'Wounded' at the awards

At a time when the art market is booming, India has lost out chance to send enough invited works for the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize supported by the Singapore Art Museum.

Only one work instead of three will represent India at this inaugural event where 34 artworks from 12 Asia-Pacific countries will compete for five awards — three juror's choice awards of S$ 10,000 each, a S$ 10,000 people's choice award, and the grand prize of S$ 45,000 (Rs 14.30 lakh). This is the highest art prize to be awarded by a jury in the South-east Asian region.

The lone artist chosen from India — each country is expected to nominate three — is G R Iranna, whose Wounded Tools is representative of the contemporary art in diverse themes that the triennale award hopes to promote. The sculptural installation has used fibreglass, artificial fur, iron, wood, acrylic colouring and cloth to comment on the development of human civilisation and its intrinsic follies.

Other representative works are from Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Signature Art Prize has been compared by Trustee and Chairman Koh Poh Tiong of the APB Foundation's advisory committee with the John Moores Painting Competition in the UK and the RBC Canadian Painting Competition in Canada.

According to Kwok Kian Chow, director, Singapore Art Museum, which claims the largest collection of contemporary artworks by artists from the South-eastern region, "The quality of the nominated artwork is remarkable...[It] will provoke and stimulate lively public debate about contemporary art in the region."

According to Vinay Mathur, chief finance officer, Asia Pacific Breweries (Aurangabad) Ltd, "The nominator for the works from India is Professor Rajeev Lochan, director, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi."

He said nominations were made by a nominator appointed by the company in each of the 12 participating countries, "all of whom are knowledgeable and experienced in contemporary art in their country".

Though three artists were nominated as "the most outstanding artworks produced by a visual art practitioner in the country over the last three years" based on "the strength of the idea and concept; creative and interesting use of medium and material; technique, expression and form; artistic insight and interpretation; and imagination and originality", he said: "Two of the artists later decided to withdraw; one because of a change in circumstance, the other for personal reasons." The artists who pulled out have not been identified.

Mathur explained, "The nominator [Prof Lochan] had reviewed many visual artworks created in the last three years to arrive at the nominations. The decision-making process was challenging and probably agonising. Asking the nominator to select two more artworks in India was simply not feasible at so late a stage in the nomination process, and therefore, we made the decision to proceed with one nomination from India."

Business Standard
Kishore Singh / New Delhi July 04, 2008, 0:55 IST

wounded tools

Title: Wounded Tools
Year: 2007
Medium: Fiber glass, artificial fur, iron, wood, acrylic coloring, cloth
Size: 137.2(h) x 182.9(w) x 61(d) cm (4.5 x 6 x 2 feet, Life-sized)
Nominator: Rajeev Lochan


From the ABFP Signature Art Prize Website

Iranna's Statement

Wounded Tools is my commentary on human civilizational growth and its intrinsic follies. In the name of civilization, territorial aggressions, ideological indoctrinations, homogenization of tastes, etc. are violently inflicted upon human beings. This is done with an intention to create a ‘world order’. Wounded Tools is an exclusive and poignant metaphor; it has a donkey mutely carrying a saddle filled with tools. The sharpened edges of tools are bandaged, showing blood stains. Through a deliberate reversal and subversion, I have made the tools (which in fact could inflict wounds) the actual victims of civilizational violence. The depiction of agrarian tools and the deliberate avoidance of tools of aggression tell the story of transition of societies from their primal innocence to more contrived and calculative existence.

These metaphors at once address a local and global audience and their universality opens up a new discursive field. The connotative meanings multiply with each engagement as the image of donkey could either represent silent sufferings of ‘subjects’, the dumbness resulting from homogenization of world or even passive witnessing of the world. As an artist, I feel that it is pertinent to bring in socio-cultural and politico-economic issues involved in a fast changing world.

For me, Wounded Tools is ironic as well as poignant; ironic because it underlines the foolishness of human beings both as victors and victims, and poignant because the metaphorical metamorphosis of human subjection into the form of a donkey doubles the effect of it. Interpolating the tools deliberately with commercial, geographical and even geo-political inscriptions (such as in Made in China) is done to show that all the world is a dumping yard of ideological weapons, which, in the final analysis, are ‘wounded’ in themselves.

In this sculptural installation, I depict a journey; something like an exodus, however with no near sight of redemption. This is the saga of contemporary human being. Wounded Tools is a part of our civilization and at the same time, it stands outside of it. It is a critique and a comment. It is all about passive resistance; as an Indian I feel that it is an attempt to reinterpret Gandhian philosophy in a renewed context.

Nominator's Statement (Rajeev Lochan)

Wounded Tools symbolically represents the changing value structures of our society, in the globalised world. The human nature, in its bid to transform, is often unable to assimilate its own strengths, synthesized or imbibed, from its own past, and is unable to revalidate its own practices, belief and traditions. In this process, it often not only wounds but paralyses and stalls its process of growth, not in the worldly sense of the term, but pertaining to its inner growth processes. This transformation and change is invariably dealt with on the surface and is not attempted with a sense of completeness and totality, injuring and wounding its innate vitality and matter.

The creation Wounded Tools by G.R. Iranna addresses these issues not merely in a commentative mode on our human situation, but tangibly materializes these concerns in an analogous fashion, with a sense of concern, sarcasm embedded with ironic representation of our human spirit.