Can You See Me?
Edge of Desire-IV Fabric, Coppertube, Thread & Light Site Specific Instalation/2012 Detail
Director's Statement We live in times of shrinking spaces, surveillance, censorship and religious militancy. As the contemporary world around us becomes narrower and stereotyped by the second, as women's bodies & desires become contested terrains, as marginalities get more policed, 'Can You See Me?' persuades the viewer to ask questions about where prejudice really begins. Is it always the 'others' that inflict or have we all insidiously been infected by bias? Why is difference so scary? Do we see fragments of our own selves in the reflections of the other? Nine artists explore multiple selves & avatars, manifestations and fragmentations, contraband desires and marginal identities. At times provocative, at others reflective, but mostly surprising and even celebratory, the exhibition brings together figurative, conceptual, experiential and mostly site-specific works by this significant collective of emergent transcultural artists from India, Pakistan, US and the global Diaspora. These are varied explorations through mixed media. From oil and acrylic abstractions on canvas by Sharmistha Ray, to urban-tech photorealist renderings by Satadru Sovan Bhanduri; from scaled nudes by Balbir Krishen (recently attacked for his non-apologetic homoerotic content) to luminous meditative light sculptures on desire by Satyakam Saha these works span an entire spectrum of artistic expression. Raising the issue of Muslim voices and identities in these times of Islamaphobia, Pakistani Simeen Farhat and Indo-Turk Diasporic Amina Ahmad shape their own representations through their work that comprise 3-D calligraphic sculptures inspired by revolutionary poets, and lyrical paper & material installations that recall the spiritual repose of Islamic architecture. Completing the arc are photographs: portraiture by Jose Abad and Sandip Kuriokose, both of who touch on gender and sexuality in ways that are both overt and covert. Besides their art, quite a few of these artists are themselves part of the narrative of multiplicities. They juggle multiple selves as artist-curators, gallerists & exhibition directors. This informs their practice and gives them multiple positions from which to speak and express themselves; and gives us newer ways to see and understand.
About Engendered SPACE The gallery is envisioned as an alternative space for cultural intervention, a place for artistic production and critical dialog. Through cutting edge multidisciplinary programming spanning the visual, performative, cinematic and literary arts of South Asia, the gallery hopes to accelerate a culture of human rights awareness while accentuating marginal themes, issues and sexualities. What do the aesthetics of gender and sexuality tell us about South Asia? How could new narratives and new perspectives in these aesthetics raise new questions and discussions? Through visual arts, cinema, text and performances Engendered SPACE will constantly feature the most vital voices asking these questions. In their asking lies the political and aesthetic act that take issues of gender and sexuality past their contemporary limits. The hope is to highlight not just what is being said but also fight the silences that still abound within these conversations. Ranging from independent to mainstream, alternative to pop, classic to avant-garde, the SPACE will feature a dynamic selection from the entire continuum of South Asian arts.
About Engendered HOME Engendered also announces the opening of its residency, guesthouse for women travelers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, dancers and performance artists. It is envisioned as a safe progressive women and queer positive space. The space will serve as an extension to the gallery and often lend itself to community events. Eventually it also hopes to build an extensive educational media library and archive.
About Engendered Engendered is the trans-national arts and human rights organization focused on exploring the complex realities of gender and sexuality in the South Asian Diaspora. Based in New York, Engendered presents an annual four-part festival that brings together the best in contemporary South Asian performance, music, visual arts, and cinema. Both a political and aesthetic festival, Engendered uses the medium of arts and culture to create change and promote social justice by initiating public dialogue around women's issues, gender inequity, sexual orientation, and minority and health rights. Engendered's programming includes I-View-Film, North America's largest film festival for South Asian content around Gender & Sexuality. For more information about the organization, visit www.engendered.org
Simeen Farhat Simeen Farhat
Heaven or Hell? Enamel on Polymer/2011 Detail
Simeen Farhat was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and possesses an American upbringing. She is currently settled in Dallas, TX after receiving her B.F.A. from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ in 1998, and her M.F.A. from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX in 2000. She has held a plethora of exhibits across the world â€“ from the United States, to Pakistan, to Europe â€“ she is truly an international artist on the rise. Some of her exhibitions include: Anya Tish Gallery, Houston, TX, Mighty Fine Arts Gallery, Dallas, TX, Studio 107 Gallery, Austin, TX, 500X Gallery, Dallas, TX, Gerald Peters Gallery, Dallas, TX, Broadway 417 Gallery, New York, NY, Gescheidle Contemporary, Chicago, IL, Frisbee Fair, Plush Gallery, Miami, FL, Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, TX, Continental Gallery, Dallas, TX, Art One Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Indus Art Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan.
