The reverberations of a giant passing are almost always felt. This time, it’s in the guise of Maqbool Fida Husain, arguably India’s greatest Modern painter. Husain, who was the artist incarnate, India’s resident Picasso and a household name throughout India and other parts of the world, passed away on 9 June, at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, at the age of 95 as a Qatari citizen.
Sharmistha Ray, “The man who painted India: What Husain was all about,” for First Post, 9 June 2011.
Sharmistha Ray, Visualising Poems, Poetry in Art/Art in Poetry, International Gallerie 27, Vol 11 No 2, 2010. p 4-7.
In prehistoric societies, poetry was written, carved and engraved into rocks, clay tablets and papyrus, among other mediums, as a way of remembering social and cultural histories, mythologizing stories and documenting philosophical and religious ideas embedded at the time. Many ancient epic poems from Gilgamesh to Sanskrit’s Mahabharata and Ramayana to Greek’s Iliad and Odyssey were documented in this way so they could be orally transmitted, illustrated or copied later on, thereby ensuring their distribution and survival. Likewise, the eighteenth-century English painter, printmaker and poet William Blake used different methods of etching for illustrated manuscripts (for his own poems as well as extant ones) that were rife with images of gods, animals and sexuality. Because many of Blake’s ideas were considered heretical for the religious sentiments he espoused, some of the more provocative elements of his work were burned after his death. If one considers that poems have been preserved only by their transcription into an enduring medium (rather than a reliance on oral histories for example), it’s not surprising that the tradition of “visualizing poems” has continued into contemporary times.
INTERNATIONAL PROFILE: Sharmistha Ray’s essay on Marina Abramović, Art India Magazine, Performance Art, 2010, Volume XV, Issue IV, Quarter III (TEXT ONLY).
Walking the Razor’s Edge
From cutting a pentagram on her stomach to staring fixedly for two and a half months and from stabbing the spaces between her fingers to walking along the Great Wall of China for three months, Marina Abramović has pushed the limits of what it means to be a performance artist. Sharmistha Ray traces the creative trajectories of the art genre’s icon in residence.
Deep inside the belly of the art world, a secret known as Marina Abramović incubated for a long time before being ‘discovered.’ One of Performance Art’s early pioneers, and certainly its most enigmatic figure, Abramović has been virtually unknown outside the art world up until recently. The Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective The Artist Is Present (from the 14th of March to the 31st of May, 2010, New York) – the first ever dedicated to a performance artist – has since conferred iconic status upon her by raising her visibility many times over. The exhibition, organized by in-house curator Klaus Biesenbach, spanned forty years of Abramović’s career with chronological documentation of her early interventions and sound pieces, video works, installations, photographs, solo performances and collaborative performances made with the German artist Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay). In a radical gesture, the show included re-performances of the artist’s works using trained models, some of them nude. Additionally, a life-size set construction for one of her seminal performances, The House with the Ocean View (2002), was re-fabricated for the occasion. The proverbial spotlight was on a new performance by Abramović that borrowed from the title of the exhibition, The Artist Is Present.
Sharmistha Ray’s essay “Curating in the Ghetto,” out now in Indian Contemporary Art Journal, Vol. 2/Issue IV 2010, p.50-51
Independent curator Sharmistha Ray talks about her first independently curated exhibition, A Place of Their Own, and why she selected to ghettoize South Asian-American Diaspora artists.
A Place of Their Own: An Exhibition of South Asian-American Diaspora Artists was borne out of my own personal biography of geographic and cultural migration. Even so, or perhaps because of my multiple migrations, I am somewhat reticence about ethnic labels – especially when they become buzzwords or catchphrases. Take Indian contemporary art, for example. In a few short years since 2005, Indian artists are everywhere on the global art scene. The cause may have been globalization, and while it has opened up a wealth of possibilities for Indian artists, it has also produced a fashionable form of ghettoizing of Indian art in exhibitions with names like Edge of Desire (New York, 2005), Horn Please (Bern, 2007-2008), Chalo! India (Tokyo, 2008-2009) and Indian Highway (London, 2008-2009). The foreigner’s gaze, however flattering at first, has stripped naked its Indian subject only to label it an idealized nude. Exotic but far removed from reality.
Whitney Museum of American Art / October 21, 2010 – January 9, 2011
Paul Thek’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art felt thin, too curatorially spartan to reflect the variegation and vastness of the artist’s practice. Wanted stuff all over the place, all over the walls. An artist who lived on the margins and never fit in to the white cube. The most interesting parts were the archival photos and the frenetic handwriting in the sketchbooks. More deeply reflective of Paul Thek’s brilliant dilettantism than a few abstracted objects placed in their pristine settings.