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Lens-based art – The new generation of photography in Contemporary Art
By Shazia Shaikh
09 Feb 2022
Art in the contemporary world is evolving at a whirlwind pace. A whole new spectrum of tools and media has allowed artists to break new ground without feeling limited by the pedagogy of traditional art. Artists have been increasingly experimenting with different media, styles and pushing the boundaries of art to newer highs. Such experiments, if encouraged and embraced, have the power to usher in a new-age renaissance and add value to the art scene in India.
The most dramatic transformation that has come about from this experimental wave is a new form of visual practise, known as lens-based art. With the advent of the digital age, photography has become more accessible than it has ever been. The exponential popularity of the visual medium has encouraged traditional artists to experiment and create seminal pieces that balance art and technology to weave a compelling visual narrative.
Lens-based art essentially explores the relationship between photography and art. It pushes the boundaries of both while blending their techniques at the same time. The techniques for producing such works are adopted from the realm of photography while mimicking the brushworks of a painting. Sometimes, they are adopted to create site-specific installations or even sculpture.
AstaGuru’s upcoming ‘Present-Future’ auction features a stunning collection of lens-based art by leading Contemporary artists such as Prasanta Sahu, TV Santhosh, Suryakant Lokhande, Binoy Varghese, Jitish Kallat, Sudhir Patwardhan, Prajjwal Choudhury and Rashid Rana.
Prasanta Sahu is known for creating pieces that reflect on the socio-political disparities of society. He uses photographs or images from myriad sources like newspapers or magazines and reorganizes them within his canvas to create an edgy co-existence of conflicting values that connect the realm of imagination with reality. The presented lot (No.30) titled ‘Inhale Exhale’ is executed in his signature style and features a monochromatic image against a global wind atlas, painted in bright red.
A remarkable piece of lens-based art that is a part of the auction is by artist TV Santhosh. Known for his richly-illustrated and hyper-realist canvases, Santhosh’s works are replete with symbolism. He often uses images from print media, television and the internet to weave a complex and alluring visual narrative. The presented lot (No.61) titled ‘Scars of an Ancient Error – II’ is executed like a photonegative with a highly saturated palette. It draws a parallel between youth and adulthood, symbolically depicting two extremities in one frame. The piece was created in 2006 and features in his book called ‘Unresolved Stories’.
Artists have been using lens-based mediums to draw a bridge between the world of art and reality, as seen in the works of artist Suryakant Lokhande. Heavily inspired by pop-art, Suryakant is renowned for using photography to create his iconic high-gloss works. "For me a photograph is not an instrument to record a physical phenomenon in the outer realm or to realize a certain aesthetic value, but a tool that is used to look into myself’’, says the artist. The featured lot (No.65) is executed in his signature style and portrays his subject as liberated from societal limitations.
Adopting his techniques from photography, cinema and digital media, artist Binoy Varghese is known for his photo-realist paintings. Women and children often form the subject of his artwork which are painted using photographic references. The featured lot (No.67) is a testament of this artistic style.
A leading contemporary artist of his generation, Rashid Rana works in the mediums of photography, digital printmaking, and sculptures. Rana’s work deals with a variety of issues ranging from faith and tradition to popular culture to urban degradation.
The presented work (Lot No. 88) was a part of site-specific installation for a museum in the United Kingdom. The artist executed this work by taking a photograph from the museum window and then recreating it with the imagery of houses. He then pasted the outcome on the museum’s window he took the photo from. Titled ‘Copyright Violation Of A Stock-Photo,’ it is a large-scale work spanning across 15 feet. The work was also showcased in an exhibition titled ‘Reflected Looking : Rashid Rana’ held at Nature Morte, New Delhi, in 2007.
Lens-based art is not only limited to visual expression but also serves as a means to explore the potential of art to stretch and bend itself towards the extraordinary. Combined with other genres, it can provide a new insight into the creative evolution of art itself, make it richer and anchor it in the modern era.
The medium’s privileged relationship to conceptual art gives it the ability to depict issues of identity and culture in an aesthetically conscious way. Its descriptive capacity coupled with its narrative strategies, can change the course of visual storytelling and propel the future of contemporary art on a global scale.