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The Apparao Galleries Solitude Show

Walking into the Artists Centre at Kalaghoda in Mumbai, the visitor is confronted with a feeling that leaves him a little unsettled. It takes a while to realize that the street noises and loud voices that have become such an integral part of city life are missing in this safe-space, and in their place there is a quiet hush, a serene lull that cushions the frazzled urban soul. Soaking up the atmosphere, and allowing himself to sink into and be absorbed by the quietness that surrounds him, the visitor moves on to take in the artwork on display, which is part of the latest show hosted by the Apparao Galleries of Chennai, aptly titled 'Solitude'.

This exhibition is part of the grand celebrations that marked Cinefan, the festival of Asian Cinema hosted by New Delhi in July as well as the International Film Festival that is currently underway at the YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai. First displayed at the Visual Arts Gallery of the India Habitat Centre in the capital, the works in this show recently traveled to Mumbai and are presently on display in the Artists Centre, one of the oldest and most renowned gallery spaces in the city.

Curated by Dr. Alka Pande of Delhi, this exhibition explores the numerous ways in which the concept of solitude is interpreted in the world today, what with its ever-changing norms and mores. Whether a celebration of serenity and individual spirit or a means to cope with the anxieties and traumas of everyday living, solitude assumes a very important role in personal and social development. The idea to host such an event came about when the organizers of both film festivals noted that a great number of entries from all around the world resonated with the theme of isolation and the self. Thinking to add another dimension to each festival, the organizers approached Dr. Pande and Sharan Apparao with their idea.

About 25 artists were asked to contribute to this exploration of the self, and were guided in their creative effort by simply being told to work keeping the theme of solitude in mind and using a palette dominated by or exclusively the colour white. Approximately forty creations resulted from this endeavour, ranging from the simple and minimalist oil on paper creations of RM Palaniappan from his series titled 'The Route' to the elaborate fabric and fiber constructions of Sandeep Pardkar. The work of old masters that fitted the conceptual guidelines of this exhibition were also included, and it was a rare treat to view the six Nasreen Mohamedi drawings and the two Somenath Hore paper pulp works from the late 1970s titled 'Wounds'.

Other attention grabbers were Raza's large geometric canvas in grey tones painted in 2000, Prafulla Dahanukar's three abstract landscapes from the 'Shanti' series and Prabhakar Kolte's monochromatic multimedia work that resembled a sheathed dagger. A large Muzaffar Ali calligraphic work on paper and acrylic sheet was also very imposing, and had people standing in front of it, contemplating the artist's message for quite a while.

The other works that were on display included two acrylic and oil paintings from Jayashree Chakravarty's series titled 'Oh Why', a few textured works from Shobha Broota, two of Manisha Parekh's grey works on paper and abstracts by Seema Ghurayya, Harshavardhana and Sheetal Gattani. Innovative pieces like A Balasubramaniam's fiberglass hands behind acrylic and Smriti Dixit's fabric creations called 'Trance' were also part of the display. 'Solitude' also included the work of artists relatively new and fresh on the Indian art scene, like Viren Tanwar, Hemi Bawa, Chameli Ramachandran, Yogesh Raval, Trupti Patel, Vivek Vilasini and Samarendra Singh.

With the work of so many different artists grouped together, it is quite imaginable that even though the paintings shown are thematically similar, 'Solitude' presents an eclectic display of art. Each artist discovered and explored his or her own interpretation of the theme, inspired by ideas that were poles apart and working with genres and styles that they had been previously comfortable with. From versions of solitude like 'peace' and 'quietude' to esoteric translations and visual expressions that included 'chaos', the walls of the Artists Centre in Mumbai are playing host to a truly unusual exhibition - a niche of tranquility nestled in the midst of a loud urban setting, loaded with art that truly makes the visitor reflect on the value of time spent stress-free and alone, asking why so many of us ignore it.

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