15 Emerging Artists to Discover at the India Art Fair

Over its seven-year lifespan, the India Art Fair, which began in 2008 as the India Art Summit, has served as a catalyst for the local art scene. Aside from connecting Indian galleries with potential collectors, the fair has promoted the primary market by nurturing new and emerging artists whose work, while attuned to international trends, is wholly original in its cultural specificities. As a result, the fair is the perfect site to discover rising stars who could be instrumental in redefining the practices of contemporary art in South Asia—starting with the artists on this list. 

Faig Ahmed at Nature Morte

The young Baku-based artist’s latest series is the consequence of years spent studying the artistic heritage of traditional Azerbaijani rugs, learning the intricacies of the medium of carpet weaving. He intervenes with the composition of each carpet by deconstructing and reworking its traditional structure, randomly rearranging the threads to create disfigurations, thus revisiting historic questions of art and craft while reinterpreting antiquity. 



Rathin Barman at Experimenter

In 2012, Rathin Barman was the first Asian sculptor to be invited to display his work in Massachusetts’s reputed deCordova Sculpture Park. His piece, Untitled (2012), reflected the concerns of his sculptural practice: urbanity, materiality, and the confinement that metropolitan living frequently entails. His work at the fair, Windows Those No Longer Have a View (2015), is an extension of the same core ideas and is displayed as a suite of 15 old wooden window panels, each with a variation of a geometric design. 


Astha Butail at GALLERYSKE

After quietly making waves through her works made from paper, Butail led gallerist Peter Nagy—who included the artist’s work in the second edition of the United Art Fair in 2013—to conclude that “...the art objects she makes are very much riddles, yet they are finely crafted and beautifully finished, so as to prove even more seductive to the unsuspecting viewer.” Subsequently, the 38-year-old Delhi-based artist (who has a degree in fashion) was snapped up by Sunitha Kumar, director of GALLERYSKE. Her works at the fair are excerpts from “Manifested Ratios,” her debut solo show in Bengaluru (or Bangalore) last year, and are elaborate narratives constructed with sheer muslin dhotis that make open-ended statements about space and containment.


Parul Gupta at Lakeeren

A recent MFA graduate from Nottingham Trent University, Gupta seems to be in direct artistic dialogue with the abstract minimalist Nasreen Mohamedi, in her exploration of space through the architectural line. The vertical lines in her work emerge from a process of intense study of 90-degree angles and continuously realigning her body in order to see them as visually straight. Her artistic intervention is intended to inspire the same bodily twists in the viewer while reaching toward something universal.  


Shweta Bhattad at Latitude 28

Bhattad’s works are a culmination of her artistic engagement with marginalized communities, social taboos, and stigmas, and are sometimes driven by an almost activist fervor. Her series was created through and illustrates community art projects and art residencies that deal with the absence of public toilets in Paradsinga village in Madhya Pradesh, forcing its inhabitants to defecate in the open. Latitude 28 will display this work as part of a solo gallery exhibition, in conjunction with the fair, where the gallery’s booth will offer a preview of her sculptural series on chastity belts. 


Anirban Mitra at Sakshi Gallery

Born in 1981, this artist’s current series zooms in on various pictographic representations of Indian kitsch, exemplifying his interest in pop art. The recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant 2015, Mitra uses vibrant oil pastels, which are rarely celebrated in mainstream art. Bloated figures appear in overpopulated canvasses, which represent consumerist spaces, offering a new context for the uniquely desi, or vernacular, advertisement to exist.  


Cop Shiva at Art Heritage

His profession as a Bengaluru policeman was the catalyst for most of Cop Shiva’s body of work, mainly comprising photographs and the occasional performance. Shiva’s engagement with the city of Bengaluru, its people—including street performers—and its public spaces is the crux of his practice. His “The Street as Studio” series (2013–ongoing) is an evocative exercise that casts members of his city’s marginalized populations against the backdrop of a kitschy painted wall, mirroring the isolation they experience in their adopted urban setting, while also commenting on the camera’s ability to document lived experiences.


