Melding myth and comedy

Funny Art

Rarely do art lovers visit galleries to have a good laugh. The work of the Delhi-based artist Manjunath Kamath which is on display at Gallery Espace, might give the visiting audiences one such opportunity.

The exhibition, titled ‘Postponed Poems’ displays the narratives of everyday life interwoven with mythologies and intimate stories. His work, according to him, is a result of a hobby which involves understanding old and aged classical and folk sculptures.

“I have a great fascination for traditional classical sculpture and paintings from my childhood, and I still remember that I spent hours looking at those sculptures in temple chariots and on walls. The temples and churches are like art museums for me, and that was how I was introduced to art,” Kamath said.

According to Kamath, the inspiration to produce such art came in his childhood when he used to spend hours with local craftsmen watching them make idols of Gods and Goddesses.

“Eventually, I even started collecting classical sculptures and paintings like ritual masks, wooden and metal sculptures, parts of temple chariots, old terracotta sculptures. It was natural then that I would want to bring the aesthetics of this classical style into my works but interpret them on my own terms. It is like reconnecting to our roots,” he said.

At the same time, Kamath imparts his signature flavour of witticism in his interpretation of the secular, mythological and the historical. The terracotta sculptures in this show are inspired by classical aesthetics but turned into a modern metaphor replete with humour and satire.

“In present times art practice is becoming uni-directional. Globalisation flattened the plurality of aesthetics all over the world, and somehow we lost different local and regional flavours.

There is a lack of personal expression, I think that it’s very hard to recognise which is Indian art and which is western, and there is no connection to the roots.” As humour and wit are the basic aspects of his works, Kamath says that ‘the world is like a big theatre with a lot of jokers in it’.

“I find humour everywhere. For example, in my recent work (urdwalingakaratalamalaka), the sculpture was started with the reference from Urdwalinga Shiva, which is a historical sculpture from 18th century Badami temple. I created the torso of the standing Shiva by arranging the broken pieces.

It’s a kind of a mismatch situation, similar to when a historian joins broken sculptures found in excavations. It’s also like re-writing history, a metaphor for the present situation where history has been manipulated according to different ideologies and belief.”  

Apart from these sculptures, Kamath is also showing paper works which include 30 small drawings, nine small Indian miniature-style paper works and 15 gold leaf portraits drawing reference from the Buddhist Thangka paintings.

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