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IN SEARCH OF A NEW LANGUAGE

Visual Arts

The Postmodern resistance to settling into the classical ‘isms’ of the modern age has certainly encouraged young artists here — as seen in this year’s edition of Birla Academy’s Annual show — to move away from the manners and the masters of the past to source pop culture: films, science fiction, comics, illustrations, advertisement.

This was evident in Abhijit Sarkar’s Life in a Metro, which underscored the commodification of culture. In Arunangshu Ray, who also squinted, somewhat in a faux Picasso style, at city life in a scatter of disparate images that eluded coherence. In Manoj Mohanty’s dystopian fable of a Kafkaesque leviathan, mechanical, dehumanized, inexorable where hordes of people are treated as detritus, sucked into a funnel, processed and ejected.

Arpan Ghosh made an interesting pastiche of sci-fi cinema, cartoons and may be computer games in his Magic Red Carpet where a monstrous creature, aliens and red- caped crusaders battled it out. Its implicit, gestural violence was rendered as toothless as it was ticklish. A blasé tone in treating violence was seen in others, too, like Sintu Majumdar and Soumen Das. Baidyanath Boldey’s eclectic images flowed into quite a seductive, non-linear narrative, and Prasanta Ghosh composed a tribute of despairing intensity to Klimt and Schiele.

Jahir Hasan’s oil had a title that was both ambiguous and telling: For One Drop. But of what? Water? Oil? Or something less material like privacy, religious sanctity, a place under the sun? But the reference to the critical attrition that frays modern life came through in this tongue-in-cheek montage. Goutam Pramanick, however, was quite unambiguous in spoofing the politics of atomistic identities in We Want Gopal Land, where agitators were led by the Hindu god, Krishna. But the political anguish that fuelled Utsab Chatterjee’s meticulous draughtsmanship was the decline of Leftism, seen as an inside job. Hence, the title Subversion.

Conventional material used unconventionally brought the focus on Vicky Verma’s meditative work; Rudranil Das’s wrapping on board; Vijaya’s wall hanging of terracotta panels; Saifunnisha Khatun’s tapestry; Mousumi Sarkar’s cloth canopy; and award-winner Surajit Sarkar’s glass sculpture.

The camera lens, on the other hand, captured fleeting, decisive moments for Surnava Nandan and Debayan Kar, while Proma Mukherjee also chose to freeze movement in a single frame. Jeet Ray and Krishnendu Adhikary caressed, à la Ansel Adams, the subtle shapes and textures in natural elements like a parched ground or the gnarled bark of a tree. Ashish Gupta’s lingering, long shot of receding arches intimated an edgy pause, and Abhijit Paul’s empathy with the hearing-impaired slipped into sentimentalism at times in his video. But the mood was completely different in the video by award-winner Durbananda Jana that turned an everyday scene playfully surreal.

The guest section was devoted to artists originally from south India and named Thekkan Kaattu, which, apparently, means southern breeze. And though the list was by no means exhaustive — there were surprise exclusions, like Palaniappan — it was fairly representative and included those from different generations: seniors K.G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran, Laxma Goud et al; those from the next generation, like K.S. Radhakrishnan, Abul Kalam Azad and Shantamani Muddaiah; and those lesser known and younger. Like Sachin George Sebastian, about whom the viewer might have liked more information. His framed 188 cm X 97 cm paper cut-out reinvented the pop-up craft of children’s books as an impressive cityscape. But then, what needs to be tracked in the future is how he grapples with concepts that don’t offer facile visual correlatives.

Nandagopal’s idiom resonated with the village raconteur’s earthy wit in his metal sculpture, while K.S. Radhakrishnan’s bronzes bore his signature of numerous, lithe figures, dancing, twisting, flying, to conjure agile groups. S.G. Vasudev’s tempestuous energy wrecked form into tattered shapes, spectral and evanescent. V.G. Abhimanue’s acrylic was colourful and quaint, and K.T. Mathai evoked a fantastic vision that seemed to be fired by some kind of religious epiphany.

A series by photographer Azad appeared to be a tentative search for identity, fractured by ethnic, economic, gender and religious circumstances. Its title, Divine Façade, seemed invitingly layered in its suggestions of reverence and irony as the backdrop of Islamic structures — imposing yet infirm, the bearer of an evaporating legacy — remained a mute observer of life as a spontaneous and fluid tableau of unrehearsed, chance actors. Two prints from the Ennui series by photographer G.V. Gireesh were perceptively monochrome. The still lifes built an atmosphere through objects that were anonymous, clinically official, but uneasy in their sense of a dramatic interlude, poised between the before and after, between absence and presence.