Vishal K Dar
Vishal K Dar (b. 1976) is a Delhi based, US educated artist whose works reach ambitious technical heights with the help of his early architecture background. Dar uses satire and scale to address deeper personal, political and sociological issues, and his practice often extends outside the gallery and into the public realm. In addition to the ambitious solo projects that have earned him acclaim in India, the artist has also exhibited at prestigious venues internationally such as the TATE Modern in London and the Para/site Art Space in Hong Kong.
Dar’s art practice is diverse in terms of medium, and transformations, hidden code within iconic imagery, and the nocturne are some of the more visible themes seen in his works. Through mythmaking, Dar instills a sense of dreamlike quality in his works while still allowing them to address contemporary issues. In 2009, Dar started a series of mysterious glowing insect sculptures made from stolen car lights, sourced from the Old Delhi grey markets. These are uncanny totemic creatures that could be conceptually connected the ‘post-human’ theory. Light continues as a recurring motif and was powerfully harnessed in his ambitious 2013 public project ‘Prajapati’ which refers to Louis Khan’s texts on silence and light as well as Hindu mythology. Dar mounted a computer-controlled sky-tracker (searchlight) on a temporary structure and placed it in a 10-acre site which was excavated to the depth of 15 meters in the process of creating the DLF Mall of India in Gurgaon. According to the artist, “At the dawn of each day he (Prajapati) closes his eye and the world is destroyed, without his creation to balance it out." In 2012, he produced ‘NAAG’, a site-specific sculpture which came to life through cutting-edge projection mapping technology, aspiring to deconstruct the notion of sculpture. Dar carefully choose his themes, and one such project is Raavan Chhaya, an elaborate visual poem seen through 75 digital scrolls that are deeply rooted in sculptural murals/miniature traditions of the East, on the Hindu epic Ramayana. Even though the scrolls deceptively presented in the style of a comic book, they are deeply rooted in sculptural murals and miniature traditions of the East and the language of cinema.
Collaboration is key to Dar’s work, be it with intellectuals, technologists, programmers or other artists. In his 2010 solo show titled BROWNation – Dar reconfigured symbols of India from currency notes, Gandhi, and even the national flag to question the political idea of nationhood in India and the growing commodity culture by using ‘traditional bazaar’ idioms. In 2012, the artist expanded upon this idea of the BROWNation in his inaugural exhibition at Chemould Prescott Road, ‘The Rise of the BROWNationals,’ which was in collaboration with historian Kaushik Bhaumik and media arts practitioner Siddhartha Chatterjee. This exhibition focused on a specific geographic area– the Golden Triangle created by India Gate, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the Parliament House- the symbolic heart of power and nationhood in India. One of the most striking works which illustrates Dar’s technical finesse and knack for storytelling is ‘Girl on a Swing,’ a single channel video which depicts a girl swinging care free from India Gate. The absurdity of this video, which is set in a place normally associated with somber political ceremonies, opens up questions of the place of women within Indian society, which is especially timely given the highly publicized rape cases in Delhi.