To home page

Annual Display in Baroda »


Annual Display in Shantiniketan »



Column: Version True - Uma Nair

Curating can be a challenge

Uma Nair

Darpan my first time curation took two years to materialize. Krishen Khanna's Li Po was my inspiration. And did I get flak from artists about choosing it for my cover and the invitation. But curating isn't about pleasing people. It is about wanting to create a connectivity within the intellectual and artistic sensibility. Darpan became the theme but artists had the freedom to exploit their own insights and probings. I think I wanted to move away from convention, from commonplace exhibitions that are put together with the idea of selling. Curating in Delhi has become a pastime with money rich housewives, who ask for a few works and then put together a show with a name that embraces all the works. I wanted to probe creativity, generate insights without falling into `navel gazing'

A curator's role is to get the viewer excited,the show must be able to build a bridge between artist and  society.So I wanted to present the utopian thinker in Pablo Bartholomew who gave me two works that spelt the brilliance of his own impetus and cerebral power when he gave me two timeless works Eunuch with Mirror and Self Portrait both works from the late 70's.I was also delighted with the mirror frame of Daroz, albeit late but it is his referential power of giving us inner nuances with his cross cultural genius that makes Daroz what he is today. The lover of recurring language and poetry in Pradeep Dasgupta's New York images said something else,while Dinesh Khanna's epoch of Abhinaya Darpan in RamaVaidyanathan's gesture and pose in the water gave Darpan its gravity.Iranna's moody sense of duality and the inherent unconsciousness of  Zen rhythms gave me a show that was humble for its gravity. Shipra's quaint and uneasy rendition of   life's struggles said it best about the mirror being an expression of angst and reality.

Can you imagine excitement in the work of Radhakrishnan's SOLILOQUY? What happened to the guests at Imperial Hotel was what amazed in terms of attractive cadences and associations. Everyone came and stood in front of Radha's ingenuous bronze that hinted at the mirror where there was none. `Artistic practice is about being subtle,moving away from the obvious,'said Radha.`Darpan is an image which is located within us but we must translate imagery into suggestions and not take literal translations'.

Paresh Maity's  two handsome canvasses became the testimony of Darpan being fascinating,while Jayasri Burman's Yogini's Mirror spoke in an evocative context. Darpan became many things to many people and I am humbled by the artist's creative outpouring and zest for creating.

I think in Darpan ` attitude became form /image' and  in the show I wanted to give even a lay man the reason to linger a little longer.That is why even the works were displayed in the non-conventional manner,they have been separated split so that the works speak to each other.I did not create islands of a artist,I let Tripat Kalra do the hanging and therein lay another lingua franca in which the works were spread.

In reviewing and enjoying exhibitions all over the world, the finest being the curated shows of Picasso and other shows in National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C I remember the curator saying Curating is a self examination. But curating with works already made is far different from asking artists to create.Perhaps therein lies a major challenge.

In the past 3 years I have seen a sweeping change in public response. I have also seen gallery people,administrative heads with networking abilities and all kinds of people who have no background curating. I feel curating is more than a job it is an exercise that demands a sense of history and it is an inner urge to interpret art in anew light.

In bringing together the works of sculptors photographers and artists I have triued to give each medium is artistic space. Curating is ultimately about dodging tradition and finding a new language in which to say something that is unique in terms of the harmony in artistic practice.

Inspite of the theme Darpan I was clear that within  I did not want to limit anyone, I gave them the freedom and the space in which to create. I believe that creation happens in the sublime void and I am grateful to the artists for their responses. I wanted Darpan to invent a novel structure,  to create or re-create a place that can provide greater clarity in our readings of contemporary art and bring out new possibilities in the art of curating it.

Because we work in largely uncharted territory, making critical judgments about which new art and artists to present (and which to observe or ignore) is a difficult but stimulating opportunity. Everyone's power is limited, but a curator exercises some degree of influence when she or he publishes a catalogue and places work in a public setting for consideration by journalists, critics, scholars, art dealers, collectors, teachers, students, and others who, in turn, may use their resources and skills to increase the visibility and interest in such work. The curator's decisions and choices may be shared with a broad audience and have the potential to alter or extend the way viewers perceive art-works and the world around them. Exhibitions have the ability to present new information, challenge beliefs, provoke emotions, and, at times, even prompt actions.

Curating requires a constant process of self-examination. Sticking one's neck out to show art that does not already have an established consensus about its worth (whether the value is for being most provocative, innovative, or technically accomplished) demands considerable courage. To take a position counter to accepted trends and fashions may be equally difficult. One must be able to articulate specific responses and defend opinions and ideas about art while recognizing personal biases or prejudices. Questions I find myself asking are: Has the intelligent patter and charm of an artist or dealer impressed me more than the work itself? Or, conversely, did an unpleasant encounter divert me, although the work may have a distinctive point of view? How narrow or broad should my focus be? Do artists I present have to share a theoretical position or approach to art making? Should my own ideas and beliefs be in sympathy with those of an artist I work with?


Home About us Contact