Pivotal Works by Critically Acclaimed Artist Amar Kanwar Unveiled

Detail from Amar Kanwar, “The Sovereign Forest” (2012-2017). Photo: John Varghese, courtesy of The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

Press Release

Ishara Art Foundation and The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery have opened exhibitions featuring solo projects by critically acclaimed contemporary artist Amar Kanwar. This parallel presentation across two institutions is a unique opportunity to explore Kanwar’s artistic practice in depth through compelling multi-media installations.

Ishara Art Foundation, is a non-profit institution dedicated to contemporary art from South Asia, and will showcase Such a Morning (2017) until May 20, while The NYUAD Art Gallery, the University’s academic museum-gallery, is showing The Sovereign Forest (2011) until May 30.

“At Ishara Art Foundation we are committed to enriching the cultural sphere in the UAE, with insightful contemporary works of global relevance. Such a Morning is a powerful work by Kanwar that continues his exploration of complex issues with masterful use of moving image and text. We are thrilled to collaborate with The NYUAD Art Gallery on this exhibition, allowing both our organizations to make extraordinary works by a leading contemporary artist accessible to UAE audiences.”

Chairperson at Ishara Art Foundation Smita Prabhakar

The subject matter of both projects is complex, framed within deeply beautiful studies of their worlds. Presenting these two projects in parallel puts them into dialogue, and allows us to reflect on the underlying themes that drive Amar Kanwar’s work. In The Sovereign Forest, his ongoing, collaborative project documents a scene of crime, using meditative, poetic films and installations that raise more questions than are resolved. The more recent Such a Morning features a quest to understand the nature of the many darknesses in the world. Together, the two projects offer a kind of call and response, along the themes of crime and grieving, and injustice and compassion, exploring new positions from which to respond.”

Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery Maya Allison

Searching for a way to re-comprehend the difficult times we are living in, Artist, Amar Kanwar, asks: “What is it that lies beyond, when all arguments are done with? How to reconfigure and respond again?

Such a Morning, 2017, Amar Kanwar. Film Still: Such a Morning. Photo: Amar Kanwar Studio.

About Such a Morning at Ishara Art Foundation
Such a Morning (2017) is a feature-length film installation, which premiered at documenta 14 in Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany. The fictional narrative shows two central characters who grapple with a hallucinatory world is a parable for the complex challenges of our times.

The film follows a professor who retreats from his career, seeking isolation in an abandoned train carriage. Creating a zone of darkness so as to acclimatize himself before total darkness descends, he begins to live in a realm bereft of light. A parallel story about a woman emerges, providing a compelling, analogous narrative to the protagonist’s. Meanwhile, the professor records his epiphanies and visions in an almanac of the dark, an examination of 49 types of darkness that emerge as a series of letters which are exhibited alongside the film.

Kanwar conceived a narrative that continues beyond the film—the professor continues to write his letters—towards a research project with diverse artistic, pedagogic, metaphysical, and political collaborations. These become the rubric for a continuing project, and are at the core of the series of Letters that accompany the film. The handmade paper for Letters was done by Sherna Dastur at the Nirupama Academy of Handmade Paper, Kolkata, India. 

Produced with the support of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Marian Goodman Gallery, and Amar Kanwar Film Productions.

Ishara Art Foundation is presented in partnership with Alserkal Avenue.

Ishara Art Foundation is supported by the Rivoli Group.About The Sovereign Forest at The NYUAD Art Gallery
The Sovereign Forest is an ongoing multimedia installation that is a creative response to crime, politics, human rights, and ecological crisis. It evolved out of conflict in the Indian state of Odisha. Kanwar has been following the industrial interventions that have altered Odisha’s landscape for more than a decade. The Sovereign Forest is a long-term collaboration of the artist with media activist Sudhir Pattnaik, and designer and filmmaker Sherna Dastur.

Multiple works make up The Sovereign Forest. At its core are two films: The Scene of Crime (2011) and A Love Story (2010). The first is a film about landscapes just prior to their obliteration. Almost every image in this film lies within specific territories that are proposed industrial sites and are in the process of being acquired by the government and corporations in Odisha, India. The second is about the experience of that loss. The installation will include three handmade books, The Counting Sisters and Other Stories (2011), The Prediction (1991–2012), and The Constitution (2012) with their own films projected on its pages. These contain fables, stories of the incarcerated, and pieces of “evidence” such as a fishing net, a cloth garment, rice seeds, a betel leaf, and newspaper embedded inside the paper. 

Produced with the support of Samadrusti, Odisha; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK; documenta 13, Kassel; and Public Press, New Delhi.

The NYUAD Art Gallery will present a series of public programs exploring the rich web of themes within The Sovereign Forest—evidence, invisibility, injustice, and disappearance. Featuring screenings, discussion sessions, and artist-led outings, the events will invite participants to confront these issues and embark on a journey of self-discovery.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.