UNMAPPED TERRITORIES

Review by Anoop Kamath
February 01, 2012

 

Fragility
Anita Dube, Ashim Purkayastha, L.N.Tallur, Manisha Parekh, Masooma Syed, Mithu Sen, Om Soorya, Pooja Iranna, Rina Banerjee, Sisir Thapa, Srinivasa Prasad, Susanta Mandal and Yamini Nayar
Curated by Rakhee Balaram
December 17, 2011 – February 10, 2012
Art Alive Gallery, Gurgaon

A few years back, when I visited Tate Modern in London, one of the few works which caught my attention was Joseph Beuy’s work Felt Suit besides his other works on display at the gallery.

The display caption for this work reads as below:

“Felt Suit was tailored from one of Beuys’s own suits, and can be seen as an oblique self-portrait. Although it was intended as a work to be hung from the gallery wall, he did wear one of the suits in a performance in the early 1970s. For Beuys, the suit was an extension of his felt sculptures, in which the felt appeared as ‘an element of warmth’. He explained: ‘Not even physical warmth is meant... Actually I meant a completely different kind of warmth, namely spiritual or evolutionary warmth or the beginning of an evolution’.”

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It was almost two years back that Ashim Purkayastha had a solo show. His last show titled Family – Families was held at Vadehra Art Gallery between December 12, 2009 and January 9, 2010.

He rarely participates in group shows, primarily because he works at his own pace and creates fewer art works than many of his contemporaries do. So, it was a surprise to see his works in a group show which opened at Art Alive, Gurgaon on December 17. Few of his 2005 works from the butterfly series are also exhibited in this show.

But, what caught my eye was Ashim’s new work titled Inside Out, which was exhibited at the basement of the gallery.

Inside Out, as the artist has cleverly named his work, is a torn quilt. A torn quilt probably of no use to anyone and normally would be found in the dumps or garbage. There are remains of the red hued cloth, which hold the clouds of cotton inside. Ashim has, in places, stitched small patches of red cloth since most of the original material has worn out. Also additional support is given by threads to hold the cotton in place.

Ashim states that most of the people who migrate from West Bengal to the urban cities like New Delhi remain homeless for a long time. They pick menial jobs for survival and live on the streets, in the show of the humongous metropolis. Their only comfort is the quilt, which is used a bedding during the summer nights and a quilt to protect their bodies from bone-chilling cold in the winter. Most of them sleep in bus shelters and other temporary structures as roof over heads with the quilt acting as protection or comfort. The quilt becomes their protection and comfort throughout the year.

Inside Out holds your attention, as a piece of art, even without these explanations. The quilt mesmerizes you, as you spend more time in front of it. In the dimly lit gallery, the white cotton resembles an abstract map. A map made up of territories unknown to us, where the migrants belong.

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Artist Nancy Kay Turner writes about Joseph Beuy’s work:

“In Felt Suit (1970), a multiple of sewn felt, Beuys plays with the idea of felt as a protective, magical material. This felt suit is no ordinary suit, it is contemporary armor made out of humble cloth. It is also no ordinary suit since it is not a suit at all–it is art. An empty shell, without the human presence, this suit nevertheless vibrates with meaning and power. It is not a suit–it is an idea.”

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Ashim’s work becomes an exceptional piece of art in the times we live in. The artist with his magic wand has created a torn quilt into a significant work, inviting the visitor to participate in the art and not just be an observer.


Ashim Purkayastha, Inside Out