Installation view: Group exhibition, Unearth, Exhibit 320, New Delhi (5 August–30 September 2017). Courtesy Exhibit 320, New Delhi.
Unearth explores the 'geological' as a condition of the present. Evolving beyond the scientific study of the earth's surface, geology has presented significant markers of time, process and matter, each employed anew by artists to contemplate our place in history.
Rooted in the logic of land art and the processes of materiality, Unearth presents artistic practices that harness the elements, either as method or as metaphor. Each artist's practice draws from the physical and temporal possibilities of earth materials and is crafted in an abstract language of precise proportions. Defined by their processes, the art suggests an intuitive understanding of our present moment, unearthed from historical and mythological traditions, in parallel to the knowledge of scientific inquiry.
The exhibition is a journey through ethereal landscapes, memory patterns and maps, biomorphic forms and abstractions of nature. The artists' tendency to turn to nature is complimented by a desire to look inward. For instance, Gunjan Kumar embraces the physicality of material through the spiritual understanding of non-duality. Working with turmeric as both pigment and surface, Sifr, 2017 comprises rows of cones, made by the circular motion of the hand, while in Saafa, 2017 all but one cone is veiled behind a screen of cotton muslin. The process of making is a meditation in itself, performed through the delicate whirling of the fingers around the circumference of the turmeric cone.
The making of material is in itself is a geological process that is immeasurable for matter is continually transformed by the substances and mediums it comes in contact with. Fractioning the duration of the process is the work of Hemali Bhuta. Her nine frames of graphite rub on sandpaper present the grades of the mineral in its elemental form, subverting its role as a tool for writing or drawing.
The materiality of paper is explored anew by Astha Butail in her Untitled, 2014 work of a tree trunk metamorphosing into paper. Focused on the processual and relational properties of paper, the work's poignancy lies in the simplicity of its form.
Manisha Parekh presents three works in hand made paper, a series of eleven Untitled paper cut drawings of biomorphic forms, a tortured surface titled Scars, 2011 and a suite of five pulp works titled Earth, 2016. Begun as an experiment with the material, where the act of immersing in pigment lent to the discovery of a range of astral browns and blues, the works appear to suggest a transient moment between the material and cosmic worlds, or perhaps an elusive memory of our being that remains forever in the subconscious mind.
Arun KS's layered paintings reflect his interest in time, and in the keeping of memories sandwiched between its strata. With a penchant for more expansive fields, his meticulously layered paintings are a somewhat ritualized telling of history- episodes added and eroded along the way.
Dwelling on the materiality of objects made of or in reference to the earth's geological processes, Unearth questions our understanding of matter within the larger logic of the physical world that exists as is, and the unfolding of our environment, in relation to its inhabitants. Informed by the disciplines of alchemy and astronomy, craft and pre-historic traditions, the exhibition lies at the crossroad of art, science and faith and is an attempt to reconcile and recalibrate our awareness of the present with the absolute dimensions of time and space.
Astha Butail, born in 1977 in Amritsar, India unravels Indian mythology and the methods of storytelling and memory. Her work is a collection of experiences, poems, sketches, stories that interact with one another. The artist lives and works in Gurgaon, India.
Astha Butail has had several gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the Gallery SKE, Bangalore and at the Experimenter. There have been many articles about Astha Butail, including 'Art Basel celebrates a triumphant fifth edition in Hong Kong' written for ArtDaily in 2017.
More than some others, perhaps, process is integral to Arun K.S.'s art. And it's an elaborate one that begins with the artist collecting used, well-thumbed bibles; he then prepares the canvas, covering it with several layers of brown paper, paper pulp, and many coats of watercolor wash, before painting on it, often covering the entire surface with abstracted images associated with his christian faith. Finally, he cuts out pages from the Bibles and sticks them carefully so as to cover the entire painted area. Each layer is also punctuated with a careful rub down with the sander to give the surface of the canvas a smooth and glossy finish, deceptive because it masks the many layers that went into its making even as it hints at a complex maelstrom of painted effects and hidden imagery. The final result is akin to a tapestry, carefully and densely wrought with each little detail adding to the immersive effect of the entire piece. Arun's painterly process is, thus, not just as a mode of painting but a visual embodiment of abstraction — beginning with the "real" and then carefully chipping away at it to make the inherent forms, textures and shapes visible.
Gunjan Kumar is born and raised in Punjab, India. She is an Economics Graduate and has studied Textile Design from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi. She has keen interest in age-old methods, archeology, pre-historic and tribal arts and has traveled extensively exploring her interest in these areas. These experiences form the undertone of her artistic practice. Self-taught in arts, she uses ground earth and minerals like shell oysters, clay, calcium carbonate, turmeric etc. as her core mediums, meticulously applied on Japanese paper, using a self-developed technique inspired by traditional methods. She is a fellow at the Edward Albee Foundation (2016 – 2017), New York and is working on three forthcoming shows in 2017, a four-person show at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, a two- person show at the Chicago Art Department and a solo show at the Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois. Her other interests include collecting and vocalizing folk music. She currently lives and works in Chicago.
Manisha Parekh was born in Gujarat in 1964 and raised in New Delhi. She holds an M.A. in painting from both the Royal College of Art in London (1991- 93) and the M.S. University in Baroda (1983-1990). She was one of the founding members of Khoj International Artists Workshop.Parekh is one of the few artists working in India today who continues to explore an exclusively abstract language. It could be said that her works are indebted to the ethereal abstractions of Gaitonde and the geometric draftsmanship of Nasreen Mohammedi (who was one of her teachers in Baroda), as well as the more gestural ink drawings of Jeram Patel. She has developed an artistic practice which also pays reference to the craft and textiles traditions of her native land. The artist straddles painting, collage and drawing to create works that incorporate both the geometric and the organic. Her most recognized works are created by layering shapes cut from handmade papers into dense fields of pattern and energy, sometimes perforating the surface and adding other materials.
Numerous solo shows of Parekh's work have been held across the world, most recently at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, Mumbai and her work is part of public and private art collections in India and internationally, including the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Ahmedabad, Jehangir Nicholson Collection, Mumbai, Royal College of Art, London, Davey & Chester Herwitz Collection, Boston, Heinrich-Boll-Stiftung, Cologne, and Robert Lodar Collection, London.
Hemali Bhuta's multi-disciplinary practice is primarily concerned with the notion of an 'in between' or 'transitory' space and the elements that contain or create such spaces. For Bhuta, 'in-between-ness' is a plane where the limitations of dimensionality do not apply and there is a possibility for transcendence. By attempting to translate one medium or form to another, her practice questions the authority that frames an interior for its own purpose.
Bhuta adopts materials that seem robust and ageless, but in fact are susceptible to disintegration over time, to reveal how appearances can be deceptive. Her site-specific sculptural works generally lie on the floor like fossils of bygone eras, sometimes embracing their spaces, and other times destabilizing them. Through the tension between the works and the spaces they inhabit, viewers experience a state of 'in-between-ness.'
Hemali Bhuta (b. 1978) has completed her BFA from the L.S. Raheja School of Art, Mumbai and her MVA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University Baroda. She has also pursued interior designing from Sophia Polytechnic in Mumbai.Bhuta has exhibited at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Frieze London Sculpture Park, Parasol Unit, Arken, the 9th Shanghai Biennale, the Singapore Biennale, as well as in the travelling Indian Highway Exhibition. She was shortlisted for the Rolex Protegee Award.In addition to her practice as a visual artist, Bhuta is also the co - founder and director of CONA Foundation, an artist run space in Mumbai.
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