The eight artists in this exhibition are fresh out of art school in Baroda and Hyderabad. Their work has emerged in the age of resurrection of ideas such as revolution, identity reassessment and wide ranging exchange. What stands out in this new revival and what is most important to the art in front of us is that while earlier eras filled with such introspection were informed and developed in a heavily textual medium, this age is informed by the visual – metaphoric and figurative.
Abul Hisham's (b. 1987) works use the visual to manipulate characters that he has seen and experienced in his social environment. Upon them he heaps various inflections of positive and negative humanity and its inevitability. He inlays obvious symbols of power with words, clothes and expressions that take them beyond the medium of the realism of personal attachment to characters, placing them on pedestals of hyper-real farce, stripping them of both their positions of power and humanity but elevating them to the symbolism of his visual metaphors.
The contemporary miniature has been freed from its long-standing dependence on text, having been merely an illustration for deep philosophical, romantic and mythological treaties. The miniature work of Arundhati Saikia (b. 1988) has entered this framework and has taken the form one step further by juxtaposing its illustrative nature with a theatricality that she derives from her own background. Folk and natural motifs form the centerpiece of her works, ornamented by the standard symbolism of miniatures – arches, arabesques and solid temple structures. The hypnagogic characters in her work betray a hidden story, a lost opportunity for textual imperialism over the paintings, creating at once a symbol of liberation and of the new socio-political discourse which enters the world of the popular visual.
Arun KS (b. 1984) has set before us a challenge. He uses his work to encourage his viewer to be skeptical of the purpose of rituals. Here he provides us with the ultimate twist in which he wants us to use this skepticism not to banish rituals but rather to strengthen the inner resolve and belief in them. The artist challenges both the notion that skepticism frees humans from rituals as well as the notion that faith can be destroyed by the enquiring mind. The work forms a powerful visual demonstration of this belief. The work illustrates a multitude of Christian children depicted in costumes that demonstrate they are on the verge of being introduced to the ritual of receiving communion. This depiction is imposed on top of pages from the bible that are barely visible, calling the viewer to cast of the veil of this popular and pious ritual in order to study the underlying textual justification for its existence.
Juhikadevi Bhanjdeo's (b.1988) installation uses artisan symbols from the environment of the place of her influence – Bastar. Using references to bell metal casting and weaving, she introduces objects of daily use from her surrounding, transforming these. Preserved within a veil, they converge with loose threads to supplement the weaving process. Positioned at the forefront of this transformation is a technique of creating art forms – bell metal casting – which forms the core of the installation. This technique is supported by the material used in weaving. Thus the artist denys each technique of the material required to fulfill its purpose. This new reality challenges the viewer on two fronts. Firstly, when in an object's history can one begin to distinguish it as craft or art. And secondly, what is it that transforms seemingly ordinary objects and motifs into art.
Midhungopi P. (b. 1989) presents here a set of drawing and watercolours on rice paper pasted over a support of weighty art paper. The rice paper receives several washes of watercolour and is at times even gently pushed back to reveal the base, before the artists Objects of Memory are drawn upon it. In the geographic location of his childhood many of the natural forms depicted in Midhungopi’s works are commonplace: a snake shelter, a grouping of coconuts, an elephant. Almost immediately we begin to notice that what at once appeared to be ordinary has an unlikely twist. One debates whether the work represents a real memory that has been removed from context, or an imagined memory, dream or illusion so strong it presents itself as an old memory, a Kafkaesque crisis.
Poorvesh Patel (b. 1988) uses the traditional medium of canvas and “paints” upon it using a non-traditional process. The result is a heavily textured, multi-toned work made up of material (iron filings, copper, resin and sawdust) to add texture and a chemical process (rusting) to add colour. This creates a spectacular work, which by its size and intensity seems to almost emit a strong force of attraction toward the viewer. Yet, we need to look closer to understand that this work in the exhibition – titled Sprouts – represents the very earth we live on and live off. Inspired by the artist’s agricultural background and using the visual (the appearance of soil) and the metaphorical (the feeling of gravity), it transports you from the gallery into his world.
Reshma Nair (b.1990) works in the compositional style of still life drawing and painting to give us a window into her own world. Bottles and sinks may create ambiguity in trying to identify the occupant of this world, but jars of paint stashed away in an open cabinet provide a missing link. Once we have taken in these objects we begin to register the temporary world in which they exist. Reshma’s thin, sparse application of oil paint in pastel colours gives the impression that the objects are on the verge of merging into the background. Almost teasing the viewer so as to say, here is my world but only as illusion so that you may never find it, never discover its hidden wonders. We may also question how real this world is for the artist herself.
Samir Mohanty (b.1989) subjects evoke an emotional response. Realistic reproductions of the moon lay broken, causing a disturbance in its aesthetic patterns. But through the warping of its perceived dimensions we are transported into the realm of imagination where the moon is no longer an inanimate object. Samir’s second subject in this exhibition is a man, obstructed by the presence of steel pins driven through his hands, face and legs. While the pins obstruct the view of the man, our mind still constructs a seemingly real image of him with the scant visual information that it reads through the matrix of pins. One marvels at how wonderful this visual construction is and also reacts in horror at the likeness of a man being penetrated by the steel pins.
Though the techniques, styles and media in this exhibition are as varied as the number of artists, they all belong to this new age of visual discourse. An age where the visual has not only freed itself from textual discourse but also begins to assert a cultural supremacy.
- Rahul D’souza, Mumbai 2012