Review by Sanjay Mashruwla
January 20, 2013


Mending Fences
Group Show curated by Karishma Shah and Rahul Bhattacharya
Science Center Art Gallery, Surat
October 11-14, 2012 

In mid-October, Surat experienced its first full-scale contemporary art exhibition. The show was the inaugural edition of Mending Fences, a proposed chain of curations that is initiated out of a shared concern that the audience base for contemporary Indian art is too narrow. With Mending Fences is Surat, a new journey has been initiated to build pathways into the heart of India and connect the metropolitans/art-centres with the upcoming cities and the rest of India. Mending Fences | Surat (curated by Karishma Shah and Rahul Bhattacharya) brought into the city an exciting definition of art, with a collection of young and early mid-career artists showing works, ranging from painting, sculpture, installations, video, mixed media jewellery sculptures to works done in stitching and embroidery. 

For the city’s audience, it was a delightful experience. One never thought that in Surat, so many people would come to see an art show, and spend so much time viewing and interacting with artworks.  The works of Megha Katyal (Sewing Self), and Pooja Panchal (It’s Her Story and Not History) had a special impact with their intimacy and a new approach towards their mediums, while the canvasses of Jimmy Chishi and Sandip Daptari through their impact of held the audience’s gaze.  Apart from a video installation by Chinmoyee Patel (Shall We), the exhibition also had a video corner where works by Abhijt Paul and performance videos of Performer’s Independent were shown. This along with the photographic works of Kanak Sashi, Saurav Desai and Puja Kedia really opened up understandings about art. 

What was significant about the show is not only the show was the scale, number of artists and the range of mediums, but also the way in which the two curators conceived of this show as an activity, which goes beyond the exhibition hall and keeping in mind to develop a long-term art viewing culture.  The show was a fundraiser for the student’s fund of Fine Arts College of the South Gujarat University and the entire display of the show took place in as a exhibition design workshop for the final year students. The students responded to the show and the possibilities of learning it opened to them in a wholehearted manner.  Moreover, in the list of 25 artists, six were the teachers of Fine Arts College further increasing the involvement of the institution. 

In parallel to the show, Broadening Horizons (an art outreach initiative) did two very important events.  There was a slide show on What is Art Photography conducted by Rahul Bhattcharya, and a discussion on 'IMAGE+TEXT & CONTEMPORARY ART' in which Piyush Thakker one of the most important artist/art teacher/writer emerging from Gujarat did a reading of his poetry along with the short stories written by acclaimed artist, the late Bhupen Khakkar. The reading session was done with the projection of paintings of both Bhupen Khakkar and Piyush Thakker for the audience to understand the relationships between various forms of artistic expression. In the end, there was a curators walk which significantly helped the audience and visitors of this show.

To quote the curators, "This is an attempt for contemporary Indian art to have a dialogue with country's own creed. Often, most artists tend to display works out of India and Mending Fences literally has set out to make a conscious effort to mend that disruptive chain between Indian artists and local audience to the same.” And this attempt was a successful one in Surat!

(The writer is an architect and Lecturer)

Mending Fences is an independent initiative. Details of the show are available on