When galleries were too few, art hardly sold and young talent was starved of media and market exposure, the Birla Academy’s Annual designed a broad platform for the nod of recognition — svikriti — that boosted artists. While the event itself turned into a fatiguing trek across several floors, its crop of awardees from the competitive section certainly deserved svikriti.
Which is what this year’s show of works by the award-winners was called: Svikriti, the pick of nine that finally made it.
Photography was a welcome inclusion this year for two participants used the camera with creative flair. Arnab Mukherjee’s Proustian lens pondered muted definitions of material, tones, contrasts of darkness and light, and graded shadows to communicate the elusive texture of atmosphere, noticeably in Inside Out and Untitled ll. Jayraj Singh Parmar relished, in long-distance shots, both the exhilarating silence of dark, cloud-wrapped hills in Uttarakhand and the cacophonous pulsations of popular culture that religious fairs generate (picture).
While voicing environmental concerns, Anirban Sheth sermonized with such titles as Do Not Destroy Nature and Amit Dey turned sentimental in his compelling, if overwrought, In Bondage. Though Sheth’s rugged visual sense also won attention, the irony of using leather to promote animal rights probably didn’t occur to him. Dey’s other work, Feminist — the sculpture of a woman pregnant with clearly visible twins — brought queasy echoes of Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde specimens and indicated how eyeball-grabbing anxiety can push an artist to verbosity.
The same anxiety probably gripped Partha Pratim Mondal too. Even though his installation of 35 metal panels with variously teased surfaces had a sedately imposing presence, the sculpture of the Hindu god, Viswakarma, was foisted on it, undermining its calibrated geometry for the work seemed to be a tribute — and in earnest, too — to The Enchanting Lord of Industry. Pradip Mondal, however, was confidently, chicly spare, accenting the rhythm of unfussy lines and basic forms. Particularly in Nature, with its gentle play of kinetic energy in a swaying pendulum that hung from a slim, uneven hoop; and Black Sun whose rectangular column with an interior hollow exhaled masculine grace.
If Mithun Das’s furry creature on its back did nudge Kafkaesque suggestions in Metamorphosis, it remained mainly an exercise in controlled craft. Be they fade-in figures or geometric layouts, Raju Tota’s subtle texturing and stencilled letters turned his canvases peppy. Ecstasy lll, with its tense energy, and Changing Identity, which investigated the unique topography of finger prints, are the works to cite. And Rajen Mondal discovered, not very perspicaciously perhaps but with wry humour, the washroom as an inviolable personal space. Where toilet seats stimulate Blooming Time — when dreams and creativity can bloom unhindered, that is — and bathtubs offer snug retreats.