Cinephiliac: Art Transcending Technology & Motion November 1 to December 15, 2013
This exhibition at Twelve Gates Arts marks the centennial of Indian (hence South Asian) cinema. Even in its silent beginnings, starting with Raja Harishchandra in 1913, drama and literature were the dominant subjects and bases of film. Fine arts such as painting and sculpture may have niche audiences who consider their own aesthetics to be more refined than that of the wider public, but cinema is one art form that enjoys broad popularity. At least, we can state with confidence that drama, literature and cinema all share a spirit of entertainment, where the audience undergoes an experience driven by narrative storyline.
However, the earliest years of film also involved experimentation with and showcasing of the new technology. When artists began experimenting with the moving camera, they were highlighting the visual nature of film, and avant-garde film was born. Various art movements around the world produced a range of kinds and lengths of films. In South Asia, the Parallel Cinema movement that was started by Bengali filmmakers produced art house films; films that are not seen by a commercial market.
Just as fine art has long influenced cinema, the reverse is also true. A great early example of this is Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 inspired by the motion photography work of Eadweard Muybridge. Cinema, with its undisputed sway over the psyche of people and power to abet revolutionary ideas in the real world, has made its mark on many visual artists.
"Cinephiliac" has brought together artists (established and emerging) whose works are at the edge of a creative dialogue between film and art, employing a host of cultural, political, and social content. All of the 8 artists' works featured in this exhibition transcend geographies and cultures in the sense that their physical locations and various personal backgrounds do not limit from where they get their subject matter.
Jamal Elias is a photographer & scholar of Islamic art and culture who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Here he has selected & printed scenes from the cult classic film Maula Jatt (1979) "on cotton fiber paper using a rustic encaustic technique" - formally and conceptually the prints become symbolic of a critical transition in Pakistan's social and political history, and Elias's work consciously attempts to evoke a sense of nostalgia and loss.
Chitra Ganesh is a Brooklyn-based artist working in a variety of media, who holds a BA magna cum laude from Brown University in Comparative Literature & Art Semiotics, as well as an MFA from Columbia University. Her large-scale charcoal renditions of film stills celebrate and remember the roots of iconic femininity in the same haunting light which was characteristic of the silent-era films from which they are taken. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has recently acquired her work based on the first Indian film Raja Harishchandra for its permanent collection.
Summayya Jillani received her BFA from the University of Karachi in 2010, where she established herself mainly as a painter working in oil and acrylic. Taking inspiration from Pop art and culture, Jillani here depicts in a desi style Western movie stars she personally adores such as Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood.
Leila Lal is a scholar and self-taught mixed-media and performance artist who was born in Pakistan and has also lived in Africa and America. Her digital montages in Peep Show 1 and 2 place Eastern film heroines and Western pin-ups in culturally opposite religious architectural settings, in order to explore modern, female identity and experience.
Murat Palta is a Turkish digital artist who recently completed his BFA in Graphic Design at Kutahya Dumlupinar University. He uses anachronistic elements to surprise the viewer and unite otherwise disparate concepts in his digital illustrations of cult classic film scenes in the style of Ottoman miniatures. These became an overnight sensation on social media when they first appeared in 2012.
Ali Raza is an artist & educator who holds a BFA in Painting from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan and an MFA in Drawing & Painting from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Raza consciously switches the location of motion from object to viewer, employing three dimensionality in his paintings so that audience members must physically alter their perspective in the room to see each piece in its entirety. Raza's work was shown in the much celebrated Asia Society exhibition Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan in 2009.
Daisy Rockwell is a painter and blogger from Northern New England, who also holds a PhD in South Asian Literature. This series of paintings of memorable moments in Bollywood cinema, titled Bolly Lolly, are related formally to the colorful & ironic, small-scale portraits shown in her solo exhibition at Twelve Gates in February 2012. Rockwell selects subject matter from the digital imagery she encounters organically on the internet and through research based on reflection of these encounters.
Salman Toor was born in 1983 in Lahore, Pakistan. He received his BFA from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2006 and his MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2009. Toor is a figurative oil painter who uses an exaggerated Renaissance style to transform scenes from Pakistani daily life and, here, Bollywood kitsch, into subtly ironic allegories. He recently had his first solo exhibition in the US, The Happy Servant, at Aicon Gallery in New York.