Vicissitudes of the constructed image

‘Vicissitudes of the constructed image’- curated by Suruchi Khubchandani

Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Arunanshu Chowdhury | Anandajit Ray | Azis T M | Dhruvi Acharya | Farhad Hussain | George Martin | Kazi Nasir | Lokesh Khodke | Manish Pushkale | Minal Damani | Mithu Sen | Nikhileswar Baruah | Pooja Iranna | Pradeep Mishra | Pratul Dash | Pranati Panda | M Pravat | Rajesh Ram | Rajan Krishnan | Reji Arackal | Sujith S N | Sudhanshu Sutar | Tanmoy Samanta | T V Santosh | Yashwant Deshmukh

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Curatorial Note

‘Vicissitudes of the Constructed Image’ acts as a collective expositive of artists accumulating artistic pollen from multitude sources, experiences, grounded representations, or peripatetic meanderings resulting in a brew of sorts. The aspirations could be any, but are savored with a tinge of personal reflective of the artist’s selfhood. The image traveling towards from the metaphysical zone existent in each of us to a tangible surface, that of a ‘canvas’ or ‘paper’ poses ideas of a sensitive, insightful construction. Generic or quotidian, mediated or purely instinctive, poetic or prosaic, the arsenal of the artist’s visual vocabulary baggage can be any.

A selective curatorial project attempts at locating a relevant whole of connected issues that binds the procedure, concerns of these reckonable names in the Indian aesthetic sphere within the macrocosm of historically ripe/subdued issues, economically adrift/focused, politically propagated/aloof venerations. The show in order to formulate discourse on these levels, features a league of formidable names like Ashutosh Bhardwaj, Arunanshu Chowdhury, Anandajit Ray, Azis T M, Dhruvi Acharya, Farhad Hussain, George Martin, Kazi Nasir, Lokesh Khodke, Manish Pushkale, Minal Damani, Mithu Sen, Nikhilesh Baruah, Pooja Iranna, Pradeep Mishra, Pratul Dash, Pranati Panda, M Pravat, Rajan M Krishnan, Rajesh Ram, Reji Arackal, Sujith S N, Sudhanshu Sutar, Tanmoy Samanta, T V Santosh and Yashwant Deshmukh.

Ashutosh Bhardawaj’s brightly colored and dynamic paintings embody the chaos and flux of cities in today’s increasingly globalized society. Surging architectural forms suggest the numerous physical, social, political, economic, and ethnic upheavals that have characterized urban centers over the past decades. City of Reflections reframes and repositions in repeated juxtapositions associations of the new ideas that represent our present, hyperglobal situation. Resplendently divergent is the stance of Arunanshu Chowdhury whose perception of world hauls up with lush, imaginary winds. As quoted, “Like pages from a personal travelogue these small paintings titled Wind through the Willow echo sentiments of places and people visited. Impressions from my trip to China, these works are intended as a visual and conceptual link between the multiple frames of one’s journey. I have memorialized the place in old and bright new colors placed between muddy tints and tea stains that resemble excavated sites. Here there is a desire to reveal but not display – hence the intended fuzziness, through hide and seek operations. Reading the paintings would guide the viewing experience here.”

Anandajit Ray works recall genres as diverse as the miniature and the comic strip. No matter what the subject, each of Ray’s images connects in layered ways to the essentialities of rudimentary elements of drawing. A sense of surreal accompanies the relaxed and informal oeuvre of the artist. Azis T M’s series is reflective of complex understanding of open politics of viewing aesthetics. The images sourced from photographic references of ‘crowd’, appropriated and slyly recast in tones of sepia, blurring the realistic image into barely discernable configuration of tones. In this process, these eerie images, stripped of detail transgress to become mythic, symbolic representations.

Highly imaginative as well as anachronistic, Dhruvi Acharya’s works elicit a sense of futuristic déjà vu. Indeed the stylistically blend of beauty and pathos finds its visual currency in popular culture references and techno-utopian visions of the day. In Mumbai, a caboodle of retrofit alien beings along with amorphous growing vegetal forms ascend to as foreground to a vibrant colored screen of some hazy silhouettes of the grappling Mumbai constructions. The artist furtively mediates the crisis of tomorrow through a vivid, unhinged depiction akin to an ambiguous yet lived fantasy. Farhad Hussain exemplifies a devout reverence for fanciful injunctions woven around the overtly drawn family melodrama. His canvases objectify themselves as made for easy visual consumption, until the inherent suggestions peep across with a mischievous look. The construct of ambiguous inferences rendered to the spectator, laced in the sophisticated flat patches of bright colors project the ‘peep-hole’ drama staged in most metropolitan households. Submitting a rather bold proposition, he is projecting the flux within a semi-metropolis or a pan-Indian society where breeds the most complex areas of human relationships nurtured through the hands and minds of the Capitalist order. Capitalism survives within the territory of alienation, displacement and its idea of consumption. Farhad stoically searches this borderline to situate peripheries for his canvas.

