The Valley of sorrow

One of Ritu Kamath’s installations on “half widows” of Kashmir is designed to sucker punch the viewer. It shows a woman who has morphed into a chair due to years of waiting for her husband to return. Above the chair is a portrait by Syed Mujtaba Rizvi, giving a human face to another “half widow”.

These and many other such works by Kashmiri artists everywhere are on display at an exhibition titled “Re-Start”, which is also a fundraiser for flood-hit victims of the Valley.

Sowcasing contemporary art from, about and for Kashmir, the exhibition is a collaborative effort by artists — established as well as those who have never showcased their work in public before due to lack of opportunity in the State.

The works juxtapose the beauty of the Valley with destruction and turmoil in the State. It gives an opportunity to artists to portray their view on the region though personal experiences that are high on emotional quotient.

It even shows how the floods have caused certain artists to even change their style of painting. One of the better-know artists from the region, Masood Hussain, has on display two of his beautiful images of the Valley. These are the last of his canvases in his old scenic style, as all his works were washed away in the floods. Post the calamity, Hussain changed his style to create much darker, almost post-apocalyptic works.

The exhibition also brings into limelight unknown artists like Sameer Hussain, who has developed a unique style of painting inside light bulbs. Hung in a row, each bulb tells a differing story of Kashmir.

The artist has tried to reuse discarded objects as metaphors for used bodies whose soul has departed. He has “reused” these “discarded bodies” by painting a new soul into them.

Myna Mukherjee, who is curating the show, says it is very hard for an artist to showcase art in Kashmir. A strong lobby there works to silence art, as art creates space for intellectual thought, she adds.

Due to this, a gallery was even shut down and every tube of paint has to be sourced from outside. She says it has been a challenge to put the exhibition together as it is a unique portrayal of art and issues by many artists, who are reluctant or have never showcased their work in a gallery before. She adds that it is a testimony to the resilience of the artists who, despite so many odds and censorship, have continued their artistic pursuit.

Some other standout works include a child-sized coffin painted in a style usually found in papier-mâché works, chinar trees splattered with blood, photographs of refugees and camps for the flood-affected taken by journalists, and illustrative maps showing the artist’s perspective on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Eighty per cent of the funds collected from a silent auction of these works will be donated towards flood relief measures.

The event has been organised by, SCA group and Kashmir Art Quest, in association with Engendered and STIR. It is on display at Vis à Vis, North Drive, DLF Chattarpur farms till May 11.

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