Banter becomes the young. No wonder the younger artists among the 30 or so featured in CIMA’s Summer Show 2012 — on till September 1 — choose wry smirks or deadpan irony over earnest depiction, often wired with references.
Like in Apu Dasgupta’s inkjet print, A Different Narrative, for example, which is indeed a kind of different narrative. Its babel of visual quotes from Art History thrusts a tapestry of allusions on the bemused visitor. No novitiate could hope to wrest instant enlightenment from this puzzle of images, but hints are waiting to be picked up, beginning with an upside down urinal that enjoys pride of place in the centre, Duchamp’s Fountain. Does the artist wish to toast how this one image unsettled the aesthetics of Art, shattered traditions and scattered their fragments about, recalling the 1917 exhibition when “R. Mutt’s” piece was not displayed? Although the urinal moment was both scandalous and seminal, a hundred years after Dadaism the shock of early 20th century viewers may turn to ho-hums in the 21st through overkill. Yet, the work draws you into a game of detecting sources and connections, presumably to debunk the mystique around modern art.
Debunking the mystique of honeymoons in its very title is Timir Brahma’s acrylic, called Honeymen (picture), suggesting that such outings — whether of the newlywed, unwed or any other kind of heterogeneous couple — are, for the men, a search for, well, honey. A couple in a yellow car, quite copybook yuppie, zips along a road lined with trees that are reduced to a passing blur. The mocking banality of the image —right down to the cute dangler on the windscreen — and the strident palette seem to spoof clichés from cinema and advertisements on the one hand and middleclass ideals on the other. For here is life tailored to high living and plain thinking to imitate billboard fantasy.
But fantasy is notoriously elusive in the real world. Hence, inducing highs to escape the real, even if briefly, becomes the troubling option for another couple, neighbours of the honeymooners. By naming his large diptych of two figures, both probably women, smoking pot— or is it just hookah?— Shiv-Kali in Modern Times, Sumantra Mukherjee passes an impish comment to remind righteous traditionalists of their mythological tradition. More interesting than the theme, however, is the sharp, acerbic distortion he’s made his own, at times turning numbers into facial features.
Caricatural distortion is Sougata Das’s forte too, particularly because his mirror etching, shorn of colour and clutter, allows the scorching lines emphatic articulation in evoking faces of macabre humour. Satyajit Roy’s pen-on-paper drawing of a bird — both bizarre and comical — holds viewer attention as well on the strength of firm, fluid, energetic lines. And astute comicality is what makes Sumitro Basak’s parody of Bengali foibles a montage to scrutinize with care for his set of 15 canvases, each 61cm x 76 cm, is a minefield of hilarious inputs.
Anirban Ghosh’s persiflage is, however, understated in War and Peace. The diagrammatic layout of the vinyl print, the striking colour scheme, the neat, even pretty images — of fighter planes, tanks, buildings, trees — that seem to be interlocked like parts in a machine, look deceptively sedate. But the insertion of terms and figures like “economic output”, “health care” and “18%” indicates a subversive squint at The System.
The System. That Kafkaesque leviathan of the faceless “they” is what bothers Sanjeev Sonpimpare and Roul Hemanta. Stencilled words like Pan Card, Ration Card and such that emerge in a bed of grain in the former’s works, portray, with dry brevity, the bureaucratic vise citizens are caught in. The latter’s Gods Begging at Worli Naka is dramatic both for his evocation of a corrugated sheet, common at construction sites of burgeoning megacities, and the eloquent white silhouettes detailing pavement life. What bothers Tushar Potdar more than the faceless System is how the individual turns faceless in the disorienting ethos of the city. The city that is imagined by Santosh More as a claustrophobic press of stark rectangles and triangles, while his fibreglass model of a 400-year-old well in Maharashtra stresses overlap of eras and environmental concerns.
But naturescapes are there too, though Rajan Krishnan’s Plant of Sustenance insinuates a sentient toxicity in a fruit-laden tree. And Rashmi Bagchi Sarkar’s smouldering wasteland predicts an apocalyptic holocaust, while the set of 9 vistas by Shreyashi Chatterjee is seductive in its simplicity. And Anirban Mukherjee’s muted, sepia landscapes and Pandit Khairnar’s non-representational blurs in oil are antidotes to jaded nerves.