Please Wait


  ‘India Global‘ Curatorial essay by Rajeev Sethi   Long before the age of globalisation and the internet, India was an axial point for international trade through which the East-West commerce in aromatics, spices, textiles, and other luxuries passed. This position allowed for not just the creation of wealthy economies and trade networks but also for active exchanges of ideologies, artistic traditions, traditional knowledge systems and practices.   ‘India Global’ represents an India on the make, where new forms, materials, ideas and ways of being coalesce, the old and new coexisting side by side, sparring with one another and more often than not, erupting into fantastic hybrids, at once global and local.   In this section, this flux is represented as it was manifested in a city like Mumbai in the last century. In the early 20th century, townhouses built by the princely elite and the affluent middle class fused Indian and western decorative conventions within a European design scheme, creating an Indian response to the then prevalent taste for Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Doors with symmetric geometric patterns, metal railings and grills, and columns sprouting decorative floral capitals were adopted into the Indian artisan’s vocabulary and matched with local elements making for unlikely companions.   Other reinventions were borne of that quintessentially Indian penchant - ‘jugaad’ or making do with less. Craftspeople throughout India create innovative low-cost solutions, meeting their needs with recycled materials, embodying an India that is resilient, innovative, and driven. Attesting to this culture of improvisation and imagination, eclectic fragments of architectural elements and carved woodwork are here recomposed as doors and windows, their varied textures and painted surfaces creating modernist collages. The Chandigarh-based artist Nekchand creates figurines built in cement and sand, embellished with mosaics in discarded and found objects such as broken glass, bangles, and crockery. Akshay Rajpurkar crafts the ‘Recycled City’, an immense mural that depicts Mumbai in aerial view, its buildings, roadways, water courses, parks and industries articulated in elements recycled from computers and factory-reject buttons. Here too are the patch-worked quilts made by the womenfolk of the Siddi tribe, an ethnic group of African origin who now live in India and Pakistan. Creations of warmth and beauty resolutely crafted from scraps of waste fabric, these textiles are presented as a metaphor for the plurastic and migratory nature of the city. Smriti Dixit’s installation was inspired by the spider-web, underscoring the network of interdepencies that comprise the living city. The title ‘Trapped’ however, opens up macabre connotations – the silken threads and the jewel-like web are merely a means of ensnaring unwitting prey, much like the enticing media campaigns that bombard the consumer.   Cities are enormous stages with a vast human drama constantly unfolding. ‘India Global’ is conceptualised as a window that opens for the visitor access to the humanscape within the urbanscape. Charmi Shah creates an installation that speaks of the changing fabric of the city. Inspired by the old wadis or mansions of Ghatkopar in Mumbai that are being torn down to make way for high rises, the installation features miniature models of rundown houses at varying stages of dilapidation, until there is nothing but a faint reminiscence of them left. Vibha Galhotra’s ‘Deconstruction/ Construction‘ also comments on the prolific building industry but devoid of nostalgia representing both collapsing and rising buildings, capturing the transformations brought about by the imperative of shrinking resources and endless greed, reminding the viewer that what is seemingly permanent may in the flash of second become remarkably ephemeral.     Used vehicle parts sourced from Gulbarga and Bijapur were welded into freestanding trellis-like panels at the Yaadgiri bus-building yard. Affixed at the airport as freestanding trellises, they cast shadows that form a pattern language of mechanics and industry. Gunny bags, carriers of the tonnes of concrete that throw up building after building, protrue suggestively from the wall, symbolising the masculine energy of the burgeoning city. Responding to the new materials that have redefined the very notion of architecture in Indian cities, Nataraj Sharma created an immense grid-work that represents the city in construction. Above is another installation titled the ‘Airshow’ where small metal airplanes form spiral flight patterns within a dense structure. Gigi Scaria’s work depicts abstracted elevations of buildings with balconies and the life within. Below are a series of eight doors, each doubling as a video screen that casts videos of the city of Bombay. Indrapramit Roy’s paintings offer a bird’s eye view of the curving expanse of Mumbai’s seashore set in perspective against an apartment building. Each window of the apartment frames an intimate scene of daily life, transforming the viewer into an accidental voyeur.   Poignantly, a number of the female artists who were commissioned for the project chose to dwell on the feminine aspect of the city, revealing the spaces within the built form. Sharmila Sawant creates a curtain constructed with the crowns of discarded bottles of sodas, aerated drinks, and beer. The curtain forms a hollow circular pillar with an opening, allowing the viewer to walk into the pillar’s cavity. Vishaka Apte’s paintings provide intimate views of private spaces in which a series of objects are allotted the role of the protagonist. Sheetal Gattani’s work forms a counterpoint, that of the Other, standing sufficiently apart to be able to perceive that which is unfolding and giving it another representation, in this case as abstracted fields of textured paper, perforated to allow tiny points of light to shine through. Parvati Nair recreates the map of Mumbai as a bowl of abundance, casting the city as a verdant space where seeds find nourishment to sprout and nothing is washed down the drain.  



