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Nalini Malani, winner of the Fukuoka Prize 2013, exhibits at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
1999 Stains.

By: Tasneem Zakaria Mehta

MUMBAI.- Nalini Malani is one of India’s most celebrated artists and the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum presents her work Listening to the Shades, and to honour her for receiving the prestigious Fukuoka prize for Art and Culture. Malani brings an intense scrutiny of social and political pathologies to her work, which includes a remarkable diversity of mediums from painting to installation, new media, performance and sound animation. However in a world where painting as an art form has sadly diminished in significance, Malani continues to be an artist whose painting defines her art form. She has in a sense bridged the lacuna between the new media art of today and the painterly qualities of an earlier generation, and that is one of the reasons she remains one of the most significant artists working today. Her work at the most recent Documenta was an extraordinary culmination of this creative exploration.

The Fukuoka prize commends her for “consistent focus on such daring contemporary and universal themes as religious conflict, war, oppression of women and environmental destruction...” Malani sees the artist as a Cassandra of our times. She draws on archetypal images from the Greek myths to represent universal truths. Cassandra, the prophetess who agonisingly sees the disaster ahead but is condemned to never being believed, is a metaphor for our common myopia and for the subjugation of the feminine.

Malani collaborated with Professor Robert Storr of Yale University, to produce the book Listening to the Shades, based on the modern interpretation by Christa Wolf. The book offers a revisualisation of the ancient Greek myth and consists of 42 reverse paintings that are facsimile printed. The works evoke the traumas of our times, like ghostly characters seeking to redeem the past and rescue the future. In the essay for the book Professor Storr says, “Malani’s work indicates that she has tapped into fathomless reserves of imagery, reference and metaphor, and from those depths arise painterly effects that invite us to luxuriate in colours strokes and textures of disorienting but arresting strangeness. Her iconography is equally captivating. Not only does she conjure with difference…she reaches back to myth, but not in order to re-enchant the world...but to show us that we can no longer escape a collective awareness that the seeds of our own destruction were not divinely sown but were sown by ourselves.”

The works in the exhibition comprise of 42 facsimile prints of the artist’s book ‘Listening to the Shades’ and three stop-motion video animations, Memory: Record/Erase( 1996), Stains (1999), and Penelope (2012).

The Book, Listening to the Shades, by Nalini Malani and Robert Storr is available at the Museum Shop at a specially discounted price.

Nalani Malani's work is influenced by her experiences as a refugee of the Partition of India. She places inherited iconographies and cherished cultural stereotypes under pressure. Her point of view is unwaveringly urban and internationalist, and unsparing in its condemnation of a cynical nationalism that exploits the beliefs of the masses. Hers is an art of excess, going beyond the boundaries of legitimized narrative, exceeding the conventional and initiating dialogue. Characteristics of her work have been the gradual movement towards new media, international collaboration and expanding the dimensions of the pictorial surface into the surrounding space such as ephemeral wall drawing, installation, shadow play, multi projection works and theatre.

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