Reviewed by Medha Kulkarni
Recurrent discontent is the defining feature of human nature. We’re predisposed to be restless, to be averse to the stillness of contentment. It is indeed this restlessness that keeps us perpetually curious, leading us on an endless quest for something more meaningful. We sift through the layers of our shared pasts to seek out indications of the future. We search for patterns, analyze recurring motifs and try to unravel them, to seek out their meaning, we change our ways of seeing to identify signs in the prosaic everyday life.
Some look inward and others search in the world as it were, around them. In such an undertaking, at times, hiding in the process carries a certain visceral power, and that’s a value that perhaps artists understand better than most. The naked process of attempting to communicate one’s truth is essentially when one becomes aware of what the truth is.
The Young Collector’s Exhibition 2014 presents six creators who have made an attempt to bring forth this truth, each with his or her unique form of expression. Each summer, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke transforms into a space that offers young collectors, those who are intrigued by evolving art practices, access to a range of promising, upcoming artists who seek to challenge conventions and prevailing perceptions and push the boundaries of their practice. Spanning across diverse forms of practice, media and site, these talented young artists are inherently linked by the motif of leakage – the gentle flowing of an array of meanings into another, creating a space where accepted beliefs are deconstructed and alternative ways of seeing are presented.
Tucked away in a leafy lane in Colaba’s bustling art district but away from the noise and movement, the gallery offers the viewer, and the artist, a quiet space for contemplation. The large space is divided neatly into sections, arranged in a manner that seem connected but in reality, are each removed from the other, thus redefining the way a viewer might normally engage with a formal space. Upon entry, I chose to turn right, and stepped into a bare room, filled with quietness of natural light streaming in through the windows. Thus Kaushik Saha’s works immediately catch your eye. Through his mixed media artwork Saha deftly blends together several layers at once. There’s a comfortable juxtaposition of mismatched personal and urban histories. The protagonist of his works is gently immersed in the narrative, catches the viewer by surprise. Against the soothing backdrop of ocean blues, rise the cold, steel scaffolding of advertisement hoardings, the marker of urbanity. His work is both beautiful and jarring at the same time rendering the view with an uneasy sense of calm. Kaushik Saha has woven together nostalgia of his past, with fragments of his dreams and realities to create works remind the viewer of integral parts of our shared visual universe.
Moving on from the light, I enter a space that is completely dark, save the light from Amshu Chukki’s video works. The sudden departure from the previous space jolts the viewer into a different realm altogether, visibly altering perception. While some seek out meaning in the tangible, others explore the virtual imagery of light. Amshu Chukki’s works, at first glance, appear to be seamless, however upon closer inspection one is invited into the vision of his mind’s eye. In his work “Remembering the Sea 2”, against the backdrop of an ever-changing seascape stands a lone elephant. Disjointed objects often show up the two-channel projection, yet again reaffirming the order in his random.
Adjacent to Chukki’s installation, mounted on a single wall are artist Anil Thambai’s small but powerful works. It is their diminutive size, which makes them appear to fill the wall. Like Saha, Thambai too explores the realm of layering. However, Thambai draws from his heritage in Kerala and skillfully overlaps multiple meanings, histories and languages against parallel cultural contexts. His charming series of pencil drawings, with detailed figures of characters visiting from the past set against relatively bare backgrounds convey the origin of their source, as our shared, collective history.
The next section takes us through the works of the two female artists in the show. Yasmin Jahan Nupur’s works are a departure from the previous ones in the sense that they gently prod the viewer into looking inward. Her fine lined graphite and watercolor works convey a story of meticulousness and long hours of labor. They are meditative for the artist yet striking, for the viewer. Her works effortlessly swing between the familiar and the foreign, through carefully constructed forms that are inspired by the ordinary and yet together, are anything but.
Contrasted against Yasmin’s quiet works, Sangita Maity’s are simultaneously real and abrasive. Maity places natural alongside the industrial, thus simultaneously reawakening the age-old debate of the relationship between the ideal and the real. Devoid of any sugarcoating, Maity presents the ‘behind the scenes’ of urbanization. She lays bare the brutal practice of the voracious over mining of iron deposits in Barbil against the dislocation of the local tribal population. Meanwhile, hope, which in this instance takes the form of government provided saplings (for reforestation) lie ignored in a godown, slowly dying.
Finally, artist Pradeep PP distorts reality in his attempt at arriving at presenting the truth through the beautiful, detailed paintings he creates. Adorned with fruit, abundant flora and fauna, his works convey a harsher truth – the ruthless infiltration of biotechnology and the loud (yet somehow invisible) invasion of chemicals into our bodies and lives. His works appear cheerful but force the viewer to question our world. How do we consume all this so readily and easily? His work is saturated with all the shock and spasms of inescapable truths, gift wrapped beautifully and presented to us, making it all the more difficult to digest.
As often happens, irrespective of the original intention of the artist, it is natural for us to project our own truths onto everything that we absorb from the world around us. It is when everything seems chaotic, that we immerse ourselves in art or music or literature, eagerly waiting, hoping for that fleeting moment when the artist’s truth might align with our own.