Nek Chand's "outsider art" has reached the 'Collection de l'Art Brut' in Lausanne, but you don't have to fly out to Switzerland, or Chandigarh for that matter, to sample it. In Mumbai, for the first time, is a glimpse of what his 40-acre garden kingdom of meandering paths, courtyards, waterfalls, pavilions, theaters, plazas and thousands of sculptures in the Le Corbusier designed city of Chandigarh, must look like. Completely different from the modernist designs of Corbusier, Nek Chand's is a unique lens - a fascination by the idea of creating something from nothing, of converting waste into beauty. "One day I decided to go off on my bicycle and collect materials lying about so I could make something with it. It became a sort of hobby to occupy my evenings," he says. Using curiously shaped rocks, broken bangles and crockery, he fashioned his experiments in sculpture in concrete.   "If I liked the result of the experiment, I would make 10 pieces instead of just the one and if I really liked it, I would make 50 instead of just the 10," he recounts with a laugh. "I needed space to house these sculptures so I cleared a little patch of land in a secluded gorge in the jungle on the outskirts of the city."   The site he had chosen was designated as a land conservancy, a green buffer zone between the government buildings designed by Corbusier and the city proper. He worked in secrecy, at night, for 18 years for fear of being discovered by the authorities. In 1975, a government work party was sent to clear a section of the jungle. To their surprise, they found 12 acres of meandering paths and linked courtyards, inhabited by all manner of creatures constructed from recycled materials. Controversy ensued and the threat of demolition hung over Nek Chand's deva nagari for a year. As the word spread, hundreds of people found their way to the forests to see Nek Chand's enchanted garden kingdom. After much debate, the Chandigarh Landscape Advisory Committee relented, and the 'Rock Garden' opened to the public in 1976. Nek Chand was given the position of 'Sub-divisional Engineer, Rock Garden', and a salary, so that he could concentrate on his artistic vision as well as a workforce of fifty laborers to assist him in expanding the park. In his work here, the structures of the figures are built using bicycle frames while their bodies sport various recycled materials. One sees the bear made from waste coal sourced from local foundries, a hermit whose body shimmers in the multi-coloured splendor of broken glass, and a lady who is covered in patches of cloth. A tiered sculpture depicts a human pyramid with young men standing atop each other's shoulders to reach an earthen pot - although dressed in contemporary garments, the image refers to the story of the Hindu deity Krishna, stealing butter from the pots suspended high above his reach.



The Trap’, was conceived when Smriti Dixit was taking a walk in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali. She happened on the web of a funnel spider. Recalling the encounter, she says, “There was this wide-flung web that stretched across a number of bushes. It had a glassy, jewel-like quality to it that drew me to it immediately. It was only when I examined the web more closely that I noticed the deep tubular burrows in which they lurk. The web – so beautiful and gossamer like – was designed to attract the spider’s prey and then trap it. I found I had discovered the perfect metaphor for what is currently happening in consumer culture.”   “When I came across the plastic rings that are used for price tags on garments for high- end stores and export, I just knew I had found my medium,” said Dixit. The rings are essentially loops of plastic wire, which, in addition to its translucency, has the merit of being durable.   After she settled on the material, Dixit went about creating line drawings based on the spider web, gradually evolving an armature for the work. The creation of the work, according to the artist, was a slow process similar to that of the spider that used its saliva to build the web. “I wanted to duplicate that process,” she said. “The beauty of this work is that it can be adjusted and adapted to the space that it is installed in because of the fluid nature of the spider web structure,” she said.   After she settled on the material, Dixit went about creating line drawings based on the spider web, gradually evolving an armature for the work. The creation of the work, according to the artist, was a slow process similar to that of the spider that used its saliva to build the web. “I wanted to duplicate that process,” she said. “The beauty of this work is that it can be adjusted and adapted to the space that it is installed in because of the fluid nature of the spider web structure,” she said.    Her works are carefully fashioned using handmade techniques such as weaving, sewing, and quilting that were typically thought to be the domain of women and are associated with domestic chores rather than art forms. While acknowledging the traditional roots of these techniques, Dixit modernises and individualises them, by incorporating unique textures and patterns. Deliberately retaining the human element in her work, she eschews sleek glossy finishes in favour of raggedy stitches, raw torn edges, tangled threads, and weathered surfaces. The elaborateness of the process and the materiality of each element are made conspicuous, transforming the work into a story of reclamation, recycling and renewal.   Nestled within the complexities of stitches and woven thread are everyday objects that carry their own associations. For instance, oil lamps, sacred thread, and talismans that have little intrinsic value when decontextualised, form, when seen together a secondary narrative of belief, protection and worship.   Despite its delicate nature, the artist is not too keen on containing the work in a restrictive case. “I want it to hang freely is it would hang in nature if it were a spider web. That way the work does not lose its element of surprise,” she observes.  



