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Conversations, Edits and Erasures

Shukla Sawant

By Anupa Mehta
Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2007, pp. 216, price not stated.


This book cannot readily be judged by its cover for the title of the book suggests an epic sweep through the arts of India using a dialogic mode. This handy compendium in fact is a collection of interviews with some of the more interesting visual artists of out times, offering us an insight into their working methods, their conceptual frameworks and their sources of inspiration.   Handsomely produced with high-quality reproductions of works, a bibliography of related articles on each artist as well as a time line of ‘milestone’ exhibitions, the artists included in this volume are Alwar Balasubramaniam, Anandjit Ray, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Baiju Parthan, Bharti Kher, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, G.Ravinder Reddy, G.R. Iranna, Jagannath Panda, Jitish Kallat, Jyothi Basu, Krishnamachari Bose, Natraj Sharma, N.S.Harsha, R.M Palaniappan, Shibu Natesan, Subodh Gupta, Sudarshan Shetty and T.V. Santhosh.   Jointly produced by the Vadodara-based Alekhya Foundation and Mapin Publishing, this volume was released to accompany a travelling exhibition of the works of the artists in the collection of the Foundation in 2007. The book though is not an exhibition catalogue with only reproductions of art works included in the show. In fact it showcases a ‘wish list’ of works which are currently housed in different collections all over the world. Unfortunately, while some artists like Bharati Kher and Ravindra Reddy have been able to provide details of the location of their works, most of the other paintings, installations and sculptures, reproduced in the publication, appear without sufficient details, making us wonder about the exact nature of the collection of the foundation itself. Collections after all are exercises in cannon formation and books that accompany exhibitions allow us to place the works in their socio-political and historical environments as well as the curatorial narrative of the exhibition itself. Instead this book offers us multiple histories in the form of a conversation about the various twists and turns in the creative methods of the artists, as well as the exhibitory history of their work in the form of a brief biography of the artist appended at the end of each conversation.   The interview format used by Anupa Mehta has a different cadence in every conversation. While some of the more articulate artists like Jitesh Kallat are allowed to determine the direction of the flow of ideas, taciturn artists like Natraj Sharma are coaxed initially with detailed queries, which allow the ...

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