Heaven or Hell? Enamel on Polymer/2011
The text in my sculptures and installations are revolutionary poems, appropriated mostly from famous Farsi and Urdu poets, such as Rumi, Saadi, Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who all wrote powerfully about freedom of thought and speech. The small-scale wall-mounted sculptures, â€œSpeech Bubbles,â€? represent the poems' poignant and piercing power to induce strong emotions. As many of these poems have also been sung by famous singers from the sub-continent, the suspended installations also express the poems' melodic power and ability to elicit uplifting thoughts. The shadows cast on the wall are also vital to the aesthetic as they add additional depth and layers behind their meaning. My goal is to translate their poetic dynamism into visual energy. By pairing female forms with poetic text, I strive to show a connection between the mind and soul: a mind is free to think and a soul free to exist. Separate from their utterance as a sound and with or without the coverings of an outer garment. The text is used aesthetically, as a flowing pattern; as well as philosophically, paired with the ethereal figures it enables a dialogue with the viewer or monologue between mind and body. Through the interactive nature of my installations, sculptures, and textual drawings, I pose questions for each culture to examine from their own perspective: Considering that there is a figure but no embodied form showing, can this be called contemporary figurative Islamic Art? Do these life-size veiled figures threaten or confuse non-Muslim Westerners and why? Recognizing that this work represents women's freedom to think, can this work be called a Simeen Farhat
The Candle Must Burn Enamel on Polymer/2011
universally Feminist art?
- Simeen Farhat
The Erotic Impulse Acrylic & Oil on Canvas/2012 4Ă—6 Feet Detail
Born 1978 in Kolkata, India, Ray lived in Kuwait before moving to the United States in 1997. She holds a dual degree from Pratt Institute (M.F.A. in Painting / M.S. in Theory, Criticism & History of Art), and is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell M.F.A. Grant (2004) and TED India Fellowship (2009). In 2010, she was selected by ProHelvetia (in partnership with Art Basel) as one of six curators from India for a curators' tour in Switzerland. Ray held directorship positions at Bodhi Art and Hauser & Wirth, before returning full-time to painting. She lives in Mumbai. For more information, please go to
The Erotic Impulse Acrylic & Oil on Canvas/2012 4Ă—6 Feet
For the artist residency and exhibition for Engendered SPACE, Sharmistha Ray created a large format oil on canvas work called The Erotic Impulse which will use the Delhi urbanscape as a reference point to cultivate ideas about the subversion of multiplicity of sexualities, desires and impulses in normative society. Working primarily in oil on canvas, Ray postulates canonical ideals of beauty and the sublime by distilling her memories, photographs, observations and experiences of landscapes, both urban and natural. Her painterly idiom combines an unconventional color palette with a dense network of gesture, impasto and layering techniques that is direct, emotive and visceral. Process is key and the varying viscosities and uneven layering of paint creates cracks, crevices and ridges, exposing the painting's substratum in areas, while obliterating it in others. Paint is poured and mixed in thick folds onto the surface of the canvas so that it striates, streaks and eddies, producing imagistic manifestations of natural and organic phenomena like foliage, riverbeds and sky. At other times it is painstakingly applied with a palette knife in small segments across the expanse of the canvas, to construct fragmentations. Objects appear to dissolve at their edges just before concretizing into form, reconfiguring the relationship between materiality and abstraction. The metascapes of Sharmistha Ray are suspended in time between mythos and reality, between abstraction and its opposite, exposing an intimate and charged topography of the subconscious mind.
