Tuesday, February 15, 2022

'I'm Not A Robot' An Inaugural Exhibition Exploring And Integrating The Physical And Digital Art

In the pleasant urban neighbourhood at the City Walk, Dubai, the inaugural exhibition <I'm not a Robot> explores the nuances of the in-between where the digital and the traditional meet. Edward Gallagher, the Director and Curator of Galloire Art Gallery, presents six renowned artists from across the globe who are ingenious in their chosen field. The exhibition that opened on 8 Feb 2022 has works by Daniel Canogar, Jonas Lund, Addie Wagenknecht, Xavier Sole Mora, Jonathan Monaghan and Anne Spalter. The works displayed range from real paintings to AI (Artificial Intelligence) programmed and collaborated works, from virtual reality to Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs).

Almost all the artists have developed a unique algorithm for their works that have helped their insignia. They also have an interdisciplinary approach. All of the artists point towards a technology-driven future and the many facets of consumerism that affect our day-to-day lives.

Galloire Art Gallery

The Artists and The Works

Daniel Canogar

Canogar’s works seek audience participation and multiple perspectives. The two works – Loom and Amalgama are fine examples of how our day-to-day engagement with technology is used in creative ways of art-making. The screens are placed like sculptures. The colourful stripes passing through Loom remind us of the warp and weft of the textile as if weaving is in progress while we catch some phrases in between. They happen to be the day’s top five Google searches and it is those searches their order which gives colour to the moving stripes. In Amalgama, the best 500 artworks that start from Renaissance to Contemporary art are morphed into fluid forms or organic abstractions where search data is used for artistic reinterpretations of electronic information. Canogar embraces technology and draws inspiration from them to satisfy his creative outpour. He also mentions that our lives are interlaced with technology and a future without its existence is unthinkable.

Memory and loss are constant reminders in Canogar’s works. They involve in the stimulation of our senses by actively participating in his works by touch, by google searches and generated data, by movement, or by mere presence of our body temperature. They react in real-time to different data sets. Our movements are choreographed in a way that adds life to his works as in Dynamo, a site-specific audio-visual installation in the Atrium of the Spanish Pavillion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Anyone who has visited the Spanish Pavillion wouldn’t miss it. Peoples’ movement – physical and virtual, is a crucial component of his works.

Daniel Canogar's works - 'Loom' and 'Amalgama'

Jonas Lund

Lund is a Swedish conceptual artist who critically engages in the networked systems, the power structure and commercial culture. Presenting a set of parameters, his works usually need viewer involvement. Lund investigates issues related to the increasing digitisation of contemporary society through the means of intellectual property, participation, and authority. He explores the complicated relationship between art and commerce. There is a game-like structure, a playfulness to his style. Lund is at once criticizing and taking advantage of the technological evolution as his works are redesigned and rearranged as a commentary on the current system and practices. 

The gallery has displayed two abstract works of Lund. They are mosaics of his successful artworks that had performed well in auctions. Each work records the performance metrics and is with inbuilt near field communicators that give meta-narrative about the painting’s life to the viewer who places the phone near the canvas. It also takes you to a special portal as a collector where you can have chat and interconnectivity with other collectors of Lund’s works. Technology and art connect a community. One of his works is the only NFT in this exhibition. Since we mention NFT, Jonas Lund has his own cryptocurrency, the Jonas Lund Token (JLT) that has a worldwide community of its own.

Jonas Lund's Untitled

Addie Wagenknecht

Wagenknecht’s Alone Together series and Ghost series uphold female presence while being absent. These works are strong reminders of where we as women were and are. Wagenknecht’s take on Yves Klein’s “human paintbrushes” in his *Anthropometry paintings is absolutely stunning and noteworthy. She in turn avoided the display and made a negative space of her reclined nude, a deviation perhaps from the classic odalisque. The painting is technically assisted by a Roomba with a custom algorithm that helps it to navigate around her body until the whole canvas is mapped with Klein’s Blue. The result even when it’s a void “serves to evoke the duality of being invisible while simultaneously claiming presence.”

Ghost series refers to the modern-day slang where a person disappears without explanation in the dating environment after a short stint leading to confusion and disappointment. The hope, the temporary highs, the leading negotiations, and the final vanish are documented through still life-like images of flowers veiled in tulle and organza showing different stages of progress from hope to disappointment and to renewal.

The female lens through which the subjects and situations are examined is what adds to its beauty.

Victoria admiring Addie Wagenknecht's 'Self Portrait - Snow on Cedar'

Xavier Sole Mora

Intensely influenced by Goya, Xavier’s works explore the playfulness and viciousness side by side. A satire on the violent, grotesque and dark world with a fresh impishly nasty perspective, Sole Mora engages the audience verging on the absurd. The theme of good and evil, power-play bordering on cruelty making it tempting and voyeuristic through seemingly naive setups are his insignia. As an artist, Sole Mora’s practice explores the possibilities of technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence to create narratives around social commentary.

