Friday, July 23, 2010

One Way of Reading Priyanka Govil’s Drawings

"In the same way that there is a human act of dismembering the past there is a natural process in the terrain through erosion, growth, dilapidation that also seeks to blot out events.”- William Kentridge.

There is something similar between Priyanka Govil and William Kentridge, the illustrious South African artist and animator. Both Kentridge and Priyanka think about an eroding past and blotting of events occurred during the past by active external agencies. Kentridge politicizes them through his charcoal drawings and animations.

Priyanka Govil does not deliberately politicizes her past, but there are hints, suggestions and pointers in her that what she intends subconsciously is the politicization of events through surrogate images; the images of earth, which is vandalized, raped, claimed and subjected, the a way a woman is subjected to (male) laws of war and territorialization.

To achieve this political edge both Kentridge and Priyanka uses charcoal as a medium and drawing, a method.

(Work by William Kentridge)

(Work by Priyanka Govil)

I have not yet introduced Priyanka Govil as a person. While looking at the smile on your lips (that has resulted from the comparison between a legend like Kentridge and a possible novice like Priyanka), I realize that it is high time to introduce her.

Here she is. Priyanka Govil. She is a fresh post graduate from the Department of Painting, MS University, Baroda. She is the recipient of Inlaks India Award (2010).

(Priyanka Govil)

And this is one of the ways she represents herself in her FB profile. Here you see Priyanka Govil walking towards sea at the flat shore of Dandi, South Gujarat.

(Priyanka Govil at Dandi Beach)

If you take any of her works and see the vastness of space that she has created in them, you would understand why she chooses such a picture to represent her. Our choices are pre-determined by our nascent philosophies and aesthetics.

(Painting by Priyanka Govil)

I think about the violent incident of Babri Masjid demolition by the fundamentalist forces in India. It happened in Ayodhya, UP on 6th December 1992. Priyanka was hardly seven years old then. So I cannot say that she had grasped the intensity of the incident. But she grew up listening to the stories of this demolition and how the present order of things overlap the memories of this tragic event and ‘dismember that violent past’

(News Photograph of Babri Masjid demolition on 6th December 1992)

(Work by Priyanka Govil)

(Like many other I too asked her whether she any way related to Arun Govil, the actor who played Rama in the tele serial Ramayana, which had in a way helped to re-organize the extreme Hindu sentiments in India. She belongs to the same clan, but not related to Arun Govil)

(Arun Govil as Rama in Ramayana tele seriel)

During the growing up years, Priyanka watched micro versions of such vandalizing around her in the form of de-forestation. People were cutting down trees, encroaching farm lands and converting everything into real estate. When a new building complex comes up, the history and memory of a farm land is lost.

Priyanka’s effort in her works is to speak up against this naturalization of the obfuscation of history and memory. So she draws landscapes using charcoal and color, as if she were caught in frenzy.

(Painting by Priyanka Govil)

(work by Priyanka Govil)

I don’t know whether she is to be called an ‘environmental artist’. But I prefer to call her an artist who uses environment as a persisting imagery in order to address the issues pertaining to the dismembering of past/history and memory.

Her works are not just about ‘landscape painting. Priyanka goes beyond as she shows her grip and knowledge in the various factors of agriculture and farm lands. Her works move beyond the romantic portrayal of the places that she likes/liked. Priyanka repeats them like a question and she repeats it because she does not get an answer to it always. Vandalism is on in various ways, erasing the old with the inscriptions of the new.

(detail from Priyanka Govil's work)

(work by Priyanka Govil)

(a farm land tilled and seeded)

I find a curious affinity between Priyanka’s drawings and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970). Please don’t mistake me. I am not saying that Priyanka’s works are as ambitious as Smithson’s. What I find interesting is the concentric (circular) nature of their thinking, which gets reflected in their works.

(Drawing by Priyanka Govil)

(Work by Priyanka Govil)

They perceive history as a cyclical phenomenon. What goes around has to come around. But it is not a fatalistic or pessimistic or even optimistic view. This sense of history anticipates and asserts the human endeavor to learn from the past and progress towards the future. Even when contemporary art negates history of having a hold on its meanderings, conceptual art always thrives on history through its ability to re-think hypothetical orders (concepts and notions) and re-formulate them in novel ways.

(Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson)

I deliberately choose a black and white picture of Spiral Jetty here and also the image captures the present state of this monumental earth art. Currently, it is in a decaying process as the vandalism of (art) tourists is beyond control.

There is a strong sense of performance in Priyanka’s works. Though she does not make it very clear through any picture, I believe there is a lot of action involved in her works.

Here I try to see her massive charcoal drawing and it’s making process side by side with the famous photograph of Jackson Pollock doing one of his action painting, taken by Hans Namuth, the German photographer.

(Jackson Pollock in action, by Hans Namuth)

The presence of Pollock in the picture and the ‘captured’ action are ‘absent’ in this photograph of Priyanka’s drawing with charcoal. But the very absence seems to say a lot of about her presence and the action involved in the making of this work. The close up (detail) would tell you more about the performative nature of Priyanka’s works.

(the performative drawing by Priyanka Govil)

(detail of the huge charcoal drawing)

In her struggle against oblivion of history, Priyanka places herself in the centre, where everything converges as in a whirlpool. And she says, “Everything is revolving into me as a center where I am doing and aesthetically experiencing the process and the medium to have the stream of works to lead my destiny”.


phanindra said...

which the critic Johnny ML,has observed on Priyanka Govil's works that is an intellectual justification for her artworks.

prasad kp said...

there u can see lot of 'KEFERIAN' sacrificial influence in her works. why u r hiding..?

LN Bhuvaneshwari said...

@ Prasad KP s...i agree with u..Anselm kiefer's influence...!