Curatorial Note

As the Monsoon Festival turned 15 in 2020; yours truly, the curator, was in a deeply reflective, melancholic; also a very alchemic state – a heightened state of emotional experience, even volatility: a response to the contemporary upheavals that governed our lives in 2020. Amidst these reflective notes, emerged the unique idea of the project: Lockdown Chaumasa (read more on the theme).

Art is not divorced from reality and must also address social issues; but with this project, we made an attempt to stay away from the direct representations of the pandemic and issues around it (such representations anyway abound in contemporary art projects, and life)…Moving away from the immediate and direct-contemporary, this project attempts to etch the higher artistic / personal ideas that realise when we are left to introspect, striking a note of quietness and reflectiveness instead. The multi-faried work created thus speaks largely of personal reflections, but also depict experiences of the universe. 

The Lockdown Chaumasa art presentation opens with a classical rendition of Raga Megh by Vidushi Shubha Mudgal, one of the leading Hindustani vocalists of contemporary times.

This is followed by Revelry, an immersive painting by Debarchan Rout; again, a classical celebration of the season. The abstract-realistic painting with miniature inspired elements borrows images from Nainsukh’s 18th century masterpiece Dancing Villagers

Rout etches a more contemporary narrative iteration in Clouds of Witness ; which nevertheless alludes to classical iconography and the ancient Sanskrit poem, Kalidas’ Meghadutam (Cloud Messenger). The cloud, the prime witness of the separation of the hero (Yaksha) from his wife (Yakshi); now witnesses with a contemporary approach, reflecting current distancing circumstances. 

From the classical, moving to the photographic abstract, we encounter Philippe Calia’s Sangareddy, which looks at visual representation of memory and oblivion in our current technological regime (the project also features an allied video art experience). A photograph of the sky, taken from an airplane is diluted through a chemical handling technique, resulting in unexpected amoebic formations, symptomatic of the current flux.

Ajay Dhandre’s work represents a lasting predilection towards futuristic, technological and science fiction inspired imagery, often verging on the aspect of the morbid, mutilated and grotesque. His current work functions almost like a cosmology of the current viral landscape, as he images the submicroscopic agent and posits it as part of a larger landscape of existence, in his inimitable artistic style. 

Harmeet Basur’s Chasing the Light, using the medium of film, is a reflection of the interiority of experience that we have gone through in recent times. Confined at home, the artist etches a poem capturing the movement of light and its meshed relationship with the elements and his surroundings. 

Also confined in his New York apartment, a trained Odissi classical dancer and multi-media artist, Kuldeep Singh, brings us a moving image from his lockdown experience. Nrità Singularity lets us into the inner space and world of the artist intimately. The use of the fragmented body defines contemporary experiences of loneliness, aloneness and reflection; creating a strange artistic beauty that is poignant and poetic at the same time.

Moving from the space of the home, to the self, Jayant Gupta’s dark, mystical, existential musings; merging the mediums of photography and drawing; are spurred by contemporary ongoings; representing the deep anxiety of an invisible threat in personal and social realms. The artist gives voice to his struggles to understand his own internal conflicts of modern-day emotions reflecting materiality, violence and alienation contextual to today’s time and space.

Kathak exponent Mrinalini’s Barso​, performed to popular electronic musician Ritviz’s track, takes us back to the classical realm. Alluding to the Ashthanayika (the eight moods of the heroine in love) lexicon, these classical ideas can resound significantly with contemporary romantic awakenings induced by the distancing, hence making this a valuable story for Lockdown Chaumasa

Abhinav Goswami, takes us to Vrindavan; and through his work we experience the spectrum of awakenings attendant in the classical Chaumasa period. This selection, culled from the avid lensman’s extensive archives; portrays the natural elements, the landscape of Vrindavan, and human and ascetic experiences, creating a song that speaks of inner light. 

From the stories of the self, we move to the madness of the world. Sanjeev Sonpimpare’s majestic sweep 2020 depicts varied contremporary concerns. Delightfully amorphous in style, politically invested; this series, is capable of great power and commentary on the world around us; and yet also opens a window to the self. 

Bandeep Singh’s travels on assignment force him to reflect on the existing deep hierarchical breach in our social edifice, made deeper with contemporary constraints. And yet, amidst this social segregation, an unexpected image arises: the landscape outside the window reflects on the plastic separator sheet inside his car, converging kaleidoscopically on the loose folds, metaphorically taking the shape of a wild beast.  

Vyom Mehta, inspired by the fragility of life that we are reflecting on so much more now, presents a fitting closure to the project. Primarily a sculptor; in this work, the artist creates an experimental montage : a digital simulation of  the destruction of his sculptural forms, signaling a regenerative process more than a destructive one.

– Himanshu Verma (2020)

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