- Sharmistha Ray
Edge of Desire-III (Studies) Light boxes/2011
Satyakam Saha explores and translates history, global affairs and philosophy into visual imagery. He works in multimedia to make his own interpretations and to connect his thoughts to a visual medium. Saha was born in Bhagalpur, India. After completing his graduate degree in architecture at 'The School of Planning and Architecture', New Delhi (1996), Saha became principal in the multifaceted design firm, Ampersand (Delhi) until 2000. It was during this time practicing as an architect that he stole time to paint. This led to exhibitions of his paintings in New Delhi. In 2000-2003, Saha attended The New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. In 2002, he received 'The Milton & Sally Avery Foundation' scholarship. Saha's works have been exhibited widely, including at The Alliance Francaise New Delhi, with Arts.i at Engendered's Pardha Exhibition at Lincoln Center, The New York Studio School, Guild Gallery NY, Aicon Gallery NY, The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey and The Queens Museum NY. His work is included in private collections in India, Japan, Germany and the USA. Between 2003-2011, he was Operations Manager
at The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation, NY. He
Edge of Desire-IV
presently lives and works in New Delhi.
Fabric, Coppertube, Thread & Light Site Specific Instalation/2012
Edge of Desire-IV Fabric, Coppertube, Thread & Light Site Specific Instalation/2012 Detail
... the two luminous, counter-posed cones, whose foci frame an area of power. The energy of each respective mass meeting in a charged sphere of absence, reminiscent of the area of 'creation' poised between the fingers of God and Adam. The power of creation emblematized by an absence, or no THING. On another note one presumes, through cultural conditioning that a clean geometry is synonymous with light. This light can be transformed into different colors symbolic of an identity. The inherent contradiction of Earth (celestial, volumetric, dark etc.) emitting or supporting Light (heavenly, brightness, sky, etc.) is a powerful conjunction of symbols held in dynamic opposition. ... the descending cone of spirit about to merge with the ascending cone of matter. Taoists refer to these energies as Yin (from yoni-the receptive principle) and Yang (the active principle). A variety of images and metaphors are used to express this harmonious interdependence. The spousal pair Shiva-Shakti (Yab-Yum) is a tantric consort image. Shiva is said to be the male principle throughout creation, Shakti the female principle. There, the embraced posture represents the divine strength of creation. ... they symbolize that enraptured state where separateness is no more.
- Satyakam Saha
Edge of Desire-IV Fabric, Coppertube, Thread & Light Site Specific Instalation/2012 Detail
Casting a Paradise Where Castle of Dream Acrylic on Canvas/2012 46"X56" Detail
Satadru Sovan received his B.F.A. & M.F.A. in Painting from Visva Bharati in Santiniketan. He is a Fullbright Scholar in Digital Art & New Media from the University of California and he has created various works in residencies such as Greatmore Studios in Cape Town, South Africa, Lakeside Gallery West, in Michigan City, MI, and an “Environmental Art Residency” in Kushtia, Bangladesh. His works have been part of the Art Expo of Malaysia as well as the Indian Art Summit. He was premiered at Engendered's 1st Festival at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2008 – Pardah. His solo shows include: Cyberomanticisms – New Delhi, India, Netizens & Cyberscapes – Michigan City, MI, SMS… Buzzin Sensation – New Delhi, India, Cross Cultural Celebration and Sensuality – Santa Cruz, CA, and Metrospection – New Delhi, India. His works have also been shown in group shows in countries such as South Africa, Germany, U.S.A., and Hong Kong.
