11/19/22

Book Review | Assembling Landscapes | Edited by Jeong Heon Ki, B. Ajay Sharma, Anish Cherian

Cover of the book Assembling Landscapes

 

Assembling Landscapes is an anthology of writing by artists. Many of them who have contributed to this volume showcased their artworks as part of the exhibition featuring Indian and Korean artists at the Korean Cultural Centre earlier this year.

The book draws on the theme around which the month-long exhibition was put together. Its overarching theme is the world around us – in the forms of landscapes, spatial as well as temporal – and how it has been progressively disintegrating due to various challenges such as climate change, war, Covid and others.

The exhibition, aptly called Synthesis of Difference, was curated by B. Ajay Sharma, an Indian painter and performance artist, and Jihyoung Park, a South Korean installation and performance artist with the help of younger artists Vanshika Sareen and Harsh Kumar, both currently pursuing their degrees in the Fine Arts. The book has been edited by Anish Cherian, a writer and multi-media artist.

The most notable works in the exhibition, according to this reviewer, and for many people who visited the exhibition, were by the reputed South Korean artist Lee Lee Nam. Lee Nam’s work – consisting of a series of animated LED screens – depicted the world as we know it, threatened by war and destruction. Huge missiles floated over the screens which depicted mountains, forests and rivers, along with cultural wonders such as Rodin’s sculpture of the Thinking Man, and the statue of Tutankhamun, Egyptian Pharoah. The minute detailing of the set pieces, intricate and layered, made the viewing of the work intensely rewarding. In the book, Lee Nam sets out his objective behind the work by suggesting that he is a student of “the meeting of classics and modernity, humanity and nature, the East and the West, and creation and cloning”. “Through the reinterpretation of the complex digital technology of the moving pixel world…Lee Nam sees the possibility of a closer relationship between the artist and the audience in a virtual world.”

The works by another well-known Korean artist Lee Jeong Lok were on display too and made for a very interesting viewing experience. In the book, Lok provides the source of inspiration behind his work.

“You would know the hidden realm

Where all souls dwell.

The journey’s way lies

Through death’s misty fell.

Within this timeless passage

A guiding light does dance,

Lost from conscious memory

But visible in trance.” (Journey of Souls, Michael Newton).

 

 

The mystic core of the above-mentioned verse is well-captured by the camera of Jeong Lok. All his works at display feature what Nuzhat Kazmi, academic and art historian from Jamia Milia Islamia rightly calls Noor or Divine Light in Urdu/Persian, with surreal landscapes featuring mountains and lakes. In his work, one gets an idea of Spinoza’s concept of divinity residing in nature.

Kazmi’s piece provides a succinct overview of the exhibition. She writes: “The exhibition here of art works of ten artists, Korean and Indian, seeks to find a space that allows to understand the synthesis of difference/s and to put into public domain, each artist’s concerted creative projects, to either dissolve the apparent difference, as a keenly deliberated endeavour…”

On Jeong Lok’s wrok, she comments: “I carefully looked at the art of Lee Jeong Lok and discovered an ability to appreciate the artist’s visual mystical experiences using the powerful, universal understanding and experience of the phenomenon of light, the concept of noor, as would be referred to in much of sufi traditions…”

 

The works of Haru K. also provided food for thought (pun-intended) through his depictions of landscapes suffused with food items. As he comments in the book on his work: “My work stems from an attempt to solve contemporary people’s perceptions of nature and the ideals that emerged from Eastern thought from a modern perspective.” His work has a certain playful quality, and the use of bright colours makes it even more so. In a way, his work amounts to a deconstruction of ideas surrounding nature and to find a synthesis among the varied way in which nature is viewed: a resource for human beings from which we draw physical sustenance, as well as a sacred landscape from which we draw spiritual succour. Haru K. suggests through his works that nature is all of this, but still greater than the sum of its various parts.  

 

The installation by Jihyoung Park stood out in its thoughtfulness and execution. Her work featured several broken objects, meticulously pieced together by Park, who titled it as “Fragile_Handle With Care.” The delicate objects on display, broken but still standing could be read as a comment on the state of the world itself, battered by the onslaught of Covid, Climate Change and wars, but still displaying enough fortitude to go about its business of existing. The other project that Park undertook was equally poignant, in the sense that it allowed people to scour for memories of Covid and to pick one physical object which reminded them most of the pandemic. This object was to be put in a jar which you could collect first from Park who spent most of her time at the venue of the exhibition, distributing them to all who came. As she noted in a social media post later, most of the jars were returned by the people who took them home.

 

 

 

The exhibition consisted of the works of Sharma too, largely in the form of photographs of his many performances over the year, which had an apocalyptic vividness to them, in terms of choice of location and the props that he used in the course of them. The carcass of a cow, worn over the head in the dilapidated Malcha Mahal of Delhi was one of them, a comment on the spate of cow-related lynchings in India. Another featured him in a costume resembling that worn by members of the Fascist organisation Ku Klux Klan of America, holding a rabbit in his hands, upside down. Yet another featured the biggest garbage dump in Delhi near Bhalsawa Dairy, with a fire raging over it, titled The Burning Land.

Other notable works featured included those of Paribartana Mohanty, who depicted through a video installation the slow drowning of a town in coastal Odisha. Inder Salim’s essay on modern art, culture and society, through a play on the word Meta is a delight to read due to the author’s irreverent take on many social and philosophical constructs. The poems by Vinod Bharadwaj, noted film critic, and Sarvesh Wahie, a young scholar and writer, are noteworthy additions to the book.   

All in all, an insightful book to match the profundity of the artworks displayed at the exhibition. Here is to many more such exhibitions by the curatorial team!

 

 

 

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