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Indian Art Exhibition Opens in Helsinki

A new exhibition of Indian contemporary art opens at the Helsinki Art Museum on Friday. The exhibition is a joint production between the museum and Kulturhuset in Stockholm.

Yksityiskohta Valay Shenden teoksesta Nimetön. Image: Yle

The exhibition, called Concurrent India, shows works from a cohort of artists inspired by the changing environment in their home country. Indian society now has a growing middle class and increasing urbanisation, two things that have changed life for many marginalised Indians.

Subjects covered by the exhibition include the role of female saints and transexuals, and the materials used to construct dwellings in slums. Hema Uphadyay is exhibiting a range of works made from aluminium, which is common in slums.

“If you go into these areas, they often have aluminium doors for their homes,” explains Hema Uphadyay. “So aluminium is a material that doesn't rust, doesn't erode, so I decided to take on that material and sculpt it, and make structures from it.”

The artists like to be provocative. Valay Shende made a dinner table on which he placed salt cellars that contain ash from the funeral pyres of cremated peasant farmers. Rural poverty has caused an upsurge in suicides in the countryside, where a lot of the artists have their roots and from where Shende draws his inspiration.

“My family were there, and I moved to Mumbai to study,” says Shende. “But still I have - being an artist - I have some responsibility towards society, and hence I tried to portray this work.”

The changing role of women in Indian society is also a recurring theme, but even in modern urban India there are restrictions on artists' freedoms.

”There is a taboo on certain kinds of nudity, and certain things,” notes Archana Hande. “Or there is a taboo on the kind of comment on which state, where you are doing things. If it affects the political parties when you can speak and when you cannot speak. Sometimes it depends on the place.”

The exhibition opens on March 4 and will be at Helsinki Art Museum until May 29.

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