Vivan Sundaram

Engine Oil and Charcoal: Works on Paper – Vivan Sundaram
After the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, Vivan Sundaram made an important set of around forty drawings, Engine Oil and Charcoal: Works on Paper, as a reaction to the horrors of massive oil spills, oil fires of volcanic lava, and the army squadrons burnt alive. Occupying a place in between drawing, painting and installation, these compositions mark a pivotal moment in the artist’s practice at a crucial historical juncture. Here, for the first time Sundaram abandoned conventional painting; this series marks his transition to the installation, video, digital photomontage, and multi-media work that defines his practice from 1991 onwards. The slick of crude oil becomes his medium, as he begins staining the surfaces of his paper with it to convey the televised accounts of the war. By rubbing charcoal with his fingers he creates a smoked effect, suggesting the scenes of a war-devastated landscape and the tortured earth, and signaling an unhinged common future. As Sundaram introduces burned engine oil into his drawings, he moves us to see and smell a barreling smoke and contamination by energetically applying the heavy fuel onto the surface of his paper. These drawings have become fragile artifacts in their own right, growing more brittle, discolored, and faded over time, reflecting the reality of eco-historical change that itself of crucial concern in the works.
Extracts from Mathur, Saloni. A Fragile Inheritance: Radical Stakes in Contemporary Indian Art. Duke University Press, Durham, 2019.

Chemould Prescott Road

Established by Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy in Mumbai in 1963, Chemould is one of the first exhibition spaces in India focusing on modern and contemporary art, that presents works by the country’s most prominent artists across interdisciplinary and experimental mediums. Through its online viewing rooms, artist projects and significant presence in global art fairs and programs, Chemould is also at the forefront of international art platforms. Since its inception, Chemould has pioneered the early careers of today’s leading artists including S. H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Bhupen Khakhar, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya and L.N. Tallur among others. Through its institutional collaborations, Chemould has coordinated the mid-career retrospectives of artists like Jitish Kallat at the National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi (2017), NS Harsha at the Mori Art Museum (2017) and Mehlli Gobhai at the National Gallery of Modern Art Mumbai (2020). In conjunction with its exhibitions, Chemould shares the visionary work of its artists with audiences worldwide through the production of catalogues, artists books, editions and monographs; providing insights and unique access to their oeuvres. Through its wide-range programming the gallery has introduced important women artists to the public who stand as crucial feminist voices in contemporary Indian art, namely Mithu Sen, Pushpamala N and Shakuntala Kulkarni, and artists including Shilpa Gupta, Nilima Sheikh, Varunika Saraf and Reena Kallat, whose body of work confronts aspects of today’s socio-political landscape. Parallel to their representation, Chemould’s programme focuses on Desmond Lazaro, Aditi Singh, Bijoy Jain and Lavanya Mani, who present a range of investigations and approaches to material. In 2007, the gallery moved to a large loft-like space in a historic building on Prescott Road. Under the current directorship of Shireen Gandhy, Chemould has placed works in various private and public collections of leading international museums including the Guggenheim Foundation, the Tate Modern, the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, The Cincinnati Art Museum, M+ and The Art Institute of Chicago. Now in its fifth decade, Chemould plays a vital role in India’s contemporary art landscape: the gallery holds a robust program, and supports and showcases the careers of some of the most influential contemporary artists and estates from across the country.