Among these are Sri Lankan artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s polychromatic ceramic sculptures, which, with their bulging eyes and garish teeth, are reminiscent of mythological tales.  
Published: 16th October 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th October 2022 02:25 PM   |  A+A-
A small-scale galvanised steel shutter by Atul Dodiya
A seemingly abandoned chair sits outside a house. The wall behind is covered with bougainvillaea creepers, its pink and white flowers lay strewn across the floor. A stand fan and a water bottle cap with an upturned steel glass on either side of the chair indicate ‘someone was here’. 

Named ‘Khayaban-e-Sehr’ after a locality in Karachi, this small-scale oil painting (11.5×11 inches) by Pakistani artist Huma Mulji packs a medley of emotions in its bold strokes of spring hues––greens, yellows, and pinks contrasting with earthy shades of browns and greys. A melancholic absence is palpable.
“I am looking beyond the human lens at a city that is usually so populated.  I visited Karachi during the pandemic, and suddenly these chairs, which were used by guards to sit outside people’s houses, were vacated. It’s about things that are left behind because of a sudden occurrence. The image is speculative,” says the artist, who has been living in England for the past seven years.
Mulji’s works are part of Mumbai-based gallery Project 88’s group show at this year’s Frieze, London (October 12-16). Other artists in the show include Amitesh Shrivastava, Amol Patil and Mahesh Baliga.
“Our booth emerges from a singular probe––the relation between a corporeal body and its subtracted traces or material absences, which become portals to a new way of seeing, thinking and perceiving art in contemporary time,” says Sree Goswami of Project 88. 
Also participating at the annual fair are four other Indian galleries––out of 160 from across the globe––Delhi-based Nature Morte and Vadehra art Gallery (VAG), Kolkata-based Experimenter, and Mumbai’s Jhaveri Contemporary.
Putting its best foot forward is VAG with a solo show, View From Dockyard Road, by Atul Dodiya, featuring a collection of five of his quintessential shutters. Dodiya’s shutters were last exhibited in London in the early 2000s at Tate Modern, soon after the museum had opened.
An innocuous element that often fades into urban backdrops, these metal coverings captured the artist’s imagination two decades ago. Over the years, he has worked with shutters of varied sizes, to explore myriad themes.
For him, it is a medium that has the ability to metamorphose into a painting, sculpture and installation at the same time. Dodiya paints on these life-size rolling metal covers representative of life in a city, particularly Mumbai, and then invites viewers to pull the shutters up and down, deteriorating the artwork in the process.
For Frieze, though, the artist decided to bring a series of his small-scale painted shutters made out of galvanised steel.
One of them bears a resplendent portrait of yesteryear actor Devika Rani wearing a teal sari and holding sunflowers. The image is, however, marred with random grey patches of cement.
“On this shutter, you see a beautiful actress, who is no more. It talks about how time passes, and the plaster shows how we try to restore the damage,” he says, adding, “There is a juxtaposition of abstraction and realism to create a conflict for the viewer.”
VAG has also brought a public sculpture, N S Harsha’s bronze work ‘Chaha Kya/Paya Kya’, which will continue to be exhibited at London’s Regent’s Park till November 13. Modelled on the unassuming ladder from quotidian life, Harsha’s sculpture bends around the higher rungs. “Art has the capacity to transform any mundane object into an ‘object of consciousness’.
 This ladder is for one’s thoughts to climb on and experience the idea of destiny,” Harsha says, adding, “Since the ‘truth of life’ is in a hidden position, our journey towards it is bound to be bent.”
Themes of hope and ambition also run through Prabhakar Pachpute’s  ‘Asylum Seeker’ which is part of Experimenter’s group show at the fair. The charcoal and acrylic on plywood work, which was created as a response to writer Johnny Rodgers’ text in Political Animal (a book the two collaborated on in 2019), shows a bull with its face replaced by a roving lens, and the stomach with a cityscape.
“Rodgers writes about the bull, which is in search of a destination. Its head becomes an eye for me. One can see the animal as a symbol of a moving city, making the work relevant and representative of today’s migration crisis,” the Pune-based artist says.
Pachpute, for over a decade, has been exploring the act of protest in his works, including ‘Anthills’ and ‘Anthill Memento’, both of which are exhibited at Frieze.
Experimenter, which recently opened a new space in Mumbai, is also showcasing works by Radhika Khimji, Ayesha Sultana and  Praneet Soi, among others. “Our stand is anchored to the body as an emotive force and a register for exploration of relationships and sexuality, politics of resistance and a conceptual field that could be a surface for multiple coexisting forces,” says Priyanka Raja from Experimenter. 
The gallery’s next-door neighbour in Colaba, Jhaveri Contemporary, has on display works that “speak of transformation and the potential to explore alternative dimensions” in realms of religion and spirituality. 
Among these are Sri Lankan artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s polychromatic ceramic sculptures, which, with their bulging eyes and garish teeth, are reminiscent of mythological tales.  
“These works are connected to zoomorphic tropes within mythological narratives. One obvious trope could be within Hinduism, where gods have avatars that morph and change to address challenges. I’m also interested in heightened performativity and expression, and I think that demon-like sensibility can be read in multiple ways,” he says. Also exhibited at the gallery’s booth are works by Vasantha Yogananthan Sayan Chanda and Amina Ahmed. 
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