Satadru Sovan Satadru Sovan
Close the door behind you Site specific instalation Detail
The road came from my heart, the lane pass by my mind Diptych Digital Print Translit LED Monitor Boxes/2011
My works are thumbnail portraits of the virtual lives of the NETizen. While current work still looks at cyber-relationships, I focus deeply on the blurring boundaries of gender, sexuality, and the cyberspaces that people offer as extensions of their personalities. Yearning exists over the Internet, SMS, and mobiles creating a habitat for synthetic and complex relationships that can be ephemeral and non-existent in reality. Historically sexuality is greatly documented in India there are discrete spaces for all forms of sexuality, yet these spaces have always been private. Cyberspace is the modern day equivalent of that unspoken private space. I try to bridge these gaps through my works. I have different forms of sexuality parading through fantasy monuments of the past – some as they exist, some crumbling, some embellished to fantasy. The monuments shape themselves to their occupants much the way we shape cyberspace to suit our needs. I use both cyberspace and canvas space as gateways and tools to see another world… to be seen by it… to be in it. Satadru has created a site specific installment encompassing the door and wall space to the bathroom for Engendered's SPACE, as well as the painting 'Casting a Paradise where Castle of Dream'.
- Satadru Sovan
Untitled Inkjet Print on Archival Paper/2011
Untitled II Inkjet Print on Archival Paper/2011 6 X 9 inches / 15.24 X 22.86 cm
Sandip Kuriakose [b.1983] graduated with a degree in painting from the College of Art, New Delhi, in 2008. He takes photographs and makes digital prints using images that he has shot as source material. In his printmaking process, captured images are subjected to various transformative processes: physical procedures like tessellation, cutting, tearing and overdrawing, as well as various forms of digital manipulation. He is also interested in collage. Previous exhibitions include Photographing the Metropolitan [with photographer Verena Jaekel, Goethe-Institute / Max Mueller Bhawan, New Delhi March 2011], Freedom [Goethe-Institute / Max Mueller Bhawan, New Delhi - November 2010] and Ethereal [Open Palm Court Area, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi - December 2009]. Sandip Kuriakose
Untitled Inkjet Print on Archival Paper/2011
José Abad Lorente was born in Murcia, Spain in 1970. He attended the School of Plastic Arts and Craft in Murica, as well as the Central Academy of Fine Art for Advanced Studies in Chinese Art & Calligraphy in Beijing, China. He received is M.A. in Photography and Urban Cultures in 2005 from Goldsmiths College at the University of London, U.K. He has received numerous grants and awards including one from the Ford Foundation in Beijing China for “Positive Art Workshop: Art & Calligraphy as therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS” in 2002. He has held various collective and solo exhibits, as well as select curated exhibitions and art projects: “Picturing the Body” in Abadi Art Space, New Delhi, India, “Body/Text: An Exploration on Body Calligraphy” in Khoj – International Artists Association, New Delhi, India, Art Project “I Also Love you” Community art project with people with learning difficulties in Pink Space, Sexuality Research Centre, Beijing, China, and Art Project “I am not him”: photography and performance ideas on sexual identities, social class and work in Abadi Art Space, New Delhi, India.
Love You Too Series II Visions of Disabilty & Sexuality Photography Printed Archival Paper /2012 Detail
Love You Too Series I Visions of Disabilty & Sexuality Photography Printed Archival Paper /2012 Detail
Love You Too Series I & II Visions of Disabilty & Sexuality Photography Printed Archival Paper /2012
Jose aims to use contemporary art practices to explore social themes. He addresses his works to marginal communities and involves participants in different workshops where self-expression, interaction and communication play the main role. From his series of projects based on disability and representation, Abad presents two diptych photographs for the exhibition 'Can You See Me?'. The presented works are from the project “Love You Too “ and explores intellectual disability and sexuality through performance, photography and video. The project took place in June 2010 in Beijing and supported by Pink Space Sexuality Research Centre, Beijing. Conducted by Jose Abad, an artist & curator experienced in participatory, interactive and community art projects in China, India, and Xiaopei He, Pink Space Sexuality Research Centre Executive Director, and Beijing gender and sexuality activist.
