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Art review

Last updated: 28 February, 2010

Enchanting fusion The prints from Sakti Burmans paintings at Sumukha (February 22 to March 10), marking his 75th birthday, offer fine quality reproductions from The Serigraph Studio, Mumbai along with an array of images from the past two decades of the artists career.

This well-celebrated painter shares much with senior Indian Modernists as well as differs from them.

The common ground comes with the desire to fuse the indigenous foundation and early to mid-phase European Modernist inspirations, merging myths of both cultures as expressive of rudimentary values which continue today on a simple human plane.
Unlike Jamini Roy’s rustic energy - iconic and roughly, vitally warm, or early M F Husain’s where it acquires the forceful brevity of a sign embedding lived tenderness, Burman’s vision is urbane and delicately intimate in the way it fills the traditions through references to private experience, while its saturated atmosphere coexists with an illustrative presentation of characters, situations and motifs.
Having studied in Paris during the 1950s, Burman stayed on; hence it was natural for him to fully, evidently absorb strands of western culture on par with directly quoting from the classical Indian pantheon and art, the personal fusion of which in fact has been his subject-matter.

As the images are often populated by Hindu deities, and the artist retains strong elements of their iconography, stances, gestures and ornate costumes, they accommodate some gentle, generalised realism of real persons as well as their representation in Picasso of the classicising period together with other masters of the day.

Their subtle, hieratic features lends some qualities to the human figures too and some of their Indian-ness to western icons.
The linearity of the silhouettes filled with comparatively flat colour responds by mediating a degree of realistic modelling of the body.
The rhythmic density of regular decorative patterns that fill the frames picks up a slightly abstracted richness of textures that allude of a diversity of surface treatment in the history of both geographies.

Burman desires to capture the innocence of childhood and child-like joy in adulthood, its gentle, loving togetherness, its serious but playful sincerity, as the saving grace of our worlds, their past and present. However precious the intent, considered through the cruelties and manipulations of current fundamentalist it may appear somewhat anachronistic, if not nave.
The formal idiom, although relieved by the dose of humour, reflects the same in the perhaps excessive sweetness and finesse.

Walls of raw life
The latest event at Samuha (February 6 to 15) was an exceptional exhibition with empathic modesty, original thought and witty seriousness, integrating a gesture, conceptual method and gut-level sensation.
It was ‘compiled’ from popular, lower-end urban posters by Oarsed, the Indian alter ego of the Swiss artist Christoph Storz who lives largely in
this city.

Hardly noticeable except by working-class people walking along shoddy buildings plastered with smallish advertisements, their images naively expressive yet effective in form and content reflect and condense the ethos of those people.
The show was a token of regard both for their spirit and the art of the poster-makers. Having treated the space architecturally, as the regular display rows followed the wall structure, Oarsed conjured an experience of facing the prints directly and close-on, much of it at the eye level and passing by, which gave the spectator the sensation of being in the enhanced position of an ordinary pedestrian on the road.
The posters were carefully arranged by grouping similar subjects and juxtaposing their different aspects or other topics so as to make the works stronger in impact and relationships.

In these proximities, the actors’ exaggerated expressions, that nevertheless touched the live nerve, and the weird creatures generated an evocation of raw, crudely intense and yet poetic, emotions from horror to love, to fascination, fantasy, pride, stress, aggressiveness, and above all, vivacious exuberance and resilience.
The lithographic prints which repeat and slightly change a set canon, each perhaps not always great, together turned powerful in aesthetic terms.
The technique relying on long practiced stencilling, which is basically a kind of drawing, created specific graphic effects, where frequently multiple contour lines oscillate in a smooth-nervous tempo around shapes imbuing those with some tension.
By honouring those popular posters and by making his own art work from them, Oarsed cleverly inserted among them pieces commissioned by him which using the same style depicted scenes with artists and critics from previous Samuha exhibitions and events.
He thus not only underscored the common aims and validity of educated art and its humbler version, but let one feel it are realise the cathartic connection with ordinary real life that the efforts of Samuha wish to address.
Marta Jakimowicz

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