“Written on water”-an ongoing group show of installations and paintings
By Shubhalakshmi Shukla
“Written on water” contesting form, content or concept signifies a moment that is submerged yet brittle. Something is anticipated and yet the moment is full of undesired ambiguity. This moment could emulate current political, social, economic or psychological crisis. And contemporary art-practices are facing such a critical moment. Like an unfinished story, a poetry half written, a proverb softly forming inside, the present is impregnating, about wanting to hear a clear utterance in complete solitude, denied.
A weighing ephemeral moment, that swells up and creates a grotesque insignia in the face of time. The artists in the present are working in dark times, and yet what is produced is deeply enigmatic. Violence related to issues of caste, class gender and race inequality are at its peak, resulting in constant psychological insecurity. One is in immersive contemplation, to voice out or resist and embody a reflective long silence? Either ways the battle is deep rooted and of spectacular poignancies - ways to “construct” every day, a theatre of indifference. Recent government schemes are half way through and simultaneously mid-way tightly held up; may it be Adhaar, GST or “constructed” religious fanaticism. In such a situation the artist is a solitary observer, thinker and actor. Her/his actions are often abstract and subtle. “Written on water” curated by Sanjeev Sonpimpare, at Beyond art gallery, Mumbai is born in between such paradoxes. The curated show brings about fourteen artists from Mumbai, Delhi, Baroda, Ahmedabad and Santiniketan-Kalabhavan.
All the artists in the show work with unconventional methods and materials. This forms the ironical interiority of their art works as specific of current times. Disturbing yet transcendental, anti-art yet sufficing to the aesthetic domain are their linguistic enquiries about.
Mumbai based artist Sanjeev Sonpimpare’s chooses to work with industrial oil, red oxide and Tar on canvas, seeking meaning in human action and deep listening into our own ecology. This recent two-piece work creates a riddled morphing of the expanding form of human ear with an architectural ceiling. Consequently, the totality of the form turns out to be mysteriously drowning in dark silences. In the midst of every day chaos and cacophony, choosing to listen to distant- dark silences can be a radical position.
Delhi based Nitasha Jaini, works with the organic quality of metropolitan urbanity resonating in water as her language. Water absorbs that which is gone by/ past and creates new meaning/s, just as the metropolitan urbanity demands and survives on the “new”. Jaini proposes that the city male in India is undergoing a dynamic change. Traditional life styles are eroding and new life styles are emerging. This brings about a point wherein the feudal patriarchal values dissolve and the new interpersonal relations emerge as more informed and rich. Jaini also believes in the eastern philosophical thought of impermanence of human experience. The typology of the “new male” that surfaces in her works as a recurring motif is but momentary. Respectively, the table and chair in her visual language also bring about the momentary coexistence of these dual worlds in focus. Jaini belongs to, and received her education in Amritsar, Punjab.
Nitasha Jaini, the painter hailing from Amritsar
Likewise Delhi based Ritu Kamath’s new urban women, are flashing and fresh like a drop of fresh water. Unlike conventional women, Ritu Kamath’s images of working urban women with loose hair are accepting, and a metaphor of freedom from the bondage of time and patriarchy.
However, Kolkata based Moutushi Chakraborty works with text book pages (created with paper-pulp, collage of photos, thread, flowers and seeds, layered together) questioning the meaning of femininity. Her idiom allows time and memory to unfold the black and white photographic images women who have made their mark in the fabric of historical time, woven together. For example, photograph of Birangana who has been a victim of war crime in Bangladesh Liberation Movement (photographed by Nabil Uddin Ahmed) effectively emulates inwardly turmoil as well as political unrest. Her language also brings to the surface the submerged notions of beauty, reinventing the same through her new found aesthetics with urban kitsch.
Mumbai based Madhuri Kathe’s seemingly abstract language employs layers of cloth, paper textures and colors that emulate the fragility and mortality of human body, and overall impermanence of everything. Dr. Kathe profoundly articulates, “As everything originates from some condition it disappears when the condition ceases to be”. Consequently, in her idiom, the recognizing of the “most essential” moment of human warmth is elemental, and as if written on water.
While Mumbai based Nilesh Shaharkar also prefers to view the physical space, in its fragmented components, Baroda based Alok Bal, actually makes the fragments measurable, mortal and momentary. However, through his meticulously composed visuality, Bal tries to bridge the gap between the fragment and the whole.
Santiniketan based Prashant Sahu, exposes situations and faces of the marginal who happen to form the strength of contemporary society. Through his work, Sahu examines the back stage and the discreet nature of daily human survival, nevertheless in/forming the most essential in societal fabric. One may question, where do these small narratives emerge from? Which are their spaces of dwelling? What they (sub) merge with?
Santiniketan based Ushmita Sahu, creates diverse multiple visual components through her enduring methodology. These appear like drawing- records of (central as well as peripheral) events, patterns and structures in the surrounding world. There are repetitions of forms and methods wherein, each repetition is experienced differently. Every rendition initiates a transformation, allowing a musical dimension to the overall existence, like ripples on water waves.
Delhi-based Binoy Verghese and Ruchika W Singh represent the conflicting simultaneous presence of desire and feverish disquietude in human emotion. Baroda based Balaji Ponna represents a gigantic reclined sculpture, fallen from its glorious past. The vast surrounding night landscape embodies shattered animal and human life, filled with hostile human psyche, which has been self-destructive and self- antagonistic.
Pratul Das ( Delhi based) following academic realism and Sarika Mehta (Ahmedabad based) dwelling in soft details also manifest inwardly search for contentment and spiritual fulfilment. Both the artists represent harmed state of human consciousness in the self-conflicting time we live through.
Overall a powerful manifestation of dark times, the curatorial approach takes challenges and risks related with art- motifs, art contents, unconventional materials and anti- art methodologies. What is remarkably noticeable is that artists based in diverse art centers and cities have effectively manifested the theme collectively, while being occupied with their individualistic methods and stands.
The show continues till April 7, 2018.
Shubhalakshmi Shukla is an independent writer and curator, based in Mumbai.
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