A Chair for Freedom, for Liberty, for Purity


A pop-up show at Gallery Espace brings nine pairs of artists and designers to collaborate on a charity event around chairs, creating unique art pieces which will certainly enchant

By: Suman Tarafdar

Posted on: December 6, 2019

A chair as a friend. From that simple idea came a pop-up that captivated the imagination, and raised money for charity.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Shakuntala Kulkarni Sanjay Puri

10 Chairs is a collective of installations in art and design with its first edition in New Delhi raising funds for the 100 Good Karma Project, a foundation working in the foothills of the Himalayas. The concept came from designer Sonali Purewal, who worked on this with creative brand consultant Pramiti Madhavji, who came together with Gallery Espace for this art collaboration.

Ms. Purewal came about the idea of ‘10 Chairs’ from a sit-down dinner she had planned for 10 friends that met around an aged wine-stained wooden table to exchange stories. “I have been thinking of this event called 10 Chairs in my head,” she explains. “Who are these 10 friends? What are their personalities? And what are the stories they want to tell? Each chair at the event is a friend at the dinner table, and the piece is their story. These are my ten friends.” No, there is no link to New York’s 10 Chairs NYC.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition GR Iranna Klove

Some of India’s finest artists, architects and designers have collaborated to tell their story with a statement piece. Each chair has been made as a single edition. “The beauty of these chairs is that they are single edition pieces,” Ms. Purewala enthuses. As to the reason for the collaborations, Ms. Purewal says, “Any artist or designer can be commissioned to make anything solo, which is not difficult. But as a collaboration, it is not going to happen. When people collaborate and it becomes a bespoke piece, it’s a different thing.”

Ms. Purewal chose from designers who work on an array of materials, like a variety of forms and designs. “We got architects that work in concrete, designers that work in metal, somebody who works in glass, somebody who works in paper, or fabric, literally to see how the yin and yang could be put together. In some cases, it really worked, in other cases, they were poles apart, which made them think out of the box.” Incidentally, for many of the participating designers, it was the first time working together.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Anita Dube Madhav Raman

Two people have collaborated on each chair. The pairs included Shakuntala Kulkarni and Sanjay Puri; Anita Dube and Madhav Raman; Bose Krishnamachari and Alex Davis; GR Iranna and Klove; Karl Antao and Gurjit Matharoo; Marcantonio and Scarlet Splendour; Martand Khosla and Gunjan Gupta; Puneet Kaushik and Ayush Kasliwal; and Valay Gada and Mandeep Nagi

The works are a mix of digital, mixed media, interactive art that are both sculptural and installations. The collaborations started around mid-August, and  everyone came on board pretty quickly. Ms. Purewala remembers the questions she faced such as - why chair, why can’t we do a table? “I had to explain that the whole thing is chair,” she says. “Any collaboration is a lot of effort, lots of work.”

The chairs literally came in all shapes and sizes and materials and designs. Even a furniture fair does not usually display such a range in variety and concepts!

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Karl Antao Gurjit Matharoo

Shakuntala Kulkarni and Sanjay Puri made what was one of the most striking pieces, layered and incisive. Called ‘La Liberta’, they brought nine two dimensional punctuated elliptical planes of varying sizes angled differently to create an abstract composition of this chair. Made of certified green polymer board and acid free paper, its ellipses appear to be striving to escape in different direction, depicting freedom.  A closer look reveals four strips of images from Juloos, four video installations which declares each person has an equal right and freedom as an individual.

Another unusual chair – misshapen at first glance – was ‘Takème’. Puneet Kaushik and Ayush Kasliwal make a political statement. Takème has all the elements of a functional object but is disoriented in a way that it no longer performs its functions, and mocks its own existence. The chair is made of embroidered beads on canvas, wood, cast metal, synthetic fur and natural wood - signifying the variety of people and institutions that constitute India. Its bold red signals the soreness and the warnings that the situation needs to change.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Martand Khosla Gunjan Gupta

A very different expression of the project came from Martand Khosla and Gunjan Gupta, whose ‘Chairity Starts at Home’ are 24 small chair objects that reflect the world and its structures, while reimagining seats. The work primarily uses brass and brick dust, along with varied metals.

Valay Gada and Mandeep Nagi presented a vision in gold - ‘The Anchorite's Armchair: A Seat for the Soul’. Made of brass, mild steel, cotton, fabric, gold foil and beads, “the work reflects the tension between the often harsh realities of life and the delicacy of the internal spiritual journey. The marriage of the strength of metal and the softness of fabric recreates the inevitable tensions of modern urban life and the sublime solitude craved by the soul,” they said.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Puneet Kaushik Ayush Kasliwal

The only one to get an enclosure of its own – mainly due to the nature of its work, was Karl Antao and Gurjit Matharoo’s ‘Me Raaj’, a shimmering cascade of fibre optics and glass beads in a dark enclosure that lit up and went dark in a loop. Is the chair an object or a state of being? – it asks the viewer to reflect.

GR Iranna and Klove (by lighting designers Prateek Jain and Gautam Seth) created ‘The Umbilical Chair’, a light installation of metal, wood and blown glass, a visual representation of the relationship between human and social influences. Overtly, a flock of birds seem to be flying out of chair, where the birds have a desire to break free from the pressures of daily life, while the chair represents the social interactions we hold on to.

The next work, a striking diptych by Anita Dube and Madhav Raman, called the ‘O Phantom of Liberty!’ was at first glance two commode covered in velvet. Made of wood, sunmica, ceramic, plastic, velvet, mirror, acoustics, the work harks back to Luis Bunuel’s 1974 film, The Phantom of Liberty, where at the dinner table, the seats are WCs and the conversation veers towards politics, pollution and population.

10 Chairs Gallery Espace new Delhi Exhibition Valay Gada Mandeep Negi

Bose Krishnamachari and Alex Davis went a very different way in creating their work. Their Braille on canvas installation is inspired by American artist Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual 1965 installation, One and Three Chairs - a folding chair, a life-size photograph of it, and an enlarged definition of the word chair. Krishnamachari and Davis have created a fourth chair, via Braille, a nod to minimalism and even absurdity.

The silent auction, in progress at Espace Gallery, is raising funds, which will go towards the 100 Good Karma’s initiative for making more medical units for animals, to start blood banks in remote parts of Himachal Pradesh and initiate green waste disposal systems at micro village levels in the foothills of the Himalayas. The NGO is supported and funded by Ms. Purewal’s design firm based in Kasauli, Himachal.

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