Art review

Reflective observation

Art review

After a while, the aesthetic but often not very evocative images in colour under glass throw up certain disconnect between the elegance of form here and the mostly commonplace takes with a fair amount kitsch sporadically registered in them. The idea behind some can be guessed, whereas some remain unclear on their own, and one has to read explanations which give the place, its history and present circumstances.

All this must have been conceived deliberately, with the intention to coolly induce the spectator to be more attentive and analytical, as he/she notices an unusual aspect in each scene. Not staged, but carefully and consciously chosen from the actual, it creates a disquiet, overstress, contradiction or rift which reveal qualities and processes hidden or evidently embedded in the surface of reality and which make one reflect along with the artist’s thought.

Thomas’s conceptual method participates in the currently dominant tendency in art to draw on and virtually or in fact enter the structure and behaviour of life in order to experience and interpret it actively from a rudimentary position and direct link. In this project, the artist, wishing to establish a familiar channel on a daily level, involves practices and sensibilities associated with documentation, from popular personal snapshots to newspaper and digital media images, along with their formal language and seeming casual nature, also with research and commentary, while the accents and angles he introduces in the shots let one realise a number of reflections on the character of various cultural, political, economic and social phenomena that pervade the changing country now as well as the ways visualisation or perception manifests itself spontaneously in existential occurrences and is imposed on people institutionally.

The print which gives the title of the show: “View from Conolly’s plot” has an old hanging bridge with a shadow spanning plantations across a river, thus illustrating the persistence today of teak cultivation where the colonial district magistrate initiated it. Unlike it, the shot of a restaurant toilet door carved smoothly in the traditional technique but depicting a Playboy version of the apsara offers an accessible recognition of the globalising imagination, as does the bar interior metamorphosed into a naive ice cave with a Santa, an old, unused church interior has become a cemetery with flat graves and eerie-bright plastic flowers, their geometry responding to the shrine’s architecture.
A tile-roofed house machine-cut in two alludes to the harshness of property disputes vitiating family relationships now, whilst the frontal sight of a revered god-man standing with his identical twin sculpted of wax hints at the corporeal literalness of worship accorded to and largely equating saints and politicians. The numerous slide projection “Happy Moments” has a sequence of empty, fancy-hotel-like interiors, tasteful and comfortable, even external views from the windows becoming part of the artificial environ, The words referring to a Biblical TV quiz recurring on monitors enhance the aura used by the commercial-religious programme to mould the viewer’ mind.
Rustic nostalgia modernised
M Ravichandran, who showed recently at Time & Space (March 29 to April 2), is a continuator of the rather anachronistic and self-congratulatory, but popularly always attractive, nostalgic view of the eternal nature of rustic life filled with verve, innocence and creativity.

His idiom bases on this fundamentally urban construct, born during the shaping of the unifying national image as entrenched in the followers of the early Indian moderns. His acrylics on canvas house jolly or serene villagers, tender couples, vivacious musicians and youngsters eager to learn from older, wiser men amid signs of religion and by mighty bulls and humans that allude to prehistoric paintings. The figures oscillate between residual realism and ethnic stylisation still reverberating of Husain-eque profiles and stances. The archaic shapes combine with skeletal elements of child art or graffiti.
The painter of fair technical skills tries to lighten contemporise the convention and loosens his brush by adding palette knife staccato and irregular or angular filters of translucency and rhythmically scattering small, often linear forms and symbols. The whole, yet, remains primarily decorative, even though in a quite cultured manner it avoids loudness and obvious quotations.
Marta Jakimowicz

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