Art review

The spectator as actor

S  G Vasudev’s newest exhibition at Galerie De’Arts (MG Road, Barton Court, 11th Floor, October 27 to November 24) brings a familiar theme of the “Theatre of Life” while taking a panoramic angle and yet an inclusive one.

This becomes evident with the selection of mostly smallish paintings spanning around fifteen years, against which the single 2012 canvas, with a stylised portrait of Shakespeare as the artist’s alter ego, appears like an observer from within. At last one can realise that Vasudev is looking at behaviour of life and the nature and the story of his painting.

This perspective, apart from its much expressed universal validity is especially applicable where people still have to enact socially prescribed roles. And where the limited scope of an individual’s emotions finds its vent in traditional rituals, performances and the present-day cinema.

Such conduct of human existence looking and acting at once becomes complemented by the role of the artist as a participating observer. Thus, the smallish oils with frame motif that oscillates from suggesting a draped proscenium to a plain film or TV screen and a painting mount, tend to be ambivalent whether the spectators are outside or inside the stage. This in the end also involves active elements of reality, myth and fantasy together with landscapes and the organic world.

Watching life happen on its inner stage and revealing through a progression on the flat, Vasudev is considering alongside the fluctuating constancy of his own art subjects, as frolicking animals, the tree of fertility and death, lover couples, pensive mask-heads and vibrant sceneries both surround and enter his theatre. The aesthetic language remains the same, belonging to the quintessential modernist immersed in the empathic knowledge of the indigenous past. As always, he combines smooth and heavily textured pigmentation with design accents and a desire to embed thick brushing in a personal gesture.

His abstract wrapping coincides with illustrative presentation of figures that simultaneously are on the verge of the symbolic and just marked, the rough, innocent and pleasantly awkward penetrated by the fascinated but also cutely mannered.

For reconciliation

It has been some years since #1 Shanthi Road started the Sethu Samudram project allowing interaction between local artists and their Sri Lankan counterparts from Theertha. In the face of earlier and grave recent history linking both countries as well as effecting in conflict, it has been dominated by geographic, socio-political and cultural issues, their pronouncement being as important as seeking a common ground and reconciliation.

Although sadly, art still does not reach anyone beyond the Art circles proper, such ventures remain vital. Previous efforts of the artists who often participate continuously and of Suresh Jayaram, the moving spirit behind it all, have contributed then to their fleshing out during the recent joint residency, whose character was led by his curatorial guidance or perhaps only stimulus.

The resulting exhibition (November 1 to 9) had two young participants from both lands led by the desire for overcoming the three decades of a complex and destructive war by reference, evocation and by drawing the onlooker into the mainly interactive installations.
The Bangalore artists seemed to approach the task in a compassionate and encompassing way.

With much immediacy in visual and emotive terms, Dimple Shah, using the act of erasure of suffering images and by gifting sea salt, engaged the opponent aggressiveness, victims and perpetrators of violence on all the sides, her own gesture and the visitor’s active response through an appeal for mercy and at the same time for forgiveness.

The work of Prakash L was sincere too, perturbed and empathic, whereas the metaphorical content partly came through, as the blood running through the tubes forming a soldier’s boot, menacing over crematorium shots spoke of rebirth and renewal. Yet it partly remained unclear and unconvincing.

One would have wished for an equally loaded and forgiveness-seeking position from the Sri Lankans who, however, preferred a cooler, statement-like, approach.

“A Story of Dhal and Onion” by Prasanna Ranabahu and Lalith Manage was an accordion book with words and photographic prints alluding to the 1983 war with its ideological, commercial and psychological aspects whose realities, though, needed elucidation here.

Manage’s T-shirts for sale calling for contact through the use of Sinhala, Tamil, Kannada and English scripts along with rangoli dotted lines was a nice but somewhat over-used idea.

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