Aji V N
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 1st issue features two paintings by Aji V N who was trained in art colleges in Trivandrum and New Delhi. He was subsequently exposed to classical Western painting, oscillating with ease between distinct cultural spaces and histories. His pictorial language is of astonishing singularity, creating otherworldly landscapes of velvety textures and tonal density.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into rare works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 2nd issue features three works by Lionel Wendt, one of Asia’s earliest modern photographers. Inspired by the surrealistic experiments of Many Ray, he worked with photomontage, solarization, and double printing. Famous for his refined bromide and gelatin silver prints, Wendt’s choice of subjects ranged from sensual portraits to spectacular landscapes and object studies.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 3rd issue features three works by Ali Kazim, one of Pakistan’s leading artists in contemporizing miniature painting with a conceptual approach. Using traditional techniques, his meticulous brushwork creates highly detailed pictorial compositions. Set against flat, monochrome backgrounds, his protagonists appear as ‘reservoirs of mystery’, manifesting a sense of other-worldliness and solitude.
K R Sunil
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 4th issue features the series 'Home' by K R Sunil, one of India’s most prominent photographers. Shot along the Kerala seashore, the fourteen black-and-white photographs are a cautionary tale on climate change and displacement. While the coast is a place of leisure for the modern affluent, coastal communities have no choice but to dwell in proximity to the sea. Worshipped by them as a life-sustaining force, the sea has been gradually swallowing land, claiming their houses and homeland.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 5th issue features works by Vasantha Yogananthan. Working in analogue photography, he has extensively travelled across India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to create his ambitious seven-part project, ‘A Myth of Two Souls’. A contemporary retelling of the Hindu epic the ‘Ramayana’, it marries scenes from daily life with staged photography, sometimes delicately hand-painted and collaged. Shot in medium and large formats, 'A Myth of Two Souls’ is situated at the intersection of documentary and fiction.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 6th issue, June 2021, features recent works by New Delhi based artist Ayesha Singh. Working across a wide range of media, her practice subverts the socio-political hierarchies often associated with architecture and national symbols. Singh creates sites of debates to question the assumed permanence of emblems of nationhood and the layered histories they embody.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 7th issue features a special series by Lubna Chowdhary, who subverts the traditional context of her chosen medium – clay – to address a longstanding preoccupation with urbanisation and material culture. ‘Certain Times’, composed of variously shaped tiles on wall-mounted shelves and hand-glazed by Chowdhary, stands for an artistic practice that has long sought to stake out a conciliatory common ground between various binaries: ornamental excess and minimal restraint, industrial and handmade, East and West.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 8th issue features paintings by Mumbai-based Dhruvi Acharya that are characterised by psychologically complex narratives, peppered with dark humour. Transforming human forms of her mostly female protagonists to echo their temperaments, Acharya often deploys empty speech or thought bubbles to convey states of solitude and self-doubt. Drawing from her own life, her oeuvre unravels like a personal diary — it showcases an urban woman’s tribulations in a world seething with gender disparities, racial inequalities as well as societal pressures.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art that are informed by South Asian connections and traditions. The 9th issue features textile works by Hardeep Pandhal who lives and works in Glasgow. Straddling the complexities of identity as a second generation British-Sikh, he considers identity rife with conflict, but also an acerbic sense of humour. In ‘The Lord Tebbit Series’, he embroiders cricket jumpers with ghoulish faces or body parts. The ghastliness of the jumpers recalls the odious ‘cricket test’ pioneered by Lord Tebbit in the 1990s. This ‘formula’ evaluated an immigrant citizen’s acculturation and loyalty to England by measuring his commitment to English cricket teams.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 10th issue features works by Ritesh Meshram. Known for his inventive use of varied metals, his most recent sculptures — giving the impression of familiarity as though they were made of components one could purchase in a hardware store or recover from a scrap heap — are reductive in form with a touch of punning humor. Surrendering to the capricious twists and curves of the metal, Meshram’s sculptural practice negotiates unpredictability while skillfully exploring gravity, volume, balance and scale.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 11th issue features works by Jagdeep Raina whose inter-disciplinary practice engages with both personal and public archives to examine histories of transnational migration. The mixed-media works featured here investigate the birth of Bhangra in the 1970s — a music style created by working-class South Asian migrant labourers. While most of its lyrics were politically inflected, calling for anti-colonial, anti-racist and queer futures, Raina references Bhangra to reflect on the fluid way in which diasporic communities are constituted in new territories.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 12th issue features Shezad Dawood’s textile hangings from the series ‘University of NonDualism’. Drawing on the architectural vocabulary of South Asian modernist Muzharul Islam, he applies acrylic on embroidered fabric to create works that oscillate between architecture and tapestry. Rethinking ancient craft, tropical modernism and contemporary painting, Dawood skilfully balances geometry with the ornamental patterns of kantha — a type of embroidery from the Indian subcontinent.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 13th issue features the early self-portraits ‘Sacred Bodies’ by Hetain Patel which merge the markers of cultural divides with stereotyped symbolism. Exploring his own body as a site for identity quest against the backdrop of systemic racism, pigments and flowers from Indian ceremonies are used in a self-imposed, time-consuming ritual of body painting. While evoking an ancient form of ornamentation, Patel acts as performer and protagonist at once, establishing the possibility of a cross-cultural identity that is at best, fluid.
