Art Talk

Art Talk


The afterlife of scrap

Economic boom or recession, a great majority of India survives through a perennial recycling of products, substances and roles. For Pavan K J Mysore’s automobile “Junkyard” (Sumukha, September 5 to 30) epitomises the phenomenon on a plane that inextricably binds human life with the afterlife of objects towards an impact of raw and rough yet warm energy and of modest dynamism, potent of metamorphosis.

The artist resists preconceived conceptual or formal options, in a sincere way approaching the given straight on so that it may reveal its underbelly surface, mood and ethos for him to then enhance the same.

The artist starts with the simple directness of classic photography taking mostly frontal views, as if portraits of things and environs in close-up and wider range, only helping the visible to display and frame itself through its own elements.

The best are the images of ramshackle rooms piled with small and large metal parts, rings, sheets, cables and engine fragments, where the shaky architecture imposes some structure on the mass of scrap, the latter simultaneously following its logic and affecting the leaning, not so solid walls, floor and ceiling.

Between a degree of order introduced by people and the scrap’s inherent dynamism and expressiveness hidden in their now exposed functional build, there emerges a tentative balance on the edge of chaos and regularity, of movement and stasis.  Perhaps Pavan’s background in music has sensitised him to capture the pulses of the place.

If a man is shown inside, the position of his body appears to adjust to the angles and vectors of the junk, especially in shadowy artificial illumination with metallic glimmers conjuring coarse but poetic moods. While the worn out scrap contains traces its human handling, some closer shots heighten it almost transforming objects, for instance car seats, into live beings.

A look at neatly stacked parts in a shelf rectangle creates a calmly throbbing, contemplative still-life.  A lyrical, aesthetic effect comes from the luminous mist generated while welding a sheet, its vivacity turning nearly static in the image of a bunch of chains suspended against a rolled down shutter.

Doll-girls and gas cylinders

British Barbara Ash’s second exhibition at 1Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (September 12) continued her interest in popular culture and toys, focussing now on female children internalising patriarchal society’s expectation to be like demure but sensually enticing dolls.

Presently the artist compares residues of Victorian paradigms to her experience of the current blend of traditional and globalising factors in India.  These works combining drawing-painting with collages from glamour and fashion photography, fabric and indigenous craft motifs may not be as strong as her sculptural pieces, remaining nonetheless topical and often sharp with a dose of mischievous or disturbing humour.

One responds very well when the imagery is sparing in visual elements and directly conveyed meaning, relying instead on tangible sensation to evoke associations.
Such are the works with 19th century English girls shown against fleshly laced table mats, also the flower market scene with an old doll’s coffin whose atmosphere alludes to Baroque memento mori still life paintings.

The images of girls desiring to imitate film stars and ideals of cosmetics and fitness advertising oscillate between the doll pattern and that of naive instructions-illustrations, as innocence and joy mingle with compulsory artificiality, assertive defiance entering occasionally. Whilst one appreciates the kitsch-verging, pattern-based language, a greater feel of the live presence would have perhaps helped here.

Of the two residents at the same Open Studio event, Abdul Haque displayed his finely and powerfully plastic as well as graphic drawings in colour pastels with images of gas cylinders whose pressure conjured amusing-surreal-poetic contradictions that suggested real-possible qualities dormant in a strange proximity to other objects.

Harisha Chennangod used cards with Kannada and other letters and little bright squares building shaky towers and spreading in the walls and ceiling to consider the play of randomness and purpose. It was clever and charming but not much more than that.

Redesigning grids

 Shibu Arakkal’s “Eiffel O’Seven” photographic compositions aimed at a personal re-interpretation of the Eiffel Tower (Time & Space, September 6 to 15). The artist enhanced the potential of the actual view to create intricate dark, geometric designs against the sky. He blackened those making the silhouette further suffused within but punctuated by light coming through the perforations.

The often sharply foreshortened takes are fragmented, repeated and shifted slightly or realigned in symmetry and mirror image, otherwise moved off-centre. Technically consummate and, although wishing to allude to the Japanese ethos, evoked not entirely specific Oriental traceries, the works, nevertheless, stopped at the level of sophisticated decorativeness.

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