Art Talk

Warmth and emptiness

At a quick glance, Mariam Suhail’s “fig. 1” drawings (Galleryske, June 29 to July 27) may look like simple, charmingly but naively direct illustrations of everyday domesticity. Soon enough though, while retaining their literal sincerity, they begin to reveal strange twists that are humourous, poetic, ironic and perceptive as well as sad and disturbing, eventually bringing complex sensations and thoughts around basic situations.

The young Pakistani artist, who now lives in Bangalore, trusts that a close and patient, honestly open-ended observation of the immediate and the ordinary is bound to uncover what is under the skin of reality and which is embedded in its appearance and behaviour. The objectivity of the probing and the desire for the same come here through the appropriation of the textbook illustration form and motifs of science diagrams.

The schematic, general realism of such contour figures and objects becomes handled, however, in a personal manner by imbuing it with accents of sensitivity that impart the silhouettes with the feel of the actual as intimately familiar.

The directional vectors respond metamorphosing into sinuous suggestions of emotional states. Real on the one hand, on the other, these images are capable of yielding allusiveness and critical or subversive commentary – lyrically, playfully or with sarcastic disappointment, this being aided by the metaphoric capacity of certain obvious, mundane objects and situations that are given sometimes outsize prominence. The whole relies on the interaction of the potential within the pictures and the written explanations which again blend the literal with the contradictory, the verge and the poetic. Looking for the warmth of familial or friendly feelings and togetherness, the artist may find them in the vivacity and natural-staged quarrels of lovers, but misses them in the emptiness of an interior full of indifferent people and in the inability of dark glasses wearing parents to see-understand their daughter.

The heart of tenderness painted pink more often than not becomes an unwanted offer or a pretended sign, otherwise being substituted by the radiance of an electrical heater and compensated by sugar. Rather wonderful proves Suhail’s gift for conjuring sensory effects as reverberating in their proximity, for instance, the disarray amid flying birds under the blasting factory siren or the animated disquiet of the room furnishings where lovers are having a fight.

Formalist interests

The “Missing Links” exhibition at Sumukha (July 6 to 31) brings work by three still young artists based in Chennai. Not particularly connected in their preoccupations aesthetically or theme-wise, they nevertheless share efforts towards a greater contemporariness.

The absence of the long-prevailing, Cholamandal-type design focus on modernistic ethnicity may be fortunate in their case, but these artists too, despite the ambitious scale of their contributions, seem to be engaged in mainly formalist considerations, while their adoption of rather too familiar fresher artistic languages stays on the surface.

In fact, Ganesh Selvaraj, who openly admits his form-oriented approach, convinces somewhat better, especially that his workmanship skills are solid. His geometry-relying compositions in relief locate the interplay of flatness and plasticity, line and volume, surface and its opening or angling. His optical ‘puzzles’ around the painterliness of synthetic materials and the linearity of strings that create volumes are well done but echo of much earlier precedents.

A L Aparajithan’s canvases and drawings may be attempting the sense of mystery intuited in a hybrid human closeness to animals, but it all come through either in a literal way or through unintelligible symbols taken for the sheer effect. The deliberately awkward but not authentic stylisation adopted by him enhances in the paintings and sculptures of B O Shailesh acquiring a pleasantly prettified note that sits uncomfortably over the apparent roughness of his human figures. The images of yogis and spiritual aspirants in modern reality convey their message without yet reaching beyond the token level. If the sculptures are somewhat better, the videos achieve the peak of trick-like formalism.

Love for nature

The “Epilogue” exhibition at Renaissance (July 3 to 8) expressed love for and concern about nature. Its beauty and endangerment came fairly direct in Jeetin Rangher’s mixed media works which offered either brightly contrasted, clearly silhouetted shapes of abundant trees against somewhat pattern-like, textured backgrounds or dark, sinuous silhouettes of leafless trunks and boughs amid atmospheric turbulence. Although sincere, the images were perhaps somewhat literal and decorative. A cultured but too familiar way was chosen by Venkatesh R Desai to bring out contemplative, yet still more formalist, evocations of landscape expanses seen through the filter of geometry associated with urban architecture. The abstract acrylics mediated the stability of tight, rectangular compositions and more dynamic, linear motifs alluding to map trajectories.

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