Indian contemporary art has come a long way in the last two decades, distinctive in its blend of Indian subjectivity and international sensibilities. A landmark in this journey for the modern art enthusiast, and the sports fan in this case, is its current foray into the space of cross-disciplinary creativity.
I had walked into the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai not knowing what to expect that day. Art and sport? I was the predictable, pseudo, purist audience steeped in self-indicted cynicism. I left the gallery a couple of hours later, overwhelmed and humbled with emotion, pride, and an insight into the complexities woven around a sporting legend and its artistic elucidations.
Ten of India’s finest modern art protagonists had come together for the first time, through ‘Deconstructed Innings,’ with the singular purpose of artistically interpreting the innings of one of the country’s greatest sporting heroes, collaborating with the icon himself. The result was an exhibition that was aesthetically beautiful and exhilarating in experience.
The ten artists were GR Iranna, Hema Upadhyay, Jagannath Panda, Manjunath Kamath, Remen Chopra, Riyas Komu, Shreyas Karle, Sunil Gawde, Trilochan Anand and Vibha Galhotra. Each with their own inimitable style working in installations, video art, sound work, mixed media, painting, drawings, and sculpture. The sporting hero was Sachin Tendulkar.
The youngest cricketer to play for India at 16, Sachin was the first batsman to score a double century in one-day international history, and is the only player to have scored 100 international centuries. He played first class cricket for 26 years and one day; his international career covered 24 years from 15 November 1989 to 15 November 2013.
Each of the artists deconstructed Sachin’s innings through his or her own creative lens. The combined outcome of the artworks, some intimate and small, some quirky, and others grand in concept and size, took me on a journey where I visited and revisited Sachin. Recurring themes were his relationship with his fans, Sachin the human being, his professional achievements, and deeply personal moments from his cricketing life.
Deconstructed Innings was not just an exhibition. It was the unravelling of a celebrated sporting life into the subtleties and sumptuousness of the language of art.
The exhibition commenced with ‘Completion of Oneself Through the Other’ by Hema Upadhyay, a monumental installation exploring the reaction of Sachin’s fans whilst he plays. Their frenzy larger than life, a testimony to their role in the creation of an icon.
A shattering of a glass pane and the ensuing rants by irate residents in Mumbai’s lanes woke me from my reverie. ‘Pause’ by Sunil Gawde was a sobering rendition of the plight faced by gully-cricket, the common introduction to the game throughout India, including Sachin’s.
Achievements and accolades, personal and public: ‘Treasure Box’ by Trilochan Anand presented the 13 1 Rupee coins Sachin received from his trainer Ramakant Achrekar for staying undefeated at the crease the entire day during his early years. Remen Chopra’s ‘City of Dreams’, meanwhile, was an eclectic collage of Sachin’s (a Mumbaikar) illustrious statistics echoing Mumbai’s skyline, with Wankhede Stadium as a backdrop where he played his last match.
Top Left: Though cricket was introduced to India through the British, the game evolved into a version idiosyncratic to India with its own rules and terminologies which only an Indian would understand. Shared by Sachin, ‘Current Out’ in ‘Notes from a Terrace’ by Shreyas Karle, was just one such example.
Conversely, GR Iranna’s ‘The Many Lives of Tendulkar’ portrayed the impossible turned into possible by Sachin. In ‘Not Out’ (top right) Sachin’s bat was bombarded with balls even as ‘Out’ (above) had him, as an icon, facing 32 fielders, representing both on-field and off-field challenges.
‘Arrival of a Cricket God’ by Manjunath Kamath was a Renaissance replay of the birth of a cricket legend. The triptych, comprising layers of superimposed imagery, had gods and goddesses, sages, animals, cherubs, and even superman himself, paying homage to Sachin by holding cricket bats or bowling to Sachin. 🙂
The Grand Finale: ‘Legacy beyond Centuries’, Riyas Komu’s epic installation on Sachin Tendulkar’s Herculean achievement of a hundred hundreds was a befitting end to Deconstructed Innings. A row of hand casts, each depicting a century, circled the entire dome reverberating with Sachin’s emotional farewell speech. A legacy in sport, flawlessly translated into art.
– – –
Deconstructed Innings was on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Fort, Mumbai from 18 December, 2014 to 15 February, 2015 from 11 am to 6 pm. The exhibition had been conceptualised by Kiran Desai of TenArt, and co-curated with Veeranganakumari Solanki. TenArt aspires to integrate the world of sport and art into a single creative ‘SportArt’.