India Express is a headlong plunge into mythical India, a culture of a billion people. To many of us, this powerful country which is the size of the European Union is a sweet blend of bright colours, Goa beaches, the misery of the streets of Kolkata, gods with ten arms and information technology. India Express puts our impressions and ideas in a blender with reality and spins up a fascinating cocktail of the sacred and the popular, with a splash of mythological images.
Besides as an economic power, India is globally trendy in the art world. Its combination of ancient culture and global prowess attracts immense interest and inspires exhibitions with universal themes. The exhibition India Express at Art Museum Tennis Palace examines this phenomenon at the swarming level of the street, but reaches for the sky, too. It comprises popular prints, revered altarpieces, popular comics, new and old scroll paintings, printed and hand-painted Bollywood posters, photographs and documentary films.
In Hinduism, India's largest religion, gods and people meet as they gaze each other. For this reason, the gods have come to earth as millions of images and figures. Wherever you turn, there will be Shiva the destroyer or Vishnu the creator, or the elephant-headed and benevolent Ganesha or the horrible Kali. Images of gods adorn the cars of businessmen and the lobbies of luxury hotels, the most squalid back alleys, bazaar stands bursting with people, trains, and the rear windows and dashboards of countless taxis.
In Indian comics and scroll paintings, current events provide the setting for the gods' quests, while contemporary artists use mythology to examine the status of women or social structures. Prints of popular Bollywood stars, politicians, and saints like Mother Teresa are for sale in the streets next to prints of the gods. These mythological images often also deal with India's fight for independence and political history.
While the gods are part of daily life, they are also worshipped in numerous festivals arranged year round, from neighbourhood carnivals to enormous pilgrimages of millions upon millions of people. At the centre of these festivals are altars and their god-figures, interpreting myths and commenting on current affairs.
In India, modern technology has not trampled the gods. New methods merely make the production of images more efficient and boost sales. Western influences have not destroyed the touch of eternity, they have merely added new spice.
The heart and inspiration of India Express is the exhibition Indian Popular Culture curated by professor Jyotindra Jain from Delhi. The following people have provided their expertise and contributed to the making of the exhibition: photographer Dev Nayak from Kolkata and the artisans Jitendra Nath and Paul Sons (Durga altar), gallerist Peter Nagy (contemporary art), the Balkrishna studio (hand-painted film posters), collector Carsten Davidsen and film critic Amrit Gangar (Indian film and Bollywood).
The partner of the exhibition is Oy Ebookers Finland Ltd.