Art review



“Past Continuous”, her exhibition of digital photomontages (Samuha, July 14 to 29), has images of the city which carries a deeply ingrained heritage and ethos but finds itself under pressure from unbridled changes, the old clashing with the new sometimes, predominantly, nonetheless, persisting within it by the sheer weight of its being there or by adaptation and partial transformation.

While the sourcing from grassroots continues in the sights and motifs of street life, the smooth flatness of the photographic surface gains an almost tactile evocativeness thanks to the layered density of shapes in a dynamic chaos which yields its own logic and which the artist structures further by interpretation.
The subdued yet inextricable presence of history may come on a note of calm lyricism, when in a simple composition a line of sparkling white high-rises mistily reflects in a pond as a colonial-time building.

It may be less evident, yet immersive and atmospheric  in the clatter of things exuberant and harsh happening simultaneously at different angles and levels, as Shanthamani fills the picture with diffused, bright patterns of traditional textiles and mounts them on a clear, decorative border, while a female vendor, her covered by a sari with a vast spiral design, is offering a toy airplane which seems to be taking off in a direction contrary to the thrust of the massive, uprooted tree stumps.

Striking contrasts that connect, combined with the permeability of fragmentarily superimposed, faint scenes can generate a strong impact, like in the regal commemorative statue of Tipu Sultan in a park, shown beside garish, synthetic garlands of homage behind which scaffolding is dimly visible on a shrine under renovation.

Multiplying regular rows of the same and similar small forms helps bring out the sense of inner pulse and of continuing over time in objects, surroundings and processes, for instance letting the organic flow of Islamic architectural decoration which has absorbed indigenous temple elements contradict and link with the simpler rhythms of prosaic, contemporary keys on a wall and with a accumulation of plastic pipes.
The role of multiplication becomes more powerful, if its images possess their inherent eloquence. Such are the works with naïve, old-fashioned paintings of victorious wrestlers, in particular one where an awkward body of muscles locates its equivalent in the nearly humanoid, mighty transmission tower.

The endearing self-expressiveness of popular devotion serves well to indicate the spirit of aspiration common to the ornate processional figures of Hanuman in flight and to the sumptuously garlanded cut-out of a film hero.
The viewer does appreciate the best prints here, whereas many other works dilute quite a bit being either somewhat literal in their direct presentation or excessively relying on design with coarsely attractive colours or pleasant abstract effects.

Absorbing cultures
The mixed media works which Edgar Rodriguez displayed on concluding his residency at 1Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (July 2 to 5) appeared to be an energetic gesture of wholehearted acceptance towards the multicultural world . The shaped canvases and loser compositions verging on installation held the memory of the Mexican artist’s background that embraced his ancient indigenous past on par with the skyscrapers of our globalised contemporariness in urban centres. That was blended with signs and substances he recognised as typically Indian and belonging to this city. Thus a distinct central form of a stepped pyramid along with sketchy mask motifs and such were overlaid with collage fragments of Bangalore and their suggestions in drawing beside scraps of Kannada film poster, etc.

The personal nature of this ingesting of cultural diversity was applied by introducing spray-painted and schematic graffiti whose association with informal international cities was reciprocated by lettering from Bangalore streets. The palpable, raw sensation exuded by the thickly textured surface was heightened by the intimate ingredient of dripping, abstract pigments. The diversity of the adjacent, superimposed and permeating strata suggested the composite character of his reality while the physical density of the matter used spoke of the artist’s involvement. The impact of the works retained the quickness of their execution witnessing Rodriguez’s sincerity and intensity, the same, however, betraying a perhaps slightly short-cut approach without a greater depth.

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