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Contemporary Art from India: Subcontinental Subconscious

A couple of years ago, there was nothing hotter on the art market than Indian art; from 2001 to 2007, prices increased twentyfold. Of late, however, both the recession and the popular quest for “the next big thing” have eaten into that buzz.

Now, “Contemporary Art from India” at Lawrence Eng (consisting of four artists represented by Gallery Ske in Bangalore) provides a reminder that there’s still things to get excited about on the subcontinent.

Srinivasa Prasad’s Payana is a standout. Bangalore’s Prasad works mainly in sculpture, and Payana is a compelling example of the form—an installation of objects covered with gunny sack and a photograph of the artist with a large cart that is similarly upholstered. The latter in particular prompts questions about the expectations we project onto different objects and images.

The Karachi- and New Delhi–based artist Bani Abidi has previously exhibited in Canada in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche and other exhibitions. At Lawrence Eng she is represented by a 2001 video, “So He Started Singing,” that explores Abidi’s key themes of identity, nationality and politics.

Bangalore-born, New York–based artist Sreshta Premnath offers a different way of working with images in his series Freedom of the Seas. Four digital prints show cruise ships, often sinking ones, from multiple perspectives. Premnath’s choice to work with the cruise ships is a wise one—it evokes a site of mobile physical geography but static social geography, a context relevant to migrating workers and holidaying tourists worldwide.

Avinash Veeraraghavan takes another contrasting approach, creating heavily collaged and layered images that suggest the difficulty of reading any one meaning into a given scene. It’s a lesson that viewers would do well to keep in mind when trying to assess the potential of any geographically designated art scene. (1531 W 4 Ave, Vancouver BC)

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