The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) is delighted to announce that the Emerging Artist Award, 2017 is being granted to artist Moonis Ahmad Shah.

Initiated in 2007, the FICA Emerging Artist Award, given in collaboration with Pro Helvetia - Swiss Arts Council, seeks to promote young artists studying or practicing in India who demonstrate extraordinary skill and promise in the visual arts. 

This year, the jury consisted of Shukla Sawant, Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU;Vasudha Thozhur, Associate Professor at the Department of Art Design and Performing Arts, Shiv Nadar University; artist Sheila MakhijaniKoonal Duggal, research scholar and currently teaching at the Department of Art History and Art Appreciation, Jamia Millia Islamia University and Vidya Shivadas, Director, FICA. 

With around 300 applications received this year, the jury appreciated the strength and the diversity of practices and enquiries that young practitioners were exploring: the premise of colonial history, its postcolonial ramifications, gender, issues of interactivity and a strong inclination towards archiving marginal histories were some of the areas of exploration.

After long deliberation, the jury finally awarded Moonis Ahmad Shah the Emerging Artist Award 2017 for his interdisciplinary body of work that uses text, photography, cinema and historical documents, amongst other media, to engage with the issue of representation. Originally, from Srinagar, Ahmad completed his graduation from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at The University of Melbourne.

The archive is an object of interest for Ahmad. Decentring the notion of institutional history as ‘truth’, he questions its premise, content and form. Through what he thus terms ‘counter archives’, Ahmad intends to use its transgressive potential to reorient staple paradigms around questions of borders, mass migrations, etc. with the aim of overturning the disciplinary power that archives have traditionally exercised in cultural memory. His work explores the space for an ‘anarchic archive’ to imagine an alternative semantics of time and truth that problematises, theorises, questions and challenges one’s normative understanding of contemporaneity.  The jury noted his well-conceptualized proposal and was particularly impressed with his sophisticated usage of the wide range of materials in his body of practice. His expertise with technology was appreciated in the light of the archival intent of the project.

As part of the EAA 2017, Ahmad will receive a ninety-day residency in Switzerland in 2018, supported by Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council, and a chance to showcase his work as part of the FICA Homepage platform amidst other FICA grantees in 2019.

Given the large number of applications this year, the jury decided to create a special category of ‘Honourable Mentions’. The category recognizes Divyesh Undaviya, Murli Chandora and Priyanka D’Souza as artists of promise for their well-conceptualized proposals and the potential of their practices. The jury also noted their dexterity with the application of a diverse range of materials, their penchant towards research and the way they engaged with spaces and the viewer’s gaze.

About the artist: 

Moonis Ahmad, born in Srinagar, Kashmir is an interdisciplinary artist who works with hybrid practices involving mediums like video, photography, painting, programming and installation.
He has shown his work at various exhibitions nationally and internationally such as his solo show at Rohtas Gallery Lahore in (Dec-Jan) 2016-17;  Group Show “Sleepless Constellations” at 1×1 Gallery, Dubai 2017; Group Show “Past as Present”, at Ghandara Art Space 2017, Group Show “A Million Mutinies Later – India at 70”, at Turner House, Cardiff, UK  and through his participations in “New Wight Biennale”, UCLA, USA as Seh Rang Collective (Sept’16); “Close Together” Borderlines Production, Texas, United States 2014; “Borders and Disorders” Venice Art House 2015. He has also participated in a residential programme “The Shifting Place: Understanding Territorialities: Identity, Place & Possession” at UNIDEE, Cittadelarte 2016, where he was fully funded by EU.

Ahmad was a UNESCO, (United Nations Madanjeet Institute of South Asian Arts) UMISAA scholar at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore and graduated in Fine arts (BFA) with a Gold Medal majoring in Digital Arts.  Ahmad is also a recipient of VCA Access Mentorship Program at the University of Melbourne. Currently, he is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Melbourne and is a recipient of Australian Graduate Research and Training Programme scholarship.

Image Courtesy: Moonis Ahmad Shah, The Metropolis of Desire Details (1 out of 7 screens)