Art News & Views

Mumbai Art Sighting

The Month That Was

by Jasmine Shah Varma

Pen is mightier than the brush

Vidha Saumya waved a magic wand over a Cello Gripper pen and produced works of art on Chinese paper. What she has managed to extract from this ordinary instrument of writing makes you wonder about the ball point pen. From drawing masses of fine lines that colour up her compositions to gentle shading techniques Vidha showed complete domination over pens that are used so sparingly in the age of keyboards.

But the medium is not what engages the viewer at first. In her solo show Love Charades at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinrucke one is primarily drawn to the images of robust, fleshy, almost misshapen girls and women of indulgent and carefree disposition. One is constantly pushed and pulled across the fine line between innocent merrymaking and debauchery. The works evoke a heady, toxic mix of ridicule and laughter. You wonder if the intertwined figures are wrestling or amorous. Delicate geometrical patterns that are used as motifs on the clothes further create a complex viewing of the otherwise coarse nature of these drawings.

The extremes of merriment, agony, mocking humour, fragility, tenderness, volume and lightness come together in Vidha's compositions opening up a world of emotions. These are gut-wrenching works that affect you. At core they are about human emotions, failings and conditions that we would experience. She handles the issues of size and questions the idealized notions of beauty in women through these works. It is refreshing to see that an upcoming artist is not buckling under pressures of art-making trends or concerns and is asserting her creative individuality convincingly in aspects of form, content and medium.

Love charades at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke on view till December 8, 2011.

Path of retrospection

G R Iranna's solo show Scaffolding the Absent at The Guild Art Gallery portrayed the meme of red robbed ascetics on its head to raise concerns about the troubled world we are living in today. A group of monks is shown walking in a single file on a rickety bridge barely supported by crutches that are about to crumble away in Bhiksu. In 'Valley of red' a large group of monks is depicted like a large red mass, but its destination is not known; the image evokes an uncertain void and chaos. The emblem of monks that largely is associated with ideas of spirituality, enlightenment, truth and peace speaks of ephemerality, uncertainty and fragility in Iranna's paintings. Rather than evoke tranquility it recalls disquiet and disharmony that humanity experiences. Iranna's affective treatment of the subject raises existential questions rather than find answers in the austere figures.

He has used acrylic colours on tarpaulin instead of canvas to achieve the desired matt feel and texture in his paintings. The deep reds and yellow-orange robes of the monks standout against the blue of the tarpaulin, which is coated in shades of green and blue hues. The background is rendered to suggest a rugged and cold feel, a sentiment that lingers throughout the show.

Scaffolding the Absent at The Guild Art Gallery concluded on November 22, 2011.

Of origin and identity

Places of Rebirth a solo exhibition by Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul was hosted by Sakshi Gallery. Questions of identity and origin have engaged the human mind for eternity. We define ourselves by boundaries we live within, in relation to our relatives and neighbours, birthplace and the languages we speak. Immigration from one nation to another changes cosy answers for the generations to come about racial and national identities. This is the preoccupation of Navin's works of art. The 40 year old was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand but has ancestral roots in Hindu-Punjabi communities in present day Pakistan. Through his acrylic on canvas paintings, video installations and fibregalass sculptures he raises concerns not just about his own experiences as a non-Thai growing up in Thailand but how the politics of regional boundaries affect someone in a unique situation like him.

One of the ways he tackles the issue is by creating a country called Navinland with a flag and a passport to go with it. The emblem he has created is a cuddly flying pig that his daughter and he are seen holding in the sculptures and marching like the soldiers in a retreat ceremony at the Wagah border. In his kitschy film promotion billboard style paintings he creates a mélange of people of different ethnicities featured as politicians, film actors, entertainers and a rickshaw where he portrays himself and his family members. Some of the questions Navin raises seem naïve in the wake of ground realities. But his handling of the concerns with humour and a pop sensibility makes for quite a viewing.

Places of Rebirth concluded on November 22, 2011.

Tags: art

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