Rajesh Pullarwar, Mumbai (India)

(Click on image for title)

Our first stop on our trip was Mumbai, India. My head kept wanting to compare what we were seeing with familiar experiences of my past. Because of this, I had flashes of my time living in New York. The busy subways, the people on the sidewalks just trying to get to work, and the feeling of life or death while simply crossing the street. However, I couldn’t under-estimate, just how different Mumbai is from anywhere I had been; the sheer volume of people left you with no other choice but to go with the flow, jump on a moving train if half your entourage has already embarked and you were to be left behind in an unknown station, and also the type of visual exhaustion and stimulation you feel when closing your eyes at night. I wanted to get out and see what the contemporary art scene had to offer. We visited many galleries, some commercial, others non-profits, and I’ll cover some of these on this blog.

We started our studios visits with Rajesh Pullarwar, who also happened to be our gracious host. Rajesh received a BFA from the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, India, in 2000, as well as an MFA in 2002. He has presented solo exhibitions at Chatterjee & Lal, ARTIndia Gallery, and Phillips Contemporary, in Mumbai, as well as group exhibitions at Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai and bCA gallery, Milan.  He is represented by Chatterjee & Lal, and if you spend any time in The Pierre, a Taj Hotel located in New York City, you will find a whopping commission of 450 editioned prints of 13 works throughout its suites made by Rajesh.

Rajesh has a dynamic personality, believes no one goes hungry in Mumbai no matter how poor they are because people are so kind and generous with what they have. He is also a visionary in his print making fostering a practice in alternative processes to create masks for his printing. In the installation Organized Orgasm, and many of his serigraphs such as the ones seen below, Rajesh replicates the act of masturbation in his studio by eliciting extreme sexual feelings and releasing a tube filled with polyvinyl-alcohol mix at the moment of mental climax. The design is then used as a block for the silk-screening process. The moment of release is important to his practice, where there is a momentary lack of inhibition of experiencing happiness, love, and the letting go of sadness all in one moment.

Rajesh Pullawar, DON'T WORRY b HAPPY, performance, 2009

Rajesh Pullawar, DON’T WORRY b HAPPY, performance, 2009

In his work “Don’t Worry b Happy”, created for the 2009 Sowing Seed International workshop at Sar village in Jodhpur,  a masked Rajesh approached strangers in the street with small mud pots filled with color powder (known as Holi, different colors of powder is released into crowds of thousands dying them in multicolored splashes for the color festival)  and invited them to imagine their anger, manifest their emotions into the pot and to throw the pot onto the ground as a release of their destructive emotions. Only when the pots broke, did the participant see the unique patterns of their anger in the colorful swirls on the ground.

Releasing of anything gives satisfaction. Release of the sadness is crying too, happiness is always released by laughter, dance. But anger turns into violence. We always keep anger inside which comes to destroy…They were happy to break the pots of colours with their anger. Releasing urine, stool, cough, sperm, sweat from our body always gives us happiness. So it is in the release of our anger, that I wanted us all to be happy…

“26/11” is a commonly spoken date in Mumbai, much like “9/11” in America. It is the first day of three in 2008, when terrorists came through the city killing 163 people and taking over the historical Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. The Taj, opened in the early 1900s, and has housed artworks of the most revered Indian artists (Vasudeo S. Gaitonde and Jehangir Sabavala for example), and because of gunfire, bombings, and fires during the attack, the artworks were very badly damaged. After the attack the Taj started a restoration of its historical architecture, which also included a restoration of the Taj’s art collection, facilitated by Mortimer Chatterjee of Chatterjee & Lal. When the hotel reopened, Rajesh Pullarwar was commissioned to create a painting for the hotel lobby. I’m not sure how art can repair such a senseless attack, I’ve mostly ever known it to critique, or as a protestation of things to come, but certainly empowerment is present in installing an artwork after such an act. I noticed in my time in India that a lot of artistic practices revolved around these very positive actions of restoration, healing, and cultural empowerment.

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde Homi Bhabha Study Oil on canvas 1959

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Homi Bhabha Study
Oil on canvas
1959

I have worked with many artists, who have challenged their political state through artistic measures. Using the guerrilla act to mimic social unrest, scarring their bodies and using blood in performances, even going as far as body manipulation to critique authoritative systems. I was curious to know just how important social politics would come into play for an artist living in the densest city in India, seeing poverty on a daily basis, and considering Mumbai is subjected to the most terrorist attacks and bombings in their country. What does art look like in this context?
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Mireille Bourgeois (MB): Can you tell me your thoughts on whether social politics is a priority in your work? In our further discussions on art, you maintained that though art should be in some way based on beauty and should make the viewer emote, it should also have purpose and a reason for being, can you elaborate?

