Curatorial note for 'Poka-yoke'


28 - 30 April 2019

Venue: Cholamandal Artists’ Village, Chennai, India

New Works for New Systems (NWNS*) are pleased to present ‘Poka-yoke,’ its second group show this year featuring six emerging artists: Sujeeth Kumar Sree Kandan, Al-Qawi Nanavati, Aruna Samivelu, Vasundhara Shankari Sellamuthu, Ganapathy Subramaniam, and Arvind Sundar. Through a range of media including painting, video, computer programming, participation and printmaking, works on view seek to challenge the notion of artistic agency, when chance is an integral player in the creation and reception of works. The title ‘poka-yoke,’ or the practice of mistake-proofing in an assembly line, is used ironically, owing to the impossibility of a singular outcome of experience when engaging with visual art.

Sundar’s interlocking forms are built on ‘trouvaille’ or lucky finds - in this instance burlap sacks from Mumbai’s markets. The jute sacks present themselves to the artist as ‘found’ grids; the grid being a long-term preoccupation in Sundar’s practice. Through playful application of acrylic pigment bound in plaster, Sundar creates soft flesh-like skins suspended on the woven fabric of his readymade grounds. These result in tactile collage geometries that hover and nudge at the two-dimensionality of the picture plane as well as challenge the idealised view of the grid as an organising principle.

Sree Kandan’s painting ‘Changing Seasons’ draws on tidal forces and water levels as perennial markers of change. The artist re-enacts these occurrences through the construct of a ‘happening.’ He sets up a trough of water, suspends pigments in it, and simulates waves to inscribe instances of change on paper. In doing so, the artist performs a human act that frames and reflects on the reality of climate change. In contrast to his procedural approach, Sree Kandan’s abstract ‘By-product(s)’ are residues of the artist’s palette from creating representational paintings of birds. Revealing the artist’s process, both intended and unintended outcomes are presented on an equal footing, displacing the role of intentionality.

Drawing parallels to the painter’s palette, Sellamuthu’s video performance ‘Name on rice’ relates to the haptic and visual experience of eating meals. However, the items of food function as simulacra, i.e. they are not actually food, but are composed of pigments. Presented in and consumed in the seemingly ‘right’ order, Sellamuthu alludes to cultural codes and conventions inherent in the assimilation of food. Within the apparent multiplicity of dishes and possible permutations, Sellamuthu speculates the scope for individual agency and choice in our consumption of tradition.

Subramaniam creates controlled formal experiments using the elements of point, line, shape, colour and space. Here, Subramaniam engineers ‘chance’ through algebraic programming of random variations. The result is a sequence of computer-generated works that stem from an “...intentional act, but designed to defeat that intention to some degree.” Through a systematic instruction based process, the artist alleviates authorial control, resulting in iterative experimentation through automaticity. This process, in turn, evokes a renewed understanding of human agency in the context of machines.

Nanavati’s work also relies on repetitive processes, wherein text takes on the quality automatic writing. In contrast to Subramaniam’s non-emotive renders, Nanavati’s thirty-three post-it sized prints act as reminders of the loss of a loved one. Although presented as a grid, the prints depict unintelligible letters and prayers that obscure the ‘full picture,’ in the same way one can never fully read a person. Integrating personal effects of her mother, such as thread, Nanavati invites visitors to take away a piece of the composition, reflecting on the precarity of life. Through this participative act, the artist extends the boundary of subjective experience to ask if empathy can result in collective catharsis.

Samivelu’s process led mark making arises from the artist’s intention to create non-objective work. Incorporating Van Dyke brown pigment made by the artist herself, Samivelu works quickly and in series using rollers and brushes, allowing accidents and her immediate environment to provoke and enhance the construction of her work. Through a back and forth dialogue between conception and spontaneous decision-making, the artist embraces chance as active protagonist in her work.

* Following on from ‘Drawing Index,’ a pop-up show held at Cholamandal’s Cultural Centre in January, an online group with the working title ‘New Works for New Systems’ (NWNS) was created to initiate a culture of conversation and sharing amongst artists, as an essential part of praxis. Discussions surround formal and experiential interests in non-objectivity vis-à-vis context, process over product, and materiality in the screen age, in order to support and generate new works, new shows, and perhaps, new systems.