The work in the experience room of Galloire, the Golden Feast is a revisit on Goya’s Fool’s Folly from his series Disparates. The etched bulls are here replaced by floating golden hippos that keep bobbing in the air like balloons. A dangerous animal, the deadliest land mammal, is made playful and borders on the comic as virtual reality take us to a farcical land.

In virtual reality and video work, Sole Mora examines our guilty pleasures and our ability to indulge in them. The artist has glamorized the hippos by displaying them in an all-golden hue. As we put on the VR, we are transported to a world surrounded and threatened by the golden hippo presenting a dream-like state. Sole Mora plays with the sense of threat and the beauty assigned to the hippos; the stark contrast of things provoking us to “enjoy” what actually is unenjoyable.

Slava Noor, Founder and Editor of Arte & Lusso experiencing Xavier Sole Mora's virtual reality 'Golden Feast'

Jonathan Monaghan

Drawing inspiration from a wide range of areas from art history to video games to contemporary materialistic culture, Monaghan produces fantastical, candy-colored and otherworldly realms. They provide critical reflection as it examines and uncovers unsettling anxieties associated with technology and consumerism perhaps indicating a bionic future. He creates new mythology for a contemporary society based on technology and materialism.

Monaghan’s two works, Soft Power I and II, replicate aristocratic and royal portraiture and are embellished to the point of being dramatic – portraits of ominous figures. One can observe the signs of the corporate logos and consumer electronics of modern-day also reminding us of pop art, in a blend of his own. It may very well signify our current pandemic state with the face covered in velvet masks evoking us of a Baroque aesthetic with its pomp and grandeur. The portraits are a study of power in the digital age. In the Alien Sofa I (series- A Trace Left by the Future), the real and the artificial seem to fade in ambiguity. The compositions are so textured that it plays with the sense of touch but the reality is otherwise. Again, the real and the artificial worlds collide; Monaghan seems to love to toy with that idea and offer a dystopian (or is it utopian?) glimpse.

Jonathan Monaghan's works Soft Power I, Soft Power II and Alien Sofa I

Anne Spalter

Anne Spalter is an academic pioneer and a digital mixed media artist. In her artistic process, Spalter synthesizes a consistent set of personal symbols with traditional mark-making methods and innovative digital tools further combining AI algorithms with oil paints and pastels to create her unique and incredible works.

Spalter presents a surrealistic landscape in Lost Signals, a video loop and two of her pastel on paper works that abound in personal symbols even while striking a chord with the collective unconscious. The works are AI-generated and combined with traditional media integrating art and technology. One can see the use of light and lighthouses, an interest in signaling as a form of communication, as a warning and the connection that ensues through portals. There’s a sense of spiritual lacing with lighthouses as anchors that guide the wayward travelers, cautioning and communicating to them to be careful, all the while shedding the light and Spalter exploring that base. Again, this work is quite meditative to an observant viewer and deals with subconscious layers. Lighthouses and water are common themes and symbols in Spalter’s works.

Anne Spalter's work 'Electric Pathway to the Lighthouse'
In the background, Addie Wagenknecht's 'Ghost' series

You can also find an incredible code poem by Kenny R Brown.

Code poem by Kenny R Brown

Edward Galleghar, the Director of Galloire Art Gallery, giving a tour of the exhibition

At a time like the present when we are badly hit by the pandemic and when physical communication has been curbed, where our life is lived through digital screens, reminding us of the impact of technology and the reliance on it 24x7, this exhibition raises pertinent questions and becomes more prominent. Technology is advancing at such a pace that there’s no discerning as to where it will take us. It is not only forecasting but also generating and establishing a future.

<I am not a Robot> will run until 28 Feb 2022 at Galloire Art Gallery, London Street, City Walk, Dubai. You can also view the works via the gallery’s website https://www.galloire.com/

It is always better to see such exhibitions in person. Do visit the gallery and experience the show. Addie Wagenknecht and Daniel Canogar happen to be my personal favourites. Who are yours?

Thanks to Slava Noor and Edward Gallagher for the invite. 

*Anthropometry paintings are paintings where Yves Klein dipped nude women in his patented International Klein Blue paint in front of an invited audience along while the musicians played Klein’s Monotone Symphony – a single note played for twenty minutes followed by twenty minutes of silence.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Kerala Museum Goes Digital!


KM-MNF_GA&C_Flying Horses, Sleepy Tigers and Colossal Crows
From Flying Horses, Sleepy Tigers and Colossal Crows

From a time when one could access art only on the walls of the white cube to a time when it has become easier to access with a few taps of your fingertips, art and technology have come a long way. Google Arts and Culture is a platform where one can access almost all exceptional museums and galleries with its high-definition images where one can view all artworks up and close like never before. Our very own Kerala Museum has joined those ranks, the first of its kind from our zone and what makes it even more accessible is that it is bilingual taking into account the regional audience as well. Thanks to the recent partnership between Kerala Museum and Google Arts and Culture.

