curated by Lina Vincent Sunish 2013
The concept of the Elements emerged as a spontaneous reaction to the innate sensibilities of the artists – an idea that naturally, each artist’s work represented certain characteristics that echoed qualities of the building blocks of nature. Simple and yet layered, the concept holds the capacity to expand and embody diverse interpretations; these are manifestations of the way each artist sees the world, and imagines what is beyond it. The five artists have distinct expressive languages, and the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual planes of the living world are richly investigated between them. The notion took shape in the artists own realisations and organic responses to the subject.The imagery generated within the compilation seems to reflect a spectrum in terms of the range between the real and the abstract; the solid and the intangible; the romantic and the mundane. The artists explored an element each, relating with it experientially and intensifying the existing narratives in their personal practice. The result is a confluence of forms and energies that resonate with, and complement one another.
Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether: here they become an umbrella under which to enter into the profundity of contemporary existence itself. The exhibition engenders a setting, encouraging the viewer to penetrate beyond the commonplace surface symbolism, to interact with the subject in a more vital way and bring into the dialogue varied understandings of the relevance of the elements in our lives and collective futures.
The framework created is porous, just as there is an organic continuity and ‘give and take’ in real life. Each series of works is dominated by the principle element the artist has chosen, but does not rigidly shut out the rest. Like a baton passed from hand to hand in a race, or a billiards ball that passes on its momentum to the next – the energy rolls, from one work to the other. There is no hierarchy. Each of the five artists have responded in a different vein, using diverse narratives, symbols and abstractions, combined to create an experience for the viewer/listener.
Looked at together, a pattern appears through the works, traversing from form to the formless, or vice versa. Ravi Shah’s sculptures have a compounded physicality, the wood and the stone exhibiting a grainy roughness that is a combined reflection of the natural textures with his work techniques.He expresses an intense connection with all things of the earth, from the earth, and shows an integral understanding of processes of life and death, destruction and rejuvenation. In the present series, the forms barely appear from their original matrixes while at times, the detailing is meticulous. He prefers a natural hewing away of material, so that the men, women and ambiguous genderless forms seem to return to a rudimentary, core structure, devoid of outer layers of complexity. The forms nonetheless reveal emotion, from their expressions, stances and gestures. The sculptures bring about a sense of immediacy; an aspect of spontaneous experience that comes into being on viewing the works. Shah seems to have the ability to recognise the natural output of a log or a rock in an intuitive way, so the work process is meditative rather than forced. He shares a companionship with his medium, so that it gives up its secrets willingly.
The wood and stone retain a memory of where they originated; the artist’s gestures of ‘making’ the work over a period of time, cast patterns of new and old marks, each portion weathering differently.These aspects of memory, and the passage of time, become central to Avijit Dutta’s paintings.
A sensitive water colourist, the artist’s works appear as a visual diary, mapping lives and grasping elusive thoughts of the past. Text and image, marks, notes and references, combined with portraits allow the viewer to develop varied interpretations of the work. Like an aged document, each work attains a status of value, stained with colour and etched with wisdom. Dutta is able to articulate atmospheres within his works, seeming to create simultaneity between what is remembered and imagined, and what is present and real.Through his art practice, he researches cultural knowledge and attempts to reconstruct what he understands as eternal truths. His varied experiments on the surfaces serve to intensify the density of the imagery, both formally and intellectually. The whispers from the past seem to act as catalysts in the creation of the works; he digs deep into his learning, and that of a collective consciousness to present stories otherwise unspoken.
The human condition awakens a response in the artist, and urges him to record and document visually. Kazi Nasir, variedly, views humanity and its doings with a critical eye. He trains his eye on the contemporary, observing a rather ruthless taking over of an organic world by a mechanical and artificial one. He believes that people are disconnected from real nature, operating through a filter of pretence. The roses are not what they appear to be; his works are inhabited by bright, glossy scenes, seemingly emerging from the fantasy of a television screen. In the artist’s work, there appears a leaning towards evaluating the world, and himself within it. He envisions a vacuum, beneath which turbulence survives. For him, the fire exists in the depth of the human intellect. It isconferred with the power to change, and the ability to discern between the real and the false. His works pose a question to himself, and the viewer, as to whether the fire will destroy and purify, or whether it will brought under control by the very mechanisms that the intellect generated.
Aspects of time and space are reiterated continually among the work – particularly time and its connection to growth, change, metamorphosis and the elements expanding or retreating in space.
C.F.John’s paintings capture an all encompassing calm, and a state of equilibrium of the spirit against the fluctuation of change. There is a sensitive depiction of the feminine principle, bringing to mind the fluidity of water, recurring and becoming central to his works.She fragments and unites within the unbounded space, existing simultaneously in different scales. The layered, muted mixed media surfaces project subtle divisions of the atmosphere, within which appear suggestions of foliage and bird forms. The mother bird, carrying un-laid eggs, becomes a symbol of love and protection, and refers to one of the fundamental processes of nature. The works retain a meditative and contemplative stance, the imagery reduced to what is minimal and essential. There is a sense of timelessness in what the artist creates. It may be a mindful pause – taking a fraction of breath, or a lifetime – the artist’s very being and experience seems translated into the forms, and extends to the viewer in that fraction it takes to engage with it. The idea of stillness is not withdrawal but just calmness; sound starts in silence and ends in silence.
Emerging from silence and creating its own life and fantasy is Madhuri Rao’s sound piece. She transfers the artistic experience into the realm of the formless. The work carries the listener into the unknown; the notion is one of being flung into space, or to the core of the earth, and jerks memories and responses involuntarily. Here sound appears to forward the essence of movement. Without the dependence of the visual, the sound itself begins to generate visions in the mind’s eye.Eastern philosophies recognise the existence of a fifth element - Ether, Aakasha or the element of sound vibration– that is supposed to exist in the realm outside of the mundane world. It is considered the only eternal element, and generates the condition for creation and life. The artist explores the ability of sound to simulate bodily experiences, and to produce sensory reactions to abstract dimensions of the elements.
John, Kazi, Ravi, Avijit and Madhuri each refer to personalised memories and histories, in depicting their renditions of the elements. Along the way, it was interesting to realise the intense connections these artists have with the environment. John actively works on furthering environmental knowledge, locally as well as in other regions. He is also focusing on creating natural curriculums for rural children to learn within; Avijit, similarly, is attempting to reprise the age old system of the gurukul, bringing about natural systems of knowledge and learning. Kazi, is a wildlife photographer and spends time capturing creatures in their habitats; Ravi, living in the midst of plants and trees, is a dedicated gardener, nurturing life, and sharing it with others; and Madhuri, moving into the realm of time and space and abstraction, continues to explore the possibilities of the expressiveness of the sounds of nature.
Lina Vincent Sunish 2013