Curated by Vasundhara Shankari Sellamuthu

Artist Bios:

Sujeeth Kumar Sree Kandan (b.1986) completed his BFA in 2008 and MFA in 2010 at the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai. His artwork is inspired by his perception of landscapes he lives in and travels through, with memories and past thoughts framing future ideas. Recent group show participations include ‘Drawing Index, Cholamandal Cultural Centre, Chennai (2019), ‘Scaffold,’ exhibited at Art Houz, Chennai (2017), ‘Group Show’ by Gallery Veda, at Park Hyatt Chennai (2016), ‘When boundaries begin to fade,’ by Art Houz Gallery, at IIT Chennai (2015), ‘Alterations,’ Art Houz Gallery, Bangalore (2015), ‘False Alternatives,’ curated by Meenakshi Thirukode, Park Hyatt, Chennai (2015), ‘Scaffold’ at Lalit Kala Akademi and Dakshina Chitra, Chennai (2014), ‘Is Human recyclable,’ an installation for Chipko Movement at Forum Mall, Chennai (2014), and ‘Emerging Idioms,’ Apparao Galleries, Chennai (2012). The artist lives and works in Chennai.

Al-Qawi Nanavati (b.1995) completed a BFA in Studio with an emphasis in Painting and Printmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA (2017). Selected group show participations include ‘Kinetic Exchange,’ Project Art Residents Exhibition, Zhou B Art Center, Chicago (2018), Jubilee Arts International Festival, Lisbon (2018), ‘Grassroots,’ Woman Made Gallery, Chicago (2017), and ‘Flash’ by the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media, Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago (2015). She held a solo exhibition titled ‘Bandagi, The Inward Journey,’ at Arc Gallery, Chicago in 2018. She was the recipient of a merit Scholarship at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013-2017). Nanavati lives and works in Mumbai. 

Aruna Samivelu (b. 1964) is an MFA in Painting at the Akademie für Malerei, Berlin. She holds a Masters in Chemistry and German Literature and has participated in annual group presentations at Akademie für Malerei, Berlin in 2017, 2016 and 2015, ‘Aviskar,’ curated by Manas Roy at Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (2016), ‘Rund’, curated by Peter Lindenberg at Kunstraum F200, Berlin (2015), and ‘Kolkata Biennale,’ curated by Manas Roy, at Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (2015). Born in Coimbatore, the artist lives and works in Berlin.  

Vasundhara Shankari Sellamuthu (b.1989) is an artist and curator interested in the crossover between architecture and art theory. ‘Drawing Index,’ Cholamandal Cultural Centre, Chennai (2019) was her debut show participation as an artist. Exhibitions curated include ‘10x10 Drawing the City London,’ for Article 25 at Twentytwo, London (2018) and the Royal Institute of British Architects, London (2016), ‘In Other Rooms,’ GALLERYSKE, Bangalore, ‘Codes of Culture,’ GALLERYSKE Delhi, and pop-up show ‘Private|Public-Photo Stories,’ The Yellow House, Pondicherry (all in 2015). She received a BA (Hons) in History of Art from Goldsmiths’ University of London (2013), studied Architecture at the Architectural Association (2009-2011) and Foundation Diploma at Chelsea College of Art & Design (2008) in London. Brought up in Chennai, Sellamuthu lives and works in London.

Ganapathy Subramaniam (b.1971) is a data scientist, writer and self-taught artist. He holds an ME in Computer Science and Engineering from College of Engg, Guindy, Chennai (1994). Group show participations include ‘Multiverse,’ Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bengaluru (2017), ‘Globalization of culture and Art between the countries,’ Artline Gallery, Astana, Khazakhstan (2017), ‘Remaining Colours,’ Hungarian Cultural Centre, New Delhi (2017), ‘South Indian Art Show 2016,’ Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai (2016 ), and ‘Akanksha - 50 shades of black and white,’ Venkatappa Art gallery, Bengaluru (2016) a.o. He publishes frequently and is the author of ‘ஓவியம்: தேடல்கள், புரிதல்கள் - I (Oviyam: Thedalgal, Puridhalkal - Vol I) (2019) - a collection of essays on art exploring the foundations, philosophies and practice from an experiential and exploratory point of view. Subramaniam lives and works in Chennai.

Arvind Sundar (b.1993) graduated with an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the DAAP School of Art, University of Cincinnati, USA (2018) and previously studied Fine Art at School of the Art Institute Chicago (2016) and MS Visual Communication at Loyola College, Madras University (2015). Exhibition participations in 2019 include ‘Drawing Index,’ Cholamandal Cultural Centre, Chennai, 2018 include ‘Reductive Non-Objective Project,’ Cincinnati Chapter, ‘Smile until the tears run into your mouth,’ MFA Thesis show, Contemporary Arts Centre Cincinnati, and ‘It’s a Beautiful Mess,’ Carnegie Art Center, Covington, Kentucky. 2017 shows include ‘Homage to Hassan Sharif,’ Art Dubai, Dubai, ‘Pivot,’ Myers and Reed Gallery, University of Cincinnati, ‘Everything will work out,’ Divisible Artist collaborative, Dayton, and ‘One line over the other,’ Wavepool Gallery, Cincinnati. Focusing on intricate and delicate colour form relationships and fleeting everyday moments, Sundar lives and works in Coimbatore.

Vasundhara Sellamuthu