Art News & Views

A Blitzkrieg of Creative Impulses


by Haimanti Dutta Ray

Kolkata: Contemporary art has seen and undergone sea changes in terms of technique, media, thought and the ultimate execution. Today holding an art exhibition is considered a cultural practice which conveys values and norms and thus, implicitly, ideological concepts. The word “curator” comes from the Latin “cura” meaning 'care'. He or she is a manager or an overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (eg. gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. In modern art, the term 'curator' is given to a person who selects and often interprets works of art. In addition to selecting works, the curator is often responsible for writing labels, catalogs, essays and other supporting content for the exhibition. The late twentieth century saw an explosion of artists organizing exhibitions. The artist-curator has a long tradition of influence. Notable among them being Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the Royal Academy, London. It is the tenet of the curator (one who is organizing an exhibition of art) that it (the exhibition) is to be understood not merely in terms of its 'surface' or design, but as part of a complex of media in which all elements contribute consciously to the production of meaning. It is the job of the curator, I feel, to select, organize and an impart a central focus to the entire exhibition. It can be a group show or, even, a solo one.

The exhibition Visual Ventures was inaugurated at the Emami Chisel Art Gallery on August 23 by eminent artist, Ganesh Haloi. Curated by Dr. Saba Gulraiz, and spread across the ground and first floors of the gallery, the show features as many as twenty two artists from different parts of the country. In the catalogue, Gulraiz categorically states, “If colours can touch you by their warmth and intensity, they can also stir by their sheer vibrancy… in these narratives one can also see a close connection with the 'self' - a quest to peel off the various layers of consciousness to apprehend the 'eternal verities' of life, a constant search to look beyond the visible time frame to reach the ideal and infinite … This exhibition is an endeavour to present a glimpse of this boundless and myriad world of vision by bringing together a group of artists who have successfully created a strong visual language through which they are venturing forth to communicate their artistic sensibilities.”

During the twentieth century, artists like Matisse, Picasso and others had rediscovered the largely unexplored form of lithography, thanks to the Mourlot Studios, also known as Atelier Mourlot, a Parisian printshop founded in 1852 by the Mourlot family. Lithography uses the water repellent nature of grease to create ink prints. In the current exhibition, the senior most artist and Padma Shri award winner, Akbar Padamsee has given his lithographs entitled Head I, II, III and IV. He has made the challenging use of charcoal in his litho prints. Faiza Huma with Untitled 1 and 2 (acrylic on canvas) were mostly abstract works. The artist has made an ingenious use of the brush and has added just the mere suggestion of lines drawn on the surface of both the works on display, in order to suggest dimension. Huma's canvases were mostly monochromatic. But the emphasis on 'space' was hugely amplified.

Ram Palaniappan with his Bharathadesam and Natu Vanakkam (both drawing and water colour on treated paper) has done experiments with his medium. In these works, he has drawn zig-zag of lines that cross and recross on a textural surface. It seemed as if one has to meander and find one's way out. Yusuf's Page from My Diary 1 and 2 (ink and acrylic on canvas) - suggested deep insights into the artistic consciousness. The subconscious of man which is complex and multilayered finds a suitable expression in each of his works. He has painted his own thought processes which are undoubtedly complex in a simultaneous and linear structure. Gogi Saroj Pal's Nati Binodini II and V (gouache on paper) shows an extensive use of the colour yellow ochre. Being a woman artist, she has expressed and explored the feminine form and psyche. Yogesh Rawal's Untitled 1 and 2 (tissue paper, cellulose and synthetic resins on treated wood) are abstract works. Both reveal the artist's preoccupation with dark and somber hues. They also reveal the way modern artists are diversifying themselves into various genres and materials to suit their purposes of self-expression.

