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The evolving face of Indian art

The Art and Heritage Foundation has been formed, whose ultimate aim will be to hold a major triennial of artists from all over India, institute scholarships and awards of excellence, encourage inter-disciplinary activity, and publish well-researched books on art, said Rakhi Sarkar, executive director of the Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), on Tuesday.

The gallery, that has held noteworthy exhibitions in Calcutta and other Indian metros, as well as in London and New York, is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, and has organised a large show ó Portraits of a Decade ó of the works of artists from all over the country on the occasion.

Efforts are underway to hold the triennial within the next three to four years, on the lines of the Whitney Biennial, that highlights the face of American art. As an arbiter of excellence and innovation, the foundation will be like the Turner prize in the UK. The government organises an international triennial, but this foundation will concentrate on the national scene.

As a non-profit organisation, it will fund and support projects that others usually do not, said Sarkar. The government and other art galleries, too, will be involved in this activity and contacts are being established with them.

For funds, the foundation will depend on corporate bodies, the government, CIMA and international funding agencies. Sarkar said earlier many funding agencies had approached CIMA but since it is not a non-profit organisation, nothing could be done then. The foundation will organise workshops to provide scope for poor and physically-challenged children to express themselves. Many artists have already shown interest in this activity. Efforts will also be made to promote art literacy in schools, that will help children to develop their creative aptitude. The ultimate aim is to prepare an art curriculum for schools and form an art knowledge base. People will be inducted from different disciplines, in accordance with the demands of a project.

Portraits of a Decade highlights young talents on the national art scene. The usual sprinkling of veterans and not-so-young practitioners is there, but it is the upcoming ones that steal the show. Many of them are exhibiting in Calcutta for the first time.

The collaborative works of Chintan and Hema Upadhyay belong very much to our times. They appropriate both form and content from Bollywood, the strident messages of billboards and ads, but filtered through their consciousness, these acquire a bizarre twist. The Coca-Cola bottle on the cover of an art magazine becomes a gob-stopper.

In another work, the cover crawls with vermin.

In the third and most intriguing work, an androgynous cartoon strip hero-like figure in a body stocking, grapples in a pas de deux, seemingly with its own shadow. The figures from Indian miniatures painted on the body stocking, too, have a life of their own.

A. Balsubramaniamís works are visually riveting. Glistening silicon is pasted on a large black surface in Royal Bengal tiger-like stripes. In the second, white frames a bright red surface smeared with soot.

Shibu Natesanís brilliant flash of lightning striking a village is photographic in detail but has the visual quality of a dream vision. N.S. Harsha paints rows of 66 girls and boys in identical school uniforms and carrying identical satchels. But each figure is subtly different from its neighbour. A miniature on a large canvas.

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