Riyas Komu at Vadhera Art Gallery in New Delhi. Photo: Shireen Quadri
Riyas Komu’s latest solo show, ‘Holy Shiver’, captures the artist’s response to a state in deliberate conflict with its founding principles. Komu says he approaches his show aesthetically, conceptually and structurally
The title “Holy Shiver” is a reference to the conceptual strand discussed by Austrian zoologist and ethologist Konrad Lorenz in his seminal book, On Aggression. Komu draws on the philosophy of “militant enthusiasm” to produce a series of oil portraits, woodcuts, videos, installations, and archival prints that discuss the concept in light of the issues currently plaguing the country.
At the show, the present is juxtaposed with the past. Komu places the figure of Gandhi by placing his portraits in dialogue with that of Ambedkar, thereby framing and establishing an interaction between two apparently disparate ideologies in the scope of a single frame. “Holy Shiver” examines and critiques the state machinery's prevailing inclination to substitute faith in the country’s Constitution and democratic framework with fear and loathing.
Komu represented the Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and was a participant in the 52nd Venice Biennale, curated by Robert Storr in 2007. Some of his solo exhibitions include ‘On International Workers’ Day, Gandhi from Kochi’ at Kashi Art Gallery, 2015, Kochi; Subrato To César, Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, 2010; The Third Day, Lalit Kala Academy, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, 2004, amongst others.
Komu also co-curated the first ever International football film festival
in India at Goa International Film Festival and Trivandrum International Film
festivals in 2012. He is the co-founder of the Kochi Muziris Biennale in India
and he is now the Director of Programmes for the Kochi Biennale Foundation which
develops projects focusing on Art Education in India. In this capacity, he has
also initiated the Children’s Biennale, Students Biennale and Artists Cinema
and a few other projects. He is the curator of the Young Subcontinent project,
which brings together young artists from across the subcontinent, at the
Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, and the Founder of URU art harbour, a
cultural hub, in Kochi, which has been envisioned as a vibrant and interactive
hub for visual arts, literature, music and philosophy.
Komu was born in 1971 in Kerala,
and moved to Mumbai in 1992 to study literature. Dropping out during his final
year, Komu eventually obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Fine Art
from the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Since his
graduation, Komu has been constantly asserting and pushing himself with a
strong body of work.
In this interview, Komu talks about the thematic texture of the show. “The artist community is responsible to find the ways — creating an archive of what they see around is so important for an artist. He’s an image-maker, he’s a storyteller,” says Komu.
Komu says that we need to make art much more public. “Art should be accessible to public, something which Kochi is very famous for. The effort of interpreting or making languages available to people has to be a collective effort. As an artist, I believe that there is an amazing power which lies in imagination, in creative energy. One should never allow that to be suppressed and production should happen. I believe that art-making has got great power and the capacity to instigate thinking and that thinking becomes a provocative tool. So, art-making should be part of the exercise that we cultivate in our social space,” he says.
Excerpts from the interview:
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