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Surprise, surprise: 12 artists interpret the act of gifting

12 renowned artists are showing works inspired by philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theory on gifting

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Sep 01, 2016 15:19 IST
Soma Das
Gallery Odyssey

Exhibits from Given Time: The Gift and Its Offerings at Gallery Odyssey (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

12 renowned artists are showing works inspired by philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theory on gifting

We are at Gallery Odyssey, on Elphinstone Road, a few days before the exhibition, Given Time: The Gift and Its Offerings, opens to the public. Artists Jitish Kallat, Anita Dube and Shaurya Kumar are busy setting up exhibits. Curator Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala is overseeing the preparation.

Read: Being Laxman Shreshtha: The untold story of the legendary abstract artist

The show is inspired by French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s book, Given Time 1: Counterfeit Money. In it, Derrida questions whether gifting is actually a selfless act. “The gift is not a gift, the gift only gives to the extent it gives time,” says Lokhandwala, quoting Derrida, adding, “Derrida implies that the act of gifting only offers the recipient a certain amount of time to give something in return.”

As a PhD student of History of Art at Cornell University, USA, Lokhandwala submitted a paper on the concept of gifting, and has been obsessed with the idea since. She approached 12 contemporary artists to create/showcase their existing works in response to the theme, which led to this show.

Artworks to watch out for

Jitish Kallat with his exhibit, Rain Study (the hour of the day of the month of the season) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Jitish Kallat’s (42) work, Rain Study (the hour of the day of the month of the season), follows from his earlier work Wind Study (2015). While the latter focused on the phenomena of the wind, Rain Study celebrates the gift of rain. Made during the Boreal Art/Nature Residency in Quebec, Kallat stepped outdoors with drawing paper during the showers. Portions of the sheets were covered with a coating of black paint. As they dried, they formed black and white works that resemble galaxy clusters.

Stone Mountain by Anita Dube, 365 stones, velvet, glass, aluminum (2016) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Delhi-based artist Anita Dube (58) showcases the installation — Stone Mountain. It features a pile of rocks enclosed in a red velvet case forming a mountain. It is symbolic of the gift of freedom — tough to gain, but precious. Dube is famous for photographs and installations focusing on collective memory and mythology.

Anarkali and Seventy-two Idiots by Atul Dodiya, 72 archival digital prints on Hahnemuehle bamboo paper (2004-2010) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Atul Dodiya’s (57) works often draw from popular culture and his own life. Anarkali and Seventy-two Idiots follows in the same vein. It features 72 archival digital prints of artists with humorous pen sketches: an eye-patch on Jehangir Sabavala, and goggles and goatee on Laxman Shreshtha. Lokhandwala says, “In 2003, artist Krishnamachari Bose gifted Atul a catalogue of his show, De Curating. It contained 94 portraits. Atul sketched over the portraits and gave them a quirky/ironical twist, almost as a return gift.”

Touching Birds – I (extreme right) by Anju Dodiya, hand coloured screen print on stencil washed and pigment stained STPI cotton paper (2007); Fur/Foam/Fame (left), 6 archival digital prints on Hahnemuehle bamboo paper, with painted fabric mounts (2016) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Anju Dodiya’s (52) art is often reflective of emotions. Here, she revisits her earlier work, Touching Birds — I (2007), which spoke of the gift of touch and how people, like birds or moments, fly away. She made six more works, titled Fur/ Foam/ Fame, on the compassionate touch between man and animal, and the gift of time.

It’s mine; No It’s Mine; Now it’s yours; No it’s Ours; Now It’s missing by Shaurya Kumar, hand-woven tapestry with wool and silk, pigment dye and ABS plastic (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Continuing with his preoccupation with lost art, Shaurya Kumar’s latest work, It’s mine; No It’s Mine; Now it’s yours; No it’s ours; Now It’s missing, features a woollen chousar board (an ancient game) designed in the colours of the flags of countries. The tokens consist of plastic sculptures of deities and represent lost treasures. The works allude to the arrest of art dealer Subhash Kapoor (2011) for smuggling sculptures, and the return of smuggled artefacts by US President Barack Obama this year.

Altered Inheritances- 100 (Last Name) Stories by Shilpa Gupta, photograph (2012-14) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta (40) is best known for her 32-ft high Carter Road installation — I live under your sky too (2013). At this exhibition, she is showcasing Altered Inheritances-100 (Last Name) Stories. It features stories of 100 individuals who changed their last names to escape persecution or to fulfil their dreams. “They gifted themselves surnames. The works act as a historical archive,” adds Lokhandwala. The anecdotes include an instance where a husband and wife changed their surnames to mark their marriage, and the case of Whoopi Goldberg (American actor), who changed her surname to make it sound “more Jewish”.

Raghunath Villa by Nikhil Chopra, charcoal on paper (2016) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT )

Famous for his performance art, artist Nikhil Chopra’s (42) Raghunath Villa, is a sketch of his ancestral home in Jammu, where his grandfather taught him to paint and his father taught him to act. “The home has been sold, and this is perhaps his last sketch of it,” says Lokhandwala. Accompanying it is a film shot at the villa featuring Chopra and his father.

Given Time: The Gift and Its Offerings is on till February 14, 2017, 11am to 7pm
At Gallery Odyssey, Tower 2, One Indiabulls Centre, Senapati Bapat Marg, Elphinstone Road
Call: 3368 5424

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