- José Abad
Balbir Krishen Born in 1973 in Baghpat, U.P., Balbir holds two Masters degrees in Fine Arts from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University. He has participated in many group and solo exhibitions in various parts of India in venues such as: Lalit Kala Academy, Triveni Art Gallery, Dhoomimal Art Gallery, Bajaj Art Gallery, and Shridharni Gallery (to name a few).
The Life is not Dark-19 Acrylic on Printed Canvas/2011 37"x37"
The Life is not Dark-18 Acrylic on Printed Canvas/2011 54"x54"
The Life is not Dark-15 Acrylic on Printed Canvas/2011 54"x54"
Balbir Krishen's new suite of paintings done in acrylic on printed canvases Balbir elaborates his views on homosexuality in a forthright manner, as if they were declarations of a person who had been hiding his own self behind the continuous portrayal of the relationship between heterosexual human beings. The printed canvases, on a closer look reveal a multitude of homoerotic scenes where men are involved in various postures of love making. These images are not predominantly disturbing or disgusting as they function as a background or a sub-text for the artist and his main intention is the celebration of respectable homo-erotic relationships, in which he too is a part. His new work exhibited at Engendered is in response to the violence against him in reaction to his solo show at the Lalit Kala Academy â€“ New Delhi, India.
- Balbir Krishen
Yamuna-II Site Specific Installation/2012 Detail
Yamuna-II Site Specific Installation/2012
Anjali's work takes the form of conceptually related digital drawings, fiction, and paintings that examine relationships between the Sublime, geopolitics, and mythology. Anjali received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005, her BA from Amherst College in 2001, and a Fulbright scholarship in Fine Arts in 2007. She was born in Washington, D.C., and currently is Associate Director of Knowledge & Communications at Nonprofit Finance Fund in New York.
Yamuna-I Site Specific Installation/2012
Yamuna I In this piece, the top kadahi is filled with diesel. In the bottom kadahi is a pool of musk ittar floating in water. Swimming in the frying pan is an effigy of the well-known actor Salman Khan, his portrait glued to the head of a blond barbie doll. Artists have incorporated smell into the creation of aesthetic experience for decades. Historically, the sense of smell became a prominent part of social and cultural discussion in the 18th century when scientists began associating smell with illness and bodily dysfunction. In fact, the term 'malaria' is derived from the phrase 'mala aria' or 'bad air.' The concept for this work crosses multiple dimensions related to the seen and unseen, or the Surface and what lies underneath. Perfume in and of itself is a kind of mask and tool for attraction that links to the idea of this exhibition. On another level, the purpose of using ittar in the bathroom suggests another absurd level of masking and exposing. Blending the smell with a seedy, feminized pop star drowning in a frying pan filled with perfume oil suggests another kind of social masking, or the underbelly of social objects of adoration we consume or aspire to be, particularly given that ittar was originally used by royalty. In Delhi, cut into two by a sacred, polluted river emanating its own miasma, smell takes on another kind of political function related to what lies belowâ€” the unresolved environmental problems of Delhi and the Yamunaâ€” while also creating an ironic link between religious and Bollywood icons. Anjali Deshmukh
Anjali's installations in the gallery bathroom and on the water tanks have been
created specific to Engendered SPACE.
Site Specific Installation/2012 Detail
- Anjali Deshmukh
Ahmed was born in Uganda, East Africa. She is Kutchi Turk Indian and grew up in England; she has lived in Iran and the United States of America (USA). Ahmed is a graduate of Winchester School of Art and the Chelsea School of Art. She received her MFA from the Royal College of Art (RCA), where she specialized in Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts and was awarded the Barakat Trust prize for excellence. Currently Ahmed is member of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA), New York. She is married and has 3 children. Her studio is in NYC at the EFA. Amina Ahmed
Your memory Gets in the Way of my Memory
I am suffocated in a Breath Where Your Air is not.
