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Then and now at the museum

The Jehangir Nicholson Gallery hosts an exhibition of seven artists that is as introspective as it is retrospective

The only way to stay relevant is to reinvent. Looking back, artist Baiju Parthan remembers the five years spent on un-learning and re-thinking everything that his college had taught him about art. Moving away from the academic meaning of art, Parthan then developed his signature themes surrounding shamanistic traditions. But, the evolution of the artist was far from over. If the past Parthan made acrylics on paper, then the present Parthan has been experimenting with computer technology. If his earlier art was mystical, the present takes on the illusions made by lenticular prints.

From acrylic on paper to new digital media, Baiju Parthan has seen radical changes in his artistry. Featured here, An Act of Equilibirum — The Wind made in 1991, and Chorus — 2, 3D lenticular print
From acrylic on paper to new digital media, Baiju Parthan has seen radical changes in his artistry. Featured here, An Act of Equilibirum — The Wind made in 1991, and Chorus — 2, 3D lenticular print

The Journey Is The Destination, an upcoming exhibition at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (CSMVS), pays homage to the art of transformations, choosing works from Jehangir Nicholson's collection. The late collector, who worked with his family's cotton business, spent his spare time at art galleries, creating a collection of modern and contemporary art that ended with his death in 2001. Seven works from this collection will meet their present day counterparts, in this exhibition that puts forth a nifty retrospective. For instance, Parthan's An Act of Equilibirum — The Wind, made in 1991 and part of the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation (JNAF), will be shown alongside Chorus — 2, made of lenticular prints from 2011-15.

Kamini Sawhney, curator of the exhibition and the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery at CSMVS, says, the choice of these from 800 works depended on those "who changed and showed current concerns". "Nicholson's collection has a lot of the Progressives and Moderns, which stopped in 2001. With this exhibition, we are able to stay contemporary, and reflect on not just each artist, but on the overall scene as well," she says.

Parthan, for instance, has been radical as he juggled a variety of media, as did Atul Dodiya and Vivan Sundaram. Other artists, such as Anju Dodiya, have shown subtler transformations. Each artist has a different take on the means and purposes for the re-invention of the self. Dodiya has stayed with painting, but "pushed its boundaries out of a sheer inner need". "I am quickly exhausted by things that I am doing and I take on disparate diverse influences," he says. Sundaram, known as one of the early artists to use new media forms in his works, says that at a point in India's history of art, new forms emerged. "Socio-political shifts such as the free market economy and the Communist Block influenced us. Till then, Indian art was only painting. After that, we took on new forms," he says.

Sawhney points out that the nature of art practice has also changed. "It is no longer just an easel, canvas and brush for an artist. A whole production line is in place," she says. Does this mean that the creation of art is no more a private, heart-wrenching affair? While Parthan agrees that the pace of change is "explosive" now, he cautions that while he has delved into computer language, he has an old-fashioned notion of the artist. "Art is still private. It is the process of art that makes you an artist. If you have a number of technicians working with you, then you are an art director."

Where: Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, CSMVS, Kala Ghoda
When: March 15 – June 30
Entry: Rs 70 (adults); R20 (children)
Call: 22844484

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