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Waste, ecology and art - expression beyond mindless frill

Wednesday September 21, 2011 04:40:05 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

A jute installation to be displayed at the Art Mart III in Gurgaon

New Delhi: Piling heaps of waste and concern for a clean environment have given birth to a strange synergy between natural landscape, ecology, waste and art. Young Indian artists are stretching their creative frontiers to prove art can transcend frilly aesthetic and promote key issues.

Naresh Sinha, a contemporary multimedia artist, recalls mounds of garbage eating the river Ganga in Patna when he was an art student.

"Later in Delhi, I saw the Yamuna dying the same way. The image stayed with me because the future wars in this country and world will be fought over water," the artist told IANS.

This September, he shot a seven-minute performance art capsule, "Which Destination", featuring him performing a token funeral rite for the death of the trinity of rivers - Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati. The clip is accompanied by recorded sounds of water flowing in sewers.

The movie, along with a sculpture from plastic discards, are exhibits in an exposition, "Movement, Medium and Metaphor" curated by Georgina Maddox at the Gallery Niv.

"The burden of waste in the environment is forcing artists to think of used objects as a medium because younger artists have ideas but little money," Naresh Sinha said.

Narayan Sinha, a young artist based in Nalhati on the outskirts of Kolkata, juxtaposes traditional objects such as old brass prayerware like the "pooja thal" (ceremonial plate), sacred water snouts, antique lamps and ancient jewellery with toxic garbage like metal scraps, automobile parts, water jugs and rusty locks, to craft 10-armed images of Durga.

"It is my way of connecting the deity to her roots and the ocean of objects that swarm around her. I also want to preserve heritage knickknacks like the traditional Bengali prayer cutlery and old jewellery which are disappearing," Narayan Sinha told IANS.

"My home is near a bus stop - and the automobile waste that I grew up with present themselves as new forms to me," Sinha said.

Fifteen of his Durga installations are on display at the Harrington Street Gallery in Kolkata in a showcase, "Devi", curated by Ina Puri.

"It is a tribute to the mother goddess with used objects," curator Puri told IANS.

Artist Pratap Morey, a native of Mumbai, works with used objects like plastic drinking cups to connect to nature and the monumental "plasticisation of the country".

"In 2009, I made a 10 feet by 10 feet installation for the Bandra Festival with thousands of discarded plastic cups collected from garbage vats at weddings and from airports to convey the threat posed by the careless disposal of plastic drinking cups," Morey told IANS.

"Artists are a part of society and their works reflect what is going on around them," Sushma Bahl, curator of the Art Mart III, an annual fair in the national capital region, told IANS.

The fair, "Art from Waste" Sep 23-26, will host 100 artists and more than 1,000 art works on environment made from waste at the Epicentre in Gurgaon.

Analysing the forces that drive artists to use waste as mediums of art, the curator said, "The consumerist ethos, in the digital and technological age where everyone wants to own the latest model, one finds massive amounts of waste littered around. It poses a challenge to our space for survival," Bahl said.

"So it seems natural for artists to make creative use of discarded material to make aesthetically pleasing and in some cases useful works of art," she said.

"There is a need for both - art for art's sake and art for society or with meaning or utility," art curator and critic Vidyun Singh, the brain behind the Art from Waste, told IANS.

"We decided to focus on waste to rethink, recreate and remake as our central theme because this is the international year of the forest," said Singh, who is the programme director of Habitat World.





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