Mixed Media on Paper/2010/22"x30"
Mixed Media on Paper/2010/22"x30"
You stole my cherry so I decided to steal your pomegranates Site Installation/2012 Detail
Grief and Sorrow brings us back to prayer, we fall to our knees and lose all sense of the self, giving in, to the loss that takes over our mind and our body, it brings us back to that prayer space without us even knowing. Upon entering a space with the intention to prayer, does one not enter as human being (Insan), not man, not woman, to pray and to face the Divine, just as our primordial directly faced the Divine, In the face of God Is not an important part of prayer to remind us of the real reason we are here. Psalm 140:1-2 "I have cried to Thee, O Lord, hear me: hearken to my voice, when I cry to Thee. Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.” We get caught up in customs - (some new ones) - for example, the Nizamudin Dargha, here in Delhi, forbids the entrance of any woman into the shrine area. Yet the space of spaces in front of the Kaba and the mosque of the Holy Prophet do not make these rules. The space is under the dome the open sky one that belongs to us all, not asking who you are, only that you are looking up and seeing It. This work is a series of gender-neutral spaces, which has been created in residency for Engendered SPACE. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to 'Imraan ibn Husayn: “Pray standing; if you cannot, then sitting; and if you cannot, then lying on your side.”
- Amina Ahmed
You stole my cherry so I decided to steal your pomegranates Site Installation/2012
Prayer 1 Grief and Sorrow, a response to "Grief" by Aneesa Sen Site Specific Installation/ 2010-2012
The act of seeing by Deepanjana Pal essay exhibition, â€˜Can you See Me?â€™ Gallery Engendered SPACE Jan 29-Apr 8, 2012
Deepanjana Pal is a Mumbai-based writer and columnist. She handled the Art section of Time Out Mumbai and has written about Indian contemporary art for a variety of publications, including Wallpaper*, Time Out London, Vogue India, Caravan, Business Standard, Mint Lounge, Tehelka, ArtSlant and Times of India Crest. She is also a regular columnist for ForbesLife, Sunday Guardian and Mumbai Boss. She is the author of The Painter, a biography of the artist Raja Ravi Varma.
When it was originally coined, the word stereotype was a term used in the business of printing (it meant to replicate an element without any changes). There's a resonance between the word's original usage and its modern meaning because stereotypes are essentially imprinted upon our imaginations. They affect the way we see, understand and interpret reality. Although they are actually merely notions, they seem as indubitably true as the printed word when in fact, like the printed word, a stereotype is simply an articulation of a particular perspective. A stereotype is a lens through which you can see the world around you. It promises you one thing: an erasure of questions. Viewed stereotypically, everything is flatly comprehensible. There are no misunderstandings, no questions, no grey areas. EnGendered's Can You See Me?, an exhibition of installations, photographs and paintings by artists, is an attempt to crack this lens. From questioning preconceived notions to reinventing identities, the art in this exhibition sees to unsettle the homeostasis of our imaginations; urging the viewer to reach beyond the obvious stereotypes and to see things differently. For example, Satadru Sovan and Balbir Krishnan go boldly into the world of alternative sexuality. Krishnan's paintings are mosaics of desire that compel the viewer to appreciate the delicacy in erotic acts that are usually in shadows of prejudice and misinformation. In his work, that which the mainstream categorises as transgressive, is the norm. Krishnan's decision to embrace homosexuality and celebrate it despite having faced attacks – a recent show of his at
New Delhi's Lalit Kala Academy was shut down – is a determined response to what is considered normative. He has
Visions of Disabilty & Sexuality Photography Printed Archival Paper /2012
chosen to title this series “This is Not Dark” and his choice of colours re-emphasise those words. There's a shimmering lightness to his chosen palette that questions society's conviction that homosexuality should be a dirty secret that cannot be allowed in the open. There's an electric energy to the Sovan's work with their neon-bright pinks and purples. Glowing with the spark of latent fantasies, both his painting and his prints (lit up by LED monitor boxes) show the virtual world that is for many as real a place as any physical space. Familiar landmarks from Delhi float in this alternative world that is characterised by freedom. Here, you can play out your fantasies, become anyone you want and create your own little microcosm. The body becomes a vessel for desire in Sovan's paintings. It doesn't need to breathe or do banal, mechanical things; here, all the body must do is feel. Yet despite the frames in which these images are kept, the partition between the real and the virtual is a porous one. Just as real buildings pop up in the art, plastic images float out of the cyber-terrain and rest upon the walls of the gallery. The internet is not a space of