West Bengal artist, Samindranath Mazumdar has given two works likewise. In “All that was related, fluttering so loosely in space” (acrylic on canvas) there were the slight suggestive strokes to hint at shapes and figures in a basically verdant background. It hugely expressed the artist's expertise in the handling of the colour palette. Gopi Gajwani's Untitled I and II (acrylic on canvas) showed the artist's preoccupation with primal colours like black and white in an otherwise monochromatic abstract background. There was the faint touch of the colour blue to add a dash of the pristine. Shobha Broota has titled her works, Presence and Aquarium (both oil and acrylic on canvas). She has used colours boldly and there lies a cosmic appeal in both her works. The depth and energy of her works are revealed through squares of colour which have been chosen carefully. Harshavardhana Swaminathan's Untitled 1 and 2 (mixed media on canvas) seemed to form a pair. The central symbol of inverted triangles remain the same, the colours change sides. The artist has used vibrant hues like yellow and red, juxtaposed against each other. In Jinsook Shinde's Rhythm of a Day (pigments on paper), the colours seemed to gel with one another creating a chiaroscuro effect. It was very innovative and experimental. The artist has hung lengths of thousands of coloured paper, thereby creating a vibgyor effect. In Light and Shadow (pencil drawing on paper) the artist has expressed the self in minimalistic terms.

Achuthan Kudallar's - Untitled and Homage to Husain (both acrylic on canvas)- the artist has made bold statements with colour, there being no apparent method in his creative thought processes or in their execution. One wondered what went on in the mind of the artist when he sat down to paint such bold brush strokes. Shridhar Iyer has titled his two works of the same size as Jatra (acrylic and ink on canvas). It struck the viewer in a way that an amalgam or a whirlpool of thought have been juxtaposed against each other onto a single piece of canvas. By any standards, the size of the canvases were large. He has painted human as well as animal shapes into his works. Seema Kohli's two works, Golden Womb and Reflection, shows an ingenuity in her choice of medium (mixed media with silver and 25 kt gold leaf on canvas). She is essentially concerned with the female form, be it in her physical appearance, or depicting her symbolically and metaphorically. There are intricate detailing in each of her works. Vilas Shinde, both titled Untitled (no pun intended) (acrylic on canvas), were abstract works. There has been ample use and execution of greenery with dots and splashes of colour to leave a soothing and calming effect to the mind. Shekhar Roy's Untitled (acrylic on canvas), shows two hands on top of the painting gathering raindrops. The work has been done in three tiers. The second layer shows numerous human figures. The last segment depicts a human body reclining under the fall of raindrops. One was reminded of the ghost dance sequence in Ray's "Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne". There Ray had made caricatural, symbolical and metaphysical representation and interpretation of the prevalent human predicament. The other work by Shekhar Roy showed a face with closed eyelids.

Sunil De with his Untitled abstract works (acrylics on canvas) showed that the artist has deviated from his previous use of vibrant colours. Since here he has used more sober shades. R. B. Bhaskaran's Couple in Landscape and Couple with Still Life (both mixed media on canvas). The former shows two emaciated figures, a red fish, a cat with the suggestion of a boat on top. The artist has made his depictions through bold applications of his brush strokes. Saba Hasan's Countless Journeys and The Eternal (mixed media on canvas) were abstractions, with faint suggestions of Arabic and Urdu texts spread across the canvas in one, and in the other, various textural surfaces have been brought out and projected. Amitava Dhar's City Space – Suburbia II and III (acrylics on canvas) light seems to emerge out of somewhere in the darkness. In both the works, there were the central image of a net or a mesh-like structure. The artist perhaps wants to suggest that the human mind is as complicated and entangling as a net.

Rini Dhumal's two works Devi Series and Untitled  the former being mixed media on canvas board and the latter, oil on canvas board. One shows the deity with beasts at her feet and the other a saint woman with 'tilak' on her forehead, likely to be a Guruma. Tapas Konar has given two works - A Nude Observer and Mahashakti (both dry pastel and charcoal on paper). Both depict the artist's signature style, that of expressing the human form through swift strokes, be it charcoal or paint brush. What emerged at the end of the show was a celebration of colours and creative expressions of it through the nuances of a handful of contemporary Indian artists.

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