Art reviews

Art reviews

Art reviews

Complexity in the rudimentary

The two latest exhibitions at 1, Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, within their clear difference, shared a general approach both to reality and to art-making that relies on reaching out for subtle, complex layers of meaning and form hidden in consciously chosen minimalist means and aims.

Particularly interesting, thanks to its sincerity, relevance to the contemporary circumstances and fair originality, was the work of Chennai’s Sunil Kumar Sree who spent a residency for young artists here.

His “Under the Skin” display (July 29 to August 1) at first impressed with its flair and intense workmanship, but also mystified as to the message.

This, nonetheless, eventually proved to reflect Sree’s own bewilderment, even pessimism, about his and broader human identity or prospects around. The clue to this conclusion lay in the series of tiny photographs with porous, hairy, scarred and blemished skin close-ups of his body that let one intuit an amount of surprise and assertive frankness as well as disgust with self-limitations which only enhance the restrictions and duress from external forces, thus merging the personal and societal levels.

The quite spectacular yet carefully crafted main piece belonged to “shape, unshape, shape” which consisted of a large, tilted Rubik’s cube-like object consisting of densely, patiently and slowly hatched segments inclusive of photographed skin fragments. The traces of the hand’s progress over time added to the sense of focussed examination of perhaps endless possibilities, changed and fittings.

As the cube spilled a few crushed paper cups, the complementary, floor part of the work was a not so firm box filled with used paper cups, the similar markings suggesting both constant, genuine effort and its futility, uncertainty or misuse. So maybe, the skin that marks us; defines but also cancels our character and potential becomes the body, a receptacle that holds hope and hopelessness.

Without the artist’s concrete explanation as to his intent, one wondered whether to connect the image with caste and racial issues based on skin colour or with the capacity of renewal. Rather than trying to understand the show literally, one appreciated its comparatively universal evocation with regard to the so drastic in the country condition of being determined and retrained, even doomed, from outside while patiently acting against it and finding oneself.

The following event was a solo exhibition by Suryaprakash Gowda. This local artist who during his studies in Baroda seems to have been impacted for life by the oeuvre of Nasreen Mohamedi now paid homage to the source of his inspiration.

Never even pretending to depart far from the starting point, Gowda, openly depends on a few basic constituents of Mohamedi’s art and strives to probe them from within by concentrating on a particular motif or aspect – singled out sparingly or, more often, by examining a multitude of variants allowed by the same.

He, almost literally, brings back her minimalist brushed strokes and sharp lines which mediate between abstraction and an intimate mark, between cool precision and calm forces dormant beyond the visible world, from under the indifferent unearthing subtlety and tender, nearly spiritual attuning, while also delving into the essence and nuances of the aesthetic language.

And so, his arches of wide, drying wash evoke the hand’s and heart’s gesture touching on the breath of undulating landscape. Flatness is handled to contain or become its own plastic, space-inducing shadow. Stability turns into motion. Black appears to be merely a form of white and vice versa, as a stain’s opacity is not too alien from a line’s near-negativity.

The onlooker may prefer the more restrained but thoughtfully considered pieces in comparison with the slightly design-resembling, multi-part compositions, especially if those incorporate the inherently decorative, if not muted, gold pigment.

Stylised intricacy

“Sands of Time”, Karttika Goel’s painting display at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath (July 17 to 22), was dedicated to various manifestations of human togetherness with nature.

The artist saw this communion as a result of spiritual striving for serenity as well as of love between man and woman which reflects divine love. Surely sincere, it was fleshed out by somewhat naively literal canvases where Buddha’s sculptural face and highly stylised mortal heads partly emerged from and sunk back into the intricate trajectories of plants.

If one could appreciate the throbbing energy of the foliage and flowers whose energetically meandering trajectories, precisely within their surface-binding, evoked a simultaneous feel of volume-endowed things immersed in a tactile space, the imagery on the whole tended too much towards an ornate design and the facial contours were rather weak in their vague conventionality.

Marta Jakimowicz

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