Platform has a conversation with the enigmatic artist Mansoor Ali, where he talks about his art and his debut show Anatomy of an Unknown Chair at Gallery Maskara.
Can you deconstruct your art for us?
A quest and an urge for humanitarian values are central to my artistic explorations. This concern, originated from the vestiges of my earliest memories of communal violence. As a result the intent behind my initial attempts to engage with questions of faith and violence was to situate my artistic practices in an ever-intensifying communal climate of the nation.
I have also been engaged in evolving a broader, more open-ended sculptural vocabularyâ€”in order to communicate with a spectator regardless of his/her linguistic, social and religious identity. Deciphering and questioning political and social inclinations in a rapidly changing society have constantly informed my works. Moreover, identitarian politics also determine my artistic concerns and choices.
When, how and what made you decide to pursue art?
I always had an interest in the creative field. In fact, during those years, immediately after my schooling, I was genuinely interested in the field of architecture and interior design. But following my fathersâ€™ accident, which resulted in financial collapse in the family, I opted to enroll myself at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University of Baroda as it was more affordable and also fulfilled my wish to remain active and pursue my creative urge.
A HIGH SEAT
June 19th 2014, by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh, Verve
The lowly chair is also representative of the highest seat in the country. Mansoor Ali in a debut solo comments on the political system through his larger-than-life chair sculptures.
Itâ€™s the Indian political system, or the lack of it, that interests Gujarat-born artist Mansoor Ali. He uses chairs as a means of political commentary, and by changing their usual configuration, proportion and context, he opens up a dialogue of interpretations.
Anatomy of an Unknown Chair is Aliâ€™s debut solo, where in The Restless Chair, you are looking at a seat that is constantly in motion and rotates faster as you approach it; Monument to an Unknown Politician is 102-inches tall where the central column supports seven chairs of various dimensions and to reach the highest chair, you have to climb the smaller ones. The biggest chair moves in a circle, but is going nowhere. In Weight of the Political Brain, an industrial weighing scale forms the seat of an oversized chair and a miniature version of the parliament house rests on the seat. The overhead digital display reveals the weight of this political nerve center to equal that of an average human brain. It is nudging us to question the people in whom we put our faith.
THREE SEARING WORKS WORTH SEEING AT MANSOOR ALI'S POWERFUL DEBUT SOLO SHOW
June 16th 2014, Mumbai Boss
How do you move a six level-high stack of miniature wood chairs, each tucked into each other without the help of nails or any adhesive from a studio in Delhi to a gallery in Mumbai without it falling apart? Very carefully, if youâ€™re Mansoor Ali whose rickety composition glued with nothing more than thick cobwebs is part of his compact debut solo show Anatomy of an Unknown Chair at Gallery Maskara. â€śAt first I wanted termites to eat them and see what would happen but they didnâ€™t come,â€ť says Ali. The type of wood (pine) he had used he soon discovered wasnâ€™t all that enticing to the insects. Instead, colonies of spiders soon claimed the structure for their own, spinning springy webs in between legs and seats and in crevices deep inside. â€śI told the carpenter, donâ€™t move the work until I tell you,â€ť says Ali, which it turned out was two years later. There are just five works in Aliâ€™s show, each delivering a punch of a message about the politics of power play, something he first did very effectively in 2008 when his pyramid of â€śsarkariâ€ť chairs titled â€śDance of Democracyâ€ť was acquired by Charles Saatchi.
ARTISTIC TAKE ON THINGS IN A STATE OF FLUX
26th June, Niha Masih, The Sunday Guardian
Constant change is one of the leitmotifs of life and to be able to hold on to anything in this swirl can be quite a task. What is or can be the nature of resistance to the world around us which is evolving, decaying or perhaps momentary? Exploring this complex trope of how to face things in a state of flux, is a new exhibition at Gallery Maskara in Mumbai, titled Hold On.
The only Indian artist to feature is Baroda based sculptor Mansoor Ali, who has done sculptures called Beautifully Corrupt and Alliance IV. Humanitarian concerns have always been central to his work and this time too he explores the political corruption prevailing in the country. Speaking of his work, he says, "I wanted to look at how long can people of this country hold on to things that they are not happy with (like shoddy governance)? Many a times there are important external factors binding people." Alliance IV is a set of chairs bound by disks, while Beautifully Corrupt has termites feeding on an ordinary chair.