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India Art Fair 2023 adds a diverse and novel perspective with Aicon Gallery
Rasheed Araeen Untitled, 2022
Video: Rasheed Araeen Untitled, 2022

India Art Fair 2023 adds a diverse and novel perspective with Aicon Gallery

The international gallery is set to curate showcases by M. F. Husain, Rasheed Araeen, Victor Ekpuk, Sheetal Gattani, and more at the 14th edition of IAF.

by STIRpad
Published on : Feb 08, 2023

Standing at the crossroads of multiple polarities ranging from—the past and the present to technology and tradition and arching towards setting a benchmark for using art as a voice, the India Art Fair is primed to unravel from February 9 to 12, 2023, at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi. Led in partnership with BMW India, the art fair places the voices of its artists at the forefront while showcasing modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia .“We believe in the transformative power of art, using it as a tool to nurture important conversations around issues that affect us all, from mental health, gender, sexual orientation, caste, and ecology. As the only commercial fair in the region, we hold the responsibility to drive dynamism in the market, expand the collecting base, and propel the international conversation on Indian and South Asian art and culture,” shares Jaya Asokan, fair director, India Art Fair.

The art fair will present 85 exhibitors, including 71 galleries and 14 institutions. With India pacing towards becoming the world's fifth-largest economy, the expansion of its art market has grown in parallel with the India Art Fair at its helm. Motivated by the success of its previous iteration, the 14th edition of the fair aims to be the most ambitious exhibition to date, with an expanded floorspace to showcase South Asia’s greatest talent, spanning cutting-edge contemporary art and modern masters, and extended studios showcasing a vividly different lens on ephemeral craft at the fair's Digital Artist in Residence programme with practitioners such as Gaurav Ogale, Mira Felicia Malhotra, and Varun Desai presenting tech-meets-art projects and installations at the fair.

Extending the diversity of the exhibition, IAF also highlights international galleries, one of which is New York-based gallery Aicon. IAF’s vision of highlighting South Asian artists complements Aicon’s focus on South Asian, Middle Eastern, and African artists—exhibiting contemporary and modern works by some renowned artists such as Rasheed Araeen, Victor Ekpuk, Sheetal Gattani, and M.F. Husain, to name a few.

Ranging from Islamic roots to ancient Nigerian scripts, Aicon presents art showcases that serve as evocative expressions of regional traditions and everyday routines. STIR looks at some artists that Aicon is presenting at the India Art Fair.

Traditions as artistic manifestations

Pakistani artist Rasheed Araeen, based in London creates innovative interpretations of minimalism. Araeen crafts structures in an open modular form that can be repositioned-positioned. In contrast, the modular structure also produces a varied body of paintings and two-dimensional assemblages. His Islamic roots are reflected in his calligraphic paintings, hinting at references from famous Islamic thinkers of the Abbasid era (8th – 13th century) whose names are encoded in complicated geometric structures. Further, the symmetry of geometry in his Islamic art acts as an allegory for human equality. Combining photographic images with painted green panels, the final result of his creations is a raw and grainy image that exemplifies the tensions between East and West that followed post the 1990–1991 Gulf War.

“The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture, and identity,” shares Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk. Translating the ancient Nigerian script Nsibidi as a trajectory for his own abstract visual language, his artistry expands to painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture, installation, and public art projects. Following an explorative track of traditional graphics and writing systems of Nigeria, his work is constantly evolving to embrace a broader spectrum of meaning rooted in African and global contemporary art. Ekpuk reinterprets graphic symbols from diverse cultures guided by the aesthetic philosophy Nsibidi, which captures sign systems to convey ideas, forming his personal style of mark-making, that exists in the interstices of art and writing.

Abstracting the everyday

Maqbool Fida Husain (1915 - 2011), hailed as the ‘Picasso of India’ was a self-taught artist whose narrative paintings were executed in modified Cubism and stood at the intersections of sharp and funny as well as serious and sombre. He captured motifs of Indian urban and rural life. His artistic journey began in the city of Mumbai where he never maintained a studio and instead spread his canvases out on the floor of whatever hotel room he happened to be staying in, a testament to his eccentric personality which is visible in his art, as well.

Mumbai-based artist Sheetal Gattani's art channels her methodical strategies into evocative watercolours, transforming her practice into a meditative and dissociative space. One where her works present a contrast to the overwhelming visual and aural stimuli of the metropolis. Gattani’s canvases hold multiple layers of paint just like her work on paper, fitting neatly into a vocabulary of process-based abstraction. Her works exude a sense of enigma with subtle architectural conceits, brought to life by pasting canvas to an articulated board with a complete lack of gesture, allowing the viewer to experience her art rather than simply viewing it.

A few other renowned artists whose works are on display include Rachid Koraichi, an Algerian artist who uses Quranic text as inspiration for his art; Anjolie Ela Menon, a painter from West Bengal who draws inspiration from distinctive compositional features of early Christian art; T.Venkanna, known for his powerful and virulent imagery; Nataraj Sharma, an artist influenced by urban landscapes and industrial geometry; Bikash Chatterjee, who exhibits his work in oil paints on canvas and linen; Veer Munshi, displaying his explorations with paint on HDF board; Saad Qureshi’s work on woven paper; Satish Gujral’s work with acrylics on textured canvas, F.N. Souza’s acrylic and pencil on canvas; and artistic renditions by Sangram Majumdar and Shridhar Bendre.

Aicon Gallery has encapsulated the essence of South Asian, Middle Eastern and African art into one exhibition that highlights characteristics ranging from traditional elements and scripts to urban landscapes and everyday life presented through contemporary and modern art, following IAF’s aim to cultivate an atmosphere of arts and crafts that is divergent and devoid of boundaries.

India Art Fair 2023 will remain open to the public from February 9 to 12, 2023, at the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in New Delhi, India.

Text by Ria Jha

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