Inquiring about the possibility of engaging deeply with a material in such a manner that it acquires multi-layered meaning only to then suggest its meaninglessness, celebrated contemporary artist Sudarshan Shetty outlined the seeming paradoxes, concerns and processes that inform his unique art practice over a discussion here on Wednesday.
“My work Shoonya Ghar (Empty is this House) draws from a nirgun poem by Bhakti saint Gorakhnath. If you look at the idea of a doha (couplet), the first line establishes an image while the second line conveys another image, often opposing in character. These opposing ideas interest me,” said Shetty, who curated the recent-concluded Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2016.
Over the course of the stimulating and thought provoking conversation with the noted poet, Sharmistha Mohanty at the India International Centre, Shetty noted how his interest in such apparent contradictions and his obsession with the concept of prolonged engagement with an object had carried forward into his curatorship of the Biennale’s third edition.
“You need time to follow the various process informing artistic expressions and unravel things. If you didn’t spend enough time with the artworks showcased during the Biennale, you would not ‘get’ them,” he said.
The two-hour interaction was the 45th edition of the popular ‘Art Matters’ series of panel discussions and dialogues on arts and culture. The forum has witnessed conversations with eminent personalities and expert practitioners drawn from the world of ideas, literatures, visual arts and performing arts over the past four years.
The long-running talk series is organised by the Raza Foundation – set up by the late master modern artist Sayed Haider Raza in 2001 and helmed by eminent Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi, the Managing Trustee.
Vajpeyi noted that the series was part of a stable of initiatives through which the Foundation has been trying to bring together various art disciplines that seem to have drifted apart in recent times. “There is a complete disconnect between various art disciplines in modern times although these disciplines shared the same symbology and imagery until the 19th century,” he said.
Noting that the Biennale had been an opportunity for him to bring multiple practices, including poetry, onto a visual arts platform, Shetty said it offered a physical space for literary experiences. “It opened up ways in which I could look at the art world in a very different way. It became my guiding spirit in many ways and allowed me to sidestep my own limitations of looking at the idea of a Biennale,” he added.
Voicing her thoughts on the Biennale bringing multiple practices into its fold, Mohanty – a participating artist at KMB 2016 – admitted that the visual arts platform had been a learning curve for her.
“Participating in the Biennale was a wonderful opportu
nity for me to make my poetry physical. A poem accrues additional meanings and nuances when it interacts with the space,” Mohanty said.
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