The Art Gallery in Ahmedabad for Artists and Art Lovers

Minding The Gap

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Minding The Gap
14 November,2010 - 20 November,2010
Curated By: Khanjan Dalal
Rajesh Sagara
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an exhibition of installation of sculptures by

Rajesh Sagara

On the heritage route of the walled city of Ahmedabad as a precursor to Ahmedabad Heritage Festival during the world heritage week.

Preview on November 14, 2010, Sunday,
9 am - 11 am

The walking route to view these exhibits
begins from Swaminarayan Temple Chowk, Kalupur, Ahmedabad.

The exhibits will remain on view
from 15 to 20 November

Guided walk everyday between
8.30am - 10.00am

Parking at Swaminarayan Temple.

Minding/Mending the Gap

Contemporary in aesthetic approach and Gandhian in philosophical bend, Rajesh Sagara negotiates the extremities of our contemporary society within his personality and works. A resident of Ahmedabad, a city with a rich history and heritage, Rajesh finds it as his source of inspiration. A cauldron of the 20th century political thoughts, industry and culture, Ahmedabad became one of the much talked about cities in India thanks to the kind of political and economic upheavals that it went through during the last two decades. Every time Rajesh sets off to do a work of art, the changes happening in the socio-economic and politico-cultural fabric of the city lead him towards critical thinking and execution.

A visitor of the city of Ahmedabad cannot escape the large scale mosaic murals that appear on the either sides of the two underpasses that ease out the traffic in a fast growing city. The first mural narrates the life of Mahatama Gandhi, the father of India, using the key pictures and the second one unveils the life of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the Iron man of India, who was instrumental in the birth of Indian Republic as a unified nation. Both these murals done by Rajesh with the help of students from the CEPT University are landmarks for art in public places. These are the largest public murals in India that depict pivotal images from the lives of these two great personalities with certain artistic liberties in order to catch even the eyes of a causal passer by.

The works of Rajesh have an intricate connection with the public spaces. Even when he does the works meant for gallery spaces, he tends to address the notion of public spaces in them. For him, public spaces are not just physical spaces, but they are the spaces in which history and heritage act out their presence through physical and philosophical manifestations

‘Deed-mis-Deeds: Minding the Gap’ is a project that brings forth Rajesh’s ideas regarding history, heritage and their presence in public spaces and private memories. Heritage sites are the places where physical objects, architecture and life styles are conserved and preserved as models of a past life; heritage spaces in this sense are not just museums but the spaces that are in constant conversation with the contemporary life. In this project, he attempts to link up two sites, the old city of Ahmedabad and the new counterpart of it. In this effort, he does not just look at the heritage sites as spaces of frozen time instead he treats them as locations where the ideas originating from the ‘new’ (city) could be placed, tested, compared, negotiated and validated.

The heritage route in the old city of Ahmedabad starts from the vicinity of the Kalupur Swaminarayana temple runs through the buildings and paths where people still live their quotidian lives irrespective of the histories that loom large over them. There is a marked difference between the life paces of the new and the old cities. While the old city as represented in the heritage route preserves the quality of ‘natural life’, the new city represents the scientific detachment as well as aggression. Rajesh believes that the fundamental difference between the two cities is about the memory and oblivion; the one has lost the memory of the other. And only a walk through the heritage site could make a ‘citizen’ ‘remember’ the existence of the ‘other’.

Hence, ‘Minding the Gap’ is also about ‘Mending the Gap’, a metaphor suitable for Ahmedabad, which used to be hailed as the Manchester of the East. By minding/mending the gap (between the two sides of the same city), Rajesh’s idea is to trigger off the memories and rupture the walls of oblivion that caused all the difference between the cities, resulting into a sort of estrangement between people. This project therefore at once acts as an aesthetical intervention within the localities that are notified as heritage sites and as the production of a critical linkage between two times.

Specifically designed as a project that could create a dialogue between the aforementioned socio-cultural spaces, ‘Minding the Gap’ not only frames the artistically intended linkages through pre-meditated sculptural objects but also brackets the pressing issues like environmental depletion through ‘waste production’ and the manipulation of agriculture through genetic manipulation. The monumental work titled, ‘Deed-mis-deed’ is a prime example of this.

