Monday, August 23, 2010

Day Four- I don’t Believe in Missionary Conceptualism- Manjunath Kamath

(Manjunath Kamath on Sunday Morning- Day Four)

Today is Sunday. One hopes for an eased traffic situation. But this is Delhi. Roads are still choked. Incessant drizzling makes it worse.

However, those who remain at home, enjoying each lazy moment of a weekend would find it heaven.

I think, it is in ‘Freakonomics’ that I read the social behavior people at the face of a calamity. Imagine, there is a fire in a building. It has two exits; one a wide staircase and the other a circular one opening towards the back of the building. Normally people should take the wide one as it takes them to the front of the building, to the open roads so that evacuation becomes possible.

But people don’t do it. Why? Because everyone thinks that the other would take the main staircase and soon it would be choked. So they rush towards the circular one, thinking that it would be empty. Most of them think in the same way and the result turns out to be fatal. In the ensuing stampede most of them get either choked or hurt.

This social behavior of people is visible in all the walks of life. Traffic jams seem to be a result of it. Of late, it is reported that all the sub lanes of/in Delhi (even some of them running through the housing colonies) get clogged of vehicles as each man behind the wheels (woman too) thinks that none would be taking a road cutting through a housing colony.

Perhaps, this theory was in Manjunath Kamath’s mind today; clarity of thought process and logical thinking proving to be utterly wrong. Hence, when he walks down from the ground floor to the lower ground floor of Gallery Espace, he sees a horizontal beam, providing a route out from the walls filled with drawings.

Manjunath pulls the scaffolding ladder and climbs to jar it with a thick line, then his hand moves frantically and the final image resembles the effort of a child who wants to do away with a sentence, which he does not like. It looks like the symbol of a frequency wave. It looks like a barbed wire. It looks like an attack. But everything soon turns into a solution as Manjunath fixes the loose end of the line to a peg, designed classically.

(Dividing space with lines)

(the peg/hook appears at the other end)

On the right hand side of the first set of steps, yesterday Manjunath had drawn a horizontal line. I watched him with a lot of amusement. Then in a single stroke, he made the suggestion of an elephant standing behind the line. The line soon transformed into an enclosure, a very tight one, which the elephant would have found quite suffocating. “So the elephant told me, I am ready to stay in here only if you provide me with a hole to push my trunk out,” Manjunath flashed a smile at me. Then he drew a hole and took the trunk of the elephant through it. Today, the whole being changes into a surreal image as a headless figure comes out from the back of the elephant as if it was a metal box.

(The Elephant of Espace by Manjunath)

This play between the organic and the inorganic and between myth and reality is what makes Manjunath’s works quite appealing to both the grown ups and children alike. Manya Kamath, Manjunath’s five year old daughter today comes along with him and she is the biggest fan of his works. “I feel a lot of happiness and these drawings are really good,” she comments. Then she takes out her sketchbook and starts her works. Obviously she is not going to help her father by drawing on the walls. But she does help him today, occasionally giving him the softest hugs in the world, loveliest smiles and above all keeping not tampering with the permanent markers.

(Manya Kamath, Manjunath's Daughter with the Magician behind her)

Manisha Gera Baswani dares once again. She drives all the way from Gurgaon, her new haven, with two kids. Now Manya has a happy company. The kids start painting together as Manjunath works on walls and Manish works through her lens.

(We too are artists. The Kids)

The ‘Cloud of Hands’ is now extending, it spreads along the ceiling line. Manisha documents the moments.

(The Cloud of Hands extends.. Manish clicks on)

Then Manjunath proceeds to the middle of the same wall and set of cardboard boxes appear there. Then he extends the shadow on it on the floor with white poster color.

(The Boxes and shadows)

Manjunath had already done an act of fixing yesterday. The Cloud of Hands wall, he felt to be connected to the ‘The Magician’ wall behind. So he draws a screw, which penetrates through wall.

(The Screw)

Today is a playful day. Hence, Manjunath draws the square clouds on the ceiling. Then he jumps down and extends the creeper on to the floor. At the Pillar, he draws a book on the floor in white.

(The foliage grows on to the floor)

(Clouds on the ceiling)

Somewhere, a sort of angst gnaws at the artist’s mind and it needs a way out. Clogged and congested pipes wind themselves into intestinal forms and ends up as bathroom shower appendages. From the mighty god of rains, fitted with a tap at his head, there comes out a pipe and it winds down to the lower ground floor….and lo.. it breaks in the middle and there is a splash.

(Pipes and shower)

(Splash begins)

Today is the day of splash. The way Pollock makes one or Hockney does his act, Manjunath makes it. First, by dripping with the brush, then pouring paint from the landing of the first stairs, then spreading it at his will.

(Making of Splash)

“The pipe has broken and even behind the beautiful buildings, you find such pipes leaking and splashing and jetting water all over. This is the hinder side of beautiful things,” Manjunath tells me. Doesn’t he just speak to me of the working of human minds? Or even about the human beings? Perhaps, Manjunath’s subconscious tells me the same thing.

Another wall waits for the artist’s touch. Finally, Manjunath goes to it and draws a slanting line. Decorative feet emerge from it and it soon becomes a bath tub.

(The Bath tub)

Friends and well wishers come in. Renu Modi gives them company. Children revel in their gleeful acts.

(Renu Modi and Manisha Baswani with a friend)

(Young artists in conversation with Manjunath)

(Gallery Ragini director Nidhi Jain, Rajnish Jain, Manya and Manjunath Kamath)

(JohnyML, Manjunath and film maker and photographer Dinesh)

Art India Magazine’s Delhi correspondent Meera Menezes walks into the gallery and spends time with the artist. Manjunath tells why he is not always for painting on public spaces or private spaces ‘deemed’ to be public. “I always feel that when artists go to the neighborhood and paint on the walls, they go with a missionary and charity mindset. ‘Hey look, we are going to give you some aesthetics. We are going to make you better,’ they seem to say. These days, artists go to villages and paint on walls. They consider that villagers don’t have any art. I don’t like this high-browist approach. I am an artist and that does not give me any authority over anybody else, whether they are urban rich or rural poor. An artist needs to collaborate with his fellow beings and surroundings. Recently, in an interview, I had talked about my intention to go to a village and work with the people there. But, there I am not going to appropriate them into my work, instead, I want to change the rules of the game. I want them to make me their assistant. I accept their mastery and want to assist them in their creative act. You may call it a performance or a conceptual act. But for me it is going to the basics and trying to set the game straight. This project is a very deliberate one though the drawings come out of my sub-conscious mind. I want to operate from within the white cube and say it is possible to make interventions here too. You need not wear the garb of a missionary conceptualist or a philanthropist satisfying people around with the hands downs,” says Manjunath Kamath.

(Meera Menezes of Art India Magazine discussing the project with Manjunath while Manisha clicks on)

Think of it, we have completed four days in a seven days project. Till tomorrow, good bye.



Thanks Johny for the wonderful narration . I felt I was personally present watching Kamath's lovely drawings evolving .

JohnyML said...

Thanks Shivaprasad and