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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Glimpses of a dystopian world

In the hands of Ushnish Mukhopadhyay, the first awardee of Imaginarium 3.0 (on view at Emami Art), the horror of Goya’s pile of cadavers is animated in a video installation titled A Minute Of Banging

Srimoyee Bagchi Published 09.12.23, 08:40 AM
A minute of banging by Ushnish Mukhopadhyay [Emami Art]

A minute of banging by Ushnish Mukhopadhyay [Emami Art] Sourced by the Telegraph

It is hard to imagine that Bury Them and Keep Quiet, one of the most disquieting works from Fran­cisco Goya’s Disasters series, can be more unsettling than it already is. But in the hands of Ushnish Mukhopadhyay, the first awardee of Imaginarium 3.0 (on view at Emami Art), the horror of Goya’s pile of cadavers is animated in a video installation titled A Minute Of Banging. The bareness of the figure standing before the bodies, which have been stuffed away into a stairwell, its rocking motion and the guttural keening emerging from it instantly bring to mind scenes of death from Gaza. Nothing is said, yet the tragic import of the scene is poignantly conveyed.

In stark contrast to the explicitness of Mukhopadhyay’s work is the minimal idiom of Aritra Majumder who painstakingly graphs the stains left behind by humanity’s cavalier disregard for all things living. The polymorphous shapes that he plots by altering the directions of his graph lines, reducing or increasing the number of strokes and placing tiny black dots, transfix the viewer. Like the unravelling loops of a knitted garment, the gaps can be stitched back together if one tries.

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An artwork by Ali Nakbhi [Emami Art]

An artwork by Ali Nakbhi [Emami Art]

Ali Nakbhi’s language is as sparse; unlike Majumder, however, he opts for realism. Austere urbanscapes devoid of all human presence mirror the debilitating loneliness of Hopper’s cities. Nakbhi manages to coax a rare translucence and coarse texture out of oil and acrylic, adding to the pall of dullness that hangs over his deserted cities. Deepak Kumar’s cities, on the other hand, are a sharp indictment of urban greed, with birds and their carcasses being buried all over. In Refused Habitat, an architectural blueprint becomes the ribcage of a sparrow — Kumar’s depiction of birds is meticulous — that is caught in the scaffolding of a towering high-rise. Even these last vestiges of nature have been wiped out in Saroj Kumar Badatya’s woodcuts. What is left behind are pale shadows like the ‘hitokage no ishi’ left behind when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

Refused habitat by Deepak Kumar [Emami Art]

Refused habitat by Deepak Kumar [Emami Art]

The golden bounty in Sheshadev Sagria’s Dhan dwarfs and almost engulfs the minuscule figure raking through the seemingly abundant harvest. The emaciated figure that is responsible for producing this sea of grain will clearly not be able to partake of this sustenance. The effort that must have gone into creating the detailed etchings on the enormous 87.7 x 188.8-inch woodcut quadriptych — each grain of cereal is carefully carved out — is evident in this striking commentary on marginalisation, especially caste-based hierarchies in labour.

Richa Arya’s lens also focuses on marginalisation, this time of women. Arya’s choice of material — iron, brass and aluminium sheets — makes her works stand out. She cuts and pastes these sheets to form her metal paintings, depicting the peripheral lives that women live and the spaces they inhabit — the kitchen, for instance — in Arrangement - II, where the strictly-ordered utensil racks reveal the only domain of the home over which the woman has complete control. An even more terrifying fate lurks around women in Swapna Halder’s tapestries of nightmares. Violent gashes, wounds, cheats, predators and monsters abound in these anxious representations of just how unsafe the world is for women. Is it any wonder, then, that women in Ahalya Rajendran’s childhood reveries seek refuge in a verdant, pastoral Eden? Rajendran’s portrayal of trees is a lovely tribute to the intricate, repetitive patterns of tribal art.

Sumon Mondal’s landscapes are as intricate, stitched together into tapestries where varying threads, loops, knits, warps and wefts in diverse colours and tones impart three-dimensionality and conjure up a crowded world that celebrates differences.

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