Navjot Altaf’s first retrospective charts her 5-decade artistic practice

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Mumbai, Dec 12 (IANS) The first retrospective of acclaimed contemporary artist Navjot Altaf, mapping her artistic presence in the Indian art scenario since the 1960s, is open for public till January 25 here.

With over a 100 works carefully curated and exhibited, the retrospective “The Earth’s Heart, Torn Out/Navjot Altaf: A Life in Art” opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here on Tuesday evening. It is presented by The Guild Art Gallery and curated by Mumbai-based cultural theorist and curator Nancy Adajania.

This is her first retrospective and it is also probably the first time that an exhibition of a living woman artist has been presented at Mumbai’s NGMA, the galleries said in joint statement.

Born in 1949, Altaf’s rich career spans over five decades, during which the artist experimented with a spectrum of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and video, and extended her practice through a series of encounters and collaborations with intellectuals, activists and subaltern artists.

From the earliest phase of her career, as a painter emerging from Bombay’s Sir J.J. School of Art, to the present, when she straddles the worlds of tribal central India and of global contemporary art, Navjot has sustained ideas and works through a process of intense scrutiny, the statement said.

Calling her work “process-oriented”, the curator, who has authored “The Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf” in 2016, said that Altaf’s art is not based on creation of individual masterpieces but on the act of “searching, plotting and re-structuring the course of meaning through a life of artistic and civic interventions”.

“As an alumna of the J.J. School of Art, Bombay (1967-1972), Navjot was trained as a formalist, with the academic emphasis on abstraction. However, her introduction to Leftist politics while still at J.J instilled in her an empathy for the marginalised denizens of society,” Adajania, who lectures and writes actively on art, said in a curatorial note.

The retrospective, she said, follows the long arc of Navjot’s practice, showcasing her drawings from the early 1960s, before she had joined the J.J. School, as well as never-before-seen student assignments there.

It also shows rare posters and prints from the 1970s and 1980s, her iconic paintings from the 1990s, and collaborative and new media practice from the 1990s to the present.

About the title of the show, she writes: “(It) is a tribute to all those voices that have been suppressed by an apathetic State, but refuse to be silenced.”



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