Art reviews

Art reviews

Art reviews

In the artist’s mind

Estee Oarsed, the Indian alter ego of Christoph Storz, has been known for conceptual yet reality-rooted art whose apparently rough, minimalist understatement opens sharply as well as subtly formulated insights into complex and always interlinked spheres of concrete existence, perception and aesthetic language, of images, ideas and words, found objects, theory and art-historical reference, while a certain distance combined with an ethical, empathic, socially concerned stand compels him to regard and include ‘low-end’ art and its practitioners, on the one hand, and on the other, to warn against treating art works as fetishes commercial assets.
 His latest exhibition sums up and broadens such perspective with the typical, mischievously serious and accommodating wisdom. In fact, the very seeming negativity of the show “Is it possible not to make art?” (Bar1, January 25 to February 3) hides his affirmation of the inherent parallels and connectivity between the creative process and the behaviour of life whose raw materials and dynamic manifestations are as essential as already existing works, analyses and methods of art, where there cannot be a clear division between the artist, the work, other artists, life and the spectator. 

Hence, the recurring motif of things simultaneously being something and not being it eventually yields the impact of an overwhelming pervasiveness with its contrasts-similarities-triggers and continuing reinterpretations. Claiming to have curated the display with no works by a number of artists, Oarsed not only repositioned those original works as stimuli towards his own extension of their import, but engaging them together and with vignettes of life as well as written down stories and thoughts he conjured an animated suggestion of varied trajectories among sensations, reflections and acts that happen in the artist’s mind in response to the normal and inextricably involving the viewer. 

He stressed that art works are not objects but that which artists do; their attitude to life and roaming presence in it. So, ropes, in allusion to Oarsed’s wife Sheela Gowda’s oeuvre, started from a naïve wall drawing of an artist’s foot and traversed-threaded the rooms, other works, aspects of their meaning and board-mounted texts whose reading was as important as seeing and understanding the images. One of the “works or no works” traced the ambiguous relationship of objects in a real situation, here ‘no parking’ signs put up by Sheela Gowda by their house somewhat like gallery exhibits against unruly drivers, their direct and other significance when transported to an art space, of originals, copies and fakes, its progressively unclear remoteness indicated by the fragmented and blurred, lined photographic shot with empty silhouettes on the wall, the essence distilled to the abstraction of faint colour stripes. The changing notion of the viewer’s role, dormant in that installation, became the focus in one using posters and candies collected from an exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. 

The sweets preserved as a work of art by his son, instead of being eaten as Torres meant, Oarsed pointed at the spectator as one who may complete the work, own and take care of it, otherwise ignore it.  Particularly perceptive were the works that paid homage to the intrinsic self-expressiveness of ordinary life and to the art-like actions adopted spontaneously by people to convey the extremity of their predicament. 

At one end, a chance photograph of a family on a scooter amid night traffic revealed a staging and significant, doubly exaggerated gestures engendered from within life in the occurring. At the other, newspaper prints captured the performance born of desperation and protest, as a mother declared the sale of her children to pay a bribe to officials and a Dalit poured faeces on his body.  

Two takes on nature

Of the two exhibitions about animals last month at 1 Shanthiroad Studio/Gallery, the more interesting one was “Creature Comfort” by Malavika P.C. Conceived in terms of motifs from a modern fable, her hybrid beings studded by densely contoured lines, throbbing under multitudes of emphatically regular rhythms of scales, feathers, flaming, rhomboid and circular decorations, besides the occasional dresses and the prevailing brightness, twirled gracefully or humorously to evoke diverse human characters and follies. Most, if inventive and funny, suffered from an excess of designing and a dose of rigidity. Some were expressive when allowed a free fluidity. 

The images of birds and plants by Sangeetha Kadur seemed to have solid professional skills behind them, the pleasant exactness being limited, however, by a rather literal approach dependent on botanical and photographic sources instead of a personally processed experience.

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