George Martin’s works are a spectral of luscious color. He paints a magical view of the world around us, which appears to be spinning at a dizzying speed. His acrylic abstractions exuberate copious amounts of energy and are an ultimate representation of modern urban life. There are no limitations to color or form in Martin’s visual extravaganza; in a single canvas he is able to merge multiple cultures. However, when viewed more carefully, Martin’s densely populated compositions resonate the transitory and disunited true nature of our world. Kazi Nasir with a detailed, surrealistic composition amalgamates an effective vocabulary that might lead to a trail encompassing fragments of the reality. Images that could have been taken from illustrated dictionaries are arranged to emphasize their disparities in the meticulously painted works of Kazi Nasir. The dimensions of time, space and the location of personal existence occupy the veins of Lokesh Khodke’s cerebral faculty while he sets to formulate a painterly expression on canvas. “An unknown discomfort …complacent notions about life and language of art itself” uneasily inform his work today. The spatial entity in various contexts defines the identity of things – people, time, and object. The artists sets to confront, if not resolve these dilemmas through the delineations on his canvas. The repeating sequences in the Manish Pushkale’s paintings are akin to rapidly chanted mantras recited while telling the beads of a rosary. The squares and the mesh like texture constitute the beads of Manish’s rosary. However, like every chant of the same mantra is different in its cadence and its experience, every form in his paintings is differently enriched with color and energy. Every movement of the hand that tells the rosary moves into the irrevocable past and every new movement remains in the present. Continuiing to generate subtle narratives in pictorial forms, Minal Damani’s Colour Division Series refers to idea of divided spaces. The artist quotes, “The series of fictional maps refers to the idea of making easily readable records of tragic partitions on earth, by marking colors. An already broken piece is again broken into pieces making it brittle and ready for another break. The lines and colors decide the movement of its inhabitants. One is outsider and other an insider. The borders – geological, political, regional and then local – creeps into an already bordered and confined space of a home. I don’t know whether we share or we divide. The innocent act of sharing, from the other side appears as an act of dividing.”
In Bite, Mithu Sen adjoins the experiential and emotional metaphors associated with the act of ‘biting’. A device of defense and equally of arousing sensuality, biting is treated by the artist as a means of narrating the pain and agony, dental inflictions has brought to her. Through the subtle use of watercolor and intricate depiction of delighting elements like pink and red roses, multiple associative of the mechanism of an eccentric part of human body is brought to fore.

Once Anita Silvers observed, “It is the mediating figures of the rare hero(ins) of art that transform the past into future by making art not their peers but for their posterity”. Vestiges of past memoirs, rising from the palpable flux of shifting faces of environs in his hometown Assam shape the visual vocabulary for Nikhilesh Baruah. The series titled Picturesque reclaims the sites of memory that adhere to this apocalyptic vision. The concern though spatially bound to his land reverberates with the universal lamenting song. His pictorial surface is a witness to the falling reality, the gravity just aggravated by the closer, zoomed-in view which he imbues to his landscapes. Baruah in the process encapsulates the prevailing mood of these zones, at the same time sprinkling a surreal experience.

Pooja Iranna’s digitally manipulated photograph Encountering Illusion appear to signify a clean, dynamic picture of the modern architectural construction. The symmetrical convergence intensifies the power and deploys perspective to the image. It is relevant for understanding to draw analogy to Pooja’s oeuvre that includes paintings and sculptures focusing on the innate strength, human beings possess. The sturdy, mechanical fabrication stands as an indirect correlative of this adjunct relation, besides marking digital formulations as a substantial genre amidst other new-media creations.

Pradeep Mishra in a space redolent with grasping realization of such far-fetched societal rupture, has embraced an unsullied idiom of joie de vivre, cherishment of all ‘good that refuses to betray the soul’ even today. The series Love to Live exemplifies Pradeep’s concern that harks around the need for proper nurturing of children which, according to him, has got side-tracked in midst of the hectic schedule of parents. It is congruent with the peculiar mismatching commonly associated with the demanding urban routine; he is rather limning those little innocuous apprehensions which have suddenly crowded the cosmopolitans cornering small joys.
Determing the nature of so-called reality in everyday life has become a primary concern of aesthetic theory in past decades. It is reflected in Pratul Dash’s trail in a migrated land consorted by distressing issues concerning environment, urbanization, class conflicts, migration of laborers, ecology, degradation of values, and critique of modernity and modernization. Living Space envisages a roofless peeping view of the cluttered spaces and habitations in Urban cities. The artist states, “In search of a shelter, a space of one’s own, what we hear all the time is square metre, square feet, and square inches. The square metre and square feet of your house determines your class. It is a new form of social stratification, a new layer of human segregation, a new parameter of human division, and a new normative code of social dignity or indignation.”

