. 

The academy fills a large, modern building with classrooms, lecture halls, and galleries housing permanent art collections and traditional arts as well as galleries dedicated to showcasing emerging art trends in well curated exhibits. 

Birla Academy of Art and Culture
109, Southern Avenue, Kolkata
West Bengal, India

Today we will visit two contemporary exhibitions at the BAAC in Kolkata. The 49th Annual Exhibition and LoC - Line of Control  are on view. (January, 2016)

The 49th Annual Exhibition is in the Basant Kumar Birla Gallery - a huge space divided into many smaller rooms. I am including photos of some of the rooms to give a sense of the museum-like scale.  The show highlights the work of 200 artists selected from 420 submissions from all over India.

An incredible array works in all media fill the vast space. 

Installations like the one above, along with colorful figurative sculptures, are among the three dimensional arts represented.

It is a difficult job to organize so much diverse art, but in this exhibit the artworks are arranged and placed thoughtfully. The whimsical character of the life-sized ceramic baby (pictured below) fit well with the mood of the paintings surrounding it - like that of a grinning figure with an iguana on his head.

We need to pause to admire this fabulous marble floor!

Much of the work in this year's annual exhibition is figurative - and very colorful. Even the figurative sculpture is boldly colored.

Paltu Ghosh 
Resting on the Lap of Letter
acrylic on handmade paper
38 x 57 cm

Bhakti Bhusan De, New Delhi
Changing of Life
water colour & ink
55 x 45 cm

The painting pictured above and the bronze seen below were created by the same artist, Bhakti Bhusan De from New Delhi. How wonderful to see an artist so skilled in diverse media!

Bhakti Bhusan De, New Delhi
Destruction of Nature
Bronze, steel, brass and copper
90 x 45 cm

A tapestry depicting a woman was formed by weaving pages torn from magazines.

This detail from another hanging scroll sensitively captures an intimate moment.

Koushek Konar
Hum-Tum (detail)
122 x 61 cm

Parameswara Samal, Orissa
Time, Memory Fantasy - II
acrylic on canvas
90 x 60 cm

We say farewell to a fanciful beast as we depart the annual exhibit to explore more of the Birla Academy.

The stair landings feature assembled murals utilizing primary colors made during the 2015 workshop Transforming Borders conducted by Chhatrapati Dutta. Dutta, one of the artists represented in the LoC show, exhibits internationally his multi-media works that include sound, video, and installation.

Walking through this beautifully designed hallway, we enter another gallery where the Line of Control  exhibition is displayed.

LoC - Line of Control is an exhibition of contemporary Indian art that was organized by the curator, Johny ML in response to an act of socio-religious censorship at an exhibition in Pune. 
A few pieces from the exhibition are highlighted here.

Debanjan Roy, a sculptor from Kolkata, created a satirical piece about the India/Pakistan relationship.

Debanjan Roy
Gandhiji and Jinnah Taking Selfie
Painted Fibre Glass

The installation pictured below is by the group Po10tial - a team of ten artists from different parts of India. Members include Akhilesh Kumar, Annaray S. Hangargi, Bhuwal Prasad, Kuldip Karegaonkar, Mallikarjun Katke, Maushmi Ganguly, Nkanhaiya, Santosh Rathod, Shabari S.Guha Nath, and Srinivas Mahtre.  The Po10tial group's stated "The moment we hear the words Line of Control / LoC, we straight away tend to view a line between the national borders, spaces of conflicts with our neighboring countries and a level it restricts our behavior and control. Then we gradually start to fine tune the LoC from the division of nations to states to districts to town or village to neighbourhood to lane to division to house numbers to room divisions and finally to the individuals having their own limitations in his or her inner self in the thought process.
We the ten different artists together forming the Po10tial team came to the conclusion that it is we who limit or unlimited ourselves, and these lines of control further proliferate through us. Our installation was arrived at unanimously and as we all believed that we draw our own Lines of control, the installation began taking shape accordingly. The base depicts Nature which has its own lines of control, the transparent pole is a reflection of our inner selves, and each work, shaped like an inward pointing arrow painting portrays our mission to look within ourselves at our own Lines of Control."

Looking Through
Acrylic cylinder, wood, canvas, acrylic, metal wire

Gujarati artist Shilpa Nikam, who now resides in Mumbai, expresses her emotions in mixed media on canvas and paper. The framed pieces on the wall (seen included in the installation below) address the physical borders of India and her neighboring countries. Barbed wire coils are installed below the framed artwork to represent the barbed iron fences that according to  Nikam "demarcate the human race itself. It acts as a sharp piercing thorn in the idyllic landscape of the mountainous regions of the borders. In my installation work,  Dehleez (threshold), I move from the political realm to the personal as I believe every dissent or argument begins at a personal level of one's ego. Ego causes the discord and disconnect between two people or two nations. Lines of control are drawn in the form of social norms and psychological and physical to segregate humanity as a whole. Women in my opinion are victims of this segregation and my installation works portrays a brave woman taking her first steps against a social norm, courageously."

Shilpa Nikam
Mixed Media on paper

The brightly colored acrylic canvas (seen on the left side below) is by Akhlaq Ahmed, an artist from Uttar Pradesh. His piece titled Line of Control is an evocation of the M.F. Husain incident. Husain, a  Muslim, was driven out of India because he had painted the Hindu Goddesses in his hallmark style which merged his self portrait with the goddesses'.

Delhi artist Deepa Jayaraman's large acrylics on paper (above on right) are inspired by folk tales. In this narrative work Guns and Rosy she "delineates a scenario where ruthless murders and encroachments come to be seen as normal only because people just do not know where to draw a line between need and greed, pride and passion, and emotion and blind action. While 'gun' exemplifies all these dualities of existence, 'rosy' stands for the artist who is rendered helpless and confused by this ongoing madness."

Included in the Line of Control were many other interesting artworks by a large group of strong contemporary artists. We have only sampled a few inner brief visit to the impressive Birla Academy of Art and Culture.