Art review

Art review

 The contemporary artists behind it, who anyway often in their mainstream endeavours deal with the realities, issues and materials of their native villages and acknowledge their indebtness,  now collaborated with their traditional counterparts to display their artefacts as well as to acknowledge the common ethos, existential involvement, even aesthetic methods.

Such celebratory, active modesty is admirable against the frequent practice of using artisans’ skills to be overshadowed by the urban author’s name. In fact, the collaborative effort of the contemporary artists of this exhibition went into their appreciation and interpretation of the heritage phenomenon and its people. The title: “Innovations in Contemporary Folk Arts” may have been misleading, because unlike in some other cases, the Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu border bead artists have remained traditional, and it was the urban ones who conjured an environment of installations displaying, appreciating and discussing the rustic canon with its background.

The holistic concept brought together actual rural artworks and artists – some telling their stories in video recordings and some doing their work, the history of the community along with the changes in the idioms over time and new pieces to which both sides contributed. To str-ess it, the role of the contemporary artists here was to handle traditional art works so as to bring out its inherent nature and the spirit of their makers.
The insights were reached through basing on traits essential to the old formal language and structure, while links to life intertwined with the emphasis on the craft process in the unfolding, also on the pervasive and mutually enhancing coexistence of rudimentary qualities, even roughness in simple substances or motifs and of the enchanting profusion in rhythmic ornaments which evoked exuberant, poetic moods impregnated by physical labour, patience, endurance, vigour and tenderness where aspiration to beauty bridged the mundane and the sacred.

The vast, coarsely spectacular part of the show was dedicated to the makers of divine palanquins and festive temple decorations. While handling the elaborate, bright arches, flights of bead and mirror-studded boxes and large floral circles threaded by Gopal Reddy, Gowramma and Muniswamy Reddy of Kalahalli, the chief conjurer of the exhibition, Suresh Kumar G relied on their intrinsic pulses, hues and architecture to erect a self-supportive monument to the artisans’ effort, life and spirit. As the older-looking front seemed both static or structured and almost fluidly vibrant under the sharp sparkles of the tiny glass beads, the back translated the excitability of the humble materials and colours into a modernised liveliness where the traditional architectural blocks became translated onto the format of small TV monitors which ran video documentaries on the folk artists and their works and which continued in the middle of the expansive, crowning prabhavali pieced of white plastic pearls.  The glimpse into raw life in its progression afforded by the film was complemented by the tangible sensation exuded through the yet unadorned cloth and iron back of the sacral arch. Its coarse grandeur, along with the unity of living and art-making, found a more delicate and lyrical expression in the two flowery circles on the wall and the floor, the latter linking and nearly blending the slow-curling motifs with the movement of the human hands threading beads shown in close-up. The second part had Shivaprasad S. and Subramani J. document and interact with Manjunath N R and his friends from Neelasandra. Whilst Manjunath could be seen carving and lacquering wooden beads with a host of archaic but able tools, a collaborative sculptural wall piece on a black cloth bed evoked a portable shrine-like mass of lose garlands, chains, ritual pots, bells and a linga, all made of shiny beads. After conducting workshops, the show will be taken to the villages of the artists.

Less conventional
Strangely titled, the “Cologne” exhibition by the final year students of the Ken School of Art (CKP, April 16 to 18), suggested that even there the focus on old-fashioned conventions is being undermined for the sake of a greater engagement in problems or in honest self-expression. Whereas strictly academic idioms were absent, the artists tried to make more genuine some of the usual modernism-derived options from stylising essential figuration to design-based composing, whe-
ther the topics were symbolladen social criticism or ima-
ges of innocent joy, Of more interest were the attempts at interpreting realistic imageries (Sameer Rao Subramanya, Surya Prakash, Anand, Ranjith Kumar).
Marta Jakimowicz

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