ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT
Davide Grazioli divides his time between Asia and Europe, taking note of the delicate ties that bind the peoples of East and West as well as the wide gulfs that divide them. The artist enjoys associating travel with transcendental experiences, the dwindling of an individual’s identity until it merges into a greater whole. Travel is thus represented as a modern form of meditation, another way to leave behind your individual identity and enter a territory in which the conscience is allowed greater freedom from its conditioning and is able to absorb the experience of people who seem distant at first sight (thereby crossing what Hermann Hesse called magical bridges). Travel, therefore, is like an act of grace, a personal enrichment, a peerless opportunity to gain your equilibrium and move away from your conditioned self toward the state derived from ancient Buddhist and Hindu beliefs that theosophists call the unborn self. As the artist’s gaze swings between East and West, it’s inevitable that he looks at times with naivety and astonishment at India’s fabulous ties to the earth and to tradition, and at times witnesses with a shudder the speed at which Asia is evolving. Now he is the enchanted tourist in a magical and marvellous India, moved as he draws on the simple forms of an everyday life imbued with spirituality (as in the series of pictures about the banyan tree and about the statues in the temple that are the focus of activity there). Now he is a determined defender of an Indian-ness to which he has become inextricably attached over the years, such as when he holds up the Ambassador car or the rickshaw as the epitome of an India that is both classical but also impetuously contemporary or when he chooses to depict the shimmering brass step that separate the world from the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple, the very step beyond which Westerners cannot and must not pass.
The most important choice is the manner in which all the pictures are realized, in a process that imitates the concept of that reduction of subjectivity to which the artist alludes. For the Madras exhibition, the stratagem consisted of incorporating into his work the famous hoarding painters – painters of advertising signs and movie posters – thereby transforming them into a true medium in their own right. “I was looking for a further translation that would make my individual point of view less and less visible”, says the artist. But the choice was doubly interesting because by putting the hoarding painters into the foreground as a way of diluting his own identity, the artist also graspes the last chance to photograph this homegrown Indian tradition at the moment when it is most threatened with extinction. Likewise, the enormous quantity of woven palm leaves on the gallery floor at the Lalit Kala Academi forces visitors to slow their pace, taking them symbolically to a rural reality that clashes with the ultra high speed nature of contemporary India and the western world. It is this same reality that gave birth to the series of “Spontaneous installation” photographs, images of daily life that riff on their own eligibility to be artistic installation despite not being made up at any level. The artist’s depictions of Asia in this way strike a recurrent theme, one that is more Western than ever: the recovery of the spirit after decades of an excessive determinism that keeps showing its own limits. Davide Grazioli quotes the daimon of James Hillman to symbolize the flow of Western sciences and disciplines back towards positions that are ever more spiritual. The choice of the Milanese artist thus inevitably falls on Asia as the place where spirituality manages to find its space in everyday.