Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flies Travel from Library to Lights. But Scholars Don’t- Manjunath Kamath. Day Five.

(A thoughtful Manjunath Kamath on the Fifth Day of Conscious-Sub-Conscious Project)

Some people visit Manjunath Kamath’s ongoing project or project in progress and process, ‘Conscious-sub-Conscious’ again and again. I notice this man Arun Thomas, a marketing executive from an agricultural products export company, from the first day onwards. He comes in the gallery, looks at the works in progress, puts a few questions to the artist, ruminates on the aesthetics and talks about the possible financial angles.

Today, Mr.Thomas is very keen to know about the first image that Manjunath has made in the morning. Once the artist comes inside the gallery, a little bit weathered by a running cold, he sees a vacant wall in the ground floor. He picks up his permanent marker and draws a dark spot on the top right end of the wall. From there juts out a decorative holder. You follow Manjunath’s hand movements and soon from the holder a bunch of bananas emerges, a full and ripe one, with its bud fixed on to the wall with a metal strap.

(Discreet Charm of Banana Bunch)

Museum of simple desires; of memories, of a local sight in South India where the shops hang full bunches of banana from strings, unlike in the North Indian regions where banana is sold in severed clusters. Here, Manjunath has created an idol/icon of a banana bunch and its discreet charm.

(It looks so)

“Why is it fixed with a metal strap?” asks an enthusiastic Mr.Thomas. “Oh…today morning someone sent me an Onam greetings via text messaging. Onam is an agriculture festival. Perhaps, when I entered the gallery, this message was somewhere in my mind and the banana bunch must be a response to that greeting,” Manjunath smiles. Also he asks why Mr.Thomas visited the gallery several times.

Mr.Thomas (surprisingly not a Keralite) takes out a little drawing pad from his bag and shows it to Manjunath. It has a few portraits done using traditional stump method. He uses charcoal and pencil to do these portraits. “In my leisure time, I make portraits. One day, I think, I can make my career as a portrait artist,” Mr.Thomas says. Manjunath appreciates his portraits and with a promise to come back again, Mr.Thomas leaves the gallery.

(Arun Thomas speaking to JohnyML)

(Manjunath appreciating a portrait work of Mr.Thomas)

CNN-IBN camera team has two young men. They too have been camping in the gallery ever since the project began. They want to capture action. But Manjunath, totally unaware of the camera people, does not basically respond to their wishes. But they wait, they have all the patience in the world.

(CNN-IBN Cameraman recording Manjunath at work)

Then he moves on to masked figure wall. There, Manjunath adds a few surreal figures; all of them hiding ultimate forms of violence in their innocent masks. I see it as a carnival of hidden terror.

(New Images are added in the masked group)

There is a natural rumor going through the air. If you listen carefully, then you will hear. There is dengue fever in Delhi. People are felled by viruses. We need to be careful. So many of us wear surgical masks and we resemble the mask figures in Manjunath’s works.

Taking rest is the last thing for this artist. He touches up the lower part of the Pillar, which has now become a table, stack of boxes and books.

(A Few more books for the specialists)

Then he runs to add a killer’s mask with a jingling bell at the top to the head of the funny man coming out of the elephant’s back.

(A Hangman's mask appears on the elephant man)

The major transformation of the day happens in the image of the ‘Water God’. Manjunath starts from the ‘Splash’. He adds a few strokes so that the illusion of a leaking pipe is established. Then he works through the hands and face of the God. Finally here it is. This god must be a God of Plumbers. It controls the water. Manjunath does not want to be irreverent to any gods. But he can laugh and dance with a god who can laugh and dance. Hence, he laughs with this Buddha like Shiva or Shiva like Buddha (reminding Thankha paintings) with a possible dripping of Ganga (Ganges) from the tap fitted at the dreadlocks made out of pipes.

(Transformation of Water God)

The masterpiece of the day takes shape when Manjunath touches a wall next to the corridor in the first floor. A door appears, a man is pushed into a bathroom sized room and is strapped with a belt from the door to the wall. His fingers are stuck between the hinges. Any possible effort to ease himself out of the situation would cause him pain.

(The beginning of the Bathroom Man)

With bated breath all of us including the gallery staff and a group of Fine Arts students from Jamia Millia Islamia watch Manjunath working on it. One wrong decision could spoil the work. For us it is a life and death situation. But for the artist, it looks like a child’s play.

(They really want to learn...Art students from Jamia Millia Islamia watching Manjunath at Work)

“