Art Talk

Classic art reborn

The ‘Saga of Tradition’ display at the Mahua gallery last month was a nice departure from the regular collections of more or less contemporary paintings and sculptures. It presented two instances of folk and classical art as being revived currently in two different ways. The rather admirable part belonged to Nankusia Shyam, a hereditary Gond artist who, however, depicts traditional imagery in acrylics on canvas. The new technique does not at all disturb the authenticity of the mythical unity of man, animal and plant-life she paints according to archaic paradigms which are, nonetheless, handled with lightness and a sporadic touch of individuality that endow the rhythmic, often hybrid figures with a pan-natural pulse reflective of cosmic structures. Sreeraj V P, by contrast, consciously translates the old Kerala mural canon onto the same technique as his predecessor. Although he is very accomplished in recreating the characteristic figural and detail outlines along with the colour scheme, his paintings remain just pleasant without capturing the ancient soul.

Between stylising and pattern

The eight painters and sculptors who participated in the ‘Vibgior’ exhibition at Renaissance (May 25 to 29), come from Karnataka as well as different parts of the country. Their formal and thematic interests may be various, sharing, however, a common intention to please the viewer along rather predictable lines. Whether clearly modernist and ethnic-oriented (Baladev Moharatha), slightly contemporised at it (Nikunja Bihari Das, Usha Mishra, Narasimha Hegde, Gyanesh Mishra, Pradosh Swain) or heavily abstracting (Jayanta Khan), they like linear stylising and cute detailing. More interesting, contemporary and ambitious were only the canvases of Tarakant parida.

Butterfly in a mall

One remembers Nandesh Shanthi Prakash as a youngish Bangalore artist engaged with issues of reality from environmental endangerment to political hypocrisies, who works on the edge of different aesthetic categories often bridging painting and installation. He strives to involve the spectator in a direct, even active response, sometimes by using the surprise of a sensor, sometimes by referring to advertising imagery and introducing playful and ironic humour into the seriousness of his subject. His latest project, a public work in the shape of a charming butterfly installation displayed at The Forum (May 30 to June 4), may have appeared unexpected at first glance, yet only to reveal similar, though optimistically formulated now, concerns both topically and in aesthetic terms.

Considering how restricted is the gallery audience, one should appreciate Nandesh’s venture among the normal, unprepared urban crowds guaranteed at a shopping mall. The immense, joyously lyrical insect, spreading its not yet quite recognised paper cup wings right in the middle of the courtyard, indeed offered a graceful twist to the familiar promise of commercial surprise. Non-saleable and temporary, a thing of pure pleasure, it stood on the floor but seeming about to soar lightly. From afar, its silhouette contoured in white and studded by round, colour cups simultaneously had some solidity and some ephemeral allure of shimmering gems. If taken merely as a delightful visual, it would have materialised its aim largely for the visitors by offering them an object of non-materialistic fascination. When approached closer on, ‘The Great Migration’ let one realise that it had been threaded of rejected, damaged paper cups.

Thus conjuring a beautiful thing of waste, it hinted at possible recycling processes and needs, as the organic creature it made drew attention to our habitat problems as well as enchantments. It would have been uncalled for to look for a profundity and complexity of form and concept. Rather, the simplicity of the image and the associations behind it provided its success and strength. The very transitory nature of the installation too had a role to play, the whole project having found its realisation as a process in the happening, along with its partly accidental, yet reaction and thought-provoking interaction by the people.

Abstracting architecture

D S Chougale, a playwright and translator from Belgaum, is showing his paintings at Prathima Art Gallery (May 5 to 11). Titled ‘Urban Abstract, the series of acrylics on paper indeed are abstractions of architectural motifs amid atmospheric spaces. One cannot deny the painter a good hold on his technique, but the sceneries he creates seem to be variants of a widely over-explored convention. There is a visible desire to imbue the images with dynamism, hence plenty of leaning angles, and with intense moods, hence much energetic brushing and texturing. What comes through, yet, resembles what has been seen already many times. One may prefer these compositions which use light, joyous hues over whose translucency the thin drawing lines of structures create a kind of partly immersed net. On the other hand, the darker ones with more geometry and radiant vectors make one think of Khande Rao.

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