Art review

Art review


Pious commotion

After Prabuddha Dasgupta’s “Edge of Faith” photographs that subtly touched on the Portuguese Catholicism-shaped atmosphere of Goa, the “Faith” exhibition by Fawzan Husain (Tasveer, January 22 to February 13) seems to be premised on a very different strategy. Rather than in an aesthetically rich but tight manner probing one specific area, it takes a similar look at manifestations of diverse religions in the country. What should bind it, and what frequently does, is the artist’s focus on human behaviour around devotional ceremonies and situations in stead of just presenting deities, holy men and worshippers.

Although one admires Husain’s ability to blend into the crowd and capture its spirit as though simultaneously from within and from outside, his approach, both in term of concept and visually, consists of a few strands that often permeate effective but sometimes remain loose. His background as a press photographer persists to a degree, evident in a number of general, somewhat objective views and, more importantly, in the inclusion of images about Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian events handled on par, several of them beautifully, each however not being given enough space and all of them together not connecting sufficiently.

One may wonder whether well into the 21st century such a journalistic, overall and unquestioningly positive view is enough, especially with regard to the fine, peaceful shot with a girl child about to become a sadhvi. The most valuable ingredient belongs to the already mentioned power to capture the ethos of the devout in their actions along with their fervour, rough vigour and the blend of naïve, literal understanding of rituals with the sincerity of emotive intensity. Here it oscillates between bringing out corporeal and felt rhythms in masses of people swept by vast, common currents and more lyrical close-ups.

The third element of the style comes with the stress on striking aesthetic impact, in his either complex, exuberant or delicately mood-full compositions. In certain cases this achieves much warm vibrancy, in some other, however, turning slightly formalist.

Husain is at his best when combining strong formal aspects of a sight with the dynamism of its participants and their mental state. This happens, for example, in the picture from the Ellora Shivling sanctum, the red ground of Holi rites, the heap of wooden votive limbs or the juxtaposition of an innocently youthful lama and a gigantic, serene icon.

Among the more complex images is one with divine actors playing on the relationship between the normalcy of the people and the grandeur of their costumes, or another that lets the body of a praying man almost permeate that of Ganesha reflected in his taxi window. If the presence of popular kitsch frequently evokes the authenticity of its specific emotionality, quite a few of the large digital prints overdo attractive colour saturation.

Auto exuberance

If one is often drawn to the simplistic exuberance and emotional charge of auto-rickshaw decorations, the young Bangalore artist Gururaj H G turned his fascination here into a whole project that involved art as much as life. Responding to the aspirations of the bazaar painters on the personal as well as broader socio-cultural level, he documented auto-rickshaw paintings images, analysed their content, interviewed people driving and embellishing such vehicles and eventually added his own messages to the visual and textual material they carry.

The “AUTO-mobile-ART” exhibition at Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (January 21) presented the various sides of the endeavour. Photographic prints of film heroes, landscapes, birds, etc from auto backs were displayed alongside videos with Gururaj’s interactions with their painters and drivers.

None of the fairly basic, somewhat literal pieces were perhaps intended to become finished art works, but together to empathically conjure the enhanced reality sensation with its naive, crude yet sincere ethos that proudly asserts local values and symbols and tries to equip autos with visual paraphernalia and emotive comforts of homes.  One was impressed the most by the actual auto parked outside with its spilling, ornate interiors and external decorations.

Abstracted vehicles

“Invisible Green”, the painting show by Sujith Kumar G S Mandya, brought to the CKP by Gallerie Sara Arakkal (January 16 to 22), was a take on urban traffic rather unlike the previously discussed one. Although professing respect for the simple ways of transport in the shape of cycles and auto-rickshaws and relating those to the naturalness of village life, the canvases in actuality translated all this into pleasant form.

Seen against smooth colour planes and angular lines that hinted at city architecture, the vehicle figures appeared like nicely abstracted motifs. Anyway, the visitor was baffled how the abundantly fuming auto can stand for ecology.
Marta Jakimowicz

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