Sachin George Sebastian at Exhibit 320

Kerala-born artist Sachin George Sebastian’s intricate and elaborate paper-based sculptural forms won him the FICA Emerging Artist Award in 2014 and a prized display at the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Sebastian manipulates the paper, perforating it, burning it, twisting and folding it so it yields to his design. The resulting work, though exquisite in its fragility, offers a strong commentary on the sudden twists of contemporary urban life.


Prem Sahib at Jhaveri Contemporary

This dapper young British-born Polish-Indian’s installations and minimalist sculptures reflect his penchant for unearthing the many-faceted world of intimacy, including queer culture and sexuality. Drawing from his lived experiences, Sahib creates abstract, geometrically influenced pieces that elicit a range of emotions and tap into a universal subconscious, making his practice immediate and expedient. 


Sujith S.N at Vadehra Art Gallery

Sujith S.N.’s work belies his age. Born in 1980, the artist employs his skill with watercolor, pastel, charcoal, and oil to create horrifyingly apocalyptic landscapes that address the violence embedded in the structures of modern societies, presenting a powerful visual critique of their social, cultural, and political fabric. Sujith was the co-winner of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art’s Emerging Artist Award in 2011, one among a series of awards that signify his precocious artistic practice.


Madhu D. at The Guild

A recipient of the Inlaks Fine Arts Award 2015, works by Madhu D., born in 1987,  explore the precarious relationship between man and his inherited environment and history while questioning his hierarchic role within the larger context of his universe. The human figure is often suspended in a fantastical landscape with trunks emerging from the neck or the base of the body as it journeys through a space populated by mutated flora and flora—a satirical comment on mankind’s desire to construct civilizations.  


Bhuvanesh Gowda at Chemould Prescott Road

Two solo shows into his career, Karnataka-born Bhuvanesh Gowda currently utilizes a process-oriented approach to sculpture, using wood as his primary medium to create what he calls “fictional” forms. His is a meditative practice that seeks to address the fundamental questions of existence. According to art critic Johny ML, “Between the materialistic and spiritual notions of security, Bhuvanesh works oscillate with a strange kind of energy.”


Srinath Iswaran at Photoink

Srinath Iswaran, born in 1989, is profoundly influenced by the writings of Umberto Eco, particularly The Poetics of the Open Work (1989), and by his experience visiting exhibitions of sculpture and painting during his time at the Camberwell College of Arts, London. His engagement with photography stems from a historical understanding of its origins as a camera-less medium—namely, William Henry Fox Talbot’s photograms—created by placing the subject on top of photo-sensitive paper and exposing it directly to light. Iswaran mimics the technique in a color darkroom, where a format light from an enlarger is exposed onto paper. The resulting imagery is then installed in a grid, “treating the wall in similar fashion to the space on the paper,” as he explains it.


Akshay Raj Singh Rathore at Gallery Espace

A graduate of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Akshay Raj Singh Rathore plays out his ecological consciousness through materials, specifically his penchant for clay. Despite the prolific and prodigious nature of his practice, and his acceptance into several residency programs, some of Rathore’s greatest successes in India are yet to come; New Delhi’s Gallery Espace has recently signed him on and he has an upcoming solo show. Meanwhile, his work at the gallery’s booth is essentially a satirical piece that examines the hierarchies of what is referred to as the aspirational adoption of English by the Indian middle class. Anything lost in translation is intentional—for humor, as Rathore reminds us, is culturally specific. 


Buddhadev Mukherjee at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke

Based in Kolkata and trained as a printmaker, Mukherjee is concerned with isolating the human figure from any immediate context, instead creating a new situation in which to visualize his austere existence through a kind of reverse anthropomorphosis, in which man is endowed with certain animal-like qualities. A suite of 101 such watercolor works will be displayed at the Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke booth during India Art Fair.


Rosalyn Dmello

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