Chemould Gallery, which was started in 1963, reserves an important place in the city’s art scene even now. The gallery, where stalwarts such as MF Husain, SH Raza and FN Souza have shown their early works, is celebrating its 50th year. And commemorating this occasion is a new exhibition called Citizen Artist: Forms of Address.
The collection that has been curated by art historian and critic Geeta Kapur, features works by gallery artists Jitish Kallat, Rashid Rana, Shilpa Gupta, Pushpamala N and Gauri Gill, among others.
Talking about the theme, Kapur explains that the idea of Citizen Artist comes from the notion of the ‘citizen subject’. “The nation-state commits the citizen to the ethics of a civil society determined by the Constitution. The concept of the citizen subject implies both subjection to the state and people inscribing their own political tendencies within the constitutional order,” she says, adding, “By substituting the subject with the artist, we arrive at the citizen artist who not only supports the notion of citizenship, but also endows it with an existential force unravelled in the act.”
The works featured in the mixed-media show echo the artists’ political ethos. They work directly with revolutionary ideas, sometimes anarchist, anti-fascist, anti-colonial and also issues that deal with feminism. Kapur believes that the other important aspect of the exhibition is that of iconic identities. “There is an iconicity attributable to ordinary men and women. It is condensed in the body of the protesting citizen. For example, Ram Rahman’s top-angle photograph of Safdar Hashmi’s cortège is iconic. The slain body draped in a communist flag (of the CPI-M); the hammer and sickle characterising the dead revolutionary,” she concludes.
The exhibition is on at the Chemould Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda.