Art: Rakesh K. Simha

Return of the Real

Starting from scratch, Ruchika Soi and Ranjita Chaney have put together Eternal Recurrence—a fascinating mix of contemporary art, comprising real and conceptual objects, high design and low

By Rakesh K. Simha

Maybe it was the stiff vodka that had prepared me for this. Awk, not another art show, with the entire media zapping everybody and everything except the art, of course. This is Delhi folks; where the artist and the gallery owner are bigger than the work on display. Where Mrs Aggarwal from New Friends Colony would walk in and breeze out in under two minutes, after having flashed her 50-leaf chequebook, with the driver carrying the painting that matched the colour of her living room rug. 
But I really needn’t have worried about any air-kissy dynamics pervading this art “exhibition of 17 contemporary artists”. This was refreshingly different. For one, it wasn’t held at a stuffy gallery, which would have surely set off alarm bells in my right-of-centre wired brain and put me off immensely. Held at the Hotel Shangri La—which doesn’t remotely bear a resemblance to its previous avatar, the notorious Kanishka—Eternal Recurrence had me wanting for more. 

To their credit, Ruchika Soi and Ranjita Chaney have put together a fascinating mix of real and conceptual objects, high design and low. Eternal Recurrence aims to engage the art lover with an approach that is a “reflection of contemporary reality and issues but also as something that mirrors the experiential reality of the individual”. Well, that was really over the top. 

The objects, the introductory text explains, have been selected because “the exhibition seeks to showcase the works of such artists that wish to provoke the public to think and feel”. Now, that’s more like my scene. 

Soi and Chaney cobbled together a decent mix of contemporary artists. The great thing about these artists is that they touch upon the common nerve in all of us. I’ve always winced after spotting a family of five --- sometimes six! --- on a scooter. Wonder how they pulled it off. An untitled work by Benjamin Joesph Van Eldik that depicts such a family has dark shades of surrealism. As if they are in a kind of bubble, isolated from the city smog and the clearly dangerous nature of their ride. 

Indeed many of the works on display alluded to this crazy disconnect between our twenty-first-century way of life and our increasingly humdrum existence that’s more like the Middle Ages. It looks at the gulf between our sophistication and our utter haplessness. Like Surinder K. Mishra’s Evening Race And Morning Race, where the dying embers of the day dissolve into the night and weary commuters drive aimlessly to their homes. Only to do it all over again the following morning. 

To give these invisible, often intangible things, an aesthetic treatment and to display them in a museum in an engaging, entertaining way—now that’s something that Soi and Chaney have managed brilliantly.
To be sure, it’s their maiden foray into the field. Soi has worked with the India Today magazine earlier and then with Bowring’s Fine Art Auctioneer’s where she has been responsible for valuating works of art and cataloguing. She has a diploma in Indian art history from the British Museum, London, and is now pursuing an MA in art history from the National Museum, New Delhi. 

Chaney is a commercial artist and has worked as a freelance visualiser for ad agencies. She writes for art magazines and art-related websites. She studied at the Delhi College of Art and is now pursuing an MA in art history at the National Museum. 

Between now and my next chaser here’s hoping that they put together Act 2 soon. 

January 2006

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