First major public artwork of Indian artist in UK unveiled yesterday…
ARTIST Jitish Kallat tells www.asianculturevulture.com that his latest work is meant to be a little understated from the outside but is designed to provoke reflection and inquiry from inside.
Constructed aa galactic whirl or spiral, it does appear slightly innocuous when you first approach it – almost like a queuing barrier in the courtyard of Somerset House – which backs onto the Thames and fronts The Strand, next to Kings College London.
Taking in the cosmos and representing distances in an all too familiar British road signage format, ‘Whorled (Here After Here After Here)’ is a way of looking both at the immediate environment we find ourselves in – while appreciating the scale and dynamism of our world far beyond.
There are distances to cities such as Mumbai and Manila written in miles, while there are also signs to elements in the galaxy that have long gone and are represented in Light Year measurements.
Kallat told acv at its press viewing yesterday morning (February 16): “It has these two spirals that intersect in a way that treats the centre of the courtyard like the centre of the world and then measures differences in miles and light years.”
He said it was very thrilling to see people already engage with the work by simply walking through it.
“It’s such a joy and it was something I saw through my mind’s eye while sitting in a corner of the courtyard (after being commissioned and thinking about what he wanted to do) and watching the way people move and being able to organise that movement and produce a kind of reflection on it.”
“From the outside it’s almost invisible and just white, you hardly notice it and I didn’t want the work to proclaim itself. I wanted it to be understated – when you are walking inside it, it becomes a conversation of sights, but from the outside it is a very quiet work.”
Intriguingly, the work is loosely connected to other similar works and themes.
There is a similar installation in colour and concept in ‘Here After Here After Here’ in Stockerau, Lower Austria and a similar roadside exhibit is to be unveiled in New Delhi in April.
“It’s almost like a ribbon has been dropped on the ground,” Kallat explained of this work. “‘Whorled’ is part of my ongoing themed work – it is like new iterations of this appear in one part of the world and then re-emerge in others.”
You can see a picture of this permanent installation in Austria here.
Re-cyclable and made from biodegradable materials, it has a low carbon footprint, said Kallat and it will be recycled for different material use when it is taken down.
“The future of this (structure) is on a highway,” he outlined.
The structure also alludes to climate change and cities like London or Mumbai being submerged by rising water levels.
“I did some research about this and while this side of the river on the Somerset House side is ok, the other side wouldn’t be – it’s a similar situation to the coffee shop I go to routinely near my home in Bandra, Mumbai.”
Dr Cliff Lauson, director of exhibitions told acv, he had been tracking Kallat’s work for a while.
“This is one of the premiere public spaces in the heart of London and you need to commission an artist with a certain aptitude and a sense of architecture that will engage people and Jitish is a brilliant thinker – his scrolls, large maps, and sculptures and ‘Whorled’ contain many ideas and will spark many conversations.”
This year sees the return of Morgan Stanley Lates, where a series of evening performances, music, talks and poetry will take place in the courtyard and there will be a live activation of ‘Whorled (Here After Here After Here)’ on April 19. The artwork will leave the space on April 23.
The work is presented in partnership with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi with additional support from Malik and Azmina Karim, The Ruia Foundation and another organisation called SANTI.
Nadar, who was ALSO at the morning unveiling yesterday (February 16), told acv she was delighted to be helping mount Kallat’s first major work public in the UK.
She remembers first buying a painting of his in the 1980s in her pre-curating art days.
“It was about the destruction of trees,” she smiled.
Nadar is one of India’s leading art curators and philanthropists, alongside her husband, Shiv, the founder of Indian tech giant, HCL Technologies.
They are constructing one of the largest art spaces in Asia – a million square foot multi-arts venue in Areocity, an area already recognised for its luxury hotels, stores and restaurants and situated close to the New Delhi’s international airport. British-Ghanian architect Sir David Adjaye is leading project construction.
Jitish Kallat ‘Whorled (Here After Here After Here)’ (from February 16) to April 23, FREE, The Edmund J Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA.