Arunkumar H.G.: Seeds of Reckoning
18 May - 6 July 2012
Arunkumar H.G. has treated the Mumbai Art Room as a space for experimentation, transforming the white-walled gallery into an earthy, multisensory environment that envelops the viewer with its ephemeral compositions of seeds, leaves, dirt and cow dung. The artist has come to Mumbai, one of the most densely inhabited cities in the world, bringing plant forms from all over the country for a project that emphasizes the importance of conserving biodiversity.
As a symbolic gesture, Arunkumar has gathered over fifty kinds of leaves from two places: his parents' farm and nearby in the state of Karnataka, and his home in Gurgaon outside New Delhi. More than thirty types of seeds have been sourced from regions throughout India, serving as metaphors for the future; they are compact conveyors of precious genetic material that are increasingly threatened with extinction. The work titled Proseed is positioned on the right and back walls. The words "culture" and "daana"--a word that means "seed" in Hindi and "donation" in the artist's native Kannada language--emerge from the mesmerizing multicolored patterns, offering witty double meanings about art, environmental bounty, progress, and the need to preserve seed types for future agriculture. On the left wall, the work titled Releaf includes foliage from many different trees: cinnamon, mango, jackfruit, and banyan, among others. Also on display is a recent large-format artist's book, Tract (2011), containing lush color photographs shot over a period of five years.
Arunkumar's visual poetry is backed up by hard facts--according to one recent report, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 75% of crop biodiversity has been lost from the world's fields. India is reckoned to have had over 100,000 varieties rice a century ago; it now has only a few thousand ("Banking against Doomsday," The Economist, March 10, 2012.)
In sympathy with farmers throughout the world, Arunkumar is anxious about the effects of genetic engineering, the legality of patenting seeds, and the drastic impact of agricultural monopolies on the reduction of seed and plant types. He emphasizes that it is everyone's job to recognize the importance of diverse plant and animal life, and points out that there seems to be a gap when it comes to farmers and everyone else. As Kumar recounts, "When I was a child I used to see huge sandalwood trees all over the region where I was growing up. Now when I visit the same places I can't find a single sandalwood tree because of its precious properties, there is so much demand for it. I want to promote in people an essential awareness to look around our environment and identify ourselves with the ecological system, take on our responsibility to pass it on to the future without interfering much in the legacy and genes. It is very important to find ways to conserve and regenerate our ecological system, when our greed has been playing a major role in imbalancing the system."
- Susan Hapgood
About the artist
Arunkumar was born in Karnataka, and studied sculpture at M. S. University in Baroda, where he received B.A. and M.A. degrees. He has exhibited his work in numerous galleries and museums throughout India and across Asia, in countries including Thailand, China, South Korea. He is presently working on a forthcoming project for the exhibition, Hotel des Inmigrants -- Cosmopolitan Stranger, in Genk, Belgium later this year. The artist lives with his wife and son in New Delhi, and is represented by Nature Morte Gallery.