It was a potent time for creative explorations. Inspired by Sri Chaitanya’s bhakti1 movement, people were in search of newer ways to forge ties – between themselves, between the self and the universe and beyond. 16th century Bengal2 was experiencing a resurgence which not only prompted poets and artists to find various forms of expressions, but also resulted in a rapid development of its own language. Architects and sculptors of the era grabbed this opportunity to create some of the finest works of terracotta art.
Aki Inomata uses her art to amply depict the anxieties of her time. Series like Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs? is an unerring commentary on the synthetic to downright ludicrous aspects of modern civilisation. Questions are often raised loud and clear. Somewhat ironically though, these very aspects of her art tend to harmonise instead of polarising views. For in the heart of heart, Aki carries the precious age old sentiments of her land that believes in life, in its every form and expression, to be sacred and reverential. Despite the wide usage of modern technology such as 3d modelling and printing, her art remains very close to nature and intends to be an interpretation of it.
Born and brought up in Tokyo, Aki may have been enclosed in an eternally expanding urban landscape all her life, but she knows where her inspiration lies. After all, she has been busy worldwide in solo and group exhibitions ever since the completion of her MFA in Intermedia Art from University of Tokyo (2008). In the process she showcased her art installations in places such as Hamburg, Linz, Paris, New York, Shanghai and of course at home in Tokyo. Such cultural exchanges only helped to expand her views. Her latest Hermit Crab series named White Chapel is testimony to that.
On the question of a distinguishable existence of man in respect to other living beings, ancient philosopher Zhuang Zhou narrated his experience, Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awoke, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things. When in the maze of modern living our ways seem to be hopelessly lost, then in art do we find solace. Because in art remains discreet the answers of such painfully pertinent questions that we continue to bury deep within us till we lose that crucial perspective about our own existence.
When a series of Sharon Moody’s artworks were exhibited earlier this year it earned critical acclaim, but not without creating quite a bit of clamour, ironically for the same reason. The series was dedicated to the Classic Comic Books and their rolled, folded and yellowed pages. The work was too perfect to have gone unnoticed. For the same reason, it reignited an old controversy about the ethos of such photorealistic depiction of comic books with their original characters and storylines without an explicit mentioning of the names of the comic artists. Experienced connoisseurs of art may have had a feeling of déjà vu here. Years ago none other than Roy Lichtenstein found himself confronting such questions when he exhibited Whaam! in 1963. Interestingly, many of today’s critics like comparing Sharon Moody’s art to that of Lichtenstein’s, notwithstanding the fact that the latter was a representative of pop art done at a different time and place.
Sharon Moody was born in Florida, but spent much of her time in North Carolina until she completed her BFA from Appalachian State University, Boone, NC in 1973. The ensuing years were marked by her continued explorations in the world of art, further studies, including an MFA degree from George Washington University, Washington DC, and being a teacher and mentor to young talents. In between, she developed a rich body of work that is permeated by the colours of her own thoughts and sensibilities. She is a great admirer of William Harnett and John F Peto’s paintings, artists who kindled the passions for trompe l’œil on the other side of the Atlantic. Her own handling of optical illusion on canvas could be considered an homage to these two great artists. It is her ingenuity that leads her to imbibe the essence of photorealism in the Classic Comic Books without diluting the veritable charm of trompe l’œil. The former assists her to capture the exceptionally minute details of a chocolate bar, a pair of tennis racquets or a one dollar bill while the latter induces the viewer into a forced perspective on a two dimensional plain. It might be true that ‘reality’ is nothing but a ‘persistent illusion’, but in this case the illusion turns out to be a rather gratifying one.
Brad Spencer is a forerunner among the artists who explored the potential of creating brick sculptures in recent times. In fact he dedicated three decades of his life in perfecting his skills at this not–so–usual–art form. Due to the nature of the work, brick sculptures are particularly suited for public art projects. Many prominent landmarks of Reidsville, North Carolina, where the artist lives, and beyond are now adorned with Brad’s sculptural essays. The visual lyricism of his art is self evident.
Creating exquisite pieces of sculptures, including bas reliefs, of bricks is actually an age old process with an illustrious history dating back to 575 BC. The Ishtar Gate, reconstructed and preserved, is a proud possession of Pergamon Museum, Berlin. But many who visit the museum to observe this architectural marvel do not seem to recognise the fact that this monument, dedicated to goddess Ishtar, is made entirely of bricks. Numerous rows of golden lions, dragons, aurochs and floral motifs studding the gate are nothing but carved bricks sculpted out of the blocks of clay glazed in an ethereally azure tone. Babylonians were responsible for elevating brick sculptures to an art form. Artists and craftsmen of Babylon must have captivated Ishtar, the deity of love in Sumer and Babylon, with such an offering. Brick sculpture did not enjoy such exalted status after Babylon suffered cruel blows into the hands of time.
Born in 1971, Ed Chapman tiptoed into the world of art holding the hands of his artist parents. Playing with pastels or pencils were part of his everyday routine even before he was conscious of his natural gifts. But instead of the more conventional media like acrylic or gouache, Ed Chapman found mosaic to be ideally suited for his artistic expressions. He devoted himself in the exploration of mosaic art and finding his own niche in its illustrious legacy. From ceramic to pieces of paper, smashed vinyl records to plectrums, there is hardly any item with which creating art is not possible for Ed. He mostly uses famous faces from the world of music and art as his subject. He aims for maximum impact by trying to keep the palette as simple as possible and audience is left gasping at beholding the eloquent faces staring back at them from the frames. Watch closely and you will start identifying the fragments of life affectionately preserved in each piece of vinyl or ceramic before being skilfully strewn into a larger picture.