Fleeting moments captured

Fleeting moments captured

real as abstract Tawadey’s  ‘Elephant Boy’.

It’s a fascinating oeuvre by any standards, for photographer Siddhartha Tawadey has junked every norm in the industry to create a leitmotif that might be difficult to comprehend at first sight but appeals nonetheless. In nearly 20 photographs, mostly abstracts, evocatively titled ‘Transience’, Tawadey uses the Buddhist concept of mujo or impermanence to create fleeting moments or “mysteries of nature” in his just concluded show in New Delhi.

While most viewers might simply gawk at the overt abstraction in his work, quiz the photographer on the process, and the story that unfolds makes them even more interesting. In today’s all-pervading era of digital prints and photoshop manipulation, here is one photographer who makes the fast-vanishing dark room his studio and also incorporates photograms which were made before the advent of photography.
He explains: “The film rolls are processed by hand and then contact printed. The images are then enlarged using an old Fuji enlarger and a paper that is suitable. As each fine art print is made manually with a degree of dodging and burning, no two photographs ever come out exactly the same. So in the spirit of Transience, I use a combination of the old and new technology, the images are rendered on resin coated paper and scanned on latest technology scanners and then printed on archival paper using archival pigmented inks.”

The theme of his current show is based on Mujo, a medieval concept of Buddhism, literally meaning ‘no’ (mu) ‘permanence’ (jo) and also known as anittya in Sanskrit. Transience encompasses the impermanent and momentary aspects of our existence and that of the things around us, including birth, growth, change, decay, death, organic forms, constructs of society and time.

Born in Calcutta, Siddhartha Tawadey’s first creative influences came from his mother who taught him “how to look and wonder at the natural world” around him, and from her he inherited the love for collecting and finding beauty in the smallest pebble or leaf. As a photographer, Tawadey, however, has moved away from the figurative genre that he showed in his debut show titled ‘Silent voices of an Unseen India’ in September 2008, where he displayed an intimate philosophical exploration of time, memory and history. His second show titled ‘Un Vague de Reves’ in March 2009 set a trend of sorts with Triptychs in photography where he juxtaposed three images in one picture to portray the inner realities of the subconscious.

Tawadey’s big break, however, came with the photo essay at the Tate Modern (UK) but the latest achievement that gets him talking is a soon-to-be-launched book on lateral ties between India and Colombia titled ‘Una apasionada familia humana’ for which he has provided images. What also excites him is his collaboration with the famous photographer Diego Ferago with whom he will be putting up a video installation at Barcelona airport (Spain) next year.

In the current show, through the universal language of abstraction and the use of metaphor, he reflects on his personal and universal concerns about the transience of life and nature. By creating work without the constraints of representation, the work can exist in its own right, as an object if you like, which may draw from the viewer a sensation, a memory, a collective recognition of the beauty of form, a perception of space or the purity of a line.

He says: “These images were taken in different parts of India — mainly in Rajasthan, South India and West Bengal. I had to wait for the right time of the day to move my camera to get these colours… sometimes I had to run with my camera at a slow speed to get the right blur affect and have the colours and light follow me exactly as I wanted. I then discovered transience in the sense that moments like images can never be jailed, they need to be set free. This served as the inspiration for my exhibition.”

“I work abstractly and non-linearly — however, my designs do have trends over time, usually with the goal of delaying recognition so a photograph may have a better dialogue with its viewer, free of labels. Recent techniques have included seeing without gravity, designing in soft focus, and using shapes to continue the photograph beyond the physical frame.”

When one views his work, it is not difficult to sense that photography should least be described as capturing reality, but rather as an abstraction of time and place. For instance, in one of his work titled ‘Eye’, the photograph on first glance shows an enlarged eyelid but on a closer look you can see a foetus captured within the eyeballs as if a woman absorbs the entire life story of her unborn child in one blink.

In yet another image taken in the barren landscapes of Rajasthan, one can see trees and an outline of a hut swaying against a strong wind swirling by, perhaps in an attempt to capture the notion of stability which is essential in any relationship. There are other images that are superimposed. Seagulls from South Maharashtra find place on a Houdini poster and the face of Parvati, an elephant from Meenakshi Temple is merged with its rider in a work titled ‘Elephant Boy’. For one of his photographs, the photographer had gone to Dindigul, Chennai “just to capture the movement of windmills.”

However, what remains his signature style is the desolation in each of his photographs. The lonely feeling in the vast spaces and the paradox referred to in this exhibition is that in order to be, we must change; when we cease to change we cease to exist. Everything is in movement. It is this movement that the photographer has attempted to capture through his images.

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