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Tao Art Gallery reopens with "Discourses" by Khanjan Dalal

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

The pandemic had shut doors to the outside world, and art galleries were not any different. Art enthusiasts all over the city had been waiting to devour art in person. #ArtNightThursday, July 8th saw the re-opening of art spaces with awe-inspiring embodiments with different artists.

Mumbai's leading gallery, Tao Art Gallery reopened its doors with a show by Khanjan Dalal - Installations and Sculptures in collaboration with 079 Stories Gallery, Ahmedabad.

Khanjan Dalal’s recent body of artwork, an amalgamation of sculptures and installations portrays a diverse range of consequential issues with a twist of wry humor. For this exhibition, he embraces the Foucauldian style of the ‘discourse’ to weave art pieces in conjunction with his diverse concerns demonstrated through his practice.

The wall-mounted sculptures made from gas-fired ceramics touch on our hyper-connected world, and the discordance of the fibre-optical universe, which often ushers to a surfeit of information. The cyberspace records every conversation, yet with every new thread added, the multiplication of these conversations often deludes in a desolate space. A section of his work explores and questions the folly behind heroism, the gloom around the glory, and challenges the grandstanding of patriarchal machismo that focuses on the idea of revenge, suicide and violence through anagama fired ceramics.

Khanjan Dalal born in 1975, hails from the state of Gujarat and his works carry a fierce defiance to the stereotypical notions and prejudices often spotted in the society. With a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art, specializing in painting, from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda; he continued his professional pursuits at the department of autonomous sculpture at Gerrit Rietveld Akademie, Amsterdam the Netherlands. His solo shows include ‘Recap in Peace’, at The Satya Art Gallery, Ahmedabad (2016); ‘Reboot’, Amdavad Ni Gufa, Ahmedabad (2012); ‘The House Project’, Performance & Digital Art in an empty house, Ahmedabad (2002). Currently, he lives and works out of Ahmedabad, India.

Simultaneously Dalal has been an avid collector of prints and ceramic art of Indian and western contemporary artists to feed his passion for reinventing sculptures. Apart from that, he has a winsome collection of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints from 18th and 19th centuries, Chinese blue and white ware from the Ming and Qing dynasty and British Transferware from the 18th century.

His current exhibit "Discourses" at Tao follows the "Anagama firing" technique. The term anagama describes single-chamber kilns built in a sloping tunnel shape. In fact, ancient kilns were sometimes built by digging tunnels into banks of clay. Usually fired for 70+ hours at a stretch at 1300 degrees Celsius using wood as a fuel, the fire navigates through works loaded in the kiln in very special way and deposits ash on the works leaving a plethora of natural marks, textures and colors.

Though Khanjan's work touches a variety of themes revolving around communication and lost words, his masterpiece "Treasury of Loyal Thoughts" brings a perplexing idea forward. Digging up history and still coercing it relevant to present times; the works refer to the story of the 47- Rōnin, and the great war of Kalinga fought by Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC, both historical events, one from ancient time in India and the other from medieval Japan.

After witnessing the horrors of the war, emperor Ashoka repudiated violence and espoused Buddhism that became a spectacle turning point in the history of the Indian sub-continent. While the story of 47 Ronin became the most widely adopted in various art forms like Kabuki theatre as Chushigura and later in films during Edo, Meiji and the present era.

Here through a critical lens the work questions and examines the mechanics of triumph and heroism where the idea of avenge and expansionism using violence as a tool is prevalent in the human psyche since prehistoric times. An instinctive behavior that maintains its presence and manifests as a chain reaction only to realize the gloom that follows it like a shadow over a period of time. These totemic, vegetal forms then become symbols of nature’s way of regaining a balance over the darker aspect of the human psyche.

Khanjan has been interested Japanese way of dealing with ceramics and its entire philosophy of wabi-sabi aesthetics for a couple of years. As much as courage is a part of it, so is compassion and he has been exploring the connection to the plasticity, tactile nature and vast cathartic properties of this unique way of dealing with ceramics.

These works are built through basic gestural and cathartic hand movements like cutting, slicing, punching, digging and scooping with bare hands and modeling tools into a single, solid elongated cubes of clay. The visual outcome is the result of this instinctive behavior rooted deep in the subconscious that has become a subject of contemplation as a later exercise. Firing them in an anagama kiln has manifested in a unique visual vocabulary that is robust and austere due to the amalgamation of the movement of fire, deposition of wood ash and difference in clay bodies

Speaking to the artist, Khanjan Dalal about the progression of his work; he views it as a continuously evolving process, which may last several years. He says, according to Foucault, small statements make up for most of the discourses in history e.g. right to protect our country or mann ki baat. As an exercise to scrutinize these small powerful statements and their impacts on our lives, I use a method that organizes groups of information/conversation/ speeches not in a literal way but by creating peculiar shapes and forms. A certain kind of visual abstraction that allows the viewers to have their own interpretation is what I am ultimately looking for.

The show will be on display until Sunday, August 8. Considering all the protocols for Covid-19, the gallery is following strict norms; book an appointment prior to visit for the best experience.

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