GIGI SCARIA

Gigi Scaria was born in Kothanalloor, a village in south Kerala, India, in 1973. In 1995, after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, Scaria moved to New Delhi where he undertook a Master of Arts at Jamia Millia Islamia. Moving from Kerala to New Delhi was a significant experience that in turn influenced Scaria’s creative work. He began to make art reflecting the impact of city life. He worked with mapping, abstract forms and narrative painting, later focussing on the mapping of the ‘city’ itself. In the mid-1990s, while establishing his career as a professional artist, Scaria also illustrated children’s books and taught art at an experimental school in New Delhi.

By the turn of the millennium, increased international exposure was accompanied by prestigious residency opportunities and solo exhibitions in India, Germany, America, Hungary, the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2002, Scaria was awarded an Inlaks Scholarship, and was artist-in-residence at UNIDEE, Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation, Biella, Italy. That year, he also participated in Indians + Cowboys, an exhibition at Gallery 4A (Sydney).

Scaria’s creative repertoire includes a range of media such as painting, photography, installation, sculpture, digital art and video. Since 2002, he has made thirty independent films inspired by place and the people who inhabit particular locations that are imbued with different social and political conditions. The films include: A day with Sohail and Maryan (2004), Home: in/out (2005), Raise your hands those who have touched him (2007), All about the other side (2008), and Raise your hands those who have spoken to him (2010). Subjects such as the children who inhabit the streets of New Delhi, and the memories of people who have met or seen Mahatma Gandhi and Mao Zedong inspire him, while recent video work deals with the impact of the rapid growth of India’s cities and the social conditions that have been affected by this change.

Scaria’s landmark sculptures also refer to the modern city. In the sculpture Someone left a horse on the shore (2007), apartment buildings are incorporated into a wooden Trojan horse. Scaria’s metaphor of the Trojan horse is the threat that consumes everything, including the spaces on the periphery, until nothing is left. In Wheel (2009), a photograph featuring a giant wooden Ferris wheel, personal space is brought into question. All the thrill, excitement and stimulation of the city is symbolized by the Ferris wheel, which features multi-storey buildings in place of seating, situated against a landscape of urban dwellings.

Scaria’s first project for an American museum, Gigi Scaria: City unclaimed, was held in 2013 at the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago. This site-specific installation comprising a large photo-based mural of an imaginary cityscape and a 12 foot high water fountain covered the central wall of the museum’s reception for 12 months. Scaria’s other recent solo exhibitions, Amusement park (Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, 2009), Difficult to imagine, easy to construct (Art Asia Miami, 2008), Site under construction (Videospace Budapest, 2008), and Triviality of everyday existence (the National Art Studio, Changdong, Republic of Korea, 2008), feature video art that includes interviews (fictional and non-fictional), documentaries and animation.

In 2011, Scaria was one of five artists (with Zarina Hashmi, Sonal Jain, Mriganka Madhukaillya and Praneet Soi) to represent India at the 54th Venice Biennale in the exhibition Everyone agrees: it’s about to explode, curated by Ranjit Hoskote. In Elevator from the sub-continent, an installation made for the biennale, Scaria created a simulated space representing an actual elevator that the audience was invited to step inside in order to ‘time travel’ to different locations in India. Inside, projected photographs and video animation on the walls of the elevator created the sensation of moving underground through multiple levels of living interiors representing different social conditions. Scaria’s work was also presented at the 3rd Singapore Biennale in 2011 as well as Crossroads: India escalate, the India Pavilion for the Prague Biennale 5.

In 2012 Scaria participated in the OzAsia Festival exhibition The needle on the gauge: the testimonial image in the work of seven Indian Artists, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA), Adelaide, and he created a sculptural installation for the exhibition Topical heat: new art from south Asia at the Govett Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand. His work also appeared in Critical mass at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the first major exhibition to introduce contemporary Indian art to the Israeli public. Gigi Scaria was a 2012 University of Melbourne Macgeorge Fellow, which included an exhibition of video works held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, as part of the Melbourne Festival. Scaria’s work has been included in several 2013 group exhibitions in Mumbai and New Delhi.

Further reading

• Adajania, Nancy, ‘The unbearable heaviness of being: parables of a 21st-century nagrik’, Gigi Scaria: amusement park, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, 2010.

• Scaria, Gigi, ‘Video: a parallel inquiry (other encounters the self)’, Absence of an architect: Gigi Scaria, Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2007.

• Scaria, Gigi, in conversation with Jamila Adeli, ‘Trust the medium, control the message: the art of aestheticizing a bulldozer’, Gigi Scaria, Galerie Christian Hosp, Berlin, 2009.

• Sinha, Gayatri, ‘The city of forking paths’, Absence of an architect: Gigi Scaria, Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2007.

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