Keeping me Connected – New Old Media (September 3 to 5) presented the outcome of Sumitro Basak’s residency at Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery.
|Spells against anxiety|
Magic Processors, Jehangir Jani’s exhibition at Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (September 30 to October 5), looked, and to a large extent was, quite unlike the familiar images of defiant human vulnerability in a hybrid, violent world.
As the playful, lyrical works gradually revealed and overcame the underlying tension, the viewer could see that they differed only in degree or rather in their reversed proportion between the anxiety internalised from outside and the redeeming poetry within. As such the new path seems to further delve into a warmer, more peaceful centre that the older now artist instinctively recovers.
In his brief note to the show Jani muses about our daily drudgery, unfair circumstances and endless want wondering what would happen to rational pursuits of there was magic. And, indeed, he went on to conjure its effect on our domestic environs casting spells against the noises and tensions that accompany our life ceaselessly generated by the mechanisms meant to help us do things efficiently and quickly.
In the gallery space one found oneself surrounded by white walls with white reliefs scattered almost all over where a large pressure cooker spewed a blender, a mobile and a washing machine, a toaster popped out computer and TV monitors, while the wide open “Alladin’s Briefcase” yielded cars, motorbikes and cellphones, all the elements plastered separate rhythmically and fairly flat on the surface to offer an intuition of a steady, continuous pulse, as though normal in its illogical relationship between the over-size contraptions and the miniatures of vast objects.
Whilst the many appliances and vehicles represented the materialistic possessions we ever strive to acquire, the artist so transformed them into toy-resembling motifs in an adult childhood game.
The non-colour whiteness of it all embedded in the architecture created a sense of calm and a tabula rasa to be inscribed with potentiality. The gay softness of the plaster of Paris with resin and cotton pulp appeared to be absorbing and muting the technological whirr and tension of the machinery.
The magic of young innocence could even turn the old-fashioned meat mincer, this art-historical sign of the human flesh as cannon fodder, into its antidote metamorphosing guns into riotous horses and sheep. Like a child willing the mundane into the phantasmagorical, Jani made his chair a flying scooter and let a two-wheeler exhaust butterflies.
The auto-rickshaw relief was used in the video piece “Cop and Goat,” as the artist playing his aged father enters it along with a child and other characters to go to a cricket match. On a nostalgic-mischievous note, the participants gesticulate, are thrown out of the auto to get back to it, until the beautiful Chandramukhi goat nibbles at the policeman with a toy riffle and eats the vehicle which has fallen apart.
Used to the intensity of Jani’s mainstream sculptures and installations, at least the earlier ones, which flaunt drastic conditions and force the onlooker to confront uncomfortable, distressing issues before offering insights of feeble resolution, one may have taken the show just lightly, since it asks for it first.
As an environment entirety, nevertheless, it was pervasive in atmosphere eventually allowing for the realisation that the childhood magic there was equated with the saving grace that the potential of art holds.
The young artist from Kolkata, for the first time anywhere in south India, was surprised to find familiar sights and situations instead of the differences expected from this technology-driven city.
The continuance of tradition in contemporary life here stimulated him to look for a common ground between the two local cultures while exploring the novel place. Having worked with rangolis in Bengal villages, he responded comfortably to their Bangalore variants, in particular that their curving and spiralling trajectories that refer to cosmic symbolism must have appeared to layer over the enmeshments of urban traffic and flyover flights that serve to connect people.
The resulting work on the gallery floor indeed was a rangoli of his own, footprints denoting his entry, the meanders alluding to tracing of the metro, street webs, map charts and rippling streams among which Basak tried to mark places as well as images known to him now inclusive of divine chariots, signboards, ritual motifs, dotted rows and plastic palms, all distributed on the flat so as to relate to the fluid diagram rhythm.
As much as one liked the graceful and readable idea behind the effort and appreciated the appropriateness of the details, the whole was perhaps somewhat literal, hence did not generate enough sensation.