• ‘Calling Across Distance’ by Valerie Amani | Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    Tanzania-based artist and EAS correspondent, Valerie Amani, offers her perceptive observations and reflections on EAS’s current online exhibition, 'Calling Across the Distance'.

    'Around the Sky' by Raka Panda | Mixed media on canvas

     

    The role of the artist has many times been misunderstood, but never disputed. Through creating, artists are an integral part of capturing the human experience in ways of metaphor and emotion translated to image. Art makes us see better. Calling Across the Distance is a collection of observations that allows us to see beyond the face masks, sanitizers and other pandemic paraphernalia.

     

     

    'Calling Across the Distance' by Imeldah Kondo | Digital collage

     

    The exhibition starts with an introduction to sky, a familiar friend once taken for granted, shapeshifting from Raka Panda's dreamy multimedia offerings of market space to Imeldah Kondo's digitally-crafted shooting stars. The sky, I believe, is a reflection of what cannot be touched - followed by other familiarities such as a tree here and a wall there. Then there is a suggested shift in tone - suddenly the skies turn into an empty street in Anirban Mishra's “From the Distance” charcoal drawing. A manifestation of the feeling of loneliness that comes with isolation.

    'From the Distance' by Anirban Mishra | Charcoal on paper
    'Untitled 3' by Hannah Sullivan | Oil & cement on calico

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    'Emotions' by Ong Jing Ren | Acrylic & charcoal on paper

     

    As the exhibition continues to unfold, we start to go inside; inside the home and inside the mind. The switch to abstract works allows for a raw emotional connection to color and form, and pieces like Hannah Sullivan's work are somewhat confrontational. What are you looking at? How does it make you feel? It is almost as if the collection of abstract and textured pieces each embody emotions of love, fear, pain, confusion and a search for stability. It leaves us open, and when we start seeing painted and photographed faces it is almost as if we pay more attention to them - looking for what they may be hiding. In the case of artists such as Ong Jing Ren and Vensa Temu, the subjects are turned inside out, representation of tension made clear.

     

     

    'My Other Side' by Vensa Temu | Charcoal & graphite on paper
    'How to get closer while keeping a distance?' by Robert Vogt | Digital painting and collage

     

    Robert Vogt depicts a relatable concept of digital romance, affection pouring into pixels. In a moment where love is needed in the flesh, many of us have felt cheated when confined to cancelled flights, network errors and interrupted calls. As we get closer to the end of the exhibition, images become video. We are immersed in sound, moving text and shifting canvases. Amalie Klitgaard presents a diary format reenactment of the over-saturation of pandemic media, juxtaposed against the repetition of her personal indoor rituals. The video is almost an alert of how desensitized we may have become. Amalie films herself in a somewhat robotic way. With time and space an irrelevant thing, she invites us to contemplate where we go next in our reintroduction to a “normal”.

     

    If there is one thing that resounds clearly in an overview of the multiplicity of media showcased, it is that there is no one “normal” and the notion of normal will have to be rejected by us. Landscapes, bodies, and intricacies of emotion all gathered differently to create each art piece. This is the beauty; the agency of choosing what it is that should be said, and every choice being relatable but different. The exhibition creates a wonderful archive consisting of multicultural narratives to be added as a contribution to this extraordinary moment in history. Art has served its purpose.

    The last item is a video art piece by artist Qafar Rzayev. He waves a flag from left to right, a surrender turned to an act of remembrance of all the life lost while welcoming a returned peace. This exhibition is a necessary exercise to be aware of our perception and reaction to images; how we see, or rather whose eyes we are seeing through. The visual journey leads us under and above passageways, through continents, cities and homes, with each encounter further exposing our vulnerabilities … our similarities. The images are an amalgamation of what it means to exist right now, in this intersection that has brought us face to face with our mortality on a global scale. Calling Across the Distance is an extended virtual hand that is there to remind us that we belong to each other. Despite our differences and borders and cultural barriers, we share much more than a pandemic - we share our humanity.

    Click here to see the Calling Across the Distance online exhibition


    Valerie Amani is an artistic explorer based in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. Her multimedia approach includes incorporating textile, poetry, moving image and digital collage into her work. She has won awards in fashion and has co-authored a book titled Black Amara, a visual and literary journey of love, loss and healing. She experiments with the elements of memory and emotion, her art pieces having narratives around the changing complexities of identity and body, along with the nuances of daily existence through a neo-african feminine lens.

    Instagram: @ardonaxela | website: www.valerieamani.com

     

  • ‘Departure’: a young artists’ exhibition | Kolkata, India

    According to the dictionary ‘Departure’ is the action of leaving to start a new journey or a deviation from an accepted, prescribed, or usual course of action. The show ‘Departure’, which was in view at Ganges Art Gallery in Kolkata in February 2020, paves its path towards both the conceptual and physical departure of the seven emerging artists from conventional art practice.

     

    All seven artists, tied by the common thread of getting their education at Kala Bhavana, the Art Department of the Visva Bharati University, bring their socio-political concerns and personal histories inside the white cube space. Each artist's personality is prominently established through seven distinct visual languages.

    According to renowned Indian artist and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, art-making is synonymous with personality formation,  "Personalities form where there are encouragement and freedom of choice, unstifled with a rigid curricular structure"  (Anshuman Dasgupta in Bauhaus Imaginista Journal).  It can be said that their individual approaches come from Tagore’s philosophy, in which Kala Bhavana as an institute is deeply rooted.

