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The climate crisis in contemporary and indigenous art: An exhibition via Sarmaya

ByNatasha Rego
Nov 04, 2022 05:01 PM IST

An exhibition on view in Delhi until November 20 spotlights 24 art works, drawn from the Sarmaya archive, that depict our changing relationship — and the future of that relationship — with nature.

If art is a reflection of the world, then it stands to reason that it cannot ignore humanity’s greatest challenge: the climate crisis. A new exhibition by Sarmaya, a repository of Indian art and artefacts, spotlights 24 works by 20 contemporary and indigenous artists to represent our changing relationship with nature.

Mithila artist Krishnanand Jha’s Farming, one of the works on display, looks at nature through a worshipful gaze. (Sarmaya Arts Foundation)

“This is a contemporary issue that faces us and one that we should address when we can. We at Sarmaya can do this through the lens of art and the many perspectives that artists bring to the narrative,” says Sarmaya founder Paul Abraham.

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Echoes of the Land: Art Bears Witness to a Changing Planet, which runs from November 3 to 20 at the Ojas art gallery in Mehrauli, features works sourced from the extensive Sarmaya collection.

The Transport Series by Gond artist Mayank Shyam; acrylic and ink on canvas; 2018. (Sarmaya Arts Foundation)
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“The exhibition is broadly divided into three sections,” says Avehi Menon, archive director at Sarmaya. “One represents the worshipful gaze of nature through the works of Mithila artist Krishnanand Jha, Bhil artist Subhash Amliyar and others, who record the symbiotic relationship with nature.”

The second section represents impact and intervention. Here, Chandan Bez Baruah, for instance, depicts the impact of roads cutting through pristine forests of the North-East, in a work titled Somewhere in the North East - Part I; Sumit Chitara’s 2019 Patang a Mata ni Pachedi shows how the Sabarmati river is central to the ancient Mata ni Pachedi textile practice.

“The third section represents artists’ visions of a future of regeneration and renewal, and of a time when we will allow nature to take over,” says Menon. This section features the works of artists such as Gopa Trivedi, Jethro Buck (a British artist who paints in the Indian miniature tradition), Rithika Merchant and the contemporary Warli artists known as the Vayeda brothers (Mayur and Tushar Vayeda).

Untitled (Mahadev ka Netra) by Gond artist Sukhnandi Vyam; 2015. (Sarmaya Arts Foundation)

Gopa Trivedi’s is a beautiful five-panel work that begins as a starkly barren piece, which changes colour to a deep green… evidence of nature’s ability to repair,” says Abraham.

A highlight of the exhibition will be a walkthrough by Mayur Vayeda on November 12, which will end with him creating an installation from grain to represent khala, a post-harvest ritual in which Warli tribals worship and thank the gods and goddesses, especially Kansari, the goddess of seeds.

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WHAT: Echoes of the Land: Art Bears Witness to a Changing Planet

WHERE: Ojas art gallery, 1AQ, Mehrauli, New Delhi

WHEN: November 3 to 20 (closed on Mondays)

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