Art reviews

Indulgent irony

‘Humour in Art,’ the fair but not so ample exhibition that just concluded at Crimson (December 11 to January 5), seemed to have been an unassumingly sincere and holding together, if somewhat given to chance, attempt at gallery curation along rather familiar lines, which included also a preference for the safe medium of painting.

Sure, one has to agree that against the prevailing contemporary ambition to conceptual complexity and visual riddle, humour underscored by sheer sensation can be a welcome relief without losing its capacity to reveal. On the other hand yet, one needs to repeat that all this happened within a modest parameter.

In fact, the actual selection was cautious combining relevance with a lack of truly biting satire, the stronger or softer irony throughout being tempered by amusement and accepting warmth, even indulgency. Two of the four participants displayed a greater degree of witty criticism or clarity about the social reality to be counterbalanced by the other half attuned to relishing the sheer atmosphere around pleasantly presented imperfections.

The most effective here was Chandranath Acharya with his emblematic elevation of the pampered and joyous self-importance of the man of power, his present-day machismo attired in the costume of a king. Grinning with shameless satiation, even dancing, he ravishes his ageing vitality and his crude yet somehow alluring physicality, the opulence of his jewellery almost acquiring its own animation.

That he obliges the presence of humble dogs and insects blends affectionate moods with a possibility of beastliness. Acharya’s excellence in realistic rendering found a complementary force in his long practice as a cartoonist as much as in the traditional south Indian art motifs, while he located its new equivalent of flat linearity and plasticity.
In a more contemporary, but quite polite vein, Rohit Sharma offers sarcastic takes on the materialism that dominates the environment, his enlarged banknote images alluding to the successful commerce being the aim of filmdom and to the currently happening exchange of the protective state for the greed of global finance.

The apparently documentary neutrality of the images is either obvious in their directness or map-like-schematic, its objectivity disclosing the ironic contradiction within when enhanced by or contrasted with the illusionistic precision of their realistically handled, often tree-dimensional parts, this being as effectual in the picture of a cow transformed into an urban milk van.

The second pair of painters approach the world’s follies with bemused gentleness and slowly savour its entirely self-centred mischievous play as well as its sensual infatuations. Ganapati Hedge constructs illustrated animal fables, as though an ancient story teller, to comments on the behaviour of people. Whether it be frolicking monkeys or a humanoid daydreaming frog, he enmeshes them in the sinuous intricacies of densely patterned foliage design and a staccato of bright colours, its decorativeness, though, reducing the critical potential of the content.

A similar form-reliant pleasure came from the very different canvases of Gautam Mukherjii.
His scenes of delicate, indirectly portrayed eroticism of a traditional but non-domestic kind strive to establish a modulated continuity from the time and style of Kalighat paintings and their bhadralog debauchery theme. The sweet carnal charge among the lover couples is focussed on the man, whereas the woman acts subservient perhaps although enjoys herself. The suitable to it and pronounced formal mannerism remains much too superficially nice to turn significant.

To know others

Rakesh Kallur G studied painting at Mysore’s CAVA and then at Bangalore University embarked on ‘an interactive social project’ with the city to familiarise himself with the city’s people.

The “Cover-page” exhibition at 1Shanthiroad Studio/Gallery (December 29 to 31) presented its process relying primarily on the recording of his encounters with Bangaloreans to gather their basic data and know them as persons.

One does appreciate Kallur’s sincerity, even the innocent naivety that accompanies his directness in facing reality rather than its aesthetic or conceptual imagery, but the situation creates self limiting factors which arise from the means used – his documented interviews with ordinary citizens on streets or marketplaces which inevitably necessitated repeated and standard questions about the occupation, address, age, hobbies, favourite food, soap, etc, while the interlocutors are described as types – an auto driver or an old man.

The displayed works included a video with interviews completed by rough, consciously native portraits and object drawings and such collaged posters whose character related well to the simplicity of the protagonists, still was too literal.

The variants with only audio and video with audio without drawings did not add anything, though. The mirror cut outs of common things, effective if over-familiar, were expected to trigger the visitor’s near-identification or questioning.

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