The virtual exhibition was inaugurated and opened by the esteemed Chief Guest, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament of Thiruvananthapuram, on 22 Jan 2022. Other session speakers were Dr. Venu Vasudevan, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala, Prof. K.T. Ravindran, Urban Designer, Trustee of Madhavan Nayar Foundation, Prof. Gulammohammed Sheikh, Artist in Conversation Discussant, Prof. Anshuman Das Gupta, Artist in Conversation Moderator and the Museum Director, Aditi Nayar.

Over two hundred artworks from the Kerala Museum Madhavan Nayar Foundation Collection are on view on Google Arts & Culture from the comfort of your home on your devices.

Virtual opening on 22 Jan 2022
image: Kerala Museum Instagram

Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament and Chief Guest at the launch of the Kerala Museum on Google Arts & Culture said:

It is a delight to launch the Madhavan Nayar Foundation’s Kerala Museum, a repository of the state and nation’s artistic genius, on a global platform like Google Arts & Culture. In addition to the use of the latest in technology, I deeply appreciate the effort that has gone into making the digital collection available in Malayalam and English. Such measures showcase the foundational stories of our country and culture, and remind us that the vitality of collaborations depends on a plurality of conversations.

Ten Digital Exhibits

Kerala Museum has developed ten specially curated virtual exhibits for online visitors. They tell the story of India’s most prominent art movements in the 20th Century, notably The Bengal School and Santiniketan, the Bombay Progressives and the Baroda School. The digital experiences explore the practice of Indian artists and artist collectives against the backdrop of the nation's historical and cultural atmosphere.

Diversity and Individuality: Experiments in 1960’s Calcutta: Speaks about the establishment, evolution and progress of the Society of Contemporary Artists that laid the foundation for a strong printmaking tradition in the 1960s. The collective celebrated its Golden jubilee with an exhibition in Kolkatta in 2009.

Flying Horses, Sleeping Tigers, and Colossal Crows: Objects of Admiration and Allegory: Fantastical beasts and birds inhabit strange, whimsical worlds taking the viewers into an unbelievable and yet authentic realm where one could see and imagine what might lie beyond our “normal” powers of perception.

Emergence of Indian Modernism: Santiniketan and the Bengal School: Santiniketan and Bengal School of Arts that moulded and expanded the Indian art scene during the early 20 century and added flavor and passion to the Nationalist Movement in the fight against the British Rule is focussed here. The era of Rabindranath, Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, K G Subramanyan, Benode Bihari Mukherjee, Ram Kinkar Baij, Asit Haldar and the other veterans.

The Bombay Progressives: Breaking New Ground at the Dawn of India’s Independence: The Bombay Progressives at the dawn of a Free India and their effort to modernize the new Indian art scene with the Progressive Arts Group forming and disbanding within a year and yet having a lasting impact is what’s showcased here. Stalwarts like MF Hussain, F N Souza, S H Raza, H A Gade, Akbar Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, and Ram Kumar enriched the art scenario.

Rama Varma, Artist Thampuran: Explores his works and his contribution to the Kerala’s art heritage establishing the renowned Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikkara. Following his illustrious father’s style and his contributions as a teacher and activist, he has left behind an impressive legacy.

Women Artist in the Kerala Museum Collection: Includes Mangala Bai Thamburatti- sister of Raja Ravi Varma, Aparna Caur, Naina Dalal, Rini Dhumal, Jayasri Burman, Prabha and Rekha Rodwittiya exploring and articulating the gender issues and feminine intentions. I would love to see this collection grow and am sure that it would do so under the able hands of Aditi Nayar.

Travancore Painters: Within and Beyond the Court: This story mentions the court painters like the illustrious Raja Ravi Varma, Mangala Bai (who worked as a “hobby” because of her gender), Madhava Warrier, Sekhara Warrier, Neelakantan Pillai. Not to mention the effort of Ravi Varma to mass-produce his works that helped change the national aesthetic and artistic sentiments.

For Some, For All: Pioneers of Printmaking in India: From Raja Ravi Varma who mass-produced his works to Nandalal Bose who introduced it in Kalabhavan to Somnath Hore who influenced the Society of Contemporary Artists like Sanat Kar and Lalu Prasad Shaw who paved vital inroads in printmaking in the 60s.

Rhythm, Flow and Line: Where Dance and Painting Meet: Sudhir Katsgir and Shiavax Chavda’s energetic and rhythmic strokes capture the classical beauty in its dance forms. Though there are only a few works in this section, it turned out to be one of my favourites for its brevity, simplicity, and packed energy. One of my favourites among the ten.

