Art News & Views

Mumbai Art Sighting

March – April 2011

by Jasmine Shah Varma

Suggested viewing

Manjunath Kamath's solo show 'Collective Nouns' held at Sakshi Gallery was the first by the artist in the city. Works on canvas, paper and sculptural installations were part of this collection which the Delhi-based artist treated as homage to his idol the late Prabhakar Barwe.

Kamath's works require a playful frame of mind that is willing to stretch its imagination far and wide to gather associated meanings and narratives suggested by the imagery. He paints ordinary household objects, comic book style renderings of characters from Hindu myths, animals, black speech bubbles and quotation marks all of which hang without any explicit connections. It would be quite a task finding a collective noun for the variety of abstract images that he strings together in a painting or a sculpted installation. And yet they all are part of everyday life and common experiences. These images are in bright opaque colours enhanced by the matte background that resembles floor tiles or weathered walls. Objects and icons he paints carry their historical contexts with them but juxtaposed against each other the possibility of weaving new narratives opens out to the viewer.

One is curious to know what the artist's intention is but there are no easy answers. Instead spontaneity in the creative process is emphasized. The terms Dadaism and Surrealism come to mind when confronted with Kamath's works. Among his contemporaries his work process and language can be seen in alignment with the works of Bangalore based artists Babu Eshwar Prasad and Ravi Kumar Kashi. Kamath creates witty situations as seen in the fiberglass wall installation titled 'I Forgot what you said Last Night'. Here a large black speech bubble is underlined by a cluster of erotic female figurines. Not all works however give a straightforward read. 'In Conversation with Barwe' is truly a tribute to the late artist where the turquoise blue surface recalls Barwe's own. The placement of the objects in this painting, be it the staircase, a papaya on a ledge, or the orange blob are placed with an aesthete's logic and reminds one of Barwe's lyrical compositions that could only be appreciated, but not explained.

The show concluded on April 30.

Pause for a Cause

Jitish Kallat's solo show came to Mumbai after a long gap at Chemould Prescott Road. 'Stations of a Pause' included paintings, a video and a photographic series. On entering the gallery the first work encountered is a long winding series of frames closely displayed. Every frame represents the months of the year where the shape of the moon represents each day starting from April 2, 1936 to December 2, 1998. Each moon is a photographic image of a chapati/roti in place of the actual images of earth's satellite. This work appears monotonous and perhaps for the artist cathartic in its execution. As a viewer you see each day, each month and the years strung orderly, without missing a beat. And then it suddenly the sequence halts at the beginning of December '98. The note accompanying the show explains that the work titled 'Epilogue' represents the life of Kallat's father who lived to see 22,000 moons during the above mentioned period. The inherent contradictory symbolism in this imagery the repetitiveness and the newness of each night - represents the flow of life from beginning to end.

The paintings on canvas are from the series titled 'Stations of a Pause' executed between 2010 and 2011. Here you see Kallat's trademark iconography ordinary men carrying on their heads the turban of chaos and jumble of city life. In this series middle class or lower middle class men are seen waiting, seated on benches at various junctures. Some bear vacant stares, others busy in casual banter, some anxious, a few indifferent and yet others bearing the look of preparedness. Waiting at stations and airports is a study of people waiting for something to happen. The in-between, pregnant stage is potent with narratives. Kallat makes use of the zip motif in many of the works which could be interpreted as crossroads or the opposite of waiting zipping fast metropolitan life a subject that Kallat has repeatedly dealt with.

The show concludes on May 10, 2011

In the name of the Ganges

The religious myths and legends about the Ganges rendered by Dutch painter Pieter Weltevrede were exhibited at the Indigo Terrace and Lounge, Mumbai. The series called 'Tat: Twam Asi' is based on the book titled 'Birth of the Ganga' authored by Weltevrede's guru late Harish Johari. The suite of 50 works rendered in the wash technique on silk was donated by the artist to raise funds for the campaign to save the river Ganges from environmental degradation.

For several years Weltevrede learnt and exacted the art of wash technique from the late Harish Johari. The elaborate technique involves using watercolours and tempera and, a unique manner of fixing colours. After each step of rendering lines and filling colours, the colours are fixed by pouring water over the painted surface. The result is fine illustrative tableaus depicting various scenes featuring Ganges the goddess, lord Shiva in whose matted hair it is said that Ganges flows, sages and saints in bright but sheer hues. After the one-day display in Mumbai the paintings will be housed at the Ganga Natural Heritage Museum in Hrishikesh.

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