October 20, 2012


Feature by Elizabeth Rogers

Excerpted from the catalogue essay by Elizabeth Rogers for the exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi and NIV Art Centre (October-November 2012) in New Delhi.

A meeting of creative thoughts, minds and spaces leads to mercurial manifestations. Bringing together artists and collaborators from diverse geographical and cultural sites promises surprising and unexpected consequences. The 5th NIV international Artist Residency introduces six Indian artists from across the country (Baroda, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mysore), and six foreign artists (Spain, Ireland/Spain, the UK and the USA). Exposed to the churning energy of Delhi and Neb Sarai for a brief period of time, and to the myriad aesthetic inclines of each other, the journeys undertaken by each one and as a group cannot be reduced to a simple result.

Thus, the incarnation of this formula: Locus Solus: Own Space (sort of akin to a room of one’s own); Rasa:  aesthetics and emotions; * as a signifier and multiplier; and the number 12 to denote the 12 artists and the year 2012.

Inherent in the title, Locus Solus – meaning solitary or unique place – refers to the proto-Surrealist novel by Raymond Roussel (1914) in which a scientist named Canterel fits out luxurious laboratories in a villa near Paris. Each room demonstrates one of the ingenious inventions of his encyclopaedic mind, yet, on the whole, the villa displays the bizarreness of a shrine devoted to pure rationality and mechanical reproduction. In this residency, the atmosphere is quite the opposite. Surrounded by the bustle of the external environment, NIV is a place of calmness and concentration. However, within each studio, there is highly idiosyncratic energy happening.

As such it fosters and revolves upon the constant presence and catalyzing role of the twelve artists. It considers the artist as a modern Canterel who distils his unique piece of art, whether it be of objets trouves, prints, collage, drawing, paint, casting, or metal, In particular, it examines the activity within boundaries and the subsequent specificity of site; identity and its demarcation; the crossing of borders between site and vision, between individuals and the group. What unfolds, what happens within the work created and considered?

Drawing from the Indian traditions, the henceforth discussed concepts shall be integrated into the fields of sensorial awareness and depiction. A Rasa (Sanskrit: lit. 'juice' or 'essence') denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work. However, the treatment, interpretation, usage and actual performance of a particular Rasa differ greatly between different styles and schools, and the huge regional differences even within one style.

Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Natyasastra, an ancient work of dramatic theory, written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD. Each rasa, according to Natyasastra, has a presiding deity and a specific colour. There are four pairs of rasas.

S?ngaram – Love, Attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: light green.
Hasyam – Laughter, Mirth, Comedy. Presiding deity: Pramata. Colour: white.
Raudram – Fury. Presiding deity: Rudra. Colour: red.
Karu?yam – Compassion, Tragedy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey.
Bibhatsam – Disgust, Aversion. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: blue
Bhayanakam – Horror, Terror. Presiding deity: Kala. Colour: black
Viram – Heroic mood. Presiding deity: Indra. Colour: yellowish
Adbhutam – Wonder, Amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow 

The materials selected by the artists, whether found objects, discarded materials, recycled, reconverted, or facets of modern technology and media, represent the artists’ adoption and adaptation of the energies and sources in the environment. Whether the oeuvres created during the course of the residency and then exhibited at this point in time reflect an evolution in creative expression remains a highly personal truth. Osmosis and absorption of internal and external influences undertake highly diverse paths from one artist or being to another. 

In asking how such an experience (presence in Delhi) or time period will affect an artist and their work, it is necessary to step back and allow the sense of time to expand, to stretch into an unforeseeable future. How each of the artists shall proceed from this moment on shall prove exciting and unexpected. Nevertheless, their interaction with one another, their myriad experimentations and outputs, their forays into their surroundings, shall prove fruitful on multiple levels. 

(Elizabeth Rogers: Graduate of Harvard College, Harvard University (A.B.), Institut d’Etudes Politiques (C.E.P., Paris), and Institut des Civilisations et Langues Orientales (Matrise, Paris), Beijing and Fudan Universities (P.R.C.), and Yale University (M.A. and M.F.A.). She has researched and curated exhibitions of Asian art in museums and art institutions across the globe. She was the Assistant Director of the Museum at Japan Society (New York), the Director of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art (New York), consultant to World Monuments Fund (New York), a consultant to the Museum at Tibet House (New Delhi), and a consultant to the Asoka Mission, New Delhi. Her poetry and essays have been published in international journals.