The pot, clearly, is on the boil. With the cliché, the quote and the concept; the excessive, the elaborate and the economic; the small and the large; with process, chance and form; with old media and new and the old reborn as new. To lay out a menu in which the existing language of art woos evolving trends at Svikriti, Birla Academy’s exhibition of works from its award winners that’s on till August 24. Even a cursory comparison of last year’s edition with this one reveals how radically recipes are being revised, registering a definite shift in art-making practices among young artists.
Durbananda Jana is an example of an emerging trend that seeks to look at art not as a marketable, conveniently-packed-and-labelled commodity but as a complex of concerns and activity, an open-ended dialogue with society. His Conceptualist video, Forgetfulness…It Happens, projects news channel clips on the Stephen’s Court fire on a translucent screen down which cascades actual ink that’s continuously wiped by a giant wiper fitted on top. The metaphor of the wiper isn’t new and he may also err on the side of excess. But hammering at public memory with the audio-visual on the one hand and his researched data on the subject, partly written on the wall, create an atmosphere grimly oppressive. His second video, more extensively researched and more disturbing, exposes how the export to West Asia of Assam’s agar wood — of which the agarbatti is a by-product — along with the region’s young men as labourers impacts the environment and society. The title? Migration the Anti-Gravity Project, which focuses as much on the process of his art by displaying the material collected as on the visuals.
At the opposite end, there’s the elegant economy of Pallavi Das’s monochrome photography and photo montage. In two of her works, the chair is both a quote — from van Gogh and Kosuth, possibly— and a conceit. While its skeletal frame correlates an inexorable, ticking psycho-physical endgame in one, a lone chair in the middle of a desolate nowhere echoes an edgy, mournful lyricism. Another work, incidentally, pays a surprising tribute to Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou which brewed many a storm in many a College Street cup in the 1960s but which this generation isn’t expected to fetishize. But then, what was known only through writing and photographs at that time is now just a click away.
The pressure cooker may be something of a clichéd symbol but the form — a tightly closed cylinder — gives room for flights of fancy to Amit Debnath. The maze of lit-up metal folds inserted within and revealed by cross sections stimulates interesting suggestions. Surajit Sarkar also concentrates on form in his minutely-calculated, painstakingly-assembled glass sculpture. Charming as the pieces are, the very process of their making imposes a great restriction on what he can attempt. Hence, he also tries out a largish tableau in fibreglass, iron, wood and acrylic sheet. But its screaming message of the macabre neither shocks, nor chills, nor intrigues.
But Avijeet Singh needs no trumpet to hold viewer attention. A series of tiny black and white paintings, chaotic and formless, and, sometimes, embossed by a rash of acrylic lines, speaks of a rich, urbane imagination and spontaneous energy. Another series of six pieces shows how the collage has been reinvented to throw up a fluent disorder throbbing with palpable life. This he has done by sticking on a scatter of thin strips of what looks like paper along with other material on which black marks are visible.
Monochrome — black and white, that is — appeals to Rajrappa Roy and Maneesh Kishore as well. Roy’s infectious play with different kinds of form and their chance associations evokes an amusing response from the viewer. The nut-cracker, used with slight variations for example, seems to be a visual trope that turns it into both a victim with trembling legs and a vice with teeth. And Kishore takes up classical media — lithography and etching —to map with understated intensity a dark, brooding, agitated inscape.
Mallika Das Sutar, at her best, offers an engaging narrative that’s ironic and nostalgic at once, as Self-Memorizing ll shows, but strays into a tiresome excess elsewhere. Technology, digitizing strategies in photography, allows Shibasish Das to turn ordinary objects into abstract, illuminated shapes against a dark surface (picture). However, these works seem rather exploratory right now. Finally, there’s Nilanjan Das whose art — particularly the elaborate Looking Through a Window Hole — is clever and catchy but doesn’t go beyond borrowed terms with truly individual reflections.