Art reviews

Art reviews

Revealing contrariness

The World Upside Down, the photographic exhibition by the French conceptual artist Philippe Ramette brought to Sumukha by the Alliance Francaise (December 8 to 20), conjured a quite immersive experience.

The gallery regularly filled with large, uniform prints enveloped the viewer in sceneries that seemed at the same time normally pleasant or alluring and dizzy in their contrarian situations, pervaded as much by a mischievous or absurdist humour as by a serious kind of inquiring sensitivity.

Only after a while one realised that it must have been the often bewildering look and character of reality itself which triggered in the artist the need for further, consciously adopted contradictory, even apparently illogical, ruses directed so as to enable its enhanced perception.

Since Ramette, in the way of a sculptor using his own body and a performance artist photographing himself involved in the artwork process, figures in all the images, one gets insight into the fact that perceptiveness capable of discovery always necessitates some degree of altered, hence novel, vision.

Actually, the amazing, contrary aspects inherent in natural landscape may ask for a suitable response, one print showing a country road with Ramette on it, its perpendicular rocky wall too having him inconspicuously walk at 90 degrees.

The structure and power of natural spreads may be such that he is compelled to both overturn them and adjust his position to theirs, in a particular case the vertical sea and sky horizon making him imitate it above it. Many urban and natural vistas here place the observing, contemplating artist either in a normal pose against strangely reorganised views or display him defying the physics and gravity of ordinary surroundings walking on tree trunks and levitating over furniture and buildings.

Otherwise in commonsense circumstances he engages in accepted activities and explorations that, however, happen under the sea. Here the employment of photography with its familiar commercial attractiveness that sometimes yields poetic moods lets one sense the extraordinary embedded in the ordinary reflecting also the role of Ramette’s formal black suit whose awkwardness in an artist combines normalcy and the abnormal, fun and gravity, perhaps even the honest naivety that can reach revelation, the rational and the irrational as different sides of one phenomenon.

The imperative of reverse perception finds a naughtily literal metaphor in the artist’s adventures amid hilly sceneries which he probes and absorbs in seclusion aided by all sorts of viewing contraptions that largely allude to the helpful artifice of the camera obscura. His striving as a voyager and surveyor climbing steep outcrops becomes reciprocated by the mock-scientific boxes on his head.

The refreshing contrariness of seeing pathways serves knowledge equally to just feeling things and to delighting in the experience of life’s immediacy. So, Ramette presents himself savouring the atmosphere of sheer, calm laziness during levitation with a cigarette in his studio interior, while he allows us to intuit the quiet electricity between him and his lover.

Elusive spaces

The recent canvases by Manuchakravarthi K N (Venkatappa Art Gallery, December 6 to 10) were a surprise to someone used to his earlier work heavily influenced by high modernist abstraction. Like before, proving sound technical skills, the large acrylics struck as an evidently genuine effort towards a different grounding in the experience of both reality’s immediacy and its relationship with intangible space.

The authenticity of the desire to feel things intensely and individually could be recognised in the recurrence of the artist’s self-portraits, the introductory one having his bare torso among fluffy clouds against a black void, his hand stretching out to touch both perhaps.

The show’s title “Mahayana” and the catalogue essay made the spectator look for a proof of the painter’s belonging to a new aesthetic school founded in the Buddhist idea of a non-definable condition of flux and ever transient becoming. Since the works display certain formal elements characteristic to the oeuvre of K T Shiva Prasad, one tends to see the source of inspiration there.

Unlike in Shiva Prasad where complex concepts can be pervasively intuited, the younger artist finds himself still obliged to describe and name things, hence often risks illustrativeness in the shape of somewhat too repetitively curling clouds, cosmically evocative spirals or a blank vastness behind rustic figures that accepts and stabilises them or makes them look uncomfortable in their suspension.

That tendency to describe sometimes makes the viewer unnecessarily expect meaning in otherwise unassumingly direct representations, for instance the flocks of grazing animals.

On the other hand, one really likes the rough-tender realism of his faces that seem to be quietly attuned within as well as without.

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