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Fair answers
by Muhammad Yusuf February 08, 2018
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India Art Fair (IAF) is the leading platform to discover modern and contemporary art from South Asia and a portal to that region’s cultural landscape. It attracts, besides artists, curators, collectors, journalists, gallerists and critics.

While some visit IAF to acquire art, others view the fair as an exhibition or an enjoyable cultural outing. Year round, it runs an extensive programme of events, including education initiatives, artist commissions and pop-up programmes, aiming to increase audiences for the arts in India.

IAF is hosting its 10th anniversary edition this year (Feb. 9 – 12) and as part of the celebrations, Dubai based 1x1 Art Gallery, located at Alserkal Avenue, is presenting never before seen large sculptures by artists Chittrovanu Mazumdar and M Pravat.

Mazumdar is a contemporary Indian artist specialised in multimedia installation art, conceptual art and expressionist painting. Major exhibitions of his work have been presented in Dubai, Kolkata, London, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, Rome, Singapore and Salzburg, among other places. His paintings are housed in the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and in several private collections internationally.

M Pravat is a contemporary Indian artist who specialises in photorealistic painting, works on paper, mixed-media and geometric sculpture. Solo shows of his works were held in Dubai, New Delhi and Mumbai, and he had several group shows in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Baroda, London and Paris.

The artists speak to Time Out on the fair and their art. Over to Mazumdar   

* What work/s are you showing at IAF?

I have three works at IAF this year, two at 1x1 and one at Emami. At 1x1 I am showing two large works, one a metal cart with lights and the other a wall work of painted metal and a digital photograph.

* Where do you place India in your Inspirational Chart (scale 1- 10)? Why?

It’s not really a question of a country but of one’s surroundings. It is about our environment and how one reacts to it.

There is a huge body of my work inspired from my family home in Jharkhand. Jharkhand is a new State, culled from a piece of Bihar State in 2000, and it is a poor State – you know this by the never-ending darkness, the never-ending night.

Only occasionally a few bulbs glow golden - and their glimmer is visible from miles away. Light is precious in this place. Light is a miracle and somewhere from here, stems my preoccupation with light. Many of the photographs I embed in my works are composed of Jharkhand, its inherent voids and constant decay.

A few hours away is Kolkata, my home. Kolkata is a city that froths with life, sprawling like the legs of an arachnid, where bodily encounters are anxious, unstable, over ripe.

I carry it with me always, the viscid heat and obscure faces. Buildings press close to each other, breathing, heaving entities in themselves, and we are all witnesses to each other’s lives, in glimpses and fleeting moments. My work is also a response to this city.

* You are known for using a wide range of material and technologies. What makes you do so?

I guess it is the curiosity of trying out new ideas and finding techniques to see it happen.

* Are you a lecturer at IAF? If not, what subject would you have spoken on?  

No, I am not speaking at the fair. I am really a very private person and I prefer not to speak from a public platform. I think if at all I were to, I would maybe speak about how a work takes shape, what one dreams about and the choice one makes in the selection of an idea.

* A big order, but in brief, comment on contemporary Indian art 2000 – 2020 CE (inclusive of two year prediction).

I really don’t know how to answer this question!

M Pravat takes the floor

* Have you been influenced by drip painting?

I use this technique; however, I don’t base any of my paintings solely on any style. But I do use drip painting as a reference tool for paint layering and effects. My artworks are an insight into my own modified techniques, from my own perspective, which is in no way linked to influences by any kind of techniques.

* At times, your strokes are calligraphical. Comment.

I don’t think I have any calligraphic elements in my work. The shape, the colour density and water density of the ink, as well as the paper’s water absorption speed and surface texture are the main physical parameters influencing the final result.

* One can find grill-like elements in your works – for example, like Hawa Mahal in India or the mashrabiya (lattice work) in the Middle East. Is this so?   

Though jali (from Sanskrit ‘Jala’ and ‘Jalaka’) has been described in ancient Indian architectural texts, it owes its growth and development, to this magnificent scale and stature, to the Mughals and it belongs to the 16th and 17th century stone-art of India. It is an essential element of Mughal Architecture.

Red sandstone and white marble jalis have been universally used in Mughal monuments, on edges of platforms, causeways and terraces (as railings, with balusters), and also on the edges of the projecting chhajjas, jharokhas and gaukhs (balconies); and along with chhatris.

Jalis are also used gorgeously to close windows and door openings for purdah (veil) and for effect. While they admit free air, they temper sunlight and eliminate its glare.

Jalis are used as excellent ventilators in private inner rooms, toilets and on drains. Essentially a useful architectural accessory, the Mughals made it a work of art. I have got this form from this history and use it as purposes of architectural element.

* National identity, international understanding – can one define your art this way?

You will remember from the Conceptual Framework, that national identity is culturally produced to create difference through the fostering of a sense of sameness.

Because national identity is something that is constructed, it can also be de-constructed and continually re-constructed. All sorts of strategies contribute to the imaginative construction of identity.

In this case study, we will delve into why the spaces of the world around you and the spaces in your own mind may make a very effective contribution. Hope you can understand what I mean!

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