When curator Rajeev Sethi saw patchwork quilts strung on a wire as his car drove through a slum in Mumbai, he was struck by the similarity of the quilts with those made by the Siddi tribe. Most of the Siddis living in India are descended from Southeast Africa, brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by Portuguese merchants between the 16th and 19th centuries. Some are descendents of those who came as military mercenaries in the employ of the Arab invaders since the 11th century or imported by local Nawabs during the 15th-16th centuries. Others are descendents of sailors on the trade routes to the east. Independent African diaspora communities were formed by the Siddis in various areas of Karnataka, Gujarat, and Hyderabad.   The patchwork quilts known as gudari are the most distinctive expression of the Siddi visual arts. Made by women for family members, gudari are used as sleeping mattresses in warm weather or as covers during the cool, damp monsoon season. Gudari are made of pieces of old, worn-out clothing gathered by the quilters from family, friends, or purchased in the local used-clothing market. When the women have enough to make a quilt, they purchase a cotton sari to be used as the backing for the quilt. Starting at one corner - or if working in a group, the edges of the quilt - they begin to work their way around, fixing the patches with a running back stitch that eventually covers the entire quilt, uniting the patchwork top and the sari base.   The stitches exhibit a distinctive rhythm, which, along with the selection of colours, sizes, shapes and designs of the cloth patches form the 'visual signature' of Siddi quilting. For example, small squares or rectangular patches of brightly coloured cloth may be placed on top of other larger patches in contrasting colours. Each corner of the quilt may be ornamented with one or more folded square patches that form a multilayered triangle. The use of the herringbone stitch, inspired by sparrow's feet, is another characteristic of the Siddi quilt. Worked in squares, it forms a ghar or square representing a house is formed.   Sethi decided to use the quilts as a backdrop for the artist Nek Chand's work. Befitting, because it echoes the theme of thrift and recyclability of discarded objects that is reflected not just in Nek Chand's sculptures crafted from broken ceramics but also in Sharmila Samant's screens fashioned from bottle caps and Akshay Rajpurkar's map of Mumbai made with discarded buttons. The task of creating the quilted installation spanning 200 feet x 11 feet fell to Niket Deshpande and Tapan Mittal-Deshpande, the husband and wife duo whose architectural firm TMD has been working closely with the curator on the Mumbai airport artwork program since its inception.



