Art Talk


Toy story, a digital print by Avinash VeeraraghavanFascinating images

Avinash Veeraraghavan’s new exhibition at Galleryske (July 30 to August 31) again brings a fascinating layering of images and sensations that ambiguously oscillate between reality and fantasy, childhood atmosphere and adult perception, between literal roughness and poetry, innocent beauty and morbidity, its many elements permeating and reflecting one another with some clash or merely gap and some complementary qualities. This “Toy Story” is not just about childhood memories but about the grown-up’s desire, even obsession to hold on to them despite realising its dangers.

The ten photographic prints that gave the show its title display a seemingly random sequence that hints at a possibility of narrative as a situation or mood. Amid domestic trash worn out, kitschy bright, plastic animals, cars and cycles simultaneously appear to lie discarded and engage in their own actions, while betraying the artist’s conscious staging of it all.

The simple yet enigmatic lyricism acquires a weird, adult intimacy in the proximity of hair shavings and spilling cigarette buts.

On the eye level and accompanied by real little containers with samples of such objects, the works seep into the viewer almost in the raw. That effect gains hypnotic enhancement in the video loop where ornate decorative motifs slowly, kaleidoscopically metamorphose along the confusing, upward-downward motion of coiled snakes. The utterly alluring image, if with a tinge of the scary, draws one completely into an oceanic feeling, allowing nevertheless for the recognition that one is watching one’s own watching experience. The two exquisite, large digital prints elaborate on the dual aspects of the video.

“No Title (Enchanted Forest)” is densely collaged of small, recurring photographic pictures of robotic astronauts or soldiers, dolls and circular bits of other toys, lighter tonal areas conjuring an uncertain, throbbing silhouette of an old tree with powerful roots.

The dizzy pulse has imbibed traces of TV and computer screen with its rhythms and blurs suggesting an Internet echo of the fairy-tale land. In “No Title (Magic Mirror)” over and within a similar pattern throb there half-emerges a face confronting its mirror reflection to evoke the borderline state of the actual and imagined, the child and adult.  The works are at the same time whole and dissipating, ravishing and disquieting, naive and aware, self-indulgent and self-observing. This is subtly evoked by the use of fragmented photography which by itself offers a mirror as well as a distortion of the actual, its digital sources and the looseness of fixing the tiny prints furthering the sense of the virtual as real but not entirely real.

Sensitive document

The “Local Time” photographs by Stefan Koppelkamm, (Max Mueller Bhavan, July 24 to August 8), trace changes in urban sights of eastern Germany by comparing almost identical shoots done post-reunification and ten years later.

Repeating building fronts seen horizontally through some road distance, receding perspectives of streets and house corners, the images quietly register restoration as well as neglect and emptied gaps awaiting future construction. The black and white prints are deliberately restrained documents about non-spectacular places, sensitive enough however to conjure a broader evocation of processes and their feel.

Playful seriousness

The exhibition paying homage to Marcel Duchamp on his birthday anniversary (1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, July 28) was a suitably ad hoc and playful gesture whose light, often humourous character underscored nevertheless the continuing importance of the father of contemporary art. Its organiser and main contributor, Himanshu S invited artists to display their works inspired by him.

Framed by his comments, the show dominated by a pink, plastic urinal with a potted fern contained many gracefully token-like images and some more serious ones using documents, reproductions and words including Monica Nanjunda’s video about destroying her sculpture.

Modernist sources

The four mid-generation painters recently at Renaissance (July 27 to 31) are preoccupied with different subjects whose graceful but conventional range corresponds to their somewhat old-fashioned aesthetic languages, and binds them.

This perhaps can be associated with the artists’ roots in Karnataka’s provincial educational institutions.

To varying degrees and in varying ways, all of them relay on the indigenised, Modernism-derived combination of abstract elements, stylised figures and pattered design. These ingredients are softer and more abstract in Renuka Kesaramadu’s dynamic evocations of human hands reaching out over distances of the globe and in the rhythmic landscapes with architecture by Rupa Mahesh.

Attention turns to a stylised human frame with residues of realism in Nirmala Kumari’s drawings of women and with an accent on mannered contouring and designing in the spiritual topics of Geetha Kekobad.

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