Art review

Art review

Art review

Corporeal divinity

Entering Bharathesh Yadav’s exhibition at Samuha (November 20,21) one faced first a triptych with a large, bare-chested man painted horizontally who appeared to be passive and separate from yet vulnerable to the multitude of small objects surrounding him.

The lively, toy-like naivety of the utilitarian and other shapes evoked a gay but even palpably oppressive feel around the present-day reality dominated by advertising and indulgency. The suffusion of that background intensified much more over the virtual environment created of eight or nine simultaneous video projections on TV monitors, many accompanied by sound.

“God *conditions apply” focussed on images of corporeally ingrained representation and internalising of divinity. From the popular, urban, largely secular mood of the painting, it dived into the personal world of the artist where intimate and aesthetic experiences were pervaded by a diversity of sacred imagining always dependent on a visceral bodily language. While the central film brought out the classical harmony born from coolly probed human anatomy as the basis for serenely spiritual icons of the Renaissance or Buddhism, several screens ran fragments of local films displaying the pitched exuberance of fervour that leads to pain and self-inflicted violence potent of external one, so characteristic of current popular devotion anchored in archaic Hindu myths.

The Vedic idea of the individual being the absolute principal metamorphosed in the familiarly literal, loud manner as actors and simple people playing gods of splendour and of aggressiveness, at the same time assuming physical traits of anthropomorphic and animal deities and striving to reach beyond the same by undergoing torment and sacrificing parts of their bodies. Yadav conjured an impassioned and disturbed vision there that touched on the raw nerve of the land. The emotionally charged but somewhat simplistic mode of physical identification that expresses itself through live tableaux imbued with kitsch excess found another reference in the video with people taking up iconic attributes and stances, while a bazaar studio-resembling cut-outs with empty heads awaited visitors to be photographed as deities.

After the bright clatter around, the “Extra Large” video lopped in a darkened cubicle introduced an almost minimalist, still all the more powerful, personal as well as philosophical conversation with God. Yadav, his naked torso seen behind a table, implied that with a fork and knife he was eating his own body. Whereas the previously mentioned works presented humans imitating deities according to their own and worldly forms, there the artist symbolically shed-consumed his flesh to ask God, with whom he is supposed to be identical, how it tasted and perhaps to reveal his true shape, since he could see himself the way God looked  at him.

The matter-of-fact tone in this musing about the body being a means and an obstacle in reaching the sacred only enhanced the blend of daring, humility, pain and open-ended, desperate striving with gravity not devoid of anger.  

Tokens and parallels

“The open cage” homage to Francis Bacon exhibition at Gallerie Sara Arakkal (November 2 to 14) was curated by Giridhar Khasnis somewhat in terms of a light exercise, since the four artists invited to it either in their mainstream work do not have much to do with the contemporary classic as such or refer to him rather on the surface of things.

This sourcing was aggravated further by the fact that none of the participants even approximates the kind of enraged despair about human entrapment, suffering and loneliness that Bacon probed. As a result, the show consisted of tokens and quite fine but gentle interpretations or parallel images. Of the latter, one appreciated M S Prakash Babu’s quietly personal response that verges on internalisation, where in the language of a muted but intensely growing, acute realism imbued with shifting residues of film and newspaper photography, the painter layers and nearly fuses the angst of Bacon’s portraits with glimpses of current reality and his own disturbance in the face of violence and absurdity. Interesting was C F John’s transposition of Bacon’s cage onto a woman performer enacting the condition, even though the feel of it was slightly too meditatively delicate, sometimes obvious. Yusuf Arakkal who has often alluded to Bacon, this time did it also in a formalist manner imposing a pleasant stylisation on the quoted, originally gut-wrenching portraits, the main canvas creating an interpretative but soft mood around images of pain and authority.

The token approach was the most evident in B Devaraj’s paintings which juxtaposed mildly transferred Bacon motifs and his somewhat mannered figures of the human condition, its soaring and suffering, whose essentialism as rendered with a dose of the atmospherically decorative.