With a mind-boggling title like An Interstitial Intimacy (whatever it means) — an exhibition of prints which ends today at Aakriti Art Gallery — one expects that it would have a similar heart-stopping effect on viewers as well. It is true that the gallery should be congratulated on holding an exhibition in these troubled times, and that too of prints, which never had a market anyway.
But that does not take away from the fact that this exhibition is not something to write home about. The title roughly means, we hope, coming close in an intervening space. One may scratch one’s head forever but may still fail to discover the title’s relevance for the works on display, which are mostly of the kind that one sees at any art fair. One senior artist and a successful printmaker are participants but that does not make any difference. For, unless the gallerist is serious about making choices — be it of the artists or the actual works — the quality of an exhibition does not hinge on the presence or absence of one or more well-known names. So we get a hodge podge.
Abdul Salam’s only virtue is that he does not clutter his images with unnecessary details. So his pair of insects (picture) is neat, sharply in contrast with his head of an owl, which is straight out of a folk toy, and the mythical beasts on wheels, reminiscent of the works of one of our living masters. Kasa Vinay Kumar makes an attempt at blurring his images, creating a world of shadowy figures as in a silkscreen, although this is an UV print that has been handpainted. He has probably used photographs for some of the images, particularly for the one of the man with his forehead painted and with matted hair streaked with bright colours.
Rajesh Deb specializes in producing giant woodcuts in a style reminiscent of early woodcut illustrations used in books and advertisements in Calcutta. He alludes to things from the past (read 19th century) and the present as well, all at the same time. Here, he has appropriated the image of Spiderman, but why he has done so remains a mystery. Sayak Mitra uses dark, overlapping digital images and adds decorative elements such as a zari sari border to them. It is pretty, but what beyond that? He uses a golden yellow with a bright red in another, and that combination makes it so striking.
Soghra Khurasani is displaying a series of woodcuts in which a man in Mughal-style royal togs and wearing sunglasses, holds firearms the way emperors held a rose in Indian miniatures. What does such a gesture signify in this context? One wishes one could even guess.
V. Nagdas’s Dreamseller is an etching of a misty haze of figures and insects. His other two works too display his taste for tortured forms and well-defined figures, Dali style, with close-ups of heads. Vijay Bagodi’s large figures and faces covering the entire space of these plate lithographs on paper are somewhat better as instead of amorphous nothing we have something more specific. Non-specific is fine, but there should be some logic behind making such a choice.
The two well-know participants are Amitabha Banerjee and Atin Basak. Technically, both their works are of a high quality but we expect something better of them. Banerjee’s red kite, flower and other figurative work in a monochromatic haze are pleasing to the eye. But he has done similar work before.
As to Atin Basak’s three sets of heads with the figures of boys — who seem to have walked out of some popular television show for youngsters — inside them, it is too amateurish an idea to be taken seriously. His draughtsmanship may be good but the concept is hollow.
The exhibition was no doubt a brave attempt at reviving the gallery. But without proper planning, it seems to have gone haywire.