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Embark III

August 1, 2020

The third edition of Embark continues in the spirit of creating a platform space for the recent graduates of the Faculty of Fine Arts to exhibit their work. One of the important aspects of the curation of this show is to spotlight the work created by this pool of young talent in the year since their graduation. While the spirit and objective of Embark remains steadfast, this year, the show takes a whole new form, reflecting the reality of the times and the necessity of following a more pared-down approach. Embark III will be Gallery Ark’s first show to be exclusively hosted online via the gallery’s “Viewing Room”. 

The past few months have given us a lot to think about. Being home bound for extended periods of time has created opportunities for self-reflection and introspection. The word ‘normal’ finds new meaning as we slowly settle into new methods and schedules.

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In adjusting with this new normal, several topics have surfaced, drawing attention, and encouraging dialogue. The body and its occupations; the engagement of the individual with their own bodies and the increased distances (social and physical) between bodies, have cropped up in discussions online from time to time during this period. From initial instructions by health officials and government agencies about hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face to suggestions on even how to hug during a pandemic, there has been a plethora of information all in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, staying safe and highlighting how we view our bodies. Be it washing hands on the hour; wearing a mask and gloves; and installing applications that track our interactions with possible carriers of the virus, the body and its health are at the centre of the new habits we now develop. 

The works presented in this edition of Embark come from the artists’ preoccupations and areas of inquiry over the past two or three years, now viewed through the prism of our new reality. While each artist brings their individual inquiries to the table, the change in status quo encourages us to view all these works through a common lens. The denominator here being, spaces; bodies; and their relation. 

Sheshadev Sagria’s drawings look at the human body and skin. Being the largest organ, the skin is in fact the first in the line of defense against harm to other organs of the body. How we train ourselves to look at our skin and each other vis-à-vis its nature and differences is the result of lived experiences. Be it the actual membrane itself, or garments and attire, what houses the body is often reflective of the nature of the body itself. Where the body finds comfort, and what spaces become intimate to it are further explored by Vasudha Kapadia, whose works as drawings and texts present a poetic dialogue between people, the spaces they inhabit, and these material possessions. Vasudha documents time through relations between people and the objects they collect – with sentimentality, memory, and loss as weighted determinants of such relations. Ushnish Mukhopadhyay’s drawings look at the function of the body and the prominence of its parts. Individually how these parts and limbs play out their own roles, and jointly their actions resulting in the functioning of a being are viewed from lenses of utility in life as well as from a post mortem perspective. 

Pranay Dutta’s continued engagement with concepts of a dystopic and post-apocalyptic world seem especially relevant today. These spaces present a very human story despite the lack of human figures in them. Representations of the built space and imagined architectures expand on the zealous 

building up of, and development of land and resources at the cost of social and environmental decay. Zarrin-Fatima Shamsi’s works for the show are a monochromatic exploration of texture and form. Zarrin maps space as an experience of terrains of found objects by either drawing them out or taking their impressions which in turn help form a sensory understanding of new locations. 

Explorations of form and its existence in space as compositions of angles, lines and dimensions are seen in the works of Savitha Ravi, Mausham Raj Manglla, and Kavya Kumar Bhatt. Savitha’s architectural compositions emphasise the role light plays in the perception of a space, and the omission and elaboration of detail. Mausham presents a series of paintings that appear like a lyrical suspension of lines and colours in a vacuum. These lines and figures seem to be floating but are caught in a frozen moment, manifesting as humans existing in an undefined venue. Mausham’s subjects are people deep in slumber, existing physically in one place, but traveling unconsciously in another. Kavya’s usage of marks by stippling, alerts the viewer to be wary of the deceptiveness of an image. The attention is drawn towards the surface of the work – that what exists on it is not an illusory window into another dimension but a site of symbolic marks and figures which present a surreal narrative of their own. The works are composed of individual shapes and objects packed closely, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. 

The pandemic has affected the operations of numerous workplaces. In an ‘essentials only’ mode of nationwide operations, galleries and exhibitions are being forced to reflect on the way forward. Apart from putting together shows of diverse themes, a major focus of the gallery has been to promote local talent. Gallery Ark’s continued interests in the arts of the region has been a stimulus for Embark. While the nature and extent of the current pandemic is unprecedented, leaving little scope to plan the next step ahead, it also presents several opportunities. This year, efforts have been channelled to cultivate a digital audience and in creating a presence in online spaces. Embark III being hosted completely online will be an opportunity for the gallery to bring the works of the young artists to a larger and more diverse audience. Apart from it being hosted online, another key feature of this exhibition is that all proceeds from the sales of Embark III will go directly and entirely to the artists. Gallery Ark will not be charging any commission on the sales of the works. 

A New York Times article indicates the amount of time spent online by consumers, world over, during quarantine. Scrolling down through image sharing applications or spending anywhere between a few minutes to hours binge watching series and movies on streaming platforms, the relevance and need for creative visual content have been heightened. Bringing out the works of these young artists and finding associations in, or through them, at a time when visuals offer a chance to dissociate from or stay firmly rooted (either or both as the situation may demand) in one’s time and environments, adds to the theme of this edition of Embark.