To an onlooker, distributing laddoos after an election victory might seem routine. For Chennai-based George K., however, the scene represents warfare, somewhat like a game of chess. Juxtaposing the two, George, a photographer, painter, sculptor and poet, has created a chessboard with laddoos serving as the game’s pieces. “Chess has always been a visual game, but I want to awaken the taste senses of the players along with the sight," he says. Differently scented laddoos depict the queen, king and pawn. George has created a chart to help people identify each “flavour". It doesn’t stop there, however.

The artist has made three more sets, associating each piece with a different sound or scent. “You would imagine a queen would smell like a rose or vanilla and a king would have a strong earthy smell. The idea is to make people use all the senses while playing the game. It is my depiction of the multi-linear world that we live in today," says George.

George’s works are part of a forthcoming exhibition, The Art Of Chess, at the Apparao Galleries in New Delhi. The exhibition will display chessboards made of ceramic, wood, paper and stone, and highlight aspects like nostalgia and identity associated with the historic game. “Chess has always been a part of Indian history, and through this exhibition we attempt to make art that people can identify with," says Sharan Apparao, owner of the gallery and curator of the show.

George is one of 25 artists who have made playable chessboards for the exhibition.

“Each one of us has distinct memories related to the board game. The artists have relived their memories and, at the same time, commented on the issues that they feel are relevant in today’s society," says Apparao, who plans to take the exhibition across India over the next two years.

Auroville-based architect and artist Adil Writer’s chessboard is made of ceramic, wood and stainless steel. But unlike the conventional game, there is no black and white in his work. The board has rusted iron boxes and stone, and the pieces are abstract figurines in lighter and darker shades of grey and cream. “Black and white resonates with racial discrimination and I believe nothing is evil or good, everything is grey," says Writer. He has painted the names of chess players like Viswanathan Anand and Bobby Fischer on the side panels.

Bhavna Sonawane’s chessboard.
N. Ramachandran’s piece.

The Art Of Chess will be held from 22 January-28 February (10am-6pm), at the Apparao Galleries, The Lodhi, Lodi Road, New Delhi. The works will also be showcased during the India Art Fair from 29 January-1 February at booth D3, NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi. Prices range from 35,000 to 2 lakh.