It was with great anticipation that I joined Jack and Friends at Art Plural Gallery. Owned by a Swiss couple from Geneva, the four-storey heritage building opposite The Substation is a treasure trove of artworks. From the sketches of esteemed Columbian Fernando Botero to the gripping works of renowned American Julian Schnabel, promising Indian artists and even the sensuous forms of Karim Rashid’s designs, you will be excited to uncover the visual delights each floor promises.
It was a pleasure to learn that the gallery is founded on the premise of allowing people the unobtrusive physical space to fully appreciate the art. Too often the stereotypical art gallery personnel are armed with upper-class nonchalance or are pushy for a sale. Art Plural has staff that gives you space to revel in the art before welcoming you to the gallery; letting you know where they are in the event that you need assistance, if not, they would love for you to browse all four levels at your leisure. The expanse of space and high ceilings is refreshing and ensures that each artwork is given its due recognition without competing with others in the room, akin to the experience of exploring a museum.
Too many sharp intakes of breath later, I decided to focus on 8 pieces of artworks that I connected with on a personal level. I’m sure if you visit the gallery, you will find more than one artwork that will resonate with you, and if anything provide a starting point for conversation.
(1) New Mexico Spring by Marc QuinnOil on Canvas 168 x 278 cm
Quinn’s large canvases confront you with their intense saturations of hyper-colour in the forms of flowers and fruits. The intricate detailing of the orchid and iris petals infuses the piece with an exquisite tension and a sexual charge. The tomatoes are plump with promise; the sheen on its skin almost tangible. The yellow cactus in the centre of the painting bristles for attention; suggestive amidst the flowers. In this celebration of life-force, subtlety is delightfully not the name of the game.
(2) Olive Tree by Marc QuinnWhite Painted Bronze 280cm high
Quinn’s sensual tones initially seem restrained in this sculpture. The application of white across the entire tree, including the trunk, soil and pot, disassociates it from crudity; a polite tempering of suggestion. The all-white sculpture makes you appreciate it as a totality; a symbol, a totem pole for restrained sexuality.
The spindly tree branches only serve to accentuate the fullness of the rounded apples, the curves and stretch of the flower petals and always, that exquisite tension of the stamen straining. The tongue-in-cheek references are thinly veiled upon closer inspection. The choice of fruits and flowers have obvious phallic references. A low-hanging strawberry hints at wantonness while a slightly-peeled banana and the veins of the anthurium speak volumes.
(3) Les Austres Songes by Yves DanaPolychrome, Tavel Stone 110cm x 18cm x 14cm
Egyptian Yves Dana has 3 stunning sculptures on the 1st floor. The quietness of his works is not be to be mistaken for timidity or cowardice. Rather, a quiet strength, of someone who strives for the balance of modernity and nature.
Modern man in a bid to course forward, must align and find peace with nature’s inevitable forces.
When you come across them, they have the air and understanding of the passing of time, akin to stumbling across prehistoric fossils, each with a sense of weight and humility that grounds the works.
They all strike a stunning profile, reminiscent of Henry Moore’s silhouettes in their simplicity. Where Moore has metallic and rounded finishes that meld more with urban landscapes, Dana has injected the sensibility of organic; of knowing towards the earth, the acknowledgement of soil and origin and finding peace within it, rising upwards to meet the sky…
(4) Oh Void 1 by Ron AradCarbon Fiber Resin 200cm (l) by 112cm (h) x 47cm (d)
Israeli-born Ron Arad resides in Geneva and is known for working with different materials and techniques. His highly-experimental style cannot be defined and his 2009 solo exhibition “No Discipline” in MoMa, New York, was a hallmark of his 25 years of challenging convention, and truly cemented his reputation as design’s rebel.
This sculpture stands resolute like an unspoken whisper that has solidified. Like a musical echo of shells; this exoskeleton has found its perfect equilibrium between time, space and form. You anticipate the next movement but it holds the tension exquisitely like an exotic race car standing still. Up close, it hints at a cobra’s back, arching for infinity with a sensuous fluidity.
(5) The Famous Wig; Found Object, Kabadiwala and Conservator II; Old Man with a Muffler; The Gypsy with a Pet; and Kabadiwala by Paribartana MohantyOil on canvas 137 x 92 cm
The five powerful portraits on the 3rd floor by Paribartana Mohanty are painted in oils and depict members of New Delhi’s society. Curiously, he has set them against backgrounds that resemble traditional studio portraits like the backgrounds graduation photos and family portraits are taken against. In all, they feature people with arresting faces, accentuating the hollows of their eyes for haunting expressions that stop you in your tracks.
