Art Talk

Prabhavathi Meppayil’s installation work, 'Melting Pot.'Migration, creativity, absence

Rather than making the artists work together, it stimulated an area of concern already existing in their sensibilities, now concretised by their interaction with Bangladeshi migrants living in Prabhavathi’s neighbourhood. The resulting works (1, Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, August 12 to 15) were separate, linking only through this triggering point, which was natural considering the otherwise very different aesthetic individualities.

  For Rahman the condition of migrant labourers and craftsmen hoping to better their life became a metaphor for creativity, which he blended with the more visibly idealistic notions of spiritual unity of people of diverse origins epitomised by Auroville. If the former part of his content largely came through with clarity, some force and grace, the latter needed explaining but remained less convincing artistically. Actually, one appreciated best the simplest element there - the heads of thick, tangled lines that exuded energetic striving and uncertain disquiet.

Quite evocative too was the darkly soaring lyricism of the shovels covered suggestions of faces, fantasy and recognition, also the angelic bird-chisels with wings. The hanging sacred globe studded with plantain plates and the tightrope walking man appeared too rudimentary, un-nuanced and literal.

Prabhavathi thought of her own goldsmith family who had come to the city from Kerala a long time ago. She transformed the kitchen into an environment of a delicately sensuous, brooding reminiscence. With the characteristic blend of minimalism and tenderness, the artist emphasised traces of past human presence and combined the act of removal of objects from inside with introducing residues of other objects from the external world. A feel of the ancestral place in memory mingled with that of the temporariness of current or recent life through its absence, and with an awareness of the larger scale of things passing and being destroyed. The solidity of the empty pot for melting gold turned ephemeral amid the faint smell of cinnamon and the gently painted traces of smoke on the wall. Against the once warm cooking heart of the home and its craft sustenance, the subtle rawness of the aroma somehow pervaded the small heap of rubble from demolished old houses. Rough-edged and loose, they retained some of the homely pastel pigments, while the artist occasionally marked their surfaces with goldsmith’s tools allowing them to meditatively incorporate fading rhythms of live memory. Even though not all the aspects of the actual space were handled sufficiently well, the whole was very moving, essential as well as subtle.

Architectural formalism
If one recalls Pallon Daruwala’s early landscape photographs, their classic painterly character and technical finesse left the naturalness of the organic world slightly too pleasant in their formalist focus.

His new works (Time & Space, August 9 to 14) enhance the latter ingredient towards a design-effect. This happens because the artist now seems to be playing with the purely aesthetic possibilities of collaging shapes. It is not that his motifs come from urban architecture which has its own design - buildings and stretches of roads, lampposts and construction site scaffolding or net screens sometimes with trees and grasses, but how he composes those.

Turning horizontal sights to the vertical positions and relying on the symmetrical mirror image and its fragmented multiplications and variations, he pieces together clever and attractive yet non-expressive pictures. True, he knows how to bring out spatial recess, dizzy angles and expansiveness, how to grade tonalities, etc., nevertheless the accent on aesthetic arrangement is spent on itself. One does read the intention to manifest the coexistence of archaic and modern buildings, of the city and things organic, of actual environments and their abstract qualities. All this still touches merely the surface.

Sweetened sublime
”The Spiritual Experience” of Amit Bhar (Mahua, August 8 to 21) an expertly painted gamut of nostalgically understood conventions that merge colonial-time echoes of the sublime with comfortable, present-day images of the purity of the soul. Hence, several deep, mistily radiant perspectives of Varanasi ghats reflected in the water share space with sugary sweet portraits of imaginary Buddha sculptures and equally graceful lotus ponds. Very skilled technique-wise and presently having acquired a greater degree of precision, the canvases remain rather sentimental.

Cute patterns
Basuki Dasgupta’s new paintings at Kynkyny (August 9 to 28) with a few, form-related changes continue the artist’s usual interest in sweet, stylised figuration, ethnic charms and patterned relief textures.

Deities, enchanting humans and playful animals stay as design-oriented and easily cute as before. The fact that Dasgupta now pays attention to close-up networks of foliage and to cosmically evocative abstraction does not lift the formalist composition basis.

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