Art review

Art review

Electro-acoustic ghost-town

“From the Town’s End…”, the exhibition by Navin Thomas at Galleryske (August 30 to October 9), is quite extraordinary with its simultaneously disturbing and fascinating qualities, probing and evocativeness, rawness and lyricism that contrast and blend in a multi-sensorial way.

From a reconfigured array of discarded electrical appliances, transistors, other prosaic and aesthetic objects he builds sculptural and installation-like environments connected and transformed by the technological and emotive trajectories of radio sound and magnetic fields.

Attuning himself to the “afterlife” of such sonic junk which belongs to a not very remote past, he traces its spectral continuance over an invisible and fleeting yet pervasive space between the sources of sound and the responses of creatures living around it, from birds to humans. Observing such mesmerising environs and our un-definable place among them, he seems to be suggesting that those gadgets too may be observing us. The contraptions originally serving the user’s convenience and pleasure assume a life and structure almost of their own, but remaining linked with other beings reflect and contain some enigma of their spirit, anxieties and aspirations.

While the artist conjures near-equivalents of image and sound, sometimes with an implication of touch, as well as denies their full possibility, one can also intuit the desire for self-knowledge or self-image coming close to definition but blocked. Throughout, there recurs a feel of hypnotic immersion in the atmosphere and rhythm of technological acoustics to yield a longing for serenity and happiness, for something fine, soul-like which is both enabled and made imperfect by the properties of the medium.

This mood sets in as the first work in the show offers a hypnotherapy session on two old public telephones. If the impersonal and somewhat automatic voice does not really entrance the listener, it nonetheless releases a familiar premonition of depression with the yearning for peaceful contentment.

In “Don’t stare at the light, too brightly…” a floor fan metamorphoses into an insect trap with ultraviolet bulbs, while a mosque loudspeaker becomes a camera facing the viewer and a dated hat box with a rounded, dynamic design, similar to those on the other objects, which draws into the mind the architecture of interchanging proportions and identities along with the fluid-coarse coexistence of soft music and cracking buzz.

The spectator internalising the whole is given access restricted by a yellow and black municipal line which establishes the autonomy of the world of objects.

Its eerie poetry which grows at night contains ominous tones, the dead insects scattered on the ground. This is compensated by the tenderness and humour of the “…” installation where little live doves have appropriated the antenna branches of a metallic tree, somewhat scared but ignoring the active transistors covered by their droppings.

“The conversation piece” between two chairs with copper wire netting connected to humming transistors is imprinted also by human presence. The not to be entirely materialised wish for pure beauty or loftiness enters with the highly aesthetic, minimalist relief works mediating two-dimensionality and solidity, abstract sight and potential sound, image and motion. The aura of a “Rapturous song, voice from the hill…” is grasped in a shiny, black mirror that promises the viewer’s face, but reflects it out.

Such blank mirror plaques intersperse the pulsating, misty patterns in the prints of “Bird on wire, during a thunder storm”. Again the artist indicates that enchantment with nature’s splendour can be found in the naively sincere trance subconsciously induced by television artifice, as a TV set runs a looped video with a vague, technical doll-like image singing about a butterfly in the air, its incomprehensible words translated into English subtitles. Besides the synergy here, one admires the literal engagement of rough objects which, rather like in Indian reality, reveal their ethos and chaotically essential connectedness to the surroundings, while being consciously and subtly stimulated further.

Cultured pleasantness

The exhibition by Paresh Hazra (Rightlines, August 30 to September 13) brought a new variant within his stable repertoire and form.

The highly textured paintings with sweet, stylised figures of pensive, luscious women and regal men among motifs of nature and ethnicity may have become more delicate now in their feature outlines, translucent, layered hues and curly vegetal tendrils around.

Nonetheless, they still exude the same self-indulgency that is transferred to the spectator. The colour woodcut prints by his daughter Aditi Hazra have a fairly traditional but sincere and technically competent, even free look about them. The landscapes of atmospheric saturation oscillate between patterning and an expressiveness of organic throb.

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