Art review

Art review

Alluringly random coexistence

The latest event at Sumukha introduced Mukesh Sharma, an artist new here, a young painter, printmaker and installationist from Rajasthan living in Delhi who has already shown quite extensively in the country and abroad. The canvases in his exhibition “The Keyboard of Small Things” (November 2 to 18) address the currently intensifying phenomenon of a random and unpredictable layering of rapid urban growth and traditional modest life. Focussing on the energy, exuberance, elegance and temptation generated by spectacular metropolitan circumstances, Sharma sees the uncertainty of their hybrid and largely incongruous symbiosis with the rural anchoring of those whose daily labour sustains the development as well as stimulates in them a desire to be part of it.

Hence, he conjures as though dense but loose microcosms of diverse, contradictory elements that seem to joyously erupt into being from some vague space devoid of a foundation. Fragmentary images of high-rise buildings, construction equipment and vast city roads mix with cell-phones, cars, planes and sensuous, fashionable women as well as rustic cart pullers and ploughs, while compute keyboards permeate the scenes along with an occasional quotation from classical miniatures.

Such motifs from alien realities meet, superimpose and blend along dizzy vectors of dynamism and size or perspective paradoxes. There is simultaneity of attraction and dissipating that barely holds them tentatively together as fanning out bunches of partial entities or an accumulation of objects moving on a cart, otherwise turning into some keyboard-embraced constellation. The coolies dragging the new worlds appear to be both the slaves behind their erection and carry those as their own aspiration. The artist paints everything multicolour and bight, in flat, clearly silhouetted planes that refer to advertising culture with its cool, impersonal glamour. The whole is valid to the present, cleverly, even freely conceived in its simplicity and executed, but perhaps a little formulaic and too pleasant, despite the suitability of the aesthetic choice here, to make a really strong impact.

It was after many years that P S Kumar held a solo exhibition (Venkatappa Art Gallery, October 28 to November 1). During his over thirty busy decades as an illustrator he has mainly participated in group shows. Despite that he collected now a large series of works on paper and some on canvas. Having formed as an artist in circumstances reliant on Modernist paradigms and an atmospheric, inner focus, besides a compassionate social awareness, he still holds on to the lineage which is aided by the conventions required here of illustrators, Thus his current images, although sincerely and intimately evoking Kumar’s personal moods of poetic immersion, continue a language that reflects his aesthetic inheritance. Amid hilly landscapes with rocks and vegetation he draws an essentialist male nude, a bit rough and naïve but warm, innocent and fascinated by the moon, at times appearing to reach out for it. His gentle sensuality can be felt when he is accompanied by a horse full of energy and a quiet lover figure.

These are linear drawings with highly stylised silhouettes and a variety of hatched, angular planes whose nuances bring out contrasting or graded tonalities and a suggestion of plasticity, also space. The canvases, too, have relatively realistic portraits in brushed lines. What one likes best are the few small inks with freer, fragmentary figural outlines and smudged which strongly capture the sensation of the human body’s presence.

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