Art Talk

Art Talk

From under the skin of normalcy

"Sunil Gupta’s photograph ‘Raju’.Face up" at Tasveer (July 18 to August 10) brings a most interesting and mutually complementing presentation by two accomplished, mid-career artists with a London background.

In different subjects and aesthetic languages, Anna Fox and Sunil Gupta reveal things hidden or unnoticed in regular life by perception used to comfortable conventions.

Uncovering in their portraits, respectively, disturbing layers of what is accepted as pleasantly normal and the normalcy of what is in popular concepts taken for unnatural, together they conjure the sense of pervasive tentativeness as to the character of surface reality, its concealing and opening. Anna Fox captures the brilliant, spectacular artificiality of constructed costumes and performances sanctioned by Western festive traditions.

She portrays Dutch women who at Christmas blacken their faces and dress as early colonial time African slaves. Posing them in the manner of old masters' paintings, she makes them look at and challenge the so disquieted viewer who is becoming simultaneously aware of the roots and contemporary inheritance of racism. She also shoots British youngsters in communion frocks and Halloween masks. By just registering and enhancing their prematurely adult-like behaviour imposed by their seniors, Fox is able to suggest disturbing observations about the often sexually motivated moulding of children.

Eventually, she stages an overtly artificial performance, an alluring female mannequin playing the role of a little girl murdered in the idyllic countryside. The bare legs in red stilettos seen from the back on the grass expose both the helplessness of the child and its attractiveness to the twisted adult. Rather in contrast, Sunil Gupta's photographs could be mistaken for something between simple snapshots and inconspicuously sensitive documentation.  Only after a while one gets confused and intuits that not all is straight and direct there. However natural, the single men and women standing alone against busy city streets begin to hint at some disconnect.

Although Gupta does not show it clearly, the portraits come through separate enough from their backdrops for the onlooker to guess that they have been digitally superimposed, while in some cases one may recognise accents of queer appearance.

Stronger traits of the effeminate in some men let one interpret the women's confidence accordingly. The prints have names as titles, and as the models seem open, assured and natural, the oscillation between the real and the artfully manipulated evokes the actual life hesitancy about accepting gay people as normal and seeing them as alien and not so acceptable, although the photographer is now relaxed and positive.

Walking through the life

The second exhibition by a Samuha member (July 22 to August 1) was "Stride" by Prakash L Probably intending to offer an experience of the artist walking through life, accepting its imagery, people, moods and issues as well as more offering personal impressions and comments.

Perhaps understandably in a still young painter exposed to a bewildering abundance of reality sights and artistic practices and concepts, the show appeared to be sincere and ambitious but somewhat disjointed in the number of different approaches to form and themes.

It loosed as if Prakash wanted to accommodate the maximum of both without concentrating on a closer area that would allow not only consistency but also a convincing power. Instead, he landed close to formalism and a degree of pleasantness.
The many large oils on canvas had images collaging, fragmenting and juxtaposing realistically represented elements of reality framed in geometric designs or surrounded by regions of abstraction.

Sometimes they read literally about childhood innocence or the environment but sometimes one got lost in their metaphors. Why the titles were carved in three dimensions in stone is not clear except for the fashionable effect. Other works included an installation, flat and plastic mages with mirrors, etchings and canvases in a graphic manner using text and its mirror image, also photographs with installation elements. Here too, one suspected a craving for strong impact more that anything else.

Rhythms

The three painters in Kynkyny's "Dreamscapes" (July 27 to August 7) have displayed evolving variants within their familiar idioms, all being linked by a somewhat decorative but lively gamut of rhythms.  The intimate, still-life-like landscapes of the air and imagination by Jasu Rawal are imbued now with lyrical sensuousness. Praveen Kumar's abstracted urban grids strive to merge architectural geometry with the flow of the heart and organic growth.

A sensitive fluidity between structuring and emotionality imbues the work of Sumana Chowdhury, between the micro cells of the body and its tactile, amorphously textures skin. Fortunate here is the shift from designing and stylising to cogent mood and feel.

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