Review by Georgina Maddox
October 15, 2017


Rumbles in the Playpen
Contemporary work – Sculptures and Installations by young upcoming artists
Curated by Tarini Sethi
October 7-11, 2017
IIC, New Delhi

An exhibition featuring the works of up and coming artists acts as an interesting foil to ostentatious exhibitions that seem to have become the norm 

Can art be housed in a tent? Can it exist outside the white cube? Can one step up and flip through the art or pull up a chair to watch it unfold on a screen? The answer to all those questions is yes. ‘Rumbles in the Playpen’, an exhibition curated by Tarini Sethi at the Gandhi-King Memorial Plaza in IIC, was one such instance. Showcasing up and coming artists whose work has not yet been ‘canonized’ and labelled with a hefty price tag, the exhibition featured ten young artists and encouraged viewer participation since it had none of the ‘aura’ that often surrounds art.

That is of course not to say that the art was not subversive, engaging or enigmatic, it was just presented in a more playful and informal manner—much in keeping with its title. “There is no theme as such to this exhibition,” says Sethi “It’s really a collection of works by young artists who usually don’t find a space to show. What unites them is the fact that all of them are so different in their approach and expression,” she adds. The art is often seen as accidental as it questions established norms.

In the forefront is Harsh Nabiar’s arresting expressionist paintings, that are self-mounted like a standee and done with broad brush strokes on ply. The Delhi based artist looks at the human body as a site of synthesis for a variety of influences and ideas. It is a place where, “new narratives and aesthetic mythologies can emerge.” Ishan Lamba’s ceramic creations, dotted the exhibition site and ranged from functional ware to decorative pieces.  Ayesha Singh soft sculptures were seen draped from trees and spread across the floor in their multifarious hues.

In a tent that was covered with faux leaves and creepers, Mehr Chatterjee and Aditya Dutta presented animated films and one was encouraged to draw up a bamboo stool to watch them unfold. Chatterjee’s film was cut to sound— a very distinctive grinding sound that echoed strains of a deep house mix, which the artist self-composed. The surreal short animation captured women dressed in traditional saris, but performing several unorthodox acts, like parading around with dogs in a militaristic manner, doing various acrobatics, including playing football with their own heads and generally shaking up one’s notion of what tradition stands for.

Dutta’s film was also a fantasy driven take off on the notion of still life. The animation begins with a bowl of fruit placed on a table which is then zoomed into, till we see the activity inside the fruits, of little insects and particles roaming around in its soft layers. It belies the idea that the fruits are dormant. The film seemed to say that there is in fact entire ecosystems that is not visible to our naked eyes.

Jaiveer and Nanaki Singh’s work was also housed in a tent. Their piece comprised of solar energy lights that hung as an interesting installation inside the tent. The effect of the lights changes as the days wears on which integrated the work with its environment, making it site specific.  Also seen, right next to the energy tent, were two large tables piled with an assortment of books and zines, which drew one’s attention. Working Hours Collective and Bombay Underground are two artist led initiatives that present a range of subversive zines that cover a variety of topics. The subjects varied from gender and sexuality to worker’s rights, people’s movements and anti-establishment groups. There were also creative artists books that told the story of the reluctant super hero and photo-book of working-class women documenting their own lives, titled Ladies Only: Stories for All. What was the most exciting aspect of this stall? That they had art books that ranged from Rs 5000 to Rs 50! You could take home the art in your pocket if you liked.

Finally, one was left to contemplate Sethi’s biomorphic metallic shadow sculptures that came to life when light was thrown on them. What was most interesting about these many limbed, multi headed women was that they seemed to possess an auto-erotic quality. Their plastic forms melted one into each other, defying gravity and anatomy. Their overall effect is to allow one to think beyond the perfect bodies that are often attributed to women to something more powerful and totemic.

Overall the exhibition conveyed a sense that these were artists thinking outside the box. Their works stimulated thoughts and ideas outside the normative and for that it stood out from the usual art exhibitions of pretty, non-controversial paintings that one often sees.