Art round-up: Six exhibitions to look out for

Woven Chronicle (2018) by Reena Saini Kallat. Courtesy of AGNSW, Mim Stirling.

This is Art Gallery NSW’s first exhibition of women only. The ten featured artists explore politics, nationalism, and shifting borders, all challenging mainstream histories of the Asian ‘subcontinent’. Woven Chronicle (2013) by Reena Saini Kallat is a south-up facing world map comprised of electrical wires and circuit boards – its upside down orientation challenges biases about the global ‘south’ in regards to culture, economics, education, development, and politics. Adeela Suleman’s After all it’s always someone else who dies (2017) is a hanging steel rack of birds in a grid formation – the birds’ bodies made of revolver handles, symbolising violence and power, rather than the airy freedom commonly associated with the creatures. Other artists to see in this exhibit include Huma Bhabha, Shilpa Gupta, Nalini Malani and Dayanita Singh.

Take me take me take me…to the Palace of Love, Rina Banerjee. Courtesy of PAFA/Barbara Katus.

With Breath Taking Consumption Her Commerce Ate While She Was Being Eaten, Rina Banerjee. Courtesy of the Tioche DeLeon Collection, New Delhi.

This is the first major retrospective of contemporary artist Rina Banerjee. Featuring over two dozen sculptures, the exhibition traces over twenty years of Banerjee’s work, including sculptures made for the 57th Venice Biennale. Banerjee, born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1963 and raised between the US and the UK, is known for investigating experiences of identity, tradition, and culture with her intersectional feminist approach. Her work Take me, take me, take me… to the Palace of Love, originally made for Mass MoCA in 2003, is a reflection on the diaspora community, Banerjee says: “My pink Taj rises to be released from place. In flight, a hovering pink skinned, peeling, stretched, impermanent monument resists authenticity as meaning. This reference of the Taj unhinges the unseen horizon, where echos of the original have legitimate meaning. Here the complexity of the South Asia diaspora and the diasporic American culture merge.”. The exhibition also includes the mixed media installation With Breath Taking Consumption Her Commerce Ate While She Was Being Eaten made of jute, a wood charpai, cowerie shells, glass and threat, originally shown in 2008 at Space Gallery in New Delhi. Banerjee talks about the significance of gender and material in this particular piece: “Commerce is the deep desire to move between places, to relocate resources, and to exchange. As the human body is commodified in this process, gender roles become rigid.”

Entrance to Buddhist Temple, Kandy, (1880-90), Scowen & Co. Image courtesy of LACMA.

Comb (18th-19th century), artist unknown. Image courtesy of LACMA.

This is the first comprehensive study of Sri Lankan art by a U.S. museum, presenting 250 works spanning across two millennia of Sri Lankan history. The exhibition is organised around three major Sri Lankan capitals from history: Anuradhapura (3rd century BCE-10th century CE), Polonnaruwa (11th-13th century), and Kandy (15th-19th century). Through these cities, we are presented with the complexity of culture, religion and ethnicity in the region. The items displayed explore the introduction of Buddhism and its interaction with Hinduism, the impact of the Portuguese and then British colonies, as well as Sri Lankan art in the modern era. Throughout the exhibition, 19th century British photographs of Sri Lanka provide context for many objects on view, while at the same time conveying their colonial, exoticising gaze of Sri Lanka. The exhibition is accompanied by a book The Jeweled Isle, written by the show’s curators Robert Brown and Tushara Bindu Gude, as well as art historians Donald Stadtner and Lakshika Senarath Gamage.

the cartographer’s mistake: the Radcliffe Line (2012) by Sarindar Dhaliwal. Courtesy of the Artist.

This show in brings together the complex perspectives of 20 Indian artists, both from India as well as the diaspora living in Canada. The works address themes of borders, land and migration. The exhibition includes the work of Toronto-based artist Sarindar Dhaliwal, born in Punjab, India and raised in London. Dhaliwal’s 2012 the cartographer’s mistake: the Radcliffe Line (pictured) references the British lawyer Cyril Radcliffe, who was given five weeks to draw the border between India and Pakistan, and who had never been to the subcontinent before. While both India and Pakistan are portrayed with marigolds, demonstrating their deep connection and shared history, the change in colour of the marigolds at the border between the two countries reminds us of the crucial decision that led to the violence of Partition and the displacement of millions. Also featured in the exhibition is Atul Dodiya’s oil painting of Ghandi, Alighting from the train, New Delhi, 1940s (2013), depicted in the hyperrealist style the famous Indian artist is known for.

Haut de Cagnes (1951), S. H. Raza. Courtesy of the Darashaw Collection.

Mahisasura (1997), Tyeb Mehta. Courtesy of Rajiv and Payal Chaudhri.

This exhibition at Asia Society presents more than 80 works by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, comprised of individuals from varying socio-cultural backgrounds, though predominantly men, including core founders of the group – M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and F.N. Souza, as well as later members V.S. Gained, Tyeb Mehta, and Mohan Samant. The exhibition explores the modernist works that the Progressives produced following the independence of India. Associate Lecture Boon Hui Tan reflects on the themes of political and social upheaval in this exhibition: “The works in this exhibition reflect the diversity of Asian modernities, which are not a mirror of the Euro-American experience”. The show examines the roots of the Progressives in the lead up to Partition, as well as their sources of inspiration, by including Rajput miniatures and other works the artists drew inspiration from.

Women of the Zenana Watch a Dance Performance with Bakhat Singh (1736), Nagaur, Mehrangarh Museum Trust. Image courtesy of Neil Greentree/SAM.

The kingdom of Marwar-Jodhpur, and northwestern Rajasthan, was home to several different dynastic reigns. This exhibition in Seattle begins with Rathore rule, moving through the Mughals, and ends with the British Empire, portraying the continual introduction of new material cultures. It gathers approximately 250 items ranging from the 16th to the 20th century, many of which have never been displayed outside the palaces from which they had been sourced. Highlights include a re-creation of a royal wedding procession, featuring life-size elephant and horse mannequins, and several intricate Rajput and Mughal era paintings. This exhibition demonstrates the cosmopolitan court culture of Jodhpur, which relied heavily on the arts to establish multicultural grandeur and autonomy, charting its journey through the centuries and the cross-cultural encounters that have shaped it.

Nine Forms of the Goddeess, Folio 2 from Durga Charit (1780-90), Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Museum Trust. Image courtesy of Neil Greentree/SAM.