NEWS AND FEATURES

The evening of the 9th of August 2002 saw the unveiling of Dr. Saryu Doshi's pet project at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai. The gallery's fourth annual magazine show - Ideas and images IV - was inaugurated with great pomp and pageantry by Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, one of India's most famous novelists and art collectors, and his wife, Shirin who had come all the way from Khandala to preside over events. Curator, Dr. Doshi, has put together this massive showcase of the work of famous Indian artists, photographers and art students over the last month, and there is no way that any visitor to the gallery will not be enthralled by at least one of its six different sections.
As you enter, on the first level, you are confronted by an installation created by more than twenty students of art from various colleges on the periphery of the city guided by next generation artist Ashutosh Apte. The central theme of this awesome display is the connection between sounds and symbols in the Devnagri script. In fact, one wall of the gallery has been painted with various gigantic 'Akshars' or letters in stark blacks and whites and another one with a tree of falling letters in vivid yellows. This installation combines the features of painting, sculpture, architecture and presentation. There are blocks with letters painted on them built up into small fortresses around the floor, and on the opening night the students, along with Apte, presented a short and dramatic performance highlighting the use and abuse of the language with the help of sounds and actions. Apte promises that there will be repeat performances through the run of the exhibition. Climbing up to level two, we feast our eyes on a very rare collection of drawings and paintings from the Fine Arts section of the Sir J.J. School of Art. Unknown to most people, the college houses a grand collection of the works of India's most renowned artists from the days they spent on its campus as students as well as the works of old masters. These works span many decades, and include some exceptional pieces that reflect the ever-changing art scene in Mumbai city. Level three is certainly the most interesting. Continuing the tradition of inviting a group of leading figures from Mumbai to chose paintings or artists they like and displaying them, this year Dr. Doshi has invited Mumbai celebrities from various fields to pick the selection. The Celebrities' Choice section of Ideas and Images IV includes the work of M.F.Husain, Laxman Shreshtha, George Keyt, Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala and even comparatively newer artists like Subhash Awchat. The celebrities that picked the works were Amitabh Bachhan, Viren Shah, Parmeshwar Godrej, Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Sachin Tendulkar, Ratan Tata and Dr. Farokh Udwadia. On levels four and five of the gallery, photography is the medium of expression. Photographers Sudharak Olwe and Shirish Shete have documented the lives of two of Mumbai's immigrant communities. On the first level, in some alarming and shocking large prints, Olwe has captured the terrible conditions that surround Mumbai's conservancy workers. Their lives are nothing short of pathetic, and in his photographs every aspect of these lives seems to be captured, whether in a picture of an abandoned newborn lying in a garbage bin or in one of the claustrophobic dwellings the workers are allotted. The job is hazardous; the life expectancy short, but still these people will continue to flow into Mumbai because the occupation guarantees a house in this city of dreams. Shete, on the other hand has spent the last few years photo-documenting the lives of Mumbai's 'Tamasha' artists, who came to the city as entertainers years ago, but have now faded into near obscurity as a result of the booming cinema and television industries. Level five is filled with scenes from the lives of this community, robbed of profession and home by a city that promises that the sky is the limit. In the dome gallery of the NGMA, Dr. Doshi has paid tribute to two of India's late eminent artists - B Vithal and B Prabha. These two artists, husband and wife, were known for their extremely distinctive styles. Prabha is recognized as a painter of the dark, attenuated figures of Maharashtrian women, engaged in their everyday tasks. Her husband, Vithal, was a greatly acclaimed sculptor and painter, and it is a treat to see his metal and stone works on display as well as some of his stunning paintings of nudes. All in all, Ideas and Images IV does justice to Mumbai's art heritage and growing community of artists and art lovers, cataloging the past and anticipating future trends.

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