Nataraj Sharma’s ‘CONSTRUCT’, is a comment on the mammoth scale of construction that is sweeping across metropolises all over India, in recent years.   A still life and landscape, the building rebounds Sharma’s wit and gravitas as well as his sensitivity towards the fraught relationships between urbanization, the environment and the human presence. And, at perhaps, a more metaphysical level, of what is enduring and what is ephemeral.   Sharma says, “Over the last 20 years when I have been visiting Gurgaon, I have witnessed its extraordinary transformation from parched agricultural land into a geometric jungle of urgent, vertical growth.” During this period, and certainly more so in recent years, the artist photographed and drew sketches of large construction projects, especially those still in process. “I found a particular poignancy in half built buildings,” explains Sharma.   From these images, Sharma focused on the exposed skeleton of the building, the strong grid within the structure of these buildings that reveals the logic of their construction, repeating it vertically (almost endlessly). The grid has long fascinated Sharma as a visual and structural device but with this work the artist states, “I also recognized that the grid has multiple meanings – it's a tool for planning, structuring and defining volume. It works as a skin on the surface of the object. The grid by its nature is perfect and precise. The purity of a grid line, like the light of a laser, carries an emotive load. It can also imprison.”   For ‘Construct’, Sharma singled out photographs of a particular building, selecting from these images of one section. He then worked with an architecture student to approximate from these images a plan of the section. This was followed by a wooden model, of the ground and first floors, that was translated later into iron.   “This work is also made in multiple units, which allows for many variations in its final form. ‘Construct’ demanded as large a scale as possible – I needed the sense of being dwarfed by this tower,” said Sharma. “At the same time detail and veracity was also important – of fragile grills, staircases, balconies – the texture of unplastered walls that made one come closer and realize that it is you who is the larger. This push and pull of scale was exciting” Ever since Nataraj Sharma witnessed an airshow in Vadodara in 2004, where the Surya Kiran, an aerobatics demonstration team of the Indian Airforce swooped the skies, displaying their skills, he has been "mesmerized by these machines of destruction. The grace with which they flew through the air and the terrifying noise they produced gripped me. Beauty and violence, play and aggression were revealed before our eyes. It was a very profound experience for me, noting their beauty while being intensely aware of the terrible destruction that these machines are capable of."   "Shortly after, Sharma made an oil painting on canvas titled 'Air Show'. "After I completed the painting, I felt compelled to transfer this work into three-dimension. While I was working on 'Air Show', I was also doing a series of landscapes and aerial views using the grid format. Something about the wonderful structure that visual grids provide, a form on which the interpretation can be expressed, attracts me. Grids also provide a sort of rhythm to the work. Often the grid seems at odds with what it contains, a foil against the unpredictability of nature," said Sharma. "Urban life is also based on a grid, one that is rigid and inflexible."   As seen here, planes fly through the grid in a smooth, graceful line, not the pristine red and white of the Surya Kirans though: the artist has rendered them rawer and organic in surface decay.   "The works are very manual, earthy and labour intensive, they are not very high-tech and this is the Indian reality that I wanted to reflect. The rust is a natural element of the artwork - that is, as long as it stays on the surface-level," says Sharma. "Once these units, made of mild steel, have been fabricated, they are sandblasted and that removes all the rust. They are spray painted with automotive varnish and this protects it from moisture so it lasts for generations," says Sharma. To begin with all the planes were carved in wood, then these were sand-cast into single pieces of aluminium and from that multiple planes were cast in stainless steel in Baroda.   Interestingly, the work is not located in a particular city although it presents the contemporary experience of India. "It is not specifically Mumbai or Baroda, though the experience came from Baroda. I would say that the impact of the work is much wider," said Sharma. The work also has a timeless quality and could be applicable to any time in history since it talks about the eternal duality of terror and beauty, the awareness of which intensifies the experience. Summing up, Sharma said, "The work doesn't take a judgemental or moralistic position, it is ambiguous. Where I am positioning this work depends on the mindset of the viewer. One can see it as either a critique or in praise of something. There, is no singular view point.



Vibha Galhotras art addresses transcultural in the global local specificity. She had presented in biennials as well as national and international solo exhibitions and collaborations. Galhotra's work focuses on the context of displacement, nostalgia, identity, existence construction or deconstruction, the banal cultural condition in, around environment of negotiation in the new constant changing urban atmosphere. He work crosses the dimension of art, ecology, economy, science, spirityality and activism though she claims that she is an artist but not an activist, but i feel there is an hint of activism or should say social responsibility, Galhotra's work in varied mediums through photogrphy, animation, found object, per formative objects, installation and sculpture to create experiential spaces. Her work comes as a satire on the contemporary living situation, being from the age of complex globalization and capitalsm, she concentrate on the present day to day issues, complex research and thought process of serious issues, and consciously exprenses them into a simple non complexed and fun manner to bring the contradiction and create a dialogue, like she sttempted in her travelling project Neo Monster, where she makes an inflatable earth mover and travels in the public spaces to record the reaction of people toward this new age alien moving all over to continuously digging and raping the bed of globe. She narrates the story of her times in a fun manner but with complex thought behind, through her vibrant artistic and intellectual expression.