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Feeling art

Old is gold

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BLING YOU CAN'T MISS: Valay Shende's glittering gilt-plated scooter has a kick-start pedal that moves. The only thing missing is the pizza


Every now and again galleries pull out pieces stored in their warehouses and represent them to an always interested public. And as the artists gain fame - or perhaps notoriety - the value of their work changes. That apart, what is interesting to see is how these random works culled out of storage are clubbed together in one exhibition...as has been done in the group show at the Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai, in Looking Back, Looking Forward, described as "revisits seminal work by some artists while charting the roadmap for others...both retrospective and prospective".


It begins with a step into what seems like anywhere in the Islamic world. You walk into the gallery and suddenly you are on the roof of a mosque, a madrassa, maybe a Mughal palace with a modern twist. Riyas Komu's The Last Resonance (2005), from his Blood Red Series in wood, automotive paint and metal is a sprawling metropolis in minaret tops and calligraphy, boldly, almost defiantly inked around the walls of the room. Listen carefully to the sounds of the space and you hear the echo of the muezzin, the soft swish of robes and the sparking bubble of oil frying kebabs on a hot tawa. And then comes the peace of an enormous prayer hall, its walls etched with exquisite inlay, the curves and swoops of letters signifying more than man can endure.

Maybe it is the scale of Komu's piece, perhaps it is the mystery of the sweeping swathes of lettering, maybe it is even the close-up and hugely magnified filigree of the onion domes - the rest of the collection of seven artists' work pales in contrast. The tops of buildings do a reprise in Zarina Hashmi's Roofs (1982, mixed media, gold leaf), this time seen through the eyes of a passing eagle. The geometric regularity of the prismatic rooftops glimmer with the sheen of gold leaf, as if the sun was setting over the metal of a thousand tiny homes far below. And perhaps putt-putting through that crowded, imaginary, gilded city you could see Valay Shende's scooter (Untitled, 2007), glittering with gilt-plated metal disks like a fashion statement that tries to outdo itself in its bling quotient. The kickstart pedal moves, though the storage bin does not open, and you almost see the pizza boy ride up to deliver his order in a world that could be called Oz.

And as this small world edged with sunshine and tinged with glimmer goes about its business, a baby totters on, out of Chintan Upadhyay's imagination (Untitled, 2009) and into the visual space. It too is gold, composed not of flesh, blood and bone, but of fibreglass, gold leaf, paint and wood. The child may be looking for its mother, wandering through the streets of the gold city and stepping back to avoid the gold scooter. And there she is, a lady all green and gold, waiting by her colourful pushcart. Rekha Rodwittiya's Dream Text (2011-2012, fibreglass, popular stickers, varnish, stainless-steel rods, green Meera lace thread, paper with digital printing;go-cart-teak wood, waterproof plywood, popular stickers, varnish, acrylic paint, metal, rope) is a delightfully feminine woman, the artist's first installation, a verdant Rama green lady wearing a metal cage-skirt. Her body is covered with gold henna - butterflies, paisleys, all filigreed forms children would stick on their textbooks or bedroom walls. Her small carriage is bright, playful, perfect to hold her shopping, her cat or even that child...

Looking on is a man playing god. He gazes out from behind glass and from a photo, in Nandini Valli Muthaiah's work (Reassured + Ornamental, 2006;Effervescent 1, 2003;all inkjet print on archival paper), his skin blue like the Lord Krishna, his robes orange-yellow, his jewels a gleam as he prepares for his act on a stage that could be the city itself. And as we wait for the performance - or is it the prayer? - we feel the beating of the heart of the child, the woman, the city that exists under the roofs and minarets. Sunil Gawde's hearts (Still Alive II, 2008, teak wood, nails, gas tourch) take on a life of their own, studded with nails or smoothly polished wood, inviting a touch, throbbing with a pulse that could be that of all of us, an entire civilisation.


'Looking Back, Looking Forward - group show' is on till June 30 at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai

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