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An edgy art-plus SPACE

Colab, the new gallery on the art scene, consciously straddles the no man's land between national and commercial galleries

— Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Valsan Koorma Kolleri's hanging copper-wire creation sets the tone for the space.

THE OPENING of Colab at Cunningham Road on February 12 caught Bangalore's art cognoscenti off guard. What's a new art gallery doing in the heart of our city at a time when others are downing their shutters? What's on its agenda? How will it impact the art scene?

The brainchild of independent curator Suman Gopinath (formerly of Sakshi gallery) and architect Edgar Demello, Colab takes off at the space that housed TAG&B (The Architecture Gallery & Bookshop) since 2000. It consciously straddles the no man's land between national and commercial galleries.

Its inaugural exhibition from February 12 to March 26, Retrospective as Artwork by peripatetic sculptor-installation artist Valsan Koorma Kolleri (currently Mumbai-based), sets the tone for the space — and triggers its own questions. Created in collaboration with young local artists, his hanging copper-wire creation defines its own dimensions while reaching out to the landscape beyond the window, by way of a diffusely lit, three-pronged installation above eight-foot deep holes.

Capturing art in a time of flux, Kolleri's work melds aspects of art and architecture together into an inseparable whole. Was that its intent? Right on. "We see this as a space for collaboration between art and architecture, with people and institutions, through varied projects and processes," explains Gopinath, whose independent curatorial projects since 2000 have thrice involved Kolleri. Demello seconds that, "Our idea might not necessarily end up in a product. It could be just an ongoing process of discussion or interaction."

He explains: "Outside of Koshy's, Dewar's bar or the cafés, Bangalore really doesn't have a space where you can share your innermost fears about the creative process of architecture, art or design. We could provide that platform. Just as TAG&B was once an energy-filled space for architecture students."

With major fund-raising on the cards to keep their path-breaking ideation afloat, the duo have more than mere exhibitions, seminars, and slide shows up their sleeves.

This was evident from the February 14 artistic sharings by Belfast artist Heather Allen, besides Margaret Fitzgibbon and Una Quigley from the Cork Collective in Ireland, through edgy poetry, music and slides alike.

What does that spell? Experimentation through partnership with Indian and international networks.

Outreach programmes that will engage government and corporation schools, teasing young minds into engaging with art as an everyday tool. Audience development through literature in Kannada and English.

Catapulting art and architecture into serious public discourse, examining their affinity to, say, classical musical structures. Or organising cross-continental residencies.

Democratisation

Clues to the future lie in their past. For Gopinath's four co-curatorial forays since 2000 with Dublin-based Grant Watson, her classmate at London's Goldsmiths College in 1999, include Drawing Space, an exposition of contemporary Indian drawing at London and Nottingham involving three distinctly individual artists — Nasreen Mohamedi, Sheela Gowda and N.S. Harsha. And Room for Improvement, an interactive project that brought three Indian and three British artists together with two traditional folk painters at New Delhi's Crafts Museum in 2001-02, later travelling on to Bangalore.

The breakaway gallery's agenda includes the democratisation of art spaces, so that a wider social cross-section will enter its portals, perhaps a la the Pompidou Centre at Paris. And taking visiting artists to schools to break the ice and provoke interest. Perhaps even arrange inter-disciplinary workshops that shake the status quo.

"The stress at Colab would probably be on connections," stresses Demello, as a breezy gust blows into the gallery from the raintree boughs beyond the window.

Did the invisible debris of dead ideas waft away soon after? Only the evolution of Colab could answer that.

Colab is at 202, Shah Sultan, Cunningham Road. It is open from Monday to Saturday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dial 51148932 to contact Colab.

ADITI DE

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