Rajesh Pullarwar (RP): My works question the human behavior, sometimes it makes fun at certain mental status and orthodox culture. When works question the human being, then it concerns itself with social politics, but it’s not the priority in my work as such. I believe  art should be in some way based on beauty and should make the viewer emote with the purpose and a reason of being.

MB: What is the most difficult challenge or most pertinent topic being discussed of being an independent artist based in India?

RP: Money! HAHAHA, Its true! ‘Indian contemporary art’ has only 100 years of history. It is only just now adopted by Western culture. So its not established yet – many emerging artists are still struggling for their survival.

MB: I want to ask you, especially after our previous conversation on politics and art, how it felt to be asked to make an artwork for the restored Taj, after such an attack in your city? (Artwork is the first image on this NY Times link)

RP: I had talked with Taj authorities before creating the work and I asked them about whether the terrorist attack on Taj should be focused. They told me that Mr. Ratan Tata didn’t want people to remember the nightmare of the attack. I too believe that people should get pleasure from art without fear.

MB: Do you feel art can repair, heal, and restore faith in your everyday environment?

RP: I believe that if you start forgetting bad things, then you can live peacefully. “Wound doesn’t get cure, if you scratch everyday.” Violence is never the solution for anything.

MB: I do not live in a place where I need to fear violence in the same way: how do you go about your day to day, after such attacks have taken place in your city?

RP: The place we are staying is not horrible as is thought. We are very calm and peaceful people, since India doesn’t believe in violence.

Our nation is built on the philosophy of Budhha and Gandhi. Whatever terrorist activities happened was from neighboring countries. Even first world countries are under the fear of terror of inhumane activities. So I don’t think we are under any fear. I have seen people go to their offices the next day of an attack.

MB: What’s next?

There will be Tsunami and earthquake .. HAHAHA. Never planned for future. I never imagine the aim. I keep doing my work without much expectation from the future so whatever I get in my time will surprise me.
There is a saying “Bhagvdgeeta (gita) Karm karo, Fal ki chinta mat karo” which means Do your work honestly, don’t think about return.
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 I always find it really interesting, even if unsurprising how universal the challenges of art are. The debate between craft and art, the renunciation of certain elements of tradition, yet the association of philosophy and religion in the critical eye of the artist, which is in full swing in Mumbai. Below you will find a gallery of Rajesh’s past works. Click on image to view title and year.

Rajesh is the founder of the International Print Exchange Program, a printmaker network where dozens of print-makers from various parts of the world send their work in response to an annual thematic. The prints are grouped together and an exhibition package is sent back to the artists. The exhibit is shown by Rajesh in a premier but then any of the artists can take it upon themselves to exhibit the works after that point. Works from this exchange has been shown around the world and takes on a life of its own. This year’s thematic is Fear described as:

A universal experience that haunts humanity in its multitudes in as an effect of differences. The world is filled with these notions as an individual or as a community, country, race, caste or creed. The differences arising from sociopolitical agendas, difference of faiths, gender, economic interests. Thus fears exist about war, terrorism, of uncertainty and the fears which are politically and culturally manipulated either through violence or dogmas.

After many passionate debates and discussions about religion, family, art, and spirituality, I’m very happy to count on Rajesh as a new friend and collaborator. I’m also quite honoured to be writing a text on the topic of Fear for the Print Exchange, joining artist and writer Nikhil Purohit  who will also write a text for the official catalogue launch Fall of 2015. I will add the free downloadable catalogue to the “shop” section as soon as it is ready.

Me, Rajesh, and Joe at the Kanheri Caves, Mumbai (India), Feb. 2015

Rajesh, Joe and I at the Kanheri Caves, Mumbai (India), Feb. 2015

Announcing IOTA: Gallery

Press Release

May 18th, 2015

IOTA: Gallery
Pop Up Gallery summer event
5670 Spring Garden Rd., Halifax, NS, Credit Union Atlantic
Saturday, June 6th, 2015, 1pm to 4pm – REMAINING ARTWORKS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE THROUGH TO JUNE 20TH

Credit Union Atlantic is hosting a Small Business Saturday series on one Saturday per month from May-July. For each event, they will welcome 2-3 local business members and/or Community Partners to set up a temporary pop-up shop outside of their Spring Garden Road branch.

