Despite the pandemic scenario, where we’re still scrambling to fully grasp the implications behind the threat of a third wave of Covid-19, the art world is slowly but steadily getting back to its former glory. The art calendar is replete with shows across various galleries in India.
Art and technology come together to give India its first immersive and interactive virtual art gallery experience at ‘The Other Side', happening at Kalakriti Art Gallery. The show is an attempt to highlight Muzaffar Ali's oeuvre, tinged with traces of olde-world charm, grandeur, beauty, poetry, personal memories and nostalgia. It displays the filmmaker-auteur's creative brilliance beyond cinema. He’s a fashion designer, revivalist, poet, and performer too – but the show turns the spotlight on Muzaffar Ali the painter.
“The show with Muzaffar Ali was being planned for the past two years. But we put it on hold due to the ongoing pandemic. Now that the art scenario is slowly coming alive, we are doing the show following all safety protocols,” says Rekha Lahoti, founder, Kalakriti Art Gallery.
The exhibition is a pioneering step in the digital transformation of the visitor/buyer experience in that it is completely interactive and more than just a website experience. Kalakriti has partnered with Terapact to create a full and immersive sensory experience of viewing art in real-time through virtual reality (VR) technology, enabling real-time 3D exhibition and an art gallery walkthrough. Using a simple touch interface or a VR headset, visitors can fully experience the art gallery, walk through any gallery space, interact with embedded media content and visualize artworks in real space as well as make an enquiry or a purchase.
“The entire show was conceptualised over a chat with Muzaffar and Meera during a walk in their garden in Delhi. We wanted people to see how amazing he is as a painter, so full of passion and creativity even in minute things,” she says, adding, “each of the 42 works on display has a unique narrative of its own.”
According to Rekha, virtual exhibitions are the next thing in the world of art. “Virtual exhibitions are common abroad, and we wanted to bring that element into India so that people can experience art from anywhere in the world. I think we are the first to bring in full immersive AR-VR technology to showcase art exhibitions,” she says.
While technology has come to the aid of art at Kalakriti, it was nature which inspired Laxman Aelay to produce the works on view at the show titled ‘Inked Image’ at Kadari Gallery. It represents a shift in the eminent artist’s style. Laxman Aelay’s works are mostly inspired by his experiences while growing up in Kadirenigudem, a small village in Nalgonda in Telangana. But, as the ongoing show testifies, he seems to have consciously moved on from human to wild life.
It all started when Laxman, along with a few other eminent artists who had adopted a 37-year-old elephant, Sita, paid frequent visits to the Nehru Zoological Park. His quick studies of the zoo were the basis for his recent paintings on the theme of animals being free even when confined to designated spaces in the zoo while humans are struggling with the concept of isolation at home.
Laxman says, “This new series is a result of the lockdown. We couldn’t source enough art supplies. I only had paper and ink, and I used them to do 60 drawings. Eighteen of them are on display, as they are very intricate and need to be spaced out. The others are available online on the gallery’s website.”
The artist says that though art shows and auctions are taking place around the world, and the interest in virtual shows has peaked, people are still visiting physical shows.” He plans to continue working on the animal series but in a different medium – etching and printmaking – in the near future.
Supraja Rao, founder, Kadari Art Gallery, says, “I chanced upon Laxman Aelay's new series of work during the pandemic. I have known him since the 90s and always loved his style of work. But this time it was different, those black and white drawings were special, I fell in love with them and planned an exclusive show. Initially, we thought of doing a virtual exhibition, but the works are so intriguing that they deserve to be viewed physically. "
Meanwhile, the State Gallery of Art, which was closed due to the pandemic, opened its doors again and is now hosting a group exhibition of paintings, sculptures and photographs, titled ‘Colours of Harmony’. Another show, ‘Allegories of Threads’, presented by Dhi Artspace will be on view till August 31. It encourages the viewer to think about many meanings of threads. Four diverse and intriguing works from the artists Gözde İlkin, Sharmistha Kar, Shruti Mahajan and Sumana Som are on display.
Hyderabad is also hosting a virtual photo exhibition titled ‘Rocks Matter’ by The Society to Save the Rocks. It is curated by Sangeeta Varma and Ashok Kumar Vootla and is happening at Goethe-Zentrum.
The Kalakriti Art Gallery is also hosting a group show titled ‘Anthology of the New’, providing a glimpse of the richness, diversity, and depth of contemporary Indian art through over 60 artworks by some of the most eminent artists.
A silver lining for art
"Interestingly art has been doing well during the pandemic, as people haven’t needed expensive clothes or jewellery as there are no events to attend. They have been staying at home mostly, staring at empty walls, and it made them understand the importance of a beautiful home. This has led to a rise in sales of art. Even when our gallery was closed, I sold artworks online.” - Supraja Rao