‘Deed-mis-deed’, a monumental installation of a stainless steel cow, an array of casted vegetables, mundane objects vaulted on the wall, and a set of Pumpkins casts in copper, brass and stainless steel; creates a celebration of life that is represented by the surroundings. It is placed in ‘Kuwavalo Khancho’ which is an amalgamation of various architectural styles that have the examples of Maratha, Persian, Hindu-Jain and colonial living spaces. This creates a unique picture with poignant connotations attached to it of decay and chaos. As here the iconic cow is contrasted with the misshapen but enlarged shapes of the genetically modified vegetables. The artist conveys the idea of confusion and chaos in the nature through artificial modes.

‘We see not we see’(Vaani) is a threshold, a passage and a tool which has taken the shape of a menacing weapon but has lost the edges to cut. Thirteen feet tall, the sculptural rendition of a pair of scissors stands monumentally, inviting people to negotiate the space around and through it. This is a tribute to the old city of Ahmedabad where the textile industry flourished at one point of time. As the time passed, with the establishment of the new city, the old city lost its charm. With the erosion of the natural charm of the old city, the skills, expertise and the crafts flourished there also started waning. But through this work, Rajesh affirms that this divide could be bridged through aesthetic modes. The two hands of the scissors point the two arms of the same city; the old and the new.

Along the arms, are cut shapes that resemble old scripts. The negative and positive spaces created out of these illusionary alphabets remind the viewer of the myths and histories of the two cities, which still find space in the minds of the people. The old and the new merge when they are brought together by the force of aesthetics as well as by the force of myths and histories. Rajesh also takes care to render a potential weapon into an aesthetical object, which could function as a passage to transcend violence.

From the Art Deco building in the old city’s heritage route, Rajesh Sagara’s ‘Vehicle’ juts out as if it were trying to escape from the trap of time. One of the old Fiat of 1956 model cars has been always with him and it has been an inspiration towards the world of the vehicles. He believes that the vehicles have a life of their own and they represent the life and times not only of the owner but also the people around it. The old city has seen a lot of cars like this. But as time passed, they too became old and almost extinct.

This car, which is made out of stainless steel wire and a pink upholstered cushion inside, is emblematic of all the good memories related to the old city. A vehicle is medium of conveyance. ‘The Vehicle’ is a symbol that facilitates the conveyance between the old and the new city, two memories, two life styles but one belief in aesthetics and humanity. The Vehicle would surprise the viewer with its sudden and precarious appearance from nowhere. The precariousness of its positioning also connotes the contemporary human beings state of life- a sort of in between-ness.

Monumental, enigmatic and surprising, the Cobbler’s Tool is a sculptural symbol that Rajesh Sagara has adopted from the life around him. Cobblers, though pushed to the fringes of the society thanks to the hierarchical thinking, play an integral part of the society. They mend shoes; they help the people to walk, rightly. There is a metaphorical allusion to this ‘right’ path. If a society is wrong, such acts of mending could change the society, the artist seems to say. The work suggests a sense of equality with its three headed structure dividing the space in different ways. Signifying the humane malady the silver shiny geometric surfaces of these heads tends to develop a dialogue between the spaces around it.

In ‘Manu and Matsya’ he uses the form of a ladder with each step carved with the parts of an image of a fish. And at the first step of the ladder there is a sphere. The Ladder at once reminds the viewer of the progress, the ascendance and at the same time the ladder of genesis and genetics. It is through this ladder that the evolutionary process of the life has been happening. By converting a functional object into a dysfunctional but an aesthetical object, and by carving the image of a fish on it, the sculpture connects mythology with science. The sphere suggests the beginning of all life and the base of the earth.

In ‘Minding the Gap’, the artist creates the portrait of the self, of the city and of any city dweller. In this combined portrait one sees a pair of glasses on the bridge of a nose carved in wood. The right side glass is reflective but in a distorted way and the left side glass is replaced with a mesh like structure, which in fact is the map of the old city. This sculpture connotes the journey of a man, a thinking person through the length and breadth of the city, experiencing its ups and downs, participating in its problems and celebrations. Though static the imagery is, it embodies a movement; movement of a person through the city.

‘Minding the Gap’, as a whole, creates a new narrative out of the existing space and the interpolated aesthetic objects. These works, in their monumental presence tease out responses from the viewer vis-à-vis their respective relationship with the old and the new cities. Here, in this repertoire of public sculptures, Sagara re-draws the map of a city and casts his perpetually critical gaze on it. Artists, as they say are the legislators of the public conscience. And the works of art are the contemporary totems that prevent people dividing societies in the name of caste, creed, religion, language and geography.


November 2010

New Delhi

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