Portraying the human condition

Poignant works

Portraying the human condition

A major exhibition of paintings and sculptural installations is all set to open at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bengaluru this Saturday. 

It is a mid-career retrospective of Bijapur-born Delhi-based artist G R Iranna, an established name in contemporary Indian art. Titled ‘And the last shall be the first’, the show presents some key artworks created by the artist during the last two decades (1995 – 2015). Alumnus of College of Visual Art, Gulbarga (BFA in Painting/1992) and College of Art, New Delhi (MFA / 1994), Iranna spent a year as artist-in-residence at the Wimbledon School of Art, London on Charles Wallace scholarship (1999 – 2000). 

He had his first solo show in 1995 at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. Since then his work has featured in several gallery and museum shows across the country and outside. Prolific in his output, Iranna has worked in several mediums and taken on many themes and subjects. Firmly rooted in the local and yet depicting a universal message, his creations have garnered both critical and popular admiration. 

The exhibition at NGMA includes more than 30 large scale sculptural installations and paintings. Among the eye-catching exhibits is ‘The Dead Smile’ (fibreglass, cloth, 2007) wherein a group of 20 life-size fibreglass figures, all nude males, can be seen squatting on the floor. The face of each figure is covered with a black cloth: a device that acts as blindfold, mask and gag all at once, suggesting that the figures are condemned souls marked for execution.

‘Wounded Tools’ (fibreglass, toy fur, acrylic paint, 2008) is a striking sculpture of a donkey carrying a saddle bag loaded with tools.  “This sculpture represents a journey, but there is no redemption in sight. This is how I offer my comment, my critique of the human condition at present,” says Iranna. “The donkey, who seems to be dumb and suffers without protest, but still has the fortitude to withstand enslavement and humiliation, is my symbol of Gandhian passive resistance.”

In yet another poignant installation, ‘Charka’, the artist presents a spinning wheel by setting it on a medical cot, as if to suggest how the great Gandhian symbol of peaceful resistance seems to be on its last leg.  

The show has been curated by well-known poet and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote. “A museum-level exhibition such as the present one enables us to survey and contextualise the activity of an artist, as it were, in mid-passage,” writes Hoskote. “Our attempt, here, has been to bring together a variety of works that attest to Iranna’s production since his earliest foray into the Indian art world, and spanning his increasing range and contribution to the scene.”

The show will be inaugurated at NGMA, Bengaluru on January 16 at 6 pm.  It will be on view till February 16. .


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