Art review

Art review

Violated river’s beauty

The phenomenon, already established internationally, is gaining ground here. The concern to intercede with the environment lay behind the efforts of Subramani J, Ravikumar S M Halli and Shivaprasad S. One would expect from an art intervention to symbolically-expressively-conceptually do something in situ to let those present there, or watching its presentation later, sense it.

Offered a Bosch grant for a Bangalore-specific public art project, the artists sincerely did a “Dakshina Pinakini river mapping and landscape survey” picturing its progress from pristine lushness to suburban degeneration. Consisting mainly of videos (Venkatappa Gallery, May 23 to 26) with abundant, patiently collected and researched material, it without a full resolution oscillated between archiving and evocativeness, besides being accessible largely to the inner audience.

The films had sceneries from around the river, its lakes, cultivated fields and rustic routines as well as urban and industrial encroachments, garbage and effluents, also interviews with farmers who spoke of their problems. As information, these may have added to what one knows generally, but as visual imagery they were not always sophisticated enough in terms of form and atmosphere, for instance the different takes shown slightly mechanically at the same time over four, equal parts of the screen, even though the footage had a good number of fine passages.

The idea to project pictures of the violted river on the lotus pond outside the gallery seemed much more interesting, but it was not always available.

The other aspects of the display too combined an objective element using actual cartography and a spread of photographic prints with painting and installation that played on the effect of relief for tactile authenticity and introduced pavement bricks to suggest the precarious symbiosis of nature and the city. All that did not perhaps counterbalance the rather literal overall approach.

Art cannot influence the world. It can nonetheless give a cathartic experience when not only insightful but also aesthetically accomplished.

By contrast, “Breathe in breathe out” by Abdul Haque (!Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, June 10 to 16) revealed an equally intense involvement in an understated, rather than spectacular, manner through a humorous-serious suggestiveness whose simplicity brought about tangible yet not obvious recognitions underscored by emotionality. Intelligent and fairly inventive but not clever, this array of sculptural installations, photographic prints and small paintings revolved round his adult retake on the innocent childhood joy that played with toy guns unaware of their originals’ violence.

Combining hard pistols, bombs or gas cylinders and balloons or rubber horns whose softness evoked both air compression and vulnerability, he built up a sense of happy and filling, if also fragile, tenderness which enhanced when the viewer was induced to interaction.

Although one did not respond to the too complicated “Love Guns”, the bomb-balloons in a corner and the complex piece “How do I breathe without you?” were quite effective, as were the precise-gentle paintings.

Emphatic nicety

Usha Ramachandran, who recently held her “Bronze Age” exhibition at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath (June 13 to 16), may be self-taught but her work appears quite professional in its technical skill and in terms of the chosen motifs, even though the latter come through as sincere but rather conventional. The figurines represent the artist’s warm impressions from around the rustic Kerala environment where she grew up. Ramachandran indulgently and empathically looks at the energy of a little girl who with all seriousness is washing clothes at a river rock, admires a playful boy cyclist and a couple of anglers.

Form-wise, the statues indicate a not always entirely reconcile blend intimately experienced feeling and a wish to make a striking impact.
The aesthetic sources of reference here belong to the kind of indigenised Modernist mode that has long been prevalent on the popular level. Simplified, fairly stylised volumes are made somewhat angular and roughly textured for expressiveness, while spectacular effects are searched for in long, curved linear motifs that almost detach themselves dynamically from the mass.

If such instances tend toward mannerism, the sculptor is more successful when she focuses on compact shapes approached with feeling, as happens in the images of a mother with her baby. 

The largish canvases displayed together with the bronzes were more amateurish in comparison.

Whether abstract with hints at mood or alluding to cosmic trajectories, they were preoccupied with design and perhaps hastily brushed.

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