Art Talk

Art Talk

Aesthetic document

On entering Prashant Panjiar’s photography exhibition one is overwhelmed by the sheer vastness and flow of the panoramic views which at the same time capture a diversity of places and their essential kinship. This impact comes from a consciously theme and form-based selection and juxtaposition of sceneries that, uniform in size, regularly continue their horizontal elongation.  “Pan India A Shared Habitat” (Tasveer at Sumukha, October 20 to 31), indeed, contrasts and compares similarly composed images short in different parts of the country, rustic architecture followed by urban sights, placed under construction and natural stretches, traditional craft and city hoardings. The prints have a quietly nuanced, classical look to them and, refraining from spectacular strangeness or conceptual premises, focus on the immediate observed with sensitivity, the world being approached here panoramically also while portraying sequences of smaller objects closer to the surface plane.

When the artist reaches out for evidence of the human condition and ethos, his work can be strong and moving in an inconspicuous but grave way, like in the shot with an eroded church statue in prayer whose darkly atmospheric landscape reverberates in the fuming trash spread of the scene with rag pickers, or to a more vigorous effect in the close-up and the wider take on the exuberant brightness of contemporary architectural geometry.
After a while, though, the viewer may sense a certain lack on the whole. However, the excessive formal orientation, accompanied by somewhat too pleasant colours and over-emphasised blackness or geometric motifs, weakens the show often making its clearly readable topics literal and preventing the rawness and energy of the place to come through.

Thus, whilst one can intuit the processes of chaotic but forceful change, temporariness of migration, verge state of wearing out, demolishing and building, of ecological perils, etc., this comes more in terms of aesthetised documentation than lived experience. Since it is much more difficult to draw such insights from vistas largely devoid of people, the black and white photographs upstairs fairly compensate for it.

The senior photo journalist is at his best bringing out the Indian spirit of a physically warm, vivacious togetherness among a clutter of accumulated and cherished possessions in the interior scenes with upper and middle-class families. His finds an adequate balance of self-posing and aware portraiture here as well as in the sterner, static images of villagers and workers against their bare, rudimentary homes.

The panoramic elongation is inverted vertically to deal with urban congestion, sometimes resulting in evocativeness but frequently with slight artifice over-stressing the same. The curator Sanjeev Saith does not state his premises, letting one only guess his role in the perhaps too obvious accent on formal similarities.

Spiritual kaleidoscope

If the dominance of aesthetic cogency diluted the previous show, another photography exhibition, “Accent on Faith” (Time & Space, October 22 to 30) illustrates the perils of its absence. One does not know whether Lina Vincent Sunish curated it or only commented on it, saying that its aim was “to explore the significance of faith in varied contexts”.
However valid the intention, what one faces in actuality is a rather crowded and eventually random and quality-wise uneven kaleidoscope of diverse themes, motifs and formal options enhanced further by the fact that those recur within the works of each participant.

Adding the frequent presence of bright, attractive colours, the whole does not really exude the spiritual mood that was probably expected. The situation delays the spectator’s recognition of how well Clare Arni rooted her imagery precisely in devotion with a need for meditative focus among the naively spectacular ethos of popular culture.
The surprising proximity of regular places and figures of worship and circus scenes bring out human aspirations and contemplative moods on both levels tanks to a subtly powerful comparison of real structures and the people’s stances.

A softer, complementary disjoint plays a role within the only religious imagery of Ditman Bollaert who conjures soaring in the radiant Islamic arches from Morocco and earthy sacred trees and linga of Hinduism.

Yashas Chandra effectively contrasts, grades and links the mood of loose-tight togetherness amid pilgrims and of individual quieting.

Whereas James Nicholls offers a cultured, aesthetic reportage from diverse countries without much connection, the works by Pallon Daruwala belong to disconnected regions and formal approaches, as Ashok Koshy furthers the impact by using rather obvious takes and a too glamorous effulgence of reds and yellows.

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