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 14th issue features works by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, best known for his irreverent approach to ceramic media. Owing to his Sri Lankan ancestry, he is particularly inspired by the syncretic language of religious iconography and mythological narratives across South Asia. Yet his series ‘The Mud and the Rainbow’ (2021) alludes to broader histories and experiences such as queer politics, idolatry, race, anthropomorphism and popular culture.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 15th issue features the seminal work 'Six Women' by Bharti Kher, which is the result of a larger inquiry about the body over a period of years. This series of life-sized sitting sculptures is cast from real women in Kher‘s studio — sex workers, paid by the artist to sit for her in a self-conscious transaction of money and bodily experiences. The precarious quality that marks Kher's use of material reflects the physicality and inherent vulnerability of their bodies. It also brings to the fore the social construction of the woman’s body as a site of control and power.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 16th issue features a body of works by Yamini Nayar, created in 2020. Working at the intersection of sculpture and photography, she builds temporary ‘assemblages’ with materials that are associated with building construction. In a further step, analogue photographs transform these sculptures into two-dimensional images, addressing the tension between volume and flatness, surface and corporeality. Conjuring up abstract spaces, Nayar calls the photographs ‘empathetic objects’, whose tactility and materiality enter into an intimate dialogue with the viewer.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art that are informed by South Asian connections and traditions. The 17th issue features works by Jagath Weerasinghe, one of the pivotal figures in contemporary Sri Lankan art. Weerasinghe’s visceral encounters with violence during the Civil War in his country have left a lasting impact on him. His understanding of how inhumanity leads to the emotional disintegration of the self, finds vigorous expression in his work. He is particularly concerned with the vulnerability of the male body, rendered invisible by an “institutionalised masculinity” that represses existential angst.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into selected works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 18th issue features works by Mona Rai who has been producing an oeuvre of a single signature style through the past four decades. Her shimmering fields of colour draw from the rich visual vocabulary of Indian festivals and popular culture, and include a plethora of materials such as fabric, thread, ash, sand, hair, and metal foil.
Deploying methods such as scratching, stitching, piercing and scorching the canvas, she imbues these materials with a personal iconography, challenging painting’s basic elements by means of an imagery that is informed by craft production and ritual art forms.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into rare works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 19th issue features intimate self-portraits by Kerala based artist Ratheesh T that reveal, by means of a striking colour palette, the depth of existential loneliness. Apart from the quest for self-discovery, the portraits present compelling statements on the role of the artist as an astute observer, chronicling the intricacy of the human experience. The formal acuity and emotional urgency of Ratheesh T’s paintings further address issues of race and gender, of class and caste in a social hierarchy that has as much been defined by colonialism as by the aggressive market forces of the 21st century.
Spotlight offers privileged insight into rare works of art from the Indian subcontinent. The 20th issue features drawings by Joydeb Roaja who hails from the Tripura community, one of the ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Informed by the ethnic violence and drastic changes that wreaked havoc within the rural region of his childhood, his drawings assume a confrontational tone. While their background is devoid of any recognisable topography, several indicators point to the rich diversity of tribal culture which is under constant threat by a dominant political ideology. While Roaja reduces the soldiers and their military equipment to the size of toys, the towering tribal protagonists show signs of resistance.