Eyes, Windows into the Soul: The Maya of Sanat Kar: One of the founding members of the Society of Contemporary Artists he revolutionized printmaking by using techniques like cardboard intaglio and sun mica printmaking. The focus of his work was the wide-open soulful eyes and he explored the theme of “Maya” – illusion. 

Reverie - Raja Ravi Varma/ Study of Cave No:2, Ajanta Caves - Nandalal Bose
image:Kerala Museum

Get up close with ultra-high resolution images

Many hidden gems of modern Indian art, like The Portrait of a Man by Lalu Prasad Shaw can now be viewed in never before seen definition thanks to Gigapixel technology, a powerful photo-capturing process, which has enabled the highest ever resolution image of this feature. Viewers can explore the painting in extraordinary detail and experience it far beyond what is visible to the naked eye, such as the precise geometric pencil strokes Shaw uses to provide depth in his paintings. Nandalal Bose and Raja Ravi Varma acknowledged as amongst the Navaratnas of Indian Art, are amongst the treasures of the Kerala Museum that have been digitized with Gigapixel technology. Nandalal’s ink drawing of The Buddha’s mother Maya (Untitled) is a study of Cave No. 2 at the Ajanta Caves and sheds light on his keen interest in frescoes and their influence on his distinctive visual style. Varma’s Reverie shows how the master skillfully uses the scumbling technique to render the fine translucency of the cotton Kerala kasavu saree.

These immersive online stories can also be experienced on the Kerala Museum’s website,

Special mention to the earnest efforts of Smt. Geeta Nair for the translations from English to Malayalam. A postgraduate in English Language and Literature and 30 years of teaching experience, Smt. Nayar has translated several works from Malayalam to English and vice versa.

Kerala Museum-Edapally-Kochi
image: Kerala Museum

About Kerala Museum

The Kerala Museum is located at the heart of Kochi city in Kerala. Managed by the Madhavan Nayar Foundation, its core objective is to provide interactive, engaging and experiential arts and history-based learning.

The Museum is a vibrant beacon of the arts, powered by in-house curation and collaborations with NGOs working across a spectrum of social issues. Through its programs, it aims to actualize the potential of the “Museum as an instrument of social change”, thereby influencing critical thinking and tolerance towards the world around us, and better citizenship. With a 37 year-long track record as a non-governmental initiative providing authentic learning experiences in history, fine arts and performing arts, the Museum has hosted over half a million visitors and ignited the minds of school children from over 5000 schools from all over India.

Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts and Culture was launched in 2011 as Google Arts Project with virtual art tours, high definition close-up views of artworks and artifacts of cultural organizations and institutions across the world, even landmarks and streets, audio-visual contents, pet portraits powered by AI, Games, etc. You can browse by artists, art movements, historic events and even mediums.

National Museum-New Delhi, National Gallery of Modern Art, Archeological Survey of India, Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, Dastkari Haat Samiti, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian’s National Museum, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Musee d’Orsay, Museo Frida Kahlo, Tate Britain, Tokyo National Museum, State Russian Museum and many more are available for view.

Google Arts & Culture puts the collections of more than 2,000 museums at your fingertips. It is an immersive way to explore art, history and the wonders of the world, from Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings to the women’s rights movement and the Taj Mahal.

The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available online for iOS and Android. Their team has been an innovation partner for cultural institutions since 2011. They develop technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, inside museums.

To sum it up, this is what Aditi Nayar, Director of Kerala Museum has to say:

Our new partnership with Google Arts & Culture creates an excellent opportunity to inspire and delight a global audience, and illustrate our collection's importance. To further expand our reach, and to make the collection uniquely accessible, we have made it available in English and Malayalam. This will be the first collection of its kind from Kerala to harness the Google Arts & Culture platform’s multilingual capabilities, enabling users and learners, whether on a large screen or a mobile device, to intuitively search and experience art in Malayalam and English. The ultra-high-resolution digitization of almost two hundred of our artworks using Gigapixel technology has created a resource-bank on modern Indian art the likes of which exists nowhere else. We look forward to inviting students and scholars from across Kerala, India and the world, to experience our collection’s highlights and hidden gems, offline and online.

Aditi Nayar

Aditi Nayar: Born in Cochin, educated at St.Xavier’s College, Bombay, Chelsea College of Art and then at the Wimbledon College of Art in London, Aditi Nayar, the Director of Kerala Museum and the Founder’s, R Madhavan Nayar, grand-niece is also an artist whose works range across media from video and audio installations to kinetic sculpture, latex, fiberglass, rope and oil on canvas.

For those who would like to contact and visit the Kerala Museum:

Madhavan Nayar Foundation, Pathadipalam, Edappally, Kochi
Ph: 0484 4020506/2541768
Mob: +91 8129051881