Seventeen of the current and recent students of the Printmaking Department of the Sir JJ School of Art have self-organised to create an endowment of scholarships for students of the studio by producing a limited edition of ten portfolios, Auguries JJXXI, under Prof. Anant Nikam, head of the department. To afford the cost of the entire process of creating this portfolio, the seventeen students contributed in equal measure. Clark House Initiative was invited to mentor the project. Clark House in turn requested Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai and British artist Simon Liddiment to teach classes on ephemeral and conceptual art practices. British artist Liz Ballard conducted a workshop challenging existing conventions of the print process through experimentation, modifying the printing plate, the paper, and the sequence of making prints. The students visited the studios of senior artists AA Raiba and Lalitha Lajmi to understand their life’s work, to discuss the medium, and deliberate how Indian modernism came into being. These five artists have generously made works for the portfolio.
The works in this portfolio are tuning forks, testing the winds of the future, and commenting on the present. In a century where governments, courts, economic systems, and the media are no longer trusted, discontent seeks a voice over various media. In the recent Arab Spring, Facebook took on a utility it was least designed to perform. Printmaking was invented to spread the word of the bible to lay people. Since then prints have served as an instrument of propaganda across revolutions and ideologies, serving a political role through the last century. The students of the JJ College hail from humble backgrounds travelling long distances from shared accommodations in the distant suburbs of the city. From the printmaking studio they watch the city change and grow - witnesses to their own alienation.
Auguries JJXXI initiates a way of thinking: understanding the strengths of a collaborative infrastructure of support. its stance of self-organisation and co-dependence is a philosophic response to the compelling context and backlog of afflictions in our young century. At the of the 21st century, the works comment on the world. They are signs from the present, pausing to unravel the omens of what the future may bring. Signs are ambiguous, and that is the strength of many of the works – politically motivated, but without facile answers. The works are neither settled nor quiet. They spill over in meaning, while representing common images. A qualified definition of mysteriousness may be applied to many of the works. The works take real subjects from the everyday – a cricket field sign, an iguana, a bicycle seat, portraits, a cat, scales of a fish, a caribou, a water tank: all appear alien, or ominous; and yet the objects are so much a product of our world, each depiction carrying its own social history. These portents inaugurate a series of portfolios, and a new turn.