unreality in Sovan's art. On the contrary, it is a realm of real fantasies. It is a space that gets distinguished from the physical world not by three-dimensional aspects like architecture or tactility but by the abstract concept of freedom. And as elements from the cyber-terrain slip into the corporal world – or are they slipping into his canvas? – mundane objects acquire a little touch of magic. Less graphic but no less emphatic or physical are Anjali Deshmukh's installations. She takes one of the icons of masculinity in Bollywood, Salman Khan, and creates her own Frankenstein: a delicate miniature doll, with long blonde hair, and the actor's face. His smile belies the menace contained in the fact that the doll is sitting in a cauldron of oil. While Khan has many women admirers, he is adored by men who yearn for a glimpse of his bare chest. In his films, he Satadru Sovan
Close the door behind you Site Installation
is often seen wearing outfits that would to a Western eye seem very camp. Placing his face upon a female body articulates with humour the discrepancy of straight men being lustily fascinated by the masculinity of Salman Khan.
Love You Too Series II
Untitled Inkjet Print on Archival Paper/2011 6Ă—9 inches/ 15.24x22.86 cm
The two photographers in Can You See Me? also question the heterosexual norm that Krishnan and Sovan tackle in their works, but their approach is more subtle. Jose Abad, in collaboration with Chinese artist He Xiao Pei, presents an intriguing suite of photographs. At first glance, Abad's visions of sexuality and disability have an playful quality to them. A man wearing a red wig, painted nails, a pair of jaunty high-heeled feet, the mess of eating cake â€“ there's an innocence to these images and it is this quality that makes them all the more poignant because Abad's models are forced to live on the fringes of society because of their sexual leanings and because their mental abilities are judged as abnormal. Sandip Kuriakose raises similar questions with his photographs. The series is untitled, which is fitting because Kuriakose's interest is in the way we seek to categorise people and relationships. His beautifully-framed black and white photographs show men and women laughing and hugging each other. They look at the camera or at each other without any raphs are gay. When the viewer seeks to slot them into a normative framework, the subjects and their relationships are entirely misunderstood. Consider his photographs with this background knowledge of his models, and the visions of happy coupledom end up being sharply subversive and filled with potent questions of how narrowminded our socialisation makes us.
The Life is not Dark-18 Acrylic on Printed Canvas/2011 37"x37"
The Erotic Impulse Acrylic & Oil on Canvas/2012 4×6 Feet
Slipping further into subtlety and abstraction are the works of Amina Ahmed and Simeen Farhat. Ahmed's installation, “You Stole My Cherry So I Decided to Steal Your Pomegranates”, has a title that is rich with sexual innuendo. There is an almost fragile quality to the imagery in her works. The fruit dangles mid-air, as though time has been frozen. A watery light reflects upon on the ceiling and creates a shining filigree. The meticulously handwritten words in her “Prayer” series bring to mind the tradition of miniature in traditional Islamic art. In “Prayer 1”, a cushion and a magnifying glass are placed before the text written on the wall. As one bends, resting their knees upon the cushion, and leans towards the text, they arrange themselves in the position associated with Islamic prayer. What is read, however, is not a religious text but a poem written by a friend of Ahmed's in response to the death of a boy living in America. He committed suicide when his homosexuality was outed. Crouching in a foetal, apologetic position, the viewer has unwittingly said a prayer for the departed who killed himself because he could not stand being made to stand apart from the norm. It's worth recalling at this point that Islam's stand on homosexuality is harshly disapproving. The Islamic identity and the confusion that surrounds this in contemporary times is explored in Farhat's tangled word sculptures. She takes lines from the poetry of legendary aesthetes, like Rumi, Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, only to dismantle them and entangle the letters to create what Farhat calls “speech bubbles”. Farhat's choice of poets is not accidental. All these names are known not just for the beauty of their poetry but also because they were passionate advocates of free speech. The words that the poets selected with such care and the cadences that they sought to achieve by adhering to a precise structure is taken apart. They become a cluster of curves and lines, like a messy tangle of hair, articulating the way conservative thought has mangled these poets' ideas and referencing the importance given to calligraphy in traditional Islamic art. Poetry that was written on a page is transformed into abstract expressions that defy the two-dimensionality of the printed word and leap out of the walls on which they are hung. Farhat's work is abstract yet each piece has strong figurative elements to it, so resisting the usual labels and categories.
