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  • Writer's pictureNeha Jaiswal

Indian contemporary art is no longer confined to masters or mid-career artists only

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

" Young contemporaries are creating their own odysseys in analyzing, experimenting, innovating and engaging culturally with the South Asian contemporary art movements to mark their own milestones ."- Uma Nair, Curator and Art Critic (March 2023)

The TAF Awards have unveiled the beauty of human considerations, the magnitude of appreciation and the inbuilt register for recognition in the arts world for young contemporaries. The TAF Awards announcement has sent ripples of delight all across South Asia. All three artists have their own

odysseys in the world of art practice and they vary in the richness and exploration of materials and mediums.

Harsha Durugadda the first awardee is not a stranger to recognition. He has already won a slew of awards, and is known for his passion for creating sculptures born of modernist moorings. When his sculptures were unveiled at Bikaner House in Delhi he told this critic: “For me, the most important ability for humankind

is that of sensitivity and awareness.” Harsha’s father the famed sculptor from Hyderabad, is a National Award Winner and his meditative sculpture of a human head with Ganeshas on the cranium stands in the lawns of NGMA Delhi. Kallol Dutta who is a power house at clothes making has spread his

wings to delve into the realms of art. Kallol has a series of international awards for his practice that seeks to create a lingua franca that brings forward the gravitas of antiquity and the moorings of a millennial sensibility. His show at Experimenter in Kolkata was a statement in vintage vitality.

Amoebic forms of ‘upcycled’ saris and vintage textiles, defined his exploration inspired by the native wear of the Late Showa Period in Japan and vintage Indian saris (both made or woven between the years 1945-1989). Datta has no obsession with handloom, purity or thread counts but has created his own odyssey, one of pure play on pattern cutting and intuitive sculpturing. The act of donating textiles became a collective signature, as a part of an online drive, and in Datta’s words are a practice on ‘reconstructing, repurposing and restructuring donated pieces of clothes, that hold memory’.

Purvai Rai the young lass of design dictates in textile, jute and other materials is discovering the beauty of multiple journeys and references that sift and sieve textural nuances. Rai has impeccable credentials belonging to a family of photography and architecture in being the daughter of famed photographer Raghu Rai. Rai first showed at Art Alive, Delhi and also had her jute works included in the Women’s Day show at NGMA entitled Yatra Nariyastha.

TAF 1st Awardee: Harsha Durugadda’s layered wooden wonders Durugadda enchanted Delhi when his 3 sculptures created in layered wood became the cynosure of all eyes at Bikaner House. He scours ancient history and is enraptured by the arts of indigenous communities. “My quest for searching unique and innate characteristic evident in the indigenous communities of the world has defined my work,” he says. “I have great reverence for the primordial and the primitive, where life is approached with humbleness and respect. I would like our attention to be bought to minuscule details of life where it could be the sound of a raindrop or spinning top. The shapes in my sculptures speak differently to different people, but yet they do not conform to the known visual landscape, they are moving away.”

His most evocative work to date is ‘Sound of Rain’ which draws an indistinct line between form and sound. He explained: “The shapes in his hands are full of familiarity but yet they do not conform easily, they have to be translated inwardly perhaps. The shape stems from the splash of the rain drop where the sound of

the non-uniform motion is addressed though the work. Raindrops, along with all things that fall, drop to the Earth because of gravity.” The beauty of evanescence is the gradient and textural terrain that creates nuances of both the living and non-living in his works. They belongs to the present as a modernist mould but it has an aroma of the past in its grains. They evoke both emotion and memory. They share with a concern with making a human space in space and suggest that all material things are mutable, possess-able by the human mind as well as body, and transformative in its power of transcendence. Harsha is currently

preparing for his solo show unveiling at Art Alive Delhi in 2024.

TAF 2nd Awardee: Kallol Datta’s textile ensembles the ingenuous Kallol Datta is happy being known as a clothes maker. Structural experimentations in pattern cutting is his leitmotif. He skews traditional geometry to create silhouettes which shroud, swaddle and cocoon the body that inhabit the textile object. His most historic solo was held at Experimenter Kolkata titled Volume 3 Issue 2. The Kolkata dweller roots his interest through the exploration of sculptural forms constructed in different kinds of textiles. Datta uses the native wear of the Late Showa Period in Japan and old Indian sarees, both made between1945 – 1989. He pushes the boundaries of his practice, by questioning materials, its tactile tenacity, and plays with juxtapositions of rare handwoven textiles not only in stitched together into cultural fabrics he collects, but explores delving deeper into ideas of cultural sustainability, post-war politics in Japanese clothing

edicts, episodic events and personal memories that become as much part of the textiles as the threads they are woven with. Researching antiquity in Japan His show Volume 3 Issue 2 last September in Kolkata, was seeded at SOAS, London followed by a residency at Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Japan in 2021, which led to the use of traditional garments worn after the War, especially in peri-urban and rural areas of the Tohoku region in Japan. Datta revved up his residency by studying the archives of photographer Kudo Shoichi, where the kakumaki as documented by him, he noted that it was

similar in form to the chador worn in Iran.

Datta’s textile sculptures unravel as immersive installations that underscore a delicate balance of tensions between his training as a pattern-maker and the external elements of kimonos, haoris, obis, and sarees. Datta takes his practice beyond the realms of his own imagination pegged onto the process and poignancy of research born of antiquity. Hewn textile pieces Datta’s practice is inventive, innovative and inspirational for the manner in which he assimilates, integrates and constantly distorts garment composition principles, while simultaneously drafting patterns required to reconstruct the donated clothing forms. These sculptural ensembles look organic in form and shape and they bind an amalgam of past and present. We see the sculptural ensemble is born of old textile pieces hewn into new sculptural statements. In an interview at Experimenter Kolkata he has said, “I work on the idea of reconstruction, repurposing and restructuring donated pieces of clothes, that hold within the haunts of history, the labyrinths of memory, emotion and history, to negotiate larger questions about work and production, of labourer and user and of ideas revolving around research as production”. 

TAF 3rd Awardee: Purvai Rai’s enchanting engagement- Understanding the phenomenon of Indian contemporary art is no more confined to the experienced or middle-aged artists only. The young ones are equally participating in analyzing, experimenting, innovating and engaging culturally with the Indian contemporary movement as they find it very interesting. In multiple experiences and evocations, Purvai Rai’s explorations in jute and cotton and other materials, create an island of textural terrains in her journey, which could be compared to a pliable plane. A student of design, her interest in exploring the relationship between textiles and architecture, and examining its nitty-gritty intonations results in a series of works that become integral to architectural design. Chakra corollaries and abstraction “My works are born from my interest in the chakra,” she stated with a charming robust innocence in her first show in Delhi at Art Alive. But one look and you know that it is also deeply rooted in a lucidly sophisticated and ancient design tradition. Purvai creates a series of abstractions that hinge on textile-related concerns — colour, texture, pattern, surface qualities and other aspects of ‘textile language’, as simple as knotting. Instantly you get to know that she has studied the material qualities of yarns, as well as different ways of working with them.

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