Art review

Art review

Art review

Urban stress

V G Venugopal, ‘Shift’, acrylic on canvas

“Monologues” by V G Venugopal at Blue Spade (February 6 to March 5) still carry some of his previous exhibition’s sincerity and directness while evoking the artist’s experience of Bangalore as a place of rapid, messy expansion and building, of commerce and social inequalities.

Ten years into living here, though, the new canvases have become much more personal and aimed at conveying complex or ambiguous meaning, admitting contradictions and anxieties.

The realistic basis of his idiom continues, however, now layered from a number of images that add to a metaphoric language and are often combined with abstract or abstracted motifs and backgrounds to enhance atmosphere.

The new method is certainly interesting, while sometimes convincing but sometimes oscillating between the literal and the vague. On the whole, better impact is generated through quite precise, realistic images in unexpected configurations and scale disproportions than by the use of somewhat decorative, design-like abstraction.

 A successful example here is “Shift” evoking the nostalgia of Venugopal’s rural beginnings where his partial portrait is reflected with threes in a mirror on a painted wall.
The painter, who has included his self-portraits in most of the works, confesses his aspirations and expectations for lofty, intimate and mundane things, as he depicts hands extending towards a door, chair or cloud speaking in a tone of seriousness as well as irony.

He admits also the oppression of constant striving and of social barriers which does not get entirely relieved in domestic comfort or in the deadening stupor of television watching. One can appreciate the relevant acrylics “Pause”, “Stress Buster” and “Everyone Gets a Share”, the latter imaginatively transforming pieces of synthetic mesh into seductive, flower-resembling objects of desire.

Occasionally, the obvious vocabulary around enigmatic contrasts and complexities gets over-crowded, the verbal content eventually turning obfuscated, as in “Undercover”. Otherwise it may sit somewhat awkwardly against the indifferent pleasantness of the abstract backdrop, as in “Decoding the Decade”.

A minor motif from one painting with a figure gradually getting up and lowering itself again has been translated onto a video loop with a sequence of such charcoal drawings. It is a good idea, if perhaps slightly rudimentary yet.

Common desensitisation

“TV- Viewers”, a photography exhibition by Olivier Culmann (NGMA, January 21 to February 7), came to the city as part of the current Festival of France.

The large prints were usually frontal portrayals of people in different countries watching television.

Each image taken for itself would have disappointed in its pedestrian character, whereas all of those together conjured an almost installation-like space.

The very middle-class banality of the mostly mediocre, even kitschy interiors with single individuals and families relaxed and passively looking at invisible TV programmes underscored the uniformity of the phenomenon that nullifies geographic and cultural differences.

The blurred, fixated but desensitised expressions throughout disquietingly hinted at how common, pre-digested world images reach everyone irrespective where they are broadcasted.

Sporadically, the stains on domestic walls created a more exuberant atmosphere than the rooms.

As if facing the spectators, there were a few portraits of television sets. Handled nearly like live entities in their homes, those registered the decorations that house wives provide them with, and sometimes captured the heads of studio commentators, thus transforming TVs into equivalents of or maybe personalities stronger than the real viewers who were absent, only assumed, in such works. Appreciating the perceptive approach of the artist and absorbing the images through their familiar ordinariness one could not help feeling overwhelmingly sad.

Ominous beauty of food

“Recipes for Change…s” was a now very topical show by Urmila V G (1Shantho Road Studio/Gallery, February 5 to 10) which dealt with her concern about the dangers of genetically modified food.

The installation with a table, cutlery and dainty plates serving traditionally looking dishes made of wood shavings was direct but somewhat literal in its presentation.
More complexity came through in the black panels wood-cut-like etched in rhythmic, linear-dotted shapes of germinating seeds.

The images whose deeply incised contours, along with scatterings of pollen points, were painted in glimmering gold and silver conjured a simultaneous impact of natural force in its metamorphosing and of fascinating but disturbingly denatured attractiveness.
Although the collection included a number of evocative pieces and some lesser ones that relied excessively on designing, the visitor could intuit simultaneity of organic processes and dissemination, with their artificial, beautiful yet ominous, enhancement.

By contrast, the series of small, linear, more realistic images of seeds on grey paper induced tenderness thanks to their simple sensitivity.

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