    Prasanta Sahu, who himself was a student of Kala Bhavana and now is a professor in the Painting Department of the same institute, has directly or indirectly taught these seven young artists during their bachelor's and master's years. Hence he was aware of their practice and journey of transformation and evolution. He very sensibly brings their works together to create a confluence of traditional mediums and unconventional approach. In his introductory note he states, “Hailing from different parts of the country, the common thread tying their practice together is that, even though most of them work with traditional mediums, all of them have rejected the conventional methods of image-making.”

    'Khoai Landscape 1' by Ghanashyam Latua | Pen & Ink, Pricking with Needle

    Ghanashyam Latua has found a different language - pricking the paper with a needle, metaphorically imitating the way the land is mindlessly excoriated by agonizing mechanical processes. For him the surface of the paper acts as the land and his action of mark-making by pricking the paper skin is a metaphorical gesture of violence committed towards the land to appropriate resources for industrial and developmental purposes. He not only highlights the rampant excavation of land for our greed but also questions the idea of development and how it may affect the future. The series which he displayed in the show is a pen and ink rendition of the diminishing Khoai landscape of Santiniketan on an excoriated paper surface.

    'Untitled' by Kalpana Vishwas | Watercolor on Hand-Cut Paper

    Kalpana Vishwas explores naturally occurring phenomena like decay and aging as a metaphor for the ephemeral character of life. She engages with a traditional medium like watercolor and produces enlarged detailed paintings of leaves to imitate the natural patterns created by parasites or other micro-organisms. Her series of magnified studies of six different leaves with intricate details and layers invites the viewers to a space which is generally ignored or overlooked, but has so much to convey.

    '3 States... The Transitory Journey' (Detail) by Arpita Akhanda | Paper Weave Digital Print of Life-Sized Self Portrait and Original Maps of Three States from which My Family Migrated: West Bengal, UP and Odisha in Three Respective Languages

    Arpita Akhanda (who is also the writer of this review) has adopted the practice of weaving as her language to create a fabric of forgotten narratives of her family history during India-Pakistan partition. In this piece ‘3 States...the transitory journey’ she weaved the maps of the three different states from which her family has migrated, during and after partition, on her life-size photograph, thus creating an abstract relationship between image-text, past-present, identity-existence, and memory- physicality. Along with the long scroll of life-size weaving, she also displayed a zoomed-in section of the five specific cities from which the family has relocated. The language of weaving is a metaphor that speaks of forgotten and lost narratives.

    'Chulha' (Detail) by Ujjal Dey | Khaka Print, Drawing and Hand-Paint with Natural Dyes on Cotton Cloth

    Ujjal Dey, trained in textile design, experiments with natural dyes and hand-painted textiles. His ‘Chulha’ series not only explores the forgotten world of preparation of colors from natural resources but also remembers the ‘chulha’, a forgotten object once very familiar to every household in India. The process of painting the triptych is inspired by the traditional Kalamkari process of dyeing the cloth initially with myrobalan and buffalo milk and then painting with colors extracted from natural sources like Catechu, myrobalan and Kalamkai ink, prepared by fermenting jaggery and iron rust. His series is a narration of his memory of the objects used by her mother and grandmother and the activity involved in collecting the fuel material for the oven.

    'Remembrance' (Detail) by Janhavi Khamka | Woodcut and Stop-Motion

    Janhavi Khemka, trained in Printmaking, gives a new dimension to woodcuts. She transforms the prints into miniature objects and creates a room full of memories. To enter into her created worlds one has to switch on the lights and go through their minute details and intricacies. Being hearing impaired, she presents a slice of her memories of the time spent with her mother to learn how to speak. In her note she syas “I have made my room with words written on walls, chair, floor and almost every object present in there, those words are like a conversation with self and the struggle to speak/ pronounce words perfectly.” The use of black and white color combination and the theatrical lighting creates an ambiance of traveling back or peeping into the past which is brilliantly executed. She is expanding the boundaries of woodcut printing and creating new possibilities around it.

    'Existence 1' by Ruma Choudhury | Organic Pulp, Natural Fiber and Found Objects
    'Village Life' by Intaz Ansari | Organic Fiber

    Ruma Choudhury elevates the process of papermaking to a different level of aesthetic magnitude. She creates her paper from fibers found in nature and constructs the paper into an abstract structure resonating with childhood memories. Her work generates a space for the viewer to explore the fusion of different fibers and the impressions of her own body while creating the surface. From a distance her work may provide a semi-abstract visual, but as you come closer to the piece you tend to discover textures, grains and patterns that we can easily relate to objects around us or their memories.

    Intaz Ansari’s piece is a response to the rapid change he has observed around his immediate environment. He also explores paper making as his surfaces are infused with images from his surroundings that transform into outdated objects. The effect of industrialization on villages and small cities and how it transforms the landscape is what concerns his work.

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    About the author:

     

    Born in Cuttack, Odisha, in 1992, I am currently an artist based in Kolkata and Santiniketan.
    I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree with 1st class 1st distinction in Painting from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati University in the years 2015 and 2017 respectively.
    I have received scholarships and awards for my studies and work, including a National Scholarship in painting from 2016-18 and a YOU Scholarship from Telegraph, as well as the Orissa State Award for New Media from Prafulla Dhanuka Art Foundation in 2019.
     
    Over the last few years, my work has been exhibited in numerous national and international shows and several articles have been published in: Art as a Catalyst, for the Barbil Art Project-III in Art and Deal Magazine (May 2018), A Melange of Narratives, for the show ‘Inward Vision’, also in Art and Deal Magazine.
    Most recently, I was selected as one of the four resident artists for the Piramal Art Residency (2019-20), cycle 24, Visualizing the text.

     

     

     

     

    Scroll down to see all the works in the exhibition:

     

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