INDIA. New Delhi: Masha Art is hosting a ten-day exhibition of 60 pandemic-time images in the capital of the medieval-era Vijayanagar empire.
Shot by Manoj Arora during prolonged spells of COVID-19 that forced people to stay indoors, the “Rediscovering Hampi” is a suite of photographs that unveil the historical beauty of the UNESCO recognised landmark on the banks of the Tungabhadra in east-central Karnataka.
Hampi was one of the most beautiful cities in the mediaeval world.
Surrounded by palaces and Dravidian temples, the capital of the last of the great kingdoms of South India, Hampi today is one of the most beautiful sites in the world.
Spending days there during the pandemic last year, Manoj Arora says that Hampi is a ‘Mecca of beauty’ but difficult to access. The seven-hour journey from Bangalore, over bumpy roads overloaded with trucks, keeps it out of the reach of the tourist hordes.
Conceived as a reflection of time
This exhibition, conceived as an open-ended index of historical, speculative, and emergent instantiations of space through time, is conceived as an open-ended index of historical, speculative, and emergent instantiations of space.
Space, some will say, is not intrinsically specific. Yet some locations and territories read obviously and overtly as they have some connectivity to people’s lives, history, and culture. In this sense, the space at Hampi is cultivated and fostered regularly and variously.
Manoj Arora creates distinctive digital fine art photography, which is reflected clearly in these photographs. Every reflection, influenced by history and architecture, permeates light and positivity.
The architecture enchants
When asked why he chose Hampi, especially during the pandemic times, Manoj says, “It was always in the back of my mind. I visited Hampi a decade back and wanted to cover it with my photography as Hampi is one of the rich heritage sites. As I am covering the monuments, their architecture, structure, monoliths, monuments, and temples, everything here fascinates me. Hampi is such a place where you can see history scattered everywhere.”
“During the pandemic, when people were not travelling, and the environment was less polluted, it was much easier to photograph these monuments from every angle. I could connect with my subject. I felt that I was part of history. I found the architecture breathtaking, consisting of several temples, shrines, aquatic structures, pillared halls, royal complexes, and so many spaces and stones that spoke of a planned city. The architecture enchants you and transports you into a different era altogether,” he added.
Curated by veteran art scholar Uma Nair, the show is a “narrative expression” of the sprawling monuments renowned for their 14th-century stone sculptures across 16 square miles.
She says, “Not only do these five dozen visuals unveil Arora’s assemblage practices; the lens explores the nature of Hampi as a place of artistic expression. These photos are steeped in “historical, geographical, and socio-political principles that are powerful as well as personally resonant.”
The architecture of Hampi is more than a signature; it weaves into the pages of history to create corollaries and conversations that bring forward antiquity like never before. “His artistic engagements are biographical interventions into mainstream cultural consciousnesses,” says Uma.
Masha Art CEO Samarth Mathur said that ‘Re-discovering Hampi’ is the gallery’s first show at Bikaner House. “The exhibition will generate pride and admiration for India’s heritage that goes back to generations,” he said. The show is on till September 22.
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