Indian artist paints non-stop for 65 hours at UK art event

  • PTI, London
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 08, 2013 21:39 IST

Indian artist Nikhil Chopra painted non-stop for 65 hours at an art event in Manchester depicting the historic trade links between the world's first industrial city and the Indian port town of Mumbai.

The 39-year-old artist wowed visitors and critics with his art event called 'Coal on Cotton' at Whitworth Art Gallery as part of the Manchester International Festival.

Dressed as a cotton farmer, the Kolkata-born artist offered anyone visiting the gallery in Manchester the chance to see him drawing, washing, eating as well as sleeping.

He decided to focus on the two materials that made the north-west English town supremely wealthy in the 19th century and draws on the historic trade links between the city and the Indian port town of Mumbai.

"Cotton's power is underrated ? this was the fabric that drove colonialism and the industrial revolution," said Chopra, who flew in from his home in Goa for the exhibition.

"I'm completely honoured to be a part of a festival of this proportion. The seriousness with which an audience looks at the work in the festival is amazing. It really raises the bar," he said.

Held over 65 continuous hours in the shell of the yet-to-be-completed Landscape Gallery at Whitworth and engulfed entirely by cotton, the show spanning centuries and continents concluded on Sunday.

The performance expected its audience to witness and reflect on connections between the lives of our ancestors and ourselves, and on the actions that drive power and possession.

"Spending large quantities of time in a space allows me to actually create something ? to change the orientation, texture and feel of a space, and to change myself as a result of it.

"And it's that transformation that is being viewed by an audience. It's transformative for an audience as well," Chopra explains.

And his work received rave reviews by some British critics, including one who described it as "magical".

"With his kohl-lined eyes, he has a magical, magnetic presence, capable of commanding attention even when asleep.

"Spending time with this unflappable character induces sensations of tranquillity and penitence ? balm to soothe niggling everyday distractions," said the 'Daily Telegraph'.

Chopra's event kicked off a final season of programmes for the well-known gallery, which closes its doors on September 22 for a 1-million pounds refurbishment to reopen only in June 2014.

"We don't think the gallery has stayed open all night since World War II, so we are pushing the boundaries of what a gallery does. We have put our crown jewels on display with these exhibitions," said Dr Maria Balshaw, director of the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Other highlights at the festival, which continues till July 21, range from works by contemporary Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor to early 19th century English painters JMW Turner and William Blake.


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