Review by Sarmistha Maiti
January 15, 2014


47th Annual Exhibition
January 9- February2, 2014
Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata

Fresh and powerful concepts with new approach simultaneously with experimentation of the traditional formats, artists in their late 20s and 30s have set unique discourses all over the world. To live up to this expectation, from the last Annual Exhibition of the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata, the authority has decided to keep it exclusively for the younger generation of artists below 40 years along with some invited artists from across the country as per their choice. Though the exhibition could not be well-streamlined in its first makeover show, but in the second attempt, that is the 47th Birla Academy annual Exhibition 2014, the show has come out to be a well-graphed, meticulously designed, properly selected and marking the best as the work of excellence. And this time the list of invited artists was not done in a random way but purely transformed into a venture of curation, which also added a significant chapter in the history of the Birla Academy’s exhibitions.

The journey from ‘modern’ to ‘post-modern’ and yet after that has reached an assortment of tendencies among the new generation art practitioners to experiment with anything and everything and create something avant-garde. Well codifying the new generation art under a single umbrella might be difficult. We can put it this way that breaking out from the conventional measures of art practices, the younger generation of artists of the twenty first century love to be their own instead of formally declaring them as rebels and attempting to create another ‘ism’ defying and challenging its predecessors. Rather the younger artists are seeking for oneness among diversified elements and forms and through their creations, this ‘oneness’ is strongly being depicted. This episode of annual exhibition of the Birla Academy of Art & Culture which almost had an entry of works from thousand artists from all over the country in its preliminary round finally selected 164 finest works out of them to compete for the final round and put on display for this nearly a month of grand exhibition symbolizing the poise of new generation art and aesthetics. In the different categories the award winners are Avijeet Singh and Rajarappa Roy for Drawing, Mallika Das Sutar for Painting, Amit Debnath and Surajit Sarkar for Sculpture, Maneesh Kishore and Nilanjan Das for Graphics, Pallavi Das and Shibashish Das for Photograph and Durbananda Jana for Installation Video.

Apart from the above mentioned works, the first floor of the Birla Academy has been dedicated to a curatorial exhibition being held together along with the Annual Exhibition as a part of the nation’s cultural integrity which has been the primary focus of the Birla Academy since its inception. This time the focus has beenSouth India. Curated by noted art critic and curator, Johny M.L. originally from the South presently based in New Delhi, the exhibition has been titled ‘Thekkan Kattu’ or ‘Dokhiner Hawa’ (the Breeze of the South). Johny has clearly mentioned in his curatorial essay, ‘Tracing the Roots/Routes of Consciousness and Practice amongst the Artists of the South’ that “…Thekkan Kattu is not a forced concept made for catering to a new audience which is custom made for catering to a new audience in the East. Instead it is an attempt to showcase the variety and strength of the southern aesthetics. In this process, as a curator, my attempt is to see how the articulate their responses to the world while keeping their regional identity.” Johny therefore chose a group of artists from different regions of South India as well as their new locations in other parts of the country and abroad and attempted to decipher the connection among the identities which are formed and the cultural gamut that is shaped through their art during the modern and contemporary times. The canvas is much broader because the curator has traced the both the root and the route of the development of art in the Southern part of the country in the last century. So the list of artists is as follows: K.G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran, R Siva Kumar, K.S. Radhakrishnan, Vasudevan Namboothiri, K.V. Haridasan, S.G. Vasudev, Laxma Goud, C. Douglas, P. Gopinath, Shijo Jacob, Rajan Krishnan, S. Nandagopal, Iranna G.R., Abhimanue V.G., Gopinath Subbanna, Mathai K.T., Gireesh G.V., Arun Kumar H.G., Abul Kalam Azad, Manjunath Kamath, Shibu Natesan, Ajaya Kumar, Sachin George Sebastian, Deepak John Mathew and Shantamani Muddaiah.


The cultural exchange between Bengal/south-eastern India and the extreme southern states is a timeless phenomenon and the role of Tagorean literature and his art has been a strong integral part of the intellectual growth of the cultural South India. Contouring this as an essential factor to signify the art of the South, what we as viewers perceive through this particular exhibition, ‘Thekkan Kattu’ is that the beauty of artistic creation lies in the balance between idea, thought, technique, and the process of execution. This is the key to the classical representation of any art form which does not have to announce unnecessary experimentation just for the sake of it. In fact in such a depiction, experimentation, innovation and modernization become an integral part of the entire form of art without any sort of external imposition. The best part of this particular show thus remains the free flow of artistic expressions bringing out the flavours of ingenious indigenous art forms with their classical and modern tenets that mark the originality of the art.