Pranati Panda’s works in watercolor and mix media, constitutive of distinct objects like seed, threads, fabric. In Mindscape, the artist weaves a landscape of a portrayed brain in foreground, some vein-like structures punctuated by embroideries, strained up translucent colors – pinks, browns, and blacks running in all directions. The artist’s imaginary suffusions entail within them messages of femininity and the accompanied dispositional linkages of pain, grief, and sensitivity. M. Pravat’s recent body of work traces out in multiple focal points what constitutes the inside and outside of the Urban concrete jungles. Presented in a grid-order, correlative images establish links hauling the diminutive presence of objects that constitute life within cemented angles.
Rajan M Krishnan’s canvasses become witness to the falling reality of Kerela, artist’s hometown. The childhood memories of a green, fertile land, adorned abundantly with flowing waters and vast paddy fields has been erased. There remains nothing romantic about the old landscape anymore. Instead of paddy, concrete and consumerist debris grow in the agri-scapes. Ancestry, transpiring from its very meaning purports an open-ended question, not easily retorted back. Wide-spread decay and disintegration has left only the memory sites.

Rajesh Ram’s art can be viewed from the angle of the pain in responding to something that is beautiful, grounded in harsh reality and which addresses its viewer. Return to the Past Life contains within itself the histories of societies and the construction, projection and reading of identities.

Reji Arackal’s strong, evocative and very quick-witted works- outwardly calm but replete with the tension of conflict. Lamentation draws attention towards man’s alienation from nature. As a painter hailing from a remote village of Wayanad, Reji Arackal draws inspiration from nature. The influence of the agrarian culture is evident in his works. Arackal reacts to the pollution and the dissolution of the agrarian culture in Kerala.

Sujith S N had enrolled himself in army, but soon found he was not meant for the regimented routine. The systematic practice of army still occupies his subject matter, though a very successful maneuvering is towards the treatment. Skillful deployment of watercolor gauges the intensity of atmosphere, air, light that comprises the location of event in capture. Sujith’s works are more about their technique, and in these watercolors, an expressive splash of light is attention invoking.

Sudhanshu Sutar borrows his imagery from his immediate socio- political surrounds. His works are also characterized by factors of societal fracture and aggravation of human deprivation in face of irrepressible modernization. Tanmoy Samanta finds images from his surroundings. Whether it is a fish, an old car, a pot, a leather boot or a human head, he attributes certain qualities that are revealed only when the viewer is actively engaged with the work of art. Foregrounding a single object on a treated plane, the objects of Tanmoy’s reverie grow out of their attributed features adapting ends and shapes that the artist prescribes on them, shaking the ground of its visual security in the process.

T V Santosh’s watercolors suffice as an alternative practice to his oils and sculptures. Imparting the ingredients for a veritable aesthetic and poetic viewing, the locus of operation exists in the detailed imagery delineated in the centre brought out by tonal gradation that darkens the borders, bestowing an enigmatic aura to the monochromatic surface.
Yashwant Deshmukh quotes, “As I think about paintings, I get interested in their innate expressions. When I look back, things come to me in their visual patterns; the incidences, the ambiences and atmosphere. I remember them, maybe in a way they felt before. Incorporeal, impalpable images.” Ordinary objects like bucket, geometrical configurations, lighting lamp signify direction and balance. To the artist, the shapes destabilize comforts of a picture plane and compel the space to expand beyond their frame.

One major binding factor in the exhibition also remains that all the works affiliate their presence once hung on the wall. Meaning they are paintings accompanied with a few digital prints. Vying for attention with new forms of art such as installation, video and performance, this apparently traditional format has continued to attract rising artists who have continually adapted to tackle contemporary issues. Some of those represented here would not regard themselves exclusively as painters and also work in sculpture, video, or installation. But all of them share, at some stage, the process of covering a surface with pigments. Experimenting with new material, techniques, and processes, they amply demonstrate the diversity and resources of painting and its vital contribution to the contemporary art scene.

Suruchi Khubchandani
Winter 2009