Malcolm Glover: INDIA
Thursday 29 August–Monday 30 September
A Wave of Dreams Arts Lab, free admission
Preview By Judy Parkinson
Last year Malcolm Glover brought us portraits from St Leonard’s. This year he has gone further afield, to India, with more investigations on the essence of humanity and the quirks and comedy of everyday life.
Glover first visited India in 2005 and since then has returned each year, escaping the short dark days of British winters. “A friend said I’d like India as I love spontaneity, the craziness of humans and that I would be surrounded by nature and amazing landscapes.” His friend was right. “Last year I hired a motorbike and drove through the grit and sand dunes of the Great Indian Desert in Rajasthan, a large arid area in North West India up to the border with Pakistan. It’s forbidden for visitors to explore here, but I ignored that. I stayed in adobe mud huts and ate berries, nuts and curries with local people.
Pushkar Ghats Riyah
“While travelling I noticed the importance of water and how it is used in so many different ways. It seems all of life – and death – takes place in or around water, it is religious, ritualistic and symbolic.”
This series of work was made over a 10 year period during Glover’s Indian travels. Much of the imagery in the eight panoramic ‘timescape’ photographic prints looks at the significance of water in Indian society, religion and culture, as well as the national obsession with railways.
Glover’s digital technique is as original as it is innovative. The prints comprise multiple images taken over a 3 to 4-day period, which are seamlessly merged to create a single image. These constructed panoramic ‘timescapes’ are a form of static tracking shot, giving the impression of a wide screen, all enveloping cinematic experience, alive with human experience.
The image of the River Ganges at Varanasi stretches across a mile and the stories within show it as spiritual resting place, bath for water buffalo, laundry, tourist playground, place of prayer. The Ganges is worshipped as a goddess, a mother and giver of life. Its waters often represent the end of one life and the beginning of another.
Glass worker, Firozabad, India
The railways are the biggest employer in India and Glover’s train image was shot over three days. Each window contains a mini melodrama, not least the window with the shutters drawing down. What’s going on inside?
The video, Breathe, is the result of Glover’s collaboration with prize-winning glass artist, Chris Bird-Jones, a Creative Wales Ambassador. She invited Glover to work alongside her as she researched glassmaking in Firozabad, known as City of Bangles, the largest producer of glass bangles in the world. It produces everything from humble jars to chandeliers. The two artists spent weeks in the chaotic environment of the glass factories. The intention initially was to document the glass industry and its workers, but it soon became clear to both artists they could make a more penetrating piece of work.
Polluted air and water are bi-products of this mostly unregulated industry. Toxic air drifts its way west corroding the white marble of the Taj Mahal, a mere 14 miles away. There are about 400 glass industries in Firozabad, some less modernized than others.
Glover and Bird-Jones filmed Breathe in one of the traditional factories. The resulting video is a collection of portraits as mesmerizing as they are visceral. At first the scene seems chaotic, but there is choreographic order within this medieval tableau, until it becomes a terrifying suspense drama that draws you in by the repetitive motion of the glass blower as he throws down one white-hot bubble of glass after another for the next man to catch. If he misses he is scarred for life. Health and safety be damned. Your ears almost ring with tinnitus, you nearly suffocate on the dust, you melt in the heat from the wood burning furnace, and the stench of sweat catches the back of your throat, mixed with the arsenic and selenium that will kill you one day soon. This toil earns you the equivalent of £30 per week.
The works celebrate the triumph of the individual and the subjects exude a strange serenity in compositions that are at times almost biblical, at others comical, and always deeply moving. As Bird-Jones puts it, “For us, the factories became a metaphor for India and her people…this is what we sought to convey in the work.”
• Private View Wednesday 28th August 6.00pm–8.00pm
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