‘See You Again’
An Indianised, local colloquial expression, ‘see you again’ might metaphorically underline the urgencies and concerns of seeing.
As we think of our interactions with the world, the people and the self, should we refigure our intimacy levels to make sure that we see them again? Where do we see ourselves, again?
Art is sure to open a conversation that topples connotations. In this case, a parting phrase might mean an invitation.
A selective mapping of some 20 mid-career and young contemporary artists from India would provide different vantage points to look at the urgencies of introspection. Seen collectively, their concerns might be enumerated. Some artists would make a case for understanding each day through its objects; while others use their sources of immediate information about the state of humankind, to refigure and re-phrase the human existence. Still others would contemplate the immediacy of responding to the self and sailing adventurously through abstract emotions, even as a growing number of artists would utilize their cerebral abilities to chart out the irreconcilable other.
The concerns that form a seemingly discontinuous agenda surely facilitate a multipolar mapping. How do we read the map? Where do we go?
Where do we stand now? :
Accepting the need to look at ourselves is the precondition for a journey that (re)visits trajectories in contemporary Indian art. Historically, the artists from this country were made to answer the questions raised by their western training, that led many artists to days and nights of concern for ‘who am I’. It was their responses to the challenge of self-assessment that have shaped India’s story of contemporary art. Thus, they did not follow the norms and broke the rules. One obvious indicator of the revolution that took place in Indian (as well as in many post-colonial) art spheres was that, the artist would employ a much Western formal devise – typically from the impressionist, expressionist or cubist periods, for the local content that was either representational or non-representational.
Artists selected here have newer challenges to meet. The global/local divide has now comprehended the glocal and ensured that concerns can be heard, while art itself has been turning into a spectacle. Ways to work as an artist have extended far beyond the studio. The selected artists, by far, represent a resistance of sorts to the challenges of the day. They practice persistently in their studios. They do not believe in stunning the viewer with a spectacle, and continue to care for an inherent cerebral response. If read properly, the global appeal is incidental to the social/ individual/ spiritual concerns of these artists.
Do these artists, heterogeneous in the choices they make, converse with each other? Are these conversations visible, even as the selection of works had to respond to the eclectic reality in which each artist’s work can be representative of his oeuvre? Looking at works again, as parts of a multifaceted, multidirectional whole, would perhaps help. To begin with, let us chart the diversities.
The lure of the black and white is alive for Ajay De and Vrindavan Solanki. De nests the value of simplicity in his portraits of Mother Teressa, as well as his cityscapes. Solanki, a veteran now, with his canvases that resemble pen-and-ink sketches, has often drawn our attention to the rural life of his province. He, however, avoids detailing his people with recognizable features, and thus emphasizes the community over the individual.
Total abstraction is the way for Hariram and Sachin Deo. The textures they obtain and the hues they attain might refer to the austerity in letting the world affect you. Deo also reminds us of a formal element that dates back to the earliest attempts of mark-making by humankind, as seen in Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh.
On the other hand, there are artists who would take positions vis-à-vis their contemporary reality as they see and interpret it. The drama of life, in its current acts, as seen by Riyaz Samadhan, talks of the anonymous struggle that is no less heroic. Yusuf Arakkal, with his vast experience of forms and practice, connects to the non-heroic condition and takes the challenge to analyse and to allure it. K. T. Shivaprasad observes the fantasies and fallacies generated by culture, and his quest for painting, as the formal object that invites all five senses, is now at an important juncture. Abhijit Paul, a young artist from Baroda, thinks of animals as protagonists of the human condition. Sajal Sarkar (Jr.) inquests the mediatic reality with questions from the self. Sandeep Daptari thinks the bodily existence, as against the amorphous stage-settings that invite a metaphoric reading, while Kahini Arte-Merchant’s work would revisit the body as an amorphous site.
There are more artists who ideate the human existence and the path of cohesion. Lalita Lajmi’s works are like pocket-maps for journeys that begin with the intimate and lead to the universal. Meera Devidayal makes a case for imagining ones self as the other. Known for her works that connect to popular culture of the street, Devidayal continues to take the roads less travelled. Haku Shah’s formal interpretation of the body, as is familiar to a discerning follower of contemporary art in India, takes a position that is comparable to an abstractionist who would experiment with fewer forms and seek the universal truth with his purity of means.
Introspective insights might come from anywhere - they could be objects of everyday use, like Krupa Makhija would testify with the utensil that is blown larger than life. To its subtle end, it can be the musings and memories that underlay the postage stamps and letters that Madhav Imartay would base his mediations, with the marks he makes. These tendencies are not exclusive to paintings. They can be traced in sculpture, too. Anand Prabhudesai would lure us to the everyday and then open the field of fantasy for the object less thought about: the white plastic milk bag, in this case, that invites a second look in its avatar of an udder. The flies, the dried udders and the filled bag, explicate the intricacy and impossibility of the division between natural and man-made in the contemporary experience.
The landscape is lost, anyway, in the century we live in. Indrajit Prasad contemplates the reasons. His paintings may be read like a poem after environmental destruction. Replete with metaphor and poet-like poise, Indrajit requests us to wish away these visuals. Tadi Sudhakar, a batchmate of Indrajit, has taken his paintings to stage the nocturnal drama in black. Sudhakar unfolds the pain and pleasure of the unseen places that are left in darkness. Prashant Prabhu lets the light in, and allures us to revisit the oft-visited places.
Let us part, to meet again:
While the artists share their notes on the human condition and the ways to look at it, a multipronged agenda that enlists the efficacies and exigencies to be living here and now might evolve. After all, it is a cordial meeting that makes conversations possible.
A conversation lets opinions flow and makes positions clear. A conversation may not stop only on account of the grammatical errors, it might go on even as any of the sides look old-fashioned, and it would still be interesting if the positions are seemingly incongruent. Above all, a conversation might pave the way for possible introspection.
The overheard conversations are now before you. The question is: do we listen to them?
Participating Artists :
Abhijit Paul, Ajay De, Anand Prabhdesai, Haku Shah, Hariram, Indrajit Prasad, K T Shivaprasad, Kahini Arte Merchant, Krupa Makhija, Lalitha Lajmi, Madhao Imartey, Medha Prabhakar, Meera Devidayal, Prashant Prabhu, Riyaz Samadhan, Rm Palaniappan, Sachin Deo, Sajal S Sarkar, Sandip Daptari, Tadi Subhakar, Vivek Anand, Vrindavan Solanki, Yusuf Arakkal