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Arty explorations of traditional idioms
Manjusha Madhu  18th Mar 2012

The Conversation by Michael Buhler-Rose

ew beginnings are always initiated by numerous rituals meant to chart out an auspicious start and happy continuities. While Ganapathy is the chosen deity to worship on such occasions, breaking coconuts is an equally important ritual in India. When artist Michael Buhler-Rose decided to ward off the evil eye from his works, he chose to break a coconut for each of his work, videotape it and then present it as a piece in his latest exhibition 'Interrogating Conventions'.

The exhibition brings both Rose's and fellow artist Olivia Fraser's works together in a unique exploratory study of tradition as an inherited legacy and as a contemporary living practice. Fraser who has been working with various miniature artists from Rajasthan has absorbed the meditative quality of the craft itself into her work.

I’m actually curious about the way it can be read. I was more interested in the politics of imagery in terms of how it ended up in the place I was photographing. Rose

"I'm essentially using an Indian vocabulary. I started off as a linguist and approach my paintings in a similar way. There is a certain meditative quality in the process of miniature painting, which reflects in my subject matter," says Fraser. Her works are thus replete with reductive, minimalist forms steeped in Indian mythological moorings and defined by a spiritual quality — an ideal example being I see him now where the Shrinathji Krishna icon is minutely traced with indigo pigment on a yellow background.

Fraser’s Becoming Krishna

For Rose, a student of Vaishnavism since the age of 14, rituals, cultural borrowings and their inherent political thrusts make for vibrant examination. The series of photographs featuring American students of Bharatanatyam in Florida is from his previous project titled 'Constructing the exotic'. "I look at the ideas and structures of exoticism by photographing the theatrical reality of Eastern-raised women in the West and the unique relationship they create with the Western landscape and conventions of exoticism within the history of painting. In continuing my practice, I'm interested in looking further into the political structures inherent within historical works," says Michael in an introduction to the works on his website.

The interplay of the 'real' and the 'imagined' is also manifested in some of his works. Men, Mango Leaves and Dates comprise small images of Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham along with some dates and mango leaves, while Women and Lychees pair Bollywood actresses with lychees. "I'm actually curious about the way it can be read. I was more interested in the politics of imagery in terms of how it ended up in the place I was photographing," says Rose.

For curator Peter Nagy clubbing Fraser and Rose is an interesting and apt idea. "They have learnt traditional idioms but also learnt to question the very same parameters they inherited," says Nagy. Thus, 'Interrogating Conventions' makes for an intriguing examination of the practice and politics of traditional imageries.

 

Venue: Nature Morte

Date: Until 29 March

Timing: 11am -7pm

 
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