IOTA: Gallery is a pop up shop celebrating twelve contemporary artists and one Halifax commercial art gallery on Saturday, June 6th, as one of the Credit Union pop-up events. The represented contemporary artists work in various disciplines such as printmaking, performance, painting, text-based, jewelry, and sculpture.

Artworks for each artist will also be available for viewing and pre-purchase leading up to the June 6th event. All works are priced and valued at $300 or below. To see a gallery of artworks for sale and micro-interview with artists released every few days leading up to the pop up event, visit  the IOTA: Gallery blog: https://mireillebourgeois.wordpress.com/iota/

IOTA: Gallery Artists: Bruce Barber, Jordan Bennett, Mark Bovey, Sandra Brownlee, Lucie Chan, Amanda Dawn Christie, Cliff Eyland, Craig Leonard, Yorodeo, D’Arcy Wilson, and Kate Ward.

IOTA: featured galleries:

HERMES: presenting artist Barbara Lounder
Studio 21: presenting artists Carly Butler and Jason Holley

IOTA investigates the alternative presentation and production platforms, supporting writing, curatorial research, and cross-disciplinary artworks spanning new media, visual, interactive and performance art. It is an invigorator of unconventional artistic and social practices, and a producer of forward thinking critical discourse. IOTA: Gallery is part of their micro-event series.

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Media Contact:

IOTA
mirebour1@gmail.com
https://mireillebourgeois.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/267797553390792/

 

 

 

(im)mobile e-catalogue now available

Germaine Koh's Fair-weather forces: wind speed, 2002 and Edith Flukiger's Slogan (ASK…), 2010

Germaine Koh’s Fair-weather forces: wind speed, 2002 and Edith Flückiger’s Slogan (ASK…), 2010

In 2012 a Canadian curator based in Basel, Switzerland, Chantal Molleur, contacted me to see if I would like to collaborate on an exhibition of a Swiss artist and Canadian artist. Chantal is a founding member of the organization White Frame, and had asked artist Cathy Busby about Canadian curators interested in collaborating. Cathy put us in touch I suppose because I am French Canadian, like Chantal, for our joint interest in digital media, and the fact that I was Director of the partnership-loving, Halifax-based Centre for Art Tapes at the time. I proposed the exhibition to Dalhousie Art Gallery, who agreed the show would be a good fit for their space.

Chantal had been working with established Lucerne-based artist Edith Flückiger for years, and wanted to present her work in collaboration with a Canadian artist of the same calibre for an exchange between the two countries. Chantal asked me whom I would want to work with and bring into the discussion for this type of duo exhibition, and after researching Edith’s practice, I immediately knew I would love to invite Vancouver-based Germaine Koh to the table with us.

In many ways their practice is so different. Edith works with wall text, experimented with alternative modes of projections, and with ideas of the very ephemeral state of “being”, by using language and anagrams among many other processes. Germaine plays with our sense of interaction, physical habits in interacting with everyday objects, pathways and social behaviour, by creating electronic sculptures that interact with natural phenomenons,  focusing on relating our perception of inside versus outside among many other potent elements. Ultimately, one of the reasons I felt mattered in bringing these two artist together in Halifax, NS, was in discussing their process, and language of art making. I had a visual in my mind of Germaine working on a horizontal wide-spanning landscape, while Edith worked on a very internal vertical one.

Peter Dhykuis, Director of Dalhousie Art Gallery likes to say that Halifax is the very centre point between Vancouver and Switzerland, making this particular meeting of the minds a bit serendipitous. We invited everyone to come to Halifax for a short 10 day residency funded by Arts Nova Scotia, which would serve as an introductory meeting for Germaine, Edith, Chantal and I to organize the exhibition in partnership with CFAT and Dal, and to see if Edith and Germaine would find common ground to work through together, for a new work that would be revealed at the show’s premier. They spent a lot of time walking through the city together. The work Tracing Tracks, a mapping game for experiencing different spaces,  was started during this residency, and indeed premiered at the 2014 exhibition. The website still exists, ready for participation here: http://tracingtracks.com.

When the show finally presented at Dal in fall of 2014, it came after a couple of years of coordination on behalf of many partners, hours of installation work from Edith and Germaine, but also thanks to the amazing installation crew at CFAT and Dal. We secured funding with PRO HELVETIA in Switzerland and the Swiss consulate in Halifax. It was also nice to get the Spring 2015 cover of Visual Art News a few months later. 

