Jun 08 2017

Astha Butail Selected as the Next BMW Art Journey Winner

by Karen Cheung

Art Basel and BMW have chosen ASTHA BUTAIL as the next BMW Art Journey winner. Courtesy the artist.

Indian artist Astha Butail has been selected as the next BMW Art Journey winner with her project titled In the Absence of Writing. The announcement was made by Art Basel and BMW on June 7, 2017.

Described by Butail as “a homage to the intangible oral traditions that are still alive today,” In the Absence of Writing deals with memory and living traditions passed down through teaching and oral poetry.

For the BMW Art Journey, Butail will travel to cities in Iran, Israel, the United Kingdom and India, with plans to investigate the Zoroastrian Avesta, Jewish Oral Torah and Indian Veda traditions by observing and recording their different memory techniques and interviewing scholars and practitioners.

Butail was selected unanimously by an international jury that includes Asia Art Archive co-founder and executive director Claire Hsu, Kochi-Muziris Biennale president Bose Krishnamachari, and M+ visual art curator Pauline J. Yao, among others, following an exhibition in the Discoveries sector at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. The other two shortlisted artists were Berlin-based Swiss artist Julian Charrière and Wenzhou-born, Beijing-based Lin Ke.

ASTHA BUTAIL, Turning Towards Pure White, 2016–17, handloom cotton muslin, acrylic on archival paper, MDF, teak wood and book, 341 × 1,463 × 2 cm. Installation view at the booth of Gallery SKE, Bangalore/New Delhi, at Art Basel Hong Kong 2017. Courtesy Gallery SKE.

“We were struck by its sensitivity and range, and how it expands upon the artist’s prior practice of investigating her own history and identity,” the jury said in a joint statement. “The journey brings together ethnography, spirituality, and sociology. We were especially taken by Astha Butail’s interest in tracking down endangered oral traditions, which she will document with the tools of an artist and interactions with scholars and spiritual leaders.”

Born in Amritsar and based in Gurgaon, India, Butail’s art employs the use of geometry as a means of inquiry to understand how different composite elements of an entity relate to its whole. Her themes are memory and time, the idea of the archive and collaborative authorship.

In March, Butail presented her work Turning Towards Pure White (2017) at Art Basel Hong Kong. Butail’s debut solo exhibition was shown at Gallery SKE, Bangalore, and she has participated in group shows at Kolkata’s Experimenter, Kolkata, the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon, and the Masquelibros Artists’ Book Fair in Madrid.

Launched in 2015, the BMW Art Journey is a collaboration between Art Basel and BMW that enables winning artists to embark on their own journey of creative discovery. Past winners include sound and performance artist Samson Young, German video artists Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr, British artist Abigail Reynolds, and Los Angeles artist Max Hooper Schneider.

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