SALT – Riyas Komu is the first major exhibition of contemporary art hosted by the Dashrath Patel Museum from 21 Mar – 30 April 2021.


Presented by The Guild in collaboration with Dashrath Patel Foundation. The Guild is delighted to present SALT, Solo Feature by Riyas Komu. Komu has been a significant voice in the contemporary art scene with his compelling works that are a strong take on the political and ideological turmoil of our current times. Much of Komu‟s oeuvre centres around national and political symbols and historic figures and sites, re-invoking them to tap into the changed meanings over time serving as a strong critique of the socio-political milieu of post independent India. The current exhibition, titled SALT comprising installations, assemblages, sculptures, paintings and woodcuts, employs the mineral as an allegory to explore the multiple social memories, while problematizing the „memory‟.

In his concept note, Komu states, “The physical-metaphorical, chemical-political resonances of this mineral constitute the soul and sweat of these works; they figure history and contextualise its salty traces and sediments in the form of memories, dreams and nightmares, icons, and idols. These works invoke the lingering taste of making, the memories that haunt the collective unconscious and iconic traces that provoke civilizational conscience. They oscillate between past and present, icons and apparitions to feel the taste of what binds and divides, what is preserved and what is left to decay. They recall memories and reimagine memorials of political caution and cultural nourishment.”

SALT (Concept Note):

With all your offerings you shall offer salt

Leviticus 2.13

In the Bible, salt symbolizes purity, perfection, wisdom, hospitality, durability and fidelity. In Sanskrit, lāvaṇya means Saltness, the taste or the property of salt; it also means beauty, loveliness, prettiness, handsomeness, comeliness; gracefulness of figure.

Salt permeates and pervades in time, space, objects and contexts. It is the trace and spice of life, a symbol of incorruptibility and immanence. It is a mineral that has journeyed with human civilization, nourishing bodies and minds, adding taste and resisting decays. Every part of the human body contains salt and is crucial to the function of neurotransmitters in the human body, which means, without salt, intelligent life would not exist. Culturally, salt binds us all together as a symbol of mutual trust; it denotes bond, enduring solidarity and ever-renewed camaraderie and inevitably the epic Salt March – the gentle and defiant, symbolic and evocative protest that inspired popular resistance to fight one of the most powerful empires in the world.

The physical-metaphorical, chemical-political resonances of this mineral constitute the soul and sweat of these works; they figure history and contextualise its salty traces and sediments in the form of memories, dreams and nightmares, icons, and idols. These works invoke the lingering taste of making, the memories that haunt the collective unconscious and iconic traces that provoke civilizational conscience. They oscillate between past and present, icons and apparitions to feel the taste of what binds and divides, what is preserved and what is left to decay. They recall memories and reimagine memorials of political caution and cultural nourishment.

This show – SALT – comprising of installations, assemblages, sculptures, paintings and woodcuts, is an act of remembrance, an attempt to preserve and pickle certain memories, and an invocation to reflect upon what essentially permeates the web and weave, the heart and soul of our social being.

About the Artist

Riyas Komu (Mumbai, India)

Riyas Komu born in Kerala (1971) is a critically acclaimed multimedia artist and curator based in Mumbai. His oeuvre of works is a deep reflection on social conflicts and pressing issues like migration and displacement, whereas he draws his inspiration from local and global social and political movements. Komu‟s hyper-realistic oil portraits of people recall socialist-realist propaganda art. His large scale sculptural installations in various mediums articulate social and cultural memories and symbols. He is currently working on a project on the Indian Constitution titled Aesthetics of Neighbourhood.