The catalogue for the exhibition (im)mobile launched officially May 2nd, 2015, and is now available FREE to download. The catalogue includes installation views, a curatorial essay by Mireille Bourgeois and Chantal Molleur, and a Forward by Peter Dhykuis. Guest writer Jonathan Shaughnessy (Associate Curator Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada) explores the work of Germaine Koh in his essay Germaine Koh: The Art World, Apps, and Everyday Life. Zurich-based Susann Wintsch (publisher, curator, lecturer and art critic) writes about Edith Flückiger’s work in her essay The Magnificence of Life.

This project will be revisited and relaunched featuring new artworks by each artist, and a German-translated catalogue March 5th to May 15th,  2016, at the HAUS FÜR KUNST in URI, Altdorf, Switzerland.

Curatorial Travel February/March – 2015

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Mumbai, India

The most influential part of my career has always been travel. I travel for residencies, conferences, or simply to meet new arts professionals and arts organizations. Through my travels I’ve met future collaborators, artists, writers, curators that have become presentation partners, which have in return been instrumental for other travel opportunities. The best way to travel for me has always been to look for the opportunity (exhibition, conference, self-directed residency, etc), then for funding through public sources or perhaps at the host institution, and then to take the leap of faith and create appropriate connections towards an extremely detailed itinerary.

For example, I would never travel to one city, without planning a stop over or a connection to other cities, countries, or venues. If I get myself out “there”, then I want to maximize my experience. Last year, I began a research “project” (I use that term loosely) in studying the general field of BioArt. I did a Hospitalfield Arts residency in Scotland in 2014 (that trip also brought me to Luccerne and Basel in Switzerland, Dundee and Edinburgh in Scotland) which helped me write a more concrete research plan and identify travel destinations to meet experts in the field. I will blog separately about my awesome experience there and the artists and new orgs I met. One of those artists was Uma Ray, artist and co-founder the Unbound Studio, located in Pune, India. Uma mentioned that BioArt was a new topic for her and likely for her art community back home, and that she would be interested in hosting me to present my research. Thus began another connection to a new-to-me community, and would allow me to formalize my early research into an introductory lecture.

My original plan was to spend three months at SymbioticA, which is the leading arts and science institution in the world (I believe), to help with an anniversary exhibition about the Ear-Mouse (I’ll discuss in other blog posts). Sadly, I didn’t receive all my funding, and so I downsized my time in Perth, where SymbioticA is located, and added other locations, such as the trip to India, and broader look at (Bio) Art in Southern Australia. I left Halifax February 20th, 2015 to undertake this really exciting research trip. My Fiancé, and art-interested partner Joe who’s in the film industry is travelling with me. Over the next 34 days or so, we are traveling to: Mumbai, Pune (India), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Tasmania (Australia).

The purpose of this trip is/was to present an introductory lecture to Design students at two prominent Institutions in India, have a discussion with a group of professionals who work in Bio Technology. While in Australia, my goal is /was to meet influential artists in the general field of BioArt, learn about the creation of works using living matter or scientific methodologies to create art, and also discuss exhibition practices in this context, which brings into questions important debates in the field, current and disputed terminology, etc. Another overall goal is to see and experience contemporary art being made and presented in this part of the world, which is fairly unknown to me.

Because I’m blogging while traveling, I’m in a state of constant tiredness and excitement, and my words are casual, not as researched as an art essay… Please keep this in mind if you are following. The purpose of these posts are to share artists, art spaces and experiences that I encountered as a way to share information on what’s happening in a part of the world other than where I’m based. If you’re more interested in the tourist part of my time, that I’m keeping for personal story-telling and facebook!

Next post: Mumbai and Pune

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Mumbai, India

News

To be short and sweet, I’ve been neglecting starting a website for my professional activities. I have another blog Hobby Junkies which is a site for serious hobbies that I started a few years ago for fun. You can find recipes, do it yourself projects, etc, on that blog.

I go through heavy travelling phases, and when I do, I see how essential having a website can be for my professional networking and simply to be found and contacted. As an independent, and a curator, I felt a bit self-conscious about having a website, when I knew I would be featuring other people’s artwork, not my own. But I now realize it is another opportunity to show artwork I feel is important in this contemporary moment, share some research, and get connected to new artists, curators, and professionals.

It is with permission that I have included exhibition installation images, and artwork images, which have been featured in exhibitions and projects that I’ve either spearheaded or to which I’ve contributed.

Please note that this website is under construction, and that you should check back often to see updates.

I am set to travel through India and Australia, and I think this website will be a great way to stay in touch, and accumulate information on what arts institution I’ve visited, perhaps who works there, and treat this particular home section as a travel blog.

Thank you for stopping in.

Mireille Bourgeois