The display of an artwork makes all the difference in how it’s perceived. At the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in South Court Mall, Saket, the artworks came to life with the lights coming on. Stretched Terrains curated by director and chief curator of the museum, Roobina Karode, reiterates that artworks when viewed in a particular context and space, gain a whole new meaning.
Take for instance F N Souza’s landscapes, which may have seen them before, but when placed together in context of Stretched Terrains, one understands the importance of movement, migration and displacement. His distinct expressionist style, bold brush strokes and carefully calculated riot of colors brought this to life.
Most people know Souza, the founder of the Progressive Artist Group (PAG), for his female portraits and nudes. Here the artist seems to speak of the woman’s body as a terrain that needs to be maneuvered and stretched to break the notions of the sacred and the profane. The exhibition also featured some of his landscapes and a rare portrait of an agrarian family. Souza was subtly exploring the idea of terrain through ethnicity, through this work.
Next I entered an igloo-like room, where I encountered Mithu Sen’s installation, The Same River Twice. It was by far the most interesting art installation at the museum. In this, she pays homage to the late Bhupen Khakhar through her delicate drawings. The series of paperworks are hung alongside halogen bulbs. The paperwork contains partial sketches and paintworks while the glass over the paper has the remaining drawing/ sketch outlined delicately in white.
When the lights are dim, one can see a partial painting and probably get the impression that it is the complete artwork, but as the lights brighten, the lines on the glass (invisible in the dim light) cast their shadows on the paper thus rendering the painting complete.
The artworks of SH Raza and some paintings of MF Husain follow the aesthetic philosophy and universal principle of beauty. Raza’s paintings are rich in color and almost perfect when it comes to symmetry and the gradual deepening of colors. Raza lived in Paris and his works have always been recollections of the motherland. M F Husain’s early paintings reacted to partition and were nostalgic of rural India. Hence both the painters are reacting to the notion of terrain.
Jitish Kallat’s Collidonthus (2007) is the sculpture of a wrecked car made of faux bleached bones. To me it resounded of car accidents, road-rage, and human fragility, and the permanence of human creation juxtaposed by the ephemerality of the creators. The tenuous relation between humans and the urbanscape is very strongly embodied in this macabre piece of art that recalls the highly populated city/terrain of Mumbai.
Navjot Altaf’s photographs of concrete and glass buildings taken from various angles with graph line superimpositions caught me off-guard. I couldn’t really understand the obscure symbolism initially. Later on, reading the snippet on the wall about the art installation How Perfect Perfection Can Be, I understood Altaf’s concerns were towards the planet’s depletion due to reckless humans are manipulating the lands and reaching out towards sky-high ‘aspirations’.
Nalini Malani’s photographs in black-and-white expressed phobia and lack of connection in the modern world. Anxiety is a major motif in all her photographs. Blurring techniques, repetition, the amorphous black clouds abundantly bring forth the darker side of the human psyche and the modern world.
Overall, while one had to ‘stretch’ one’s imagination to understand how some works fit into the theme, I liked how Karode selected various aspects of terrain and how humans have influenced and changed it over time. Her treatment of the theme has been multifarious and carefully thought out. Stretched Terrains is an interesting exhibition for all art lovers and is a great entry point for those who want to be acquainted with various forms of urbanity and urban psychology.