A lady with a pig has a lined face and her eyes speak of a hard life. Another man with an antique camera, perhaps a found object; he looks out questioningly, almost challenging the viewers for a glance, some recognition, to really take a good look at him. Then there is a man who has the face of a handsome man who looks tired with broken eye vessels. The regal streaks of white in his thick mass of hair hint at an eccentricity of a poetic Einstein or a disillusioned actor. His broken spirit could be an emblem; a collective spirit for people below the poverty line who forge daily for their survival.
The portraits…India’s infamous caste system often does not notice or give recognition to these unspoken folk. Perhaps Mohanty is celebrating them as individuals and literally giving them a face and a dignity that is sadly missed in Delhi. These are people who have been condemned by society, now they look out at you, making viewers feel how they do, judged.
(6) Harmonie by Tom CarrPolished Stainless Steel
290cm (h) x 98cm x 87cm
The bold curve, towering arch and sheen of the metal commands attention from afar. Circling the sculpture, the side view is truly a view to behold, with the movement of a billowing sail translated into the metal’s form in swift lines. Dynamism charges the air, of salty winds carrying journeys from afar.
Seemingly rooted to the ground, it magically rises from a single line, with the customary metal base not resting on the ground, but rather, lifted up from the ground, challenging physics and gravity. Yet it finds the perfect equilibrium. Just as life ebbs and flows, it reaches moments where there is a semblance of calm and balance. Where there is time and space to savour the beauty of the wind.
(7) The Epic II by Jagannath PandaAcrylic, fabric, glue on canvas 228cm x 208cm
Many storybooks speak of childhoods filled with tree-houses and delightful figments of imagination, the wonderful unraveling of hours of playtime. Indian artist Jagannath Panda incorporates notions of this fantasy wonderland, creating unique and believable worlds on his canvas that are always grounded in cultural ethos and their interplay with nature.
In The Epic II, a tree trunk dominates the large canvas, housing various details on each of its branches; suggesting its symbolism as a network with a strong foundation that will keep reaching out towards the universe. This work has a strong hint of the mystical, from the stars of the night sky to the silhouettes pondering the moon, to the parrot in the cage of fortunes to be told and mythic warrior gods trying to hold down the extended talons of a branch that ends in a claw.
Yet, the fabrics used in the work gives it a tangible reality and a cultural significance multi-layered with a child’s idealistic hopes. The dominance of the tree trunk is softened by the use of golden brocade cloth and shifts its meaning to show the importance of culture in humanity’s progress. There are threads that are draped loosely over the branches that add to a three-dimensional view of the work and invite you to look closer. Even the tree-house that sits in the crook of the tree branches has colourful native fabrics showing the importance of knowing that home is where the heart is and the heart must recognize its origins.
Perhaps it is his dream for future generations to discover their rich cultural heritage and be comfortable with where they came from. He knows the importance of celebrating tradition for all its vivid diversity and learning. Knowing their own soil, the Indian youth, and the youth of the world, will be better grounded as people to evolve, and find their place and keep dreaming beyond local realms in a larger world.
(8) Palazzo Pitti by Adam DantSepia Ink on Paper
238cm (l) x 183cm (h)
From across the room, the vast canvas of Adam Dant is easily mistaken for a woven tapestry, possible painting a medieval scene. One could rest on these assumptions and not approach it. However to walk past without a second glance, will be your loss, because you will miss out on the intricacies and wicked humour of his work.
Devoid of colour, save for the soft brown outlines of all forms and features, allows your eyes to roam throughout the piece, taking in each painstaking section without any distractions. You will be amazed at his intricate, uncanny attention to the smallest details that all illustrate overriding themes and in this artwork, the idea of monarchy versus democracy.
Throngs of people fill the paper. There is activity happening in every corner. You are transfixed, a spectator that has stumbled onto a macabre play of the medieval and modern. In the foreground, men in suits are mercilessly sawing a gigantic wild boar. The pig has been a common symbol of greed in the West and aptly for the bourgeois class that used to live in indulgent luxury by over-taxing the poor. Statues of has-been royalty are being wrecked by men in modern suits, signaling the end of dictatorship and authoritative ruling. Other suited men chase members of the royal court down corridors, stripping them of their elaborate finery and tossing their gilded furniture over balconies and shredding their flags decorated with coat of arms. There are even treasure chests wheeled out and ATMs being carted in.
Perched atop on the highest point of an official government building, stands a man smoking a modern-day cigarette contentedly with a woman. They are both dressed in traditional costumes and next to them lay a pile of Western suits. Perhaps they represent the end of monarchies with the rise of democratic worlds.
Overall, a powerful piece that tackles large issues with the only mark of the artist as a director of witty dialogue all for the spectator to speculate.
There were many more works in Art Plural that I would love to mention, but perhaps that will be for a second visit with Jack and Friends.
In early October, they will be having an exhibition with a Korean sculptor I adore. I will be back!Art Plural Gallery 38 Armenian Street | +65 6636 8360 Written by Emily.P Photography by Leni.B and Jack.D