Art review

Art review

Art review

Her father Veerarajendra had her converted to Christianity and given Western education abroad hoping to regain his lost kingdom, while adopting her as goddaughter, queen Victoria counted on spreading the faith among Hindu aristocracy.

The young princess never saw Coorg and eventually lived in England with Veerarajendra. This peasant and obedient child became an unconscious site of political games and an embodiment of the not so comfortable hybrid culture and identity that ensued.
The audience of the event could familiarise themselves with the protagonists of the story from the brief introduction and photographs of the royals and related paraphernalia, while gradually focussing on the performance whose slow tempo and well-arranged video projections in a loop allowed for its different elements to interact as a whole and yield expressiveness.

In fact, the mood enhanced by the presence of the artist who stood immobile, turned away from the viewers, induced a nearly meditative reception, as one could gradually intuit and emotively recognise the metaphoric meaning embedded in the simple, strong and broad enough visuals.

The figure of the artist wearing a shawl of Coorg warriors was divided vertically by the line formed between the two videos flanking her.
On one side, calm, long-halting camera images of the grand statue of the queen Victoria against green foliage holding the world’s globe appeared to move around the monument. Opposite it, film sequences captured a moth, frog and snail being lured by lush, carnivorous flowers of the jungle and getting trapped inside.
At a distance another loop displayed powerful, masculine beasts of tropical wilderness proud of their territories.

The environment, indeed, evoked a sense of organic and human instincts of domination, attraction and its dangers, while Cariappa’s stance suggested her awareness of the natural and political phenomena hinting at layers of the historically acquired composite identity which still bears on people especially in her native region.
As wonderful as the performance was thus far, the second half brought a blend of equally effective takes with several literal or unclear, overloaded and confusing ones. The artist sometimes came towards the spectators and sometimes only her hands were seen on camera projections, her physical absence then perhaps establishing the distance of the past and of the interpretative position.

A series of images-acts-information-metaphors indicated Gowramma’s story, spirit or predicament, also wished to connect directly with the audience and daily experiences.
One appreciated the culinary rite of baptism carried out on an indigenous princely crown whose peacock feather was replaced by the cross and the measured kneading and mixing of a ragi and rice balls that sensuously pictured the condition of passive hybrid moulding. Quite a few other moments, however, relied on quotations from memoirs and scriptures without clarity but with obviousness and imperfect execution.
The presentation of sentences on large sheets and the dense but not accessible, idiosyncratic similes became rather tiresome and confounding.

Maybe Cariappa should consider that handling metaphor like an intellectual puzzle deprives it of its potency and concentrate instead on the power of understated complexity dormant in a simple but essential imagery, which was finely demonstrated during the initial staged of the performance.

Not so contemporary
The fourteen Karnataka artists of the Contemporary Sculptors Forum (CKP, August 13 to 22) did not look so contemporary.

Actually a majority of them follow familiar modernist precedents with their Moore-sque play of simplified opened up masses oscillating between the human body and landscape or organic growth and with their indigenised, sometimes geometrised popular emblems of maternity, simple joys, rusticity and myth.

One can count here the consummate bronzes and stone pieces by Venkatachalapathi and the more conventional images by L Narasimha Prakash, M Ramamurthy, Onkara Murthy G B, Raghavendra K and Jagannath Jakkepalli. Some traditionalists feel obliged to add seemingly fresher but formalistic accents) Nagappa Pradhani, Venkatesh M) or installation-like arrangements (M Vishwanath), some proving more imaginative, freer and expressive – Manjunath A R, Rajesh D Devangaon.

A sincere but somewhat obvious reaction to current reality comes from Ravi Kumar Bettadapura M and a well-executed but sleek one from M Raghurama. One appreciated B N Vichar with his body parts of terracotta covered with old painting motifs which with pained irony address deeply ingrained social cruelties. The naturalistic literalness of the severed thumb and the hollow nose points to the brutal lived reality sanctioned by archaic belief system.
Marta Jakimowicz

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