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WITNESS TO PARADISE 2016: NILIMA SHEIKH, PRANEET SOI, ABEER GUPTA & SANJAY KAK

Nilima Sheikh: b. 1945, New Delhi, India
Praneet Soi: b. 1971, Kolkata, India
Abeer Gupta: b. 1980, Calcutta, India
Sanjay Kak: b. 1958, Pune, India
Live and Work in India

Singapore Biennale 2016 Artists WITNESS TO PARADISE 2016: NILIMA SHEIKH, PRANEET SOI, ABEER GUPTA & SANJAY KAK

Singapore Biennale 2016 Artists WITNESS TO PARADISE 2016: NILIMA SHEIKH, PRANEET SOI, ABEER GUPTA & SANJAY KAK

Singapore Biennale 2016 Artists WITNESS TO PARADISE 2016: NILIMA SHEIKH, PRANEET SOI, ABEER GUPTA & SANJAY KAK

Singapore Biennale 2016 Artists WITNESS TO PARADISE 2016: NILIMA SHEIKH, PRANEET SOI, ABEER GUPTA & SANJAY KAK

 

Nilima Sheikh

Another Chronicle of Loss, 2009

Sarhad 3, 2014

Shadows, Stains, 2009

Testimony, 2008

Tempera on Sanganer paper
Various dimensions
Another Chronicle of Loss: Collection of Tarun Kataria
Sarhad 3: Collection of the Artist
Shadows, Stains: Collection of Tarun Kataria
Testimony: Collection of Mamta Singhania

Praneet Soi

Srinagar II, 2016

24 papier-mâché tiles, acrylic & gouache, UV matt varnish, slideshow and 5 wall drawings
Dimensions variable
Collections of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Experimenter, Kolkata

Abeer Gupta

The Pheran, 2016

Garments in wool, silk & cotton, with embroidery in silk, wool & zari; metal wire; and photographs
Dimensions variable
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2016 commission

Sanjay Kak

Witness to Paradise, 2016

30 photographs by Meraj ud-Din, Javeed Shah, Altaf Qadri, Showkat Nanda and Syed Shahriyar Hussainy
Various dimensions
Collection of the Artist

Kashmir, once a land of multitudinous beauty, is now a valley beset by conflict, death and destruction. It is considered “the unfinished business of the end of Empire” and remains one of the oldest unresolved disputes in the world today. Witness to Paradise 2016 (the title drawn from Sanjay Kak’s photo-book of the same name) is a curatorial project presenting mediated reflections of a landscape that was once and now is Kashmir, through the work of two artists, an anthropologist and filmmaker: respectively, Nilima Sheikh, Praneet Soi, Abeer Gupta and Sanjay Kak.

Sheikh’s paintings are personally woven imaginings that draw from accounts, texts, lore and the craft traditions of the region.

For example, Another Chronicle of Loss and Shadows, Stains are informed by the poems of Kashmiri poet Aga Shahid Ali, while Sheikh’s extensive use of stencilwork alludes to the latticework typical of vernacular Kashmiri architecture. Her paintings are a multifaceted meditation on the nature of destroyed beauty, the necessity of memory, and the forms and adequacy of memorialisation.

In Srinagar II, Soi explores the plurality of influences in Kashmir and the migratory nature of forms and images through the papier-mâché tiles. The slideshow of Sufi shrines and other images are an ongoing visual diary of Srinagar that Soi constantly updates.

The wall drawings include excerpts from the Instrument of Accession (ceding Jammu and Kashmir to the Dominion of India in 1947) and a diagram referring to anamorphosis (a technique that causes an image to appear distorted unless seen from a particular location) from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, which serves as a metaphor for his body of work shown here.

Gupta explores the material culture of Kashmir through the pheran – a garment that is used widely by men, women and children across class and religion in this region. He sees the pheran as a symbol of Kashmiri identity that has witnessed the political, social, cultural and aesthetic changes that have taken place in the area. Archival photographs from the collection of Mahatta & Co. Srinagar showcase the pheran in the context of daily life in Kashmir.

Kak curates 30 photographs by five photojournalists – Meraj ud-Din, Javeed Shah, Altaf Qadri, Showkat Hussain Nanda and Syed Shahriyar Hussainy – to excavate photography as a key artistic practice that has emerged from 25 years of endemic conflict in the Kashmir valley. The Witness to Paradise project focuses on photographers who displace older photographic traditions, which were first spawned by colonialism, and later tourism. The established tropes around Kashmir–of a beautiful landscape sans people; of an innocent paradise; or at best, of a paradise beset by mindless violence–are conclusively reversed by this work.