Delhi: Rethinking literature through art

Inspired by Dante’s philosophy, six artists create works that bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art

Published: 11th May 2022 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th May 2022 08:37 AM   |  A+A-

Andrea Anastasi

Andrea Anastasi

Express News Service

Chapter XXIV of Italian poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova (translates to A New Life in English) opens with the lines, “I felt myself waking up inside my core; A loving spirit that sleeps; And then I saw Love coming from afar; Cheerful yes, as soon as he knows it…” This piece of work by the 19th Century artist—composed in honour of his muse Beatrice Portinari—is literature that shaped the history of poetry in Italy.

The ideas expressed in Dante’s works have been revisited in an exhibition produced by the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, curated and conceived by Myna Mukherjee, founder and director, Engendered India, and China-based curator Davide Quadrio. Talking about what inspired her to curate Vita Nova, Mukherjee shared, “The idea behind the show is to look at these traditions, in India and Italy, the lineage of arts and crafts, and look at the contemporary to see if there are newer inspirations.” 

Addressing varied themes
This exhibition explores transformations in contemporary craft and art between Italy and India through works of six Indian and Italian artists—Andrea Anastasio, Francesco Simeti, Marta Roberti, Puneet Kaushik, Raghava KK, and Shilo Shiv Suleman. Through their works, the artists delve into the dichotomies of “nature and humanity, mythology and memory, transformation and preservation, and the manifestation of something new”.

Drawing inspiration from Dante’s themes, the artists experiment with their respective mediums. Artist-anthropologist Puneet Kaushik has experimented with traditional Jaipur craft of blue pottery, to create 12 works, each exploring the concept of hybridity.

Similarly, Kaushik revisits the concept with Bidri—an export handicraft from Karnataka wherein a blackened alloy of zinc and copper is inlaid with thin sheets of pure silver. Andrea Anastasio, on the other hand, explores key questions of capitalism, labour, and industrialisation, through his work ‘Moth’. 

Revisiting traditional crafts 
Most artists have worked with local artisans and explored traditional crafts. While an attempt has been made to focus on the artisans, the artists also try to push the boundaries of conventional techniques. For instance, Marta Roberti from Rome has worked with Kashmiri artists to create a series of works using Aari embroidery that explore abstract ideas. “There were considerations of material and ideas. A lot of Muslim karigars don’t want to do images of bodies; they would do flora and fauna. It was a lot of persuasion.”

Experimentation producing progressive results is common in these works. This is visible in Francesco Simeti’s works made using woodblock printing as well as Kaushik’s Hybrid series that combines various techniques such as line drawing, ajrakh, indigo dyeing, carpet tufting, Tibetan beadwork,etc, that Kaushik has created with the help of local artisans. 

WHAT: Vita Nova
WHEN: Till May 31
WHERE: Italian Embassy Cultural Centre

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