Arty Glimpses – Public History; Personal Stories

An American painter visits an art exhibition.

[Text and pictures by Nitin Mukul; he is an American artist who shifted to Delhi in 2006. His painting is included in the current SAHMAT exhibition, a group show which will travel to various metropolises throughout 2007.]

The exhibition was inaugurated on April 12, 2007, at Indian Women’s Press Corps, opposite the Le Meridien hotel, with artworks based on the theme “1857-1947”.

Commemorating the 150 years of the 1857 uprising, the IWPC art gallery displayed a diverse range of works by various artists. The theme was to narrate the public history through personal stories. This is the first major show in India for me and it is great to be surrounded by artists I admire here.

To inaugurate the exhibition, the artists were asked to gather around an oil lamp and light a wick, a ceremony often undertaken before the beginning of cultural events in India. While waiting by the lamp, I took this picture of a crew of photographers. World Press Award winning photographer Pablo Bartholomew is at the far left, who also has piece in the show. Ram Rahman, the show’s organizer and a photographer himself is fourth from the left. In the background are works (left to right) by Nilima Sheikh and Jehangir Jani.

This is the other side of the lamp lighting ceremony. One artist I know here is Veer Munshi (center; in a plaid shirt). In the background is a piece by Anjum Singh.

On the left – a self portrait by the acclaimed photographer Sunil Gupta.

The distinguished looking gentleman facing the camera in the back is Jehangir Sabavala, one of India’s best known artists. To his right are works by Peter Nagy (top) and Sukanya Rahman.

Fashion designer cum gallerist Rohit Gandhi and gallerist Bhavna Khakar inspect the works, perhaps in search of what’s next…

My piece in the centre is flanked by works by Gulam Mohammed Sheikh (left) and Anita Dube (right) and Parthiv Shah (far lower right).

My piece was made specifically for the show dealing with personal histories in connection to India, and the embrace of secularism. I had this this picture since 2003 when I visited the Muslim ghettoes on the edge of Ahmedabad. At that time Godhra riots and the earthquake were still like fresh wounds to the local residents.

It is actually a puddle on the ground being splashed by raindrops. In the context of India as in the rest of the world, water is a precious resource, and separates hemispheres. The puddle was in Ahmedabad, where my father grew up, so I feel a connection/disconnection to the place, and the water relates to him leaving home to come to the U.S. – across the sea.

Notice the molecule like orange shapes I’ve added in the water. They are like the marigolds put in the water as per the Hindu ritual. But they have mutated into bacteria cells as fundamentalism can mutate the spiritual aspect of religion.

Click here to view the rest of the exhibition.