Art reviews

Art reviews

Mood and design

One is quite used to the style of Shibu Arakkal’s photographs which predominantly relay on interplay between the tactile physicality, even atmospheric qualities, of things, whether metallic grills, architecture or scenery, and an antithetical arrangement of mirror images.

Against that, the nostalgic mood of his recent shots from the small town and natural surroundings of Magadi may seem to be a departure, yet only to after a longer acquaintance yield fundamental similarities.

His “Finding Nowhere” cycle of black and white prints displayed at Kynkyny (August 4 to 18) consciously alluded to old-fashioned photography both in compositional terms based on a dated painterly tradition and to its contemporary photographic technology that are employed to evoke the pleasantly anachronistic look and spirit of the little known place stressed further by the awareness of its proximity to the fast pace of Bangalore.

The surface focus, the frequent blurring of detail, the soft shadowy tonalities together with the frames derived from the period film appearance allow one to read the notion of remoteness around desolate, nearly still spots without human figures and buildings that witness the markings of time passage. Graceful, the shots nevertheless are too formalistic especially in the frequent mirror image cases.

Animated mystery

The last chapter of the Bar1 Karnataka-Karnataka Residency 2012 had Shailesh B R and Rakshit K, two art students from Mysore with a comparatively modest educational background but stimulated by progressive teachers who responded well to the broader cultural landscape of Bangalore and its contemporary aesthetic perspectives.

Their exhibition at Bar1 (August 4 to 6) indeed reflected that, its combination of conceptual premises with a basis in ordinary materials and objects that opens up an inquiry into multi-sensorial experiences and links between art processes and the behaviour of life, as well as in the inner potential of normal objects and substances to act almost on their own, similarly to art objects, appeared to have been posed quite in tune with the favourite areas of questioning of the artists running the residency, while surely drawing on the residents’ personal curiosity and passion.

The two young artists shared also their desire to goad the visitor to participating in the experience of the works as well as their reference to seriously mock scientific analysis which hints on an essential, exploratory aspect of art-making but each of them contributed a different and complementary way with it.

The impact conjured by Shailesh was strong, immediate and visceral, evidently merging sight with smell and sound, together with an implication of touch, in an inherent, naturally enhanced manner, the comparative simplicity of the image and its motion triggering a largely un-stated, intense and eventually clear nonetheless, intuited range of meaning and association.

His “Smoke Lab” was a sort of massive kitchen stove on rails with an aromatic tava of frying oil to be pulled by the viewer under dripping water to sizzle, as the walls of a ceiling alternated atmospheric evocation of fumes and quasi-engineering drawings, whilst the artist wandered whether it is possible to construct smoke without looking at it as form.

To reaffirm it, Shailesh’s effort was admired for the bold, cogent gesture that activated the spectator and surrounded him/her in a pervasive, multi-sensory environment connected as much with daily experience functioning partly of its own volition as with complex ideas, both mutually supportive and admitting the enigma underneath.

Rakshit, too, conjured a number of interconnected installations, each increasing and extending the significance and expressiveness of the rest that added to an environment of another mood.

Conceived and sensed on a much more intimate plane, his laboratory invited the spectator to co-feel Rakshit’s quiet, slow probing in a close, secluded contact with the subject of his interest.

On a desk, illuminated by table lamps and accompanied by a notebook and a pen, various small jars of glass and transparent plastic boxes held tiny brownish balls and powder whose culinary spice-like appearance revealed clay origins and whose rounded shape, along with their negative in the form of punched minute scraps of paper, letting the artist muse about the physicality of his and the world’s concrete shape and its simultaneous elusiveness whose realisation is elicited by the zero-resembling look of the tiny clay balls.

The raw yet indefinite character of things personal and sincere was magnified by the recorded sound of a constant scratchy-whistling breath. The aura of spontaneous liveliness in the little grains of clay came to light in the “Failed Object” kinetic piece where the seemingly pendulum-propelled lab gadget set in motion by the visitor displayed mysteriously shifting clay balls temporarily to be watched in magnifying glass enlargement.

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