Likeness of Being: Portraiture in The Selfie Age explores the endurance and uncanny intimacy of portraiture in contemporary art despite the global ubiquity of the selfie and the rise of social media.
Contemporary art has had a tumultuous relationship with realism ever since the first pinhole camera found widespread use and silver-gelatin photographs appeared in shops and homes. Despite several predictions of its demise and studio art instruction de-emphasizing realistic depiction, the ever-increasing accessibility of photography — 35mm, polaroid, point-and-shoot, digital photography — Realism survived. Portraiture too, at once both a key component and a pillar of Realism, has stood the test of time.
Realism and narrative painting became the divider between Western and non-Western artistic traditions in the last quarter of the 20th Century and the first quarter of the 21st. Starting at art instruction but continuing into art practice, artists from emerging art ecosystems, including the Indian subcontinent, have hung onto Realistic traditions — portraiture centrally — in a way not often seen in the West. The essential device of a portrait, that of a man, woman, or child, tells a story about society and remains a vibrant tradition in South Asia.
Several South Asian artists explore portraiture in an order of differential. For them the subject is not the human being in front of a camera. Instead, it is a bust of a great leader who appears in countless sculptural incarnations or on currency bills.
Likeness of Being features the work of Komail Aijazudin, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Sasha Brito, Mukul Dey, Irfan Hassan, Abir Karmakar, Riyas Komu, Shibu Natesan, Jagannath Panda, Sudhir Patwardhan, Baiju Parthan, Promotesh Das Pulak, Debanjan Roy, Paritosh Sen, Abdullah M. I. Syed, and Salman Toor.