Komu obtained his Bachelors and Masters in Painting from Sir. J. J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1997 and 1999 respectively. In 2007, Komu was one of two artists from India selected for the 52nd Venice Biennale by curator Robert Storr. Later, he went on to represent the Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Komu has also participated in the Jogja Biennale, Indonesia, in 2011. He has many solo shows to his credit which includes, Fait Accompli (Sakshi Salon, 2006), Grass (The Guild, 2007), Mark Him (The Guild, 2007), Related List (Bodhi Berlin, 2008), Safe to Light (Azad Art Gallery, 2010), SUBRATO to CESAR (Gallery Maskara with The Guild, 2010), Holy Shiver (Vadehra Art Gallery, 2018) and Out of Place (Gallery Sumukha, 2019). Komu’s works have been exhibited globally including in South Africa, Brazil, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the USA, China, UAE, Belgium, The Netherlands and Iran among others.

Komu ideated Kochi- Muziris Biennale and Co-Founded Kochi Biennale Foundation (est. 2010). He co-curated the first edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012 and has been the Director of Programmes of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (2012, 2014,2016). In his capacity as an arts administrator he initiated the Students’ Biennale, Children’s Biennale (later named as ABC, Art by Children), Artists Cinema, Music of Muziris, Video Lab, Let’s Talk series & History Now (Talks and Seminars), Pepper House Residency & Exhibition. As an art educator, he has been investing his time in art education developing art infrastructure in India.

He has been the Advisor and Visual Arts Curator for Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa in 2016 & 2017 and has done extensive research trips in the sub-continent and conceptualised and curated the ‘Young Sub-Continent’ project in 2016, 17 & 18 in Goa. Komu’s curatorial engagement ranges across fields. He also curated the Kondotty Sufi Festival in 2019. He co-curated the first International Football Film Festival in India at Goa International Film Festival and Trivandrum International Film Festival in 2012. In 2016 he started URU Art Harbour, a cultural hub in Mattancherry, Kochi, (Kerala) with Zoya Riyas and has curated many shows to promote artists from the region focusing on Kerala’s history of social action, migration and maritime history, and culture. Uru Art Harbour also provides a well-supported artist residency programme that includes exhibitions and engagement with international artists.

About The Guild

The Guild was established in 1997 with an aim to function as a semi-institutional space within the bustling art-hub of Mumbai, India. Since its inception, it has been providing a platform for discursive practices, innovation and experimentation in contemporary art. The Guild has been recognised as a pioneering gallery with its important roster of artists of diverse generations who have brought in robust dialogue within and across the disciplines. It believes in promoting critical ideas and artists who are engaged in cutting-edge practices in distinctive mediums reflecting diverse perspectives. The Gallery has held major retrospectives of important artists like Sudhir Patwardhan, Navjot Altaf, G. R. Iranna, and has collaborated with premier national art centres. It has been promoting its artists to various international cultural institutions, art fairs through exhibitions, residencies and workshops.

For over two decades The Guild has nurtured artistic production as well as the curatorial practices in India. It has contributed extensive scholarship on contemporary art through academically and critically rigorous publications authored by well-known academicians, art critics, art historians and artists – on artists and their practices. The range of public outreach programmes is integral to the exhibitions hosted by the gallery. In 2015, The Guild opened its new premises in Alibaug, an upcoming art district near Mumbai with a large exhibition space, expanding its relevance outside the urban spaces, and continues to vigorously serve the field of visual arts in India.

About Dashrath Patel Foundation

Set up by architect Pinakin Patel in 2012, the Dashrath Patel Museum displays six decades of Dashrath Patel‟s path-breaking work in painting, ceramics, photography and design. Padmashri Dashrath Patel was the first director of education of The National Institute of Design, (NID-Ahmedabad) and is among India’s senior artists – a contemporary of V. S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, M. F.Husain who were all together in the late fifties, at the Bhulabhai Desai Institute at Bombay. He closely collaborated with outstanding luminaries like Charles Eames, Louis Kahn, Henri Cartier Bresson, Frei Otto, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, Chandralekha, and numerous others. The Museum which was renovated and reopened in 2020, aims to bring creative-minded people together in an inspiring setting.

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