Technique meets technology in work of young artists
A welcome balance between age-old techniques and new-age technology at Svikriti assures purist and ‘techist’ alike that both have a place in contemporary Indian art; neither need exile the other. Each of the 10 young awardees of Birla Academy’s Annual has unsparingly invested much thought and effort in fashioning an individual idiom. The will to probe and push the boundaries of the media chosen is evident for viewers to see till Sept 30, as he is drawn into the minute details, deft variations and extravagant structuring of the works.
The artist who appears most confident in his disarmingly unfussy option of mixed media on paper is Yashpal Singh. In fact, though, the simple label gives no clue about the complex of methods and material that must have gone into the tattered, weathered, spookily sentient mirages drifting in, as it were, from truant memories and macabre fantasies (picture, left): the layering of abraded surfaces, the arid, corroded textures, the frayed, leaking watercolour in greys, tans and beige, their guile in conjuring furtive depths and imminent evanescence.
At the other end of the spectrum stands Sanjib Barui with kinetic installations that possibly salute Hans Haacke’s iconic Condensation Cube. His two sets of transparent cases, mutedly lit and arranged in dark alcoves, have an austere, de Stijl elegance that is endlessly teased by effervescent bubbles of different sizes fizzing up into prancing patterns that are quite riveting in the interactive dynamics of water spurts, light and motion.
Mainak Chakraborty’s focus is on weaving a dense mesh of ink lines and shades to evoke period interiors that recall faded, damaged stills. A wall of framed portraits that also sneaks in a picture of hunters posing with their trophy — a tiger — a desk with books, an ornate mirror, a photo of relatives around a body, typical of a bygone age: it’s a boast of fluent artistry distilled through an observant, slowly tracking cinematic eye.
As promising is Jaladhar Naskar. But since his ceramic brick structures come too close to a contemporary’s rumination on lost homes, he needs to concentrate on his forte: terracottas that simulate the texture of timber, most impressive in The Shelter I with its tumble of crates, each studded with rusty nail heads. Wood is the medium of Arjun Das, whose experience of working in a dhaba inspires small relief montages carved out of long, narrow wall tablets. Common objects lost to routine viewing, regain their visibility when, reduced to miniatures, these assume a quaint, toy-like avatar.
Soham Raha’s ambitiously philosophic quest tends to run away with imagery that seems too private and involved to provide correlatives that “reveal... eternal truth”. Bholanath Rudra, on the other hand, refreshes Surreal terminology into an individual vision, while paying homage to Dali with images of helpless giraffes (picture, right). Khokan Giri’s pursuit is rooted in the unadorned, colloquial rhythm of familiar scenes from around his home near Digha, which yield networks of etched lines that, reminiscent of Op Art and softened with aquatint, play with illusions of perspective and dimension.
Photographic prints and video are what Debadyuti Saha cleverly exploits to convey his subversive irony that tips over into anguish at thoughtless violence. And, finally, there’s Abhishek Narayan Verma, who turns to different kinds of print — drypoint , lithograph and photograph — possibly because the brew of dark tales that haunts him cannot be exorcised easily. That may also be why he resorts to black farce: how else can one stave off despair? But his tone deepens into a nervous, yet impish, romanticism as an insidious mystery looms over Through
Those Dark Days. The kind that must remain tantalizing and dark.