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A display of social baggage in tow

Artist Sumedh Rajendran posing for a photo with his art. (XAVIER WILSON)

By Reena Amos Dyes

Young Indian artist Sumedh Rajendran, whose works are on show at Dubai's 1X1 Contemporary gallery, is continuing a long-established family tradition.

"I come from a family of artists," he told Emirates Business. "My father Rajendaran was an artist, while my grandfather R Govindan was a head of department at the School of Art in Trivandrum, India.

"He was a well-known artist and I grew up surrounded by art. However I was not very interested in art as a child. It was only in my late teens that I realised that I wanted to be an artist and went on to study art. Now art is my life, I cannot imagine life without it."

Rajendran, 38, who was born in Trivandrum, Kerala, studied sculpture at the College of Fine Arts in his home city and then obtained a master's degree in art from the Delhi College of Art. He decided to settle down in Delhi and now lives in the suburban city of Noida, where he has his studio.

"Through most of my work, I try to communicate to people how a person gets shaped by his surroundings and circumstances," added Rajendran, whose works are being shown at the gallery alongside ones by another young Indian artist, Prasad Raghavan. "That is the basis of the content and it has developed over the years.

"A lot of my imagery is about the constant translocation of humans, of them being uprooted physically, culturally and intellectually. When a person is translocated from one place to another, his faith, memories and culture are replaced with him. It is a kind of constant movement that takes place."

The bulk of his work consists of sculptures, but he also uses photography and collages to express himself. He works with different media such as plain and punch-embossed sheet metal, plain and punch-embossed rexine, iron, steel and ceramic tiles.

"The context of the work determines the medium. I don't choose the medium first and then create my work. I first decide what I want to express and then decide on the medium to use. That is how it evolves. The material and the concept of the work are very closely linked."

Rajendran's photographs and sculptures – humans and animals alike – strikingly had no faces or heads. "I use the imagery of humans, animals and architecture to express myself. My expression is not through the face but through body language. My art should convey what I want to say. The face is not important as humans can also express themselves beautifully through body language, hence the faceless figures. I use the body as a metaphor for identifying the geographical and cultural placement of humans."

Rajendran is visiting Dubai for the first time, but his work has previously been displayed twice at the Dubai Art Fair. His work is also on show at the Sakshi Gallery and Vadehra Art gallery in Mumbai and the Christian Hosp gallery in Vienna. He has held exhibitions at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, and the Bodhi gallery, Berlin, and buyers of his work include Indian art collector Anupam Poddar and steel magnate Jindal. Some of his pieces have been sold for as much as Rs3.5 million and he has also displayed his work in Oslo and China and countries in the Middle East.

"Each work has a similar inner current connecting things. Here it conveys the duality of human existence, situation and attitudes. I wanted to show how humans are entrapped by social baggage and are struggling to come out of it. "Dubai is just perfect for my work because it goes so well with the underlying theme, transition and its impact on humans. Also I come from a place where half the population has moved to Dubai so the level of comfort in Dubai is very high."

Asked about the impact of the global recession on the art market in India, Rajendran said: "Even though things did slow down, the fact remains that a good work of art will always fetch a good price. However, this recession has forced artists, buyers and gallery owners to rethink art in India.It is also an opportunity for artists to come out of their own worlds and think about the art market."

The works of Sumedh Rajendran and Prasad Raghavan will be on show until the end of the month at the 1x1 Contemporary in Al Quoz 3. The gallery is open from Sunday to Thursday. Call 04 341 1287


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