Heaven or Hell? Enamel on Polymer/2011
Looking for layers and the qualities hidden beyond the obvious is a leitmotif of Can You See Me? but it is in Sharmishtha Ray's painting that this idea gets a curious twist. In her painting, “The Erotic Impulse”, is an abstract concept given physical form but in an abstract painting. It lords over a blue wall and the contrast between the wall's surface and the fiery palette Ray has used brings out details, like the peeking pink in one part of the canvas, is striking. Oranges, yellows, hints of melancholic green, streaks of white, and waterfalls of red – these are the raw elements that make up Ray's “The Erotic Impulse”. Colours congeal and create an uneven surface for the painting, as though it's a living thing; like goosebumps raised on skin. Ray's canvases are almost sculptural. The sensuality of working the paint across the surface – teasing it to take on the desired thickness, spreading it across to splay the colour open and reveal other shades, duelling with the paint's obstinacy to remain wet – is palpable and Ray's work suggests there are narratives in abstract art. Only, they're hidden just out of plain sight. Abstraction that retains its elusive quality while shape-shifting into figurative moulds lies at the heart of Satyakam Saha's “Edge of Desire” series. In his installations and lightboxes, romance is crafted out of simple geometry, jewelbright colours and luminosity. The cliché of lighting up at a lover's touch comes to life in Saha's work. Carefully placed conical shapes stand as though they have stilled at the point of contact. Their curves and angles are wordless poetry. The stretched fabric that is used to create these shapes seems to be taut with nervousness. Saha's evocative use of light lends the works a sense of intimacy. “Edge of Desire” is like a modern yin and yang arrangement and when you consider the possibilities of symbolism contained in the placement of the pointed cones and glowing orbs, Saha's installations seem charged with erotic energy. At the same time, they are simply fabric, frames and light – a collection
of innocuous elements that have nothing sexual about them if seen conventionally.
Edge of Desire-III (Studies)
As potent as all these artists' works are individually, the real energy of Can You See Me? comes from how eloquently the individual pieces talk to one another. The colours in “The Erotic Impulse” reach out to Farhat's speech bubbles, whose tangled, dismantled letters speak to the precisely-written poetry in Ahmed's “Prayer”. The grief, loss and violence in Ahmed's art makes Kuriakose's black and white photographs of people whom society insists on seeing inaccurately that much more poignant. The platonic ease of their body language is mocked by the sexuality of Saha's objects and the bodies that Krishnan flaunts in his paintings. The gleaming red in Saha's installation attunes the eye to spot splashes of the same colour in other works, like Abad's photographs and Ahmed's suspended fruit. The latent undercurrents of homosexuality suggested in Deshmukh's Salman acts as a powerful contrast to Krishnan's depictions of undisguised gay sex. The constraints that all these artists protest against serve to underscore the surrealism in the freedom depicted by Sovan in his work. How do you convince someone to pick up a metaphorical stone and cast it at a reflection of themselves and their attitudes? How do you change the way the mind works? Each of the artists in Can You See Me? adopts distinctly different strategies that nonetheless weave together to create a coherent exhibition that seeks to enrich the act of seeing with the experience of empathy and understanding.
Artists work & play
Gallery Engendered 125 A, 2nd Flr, Shahpurjat Above Bookwise near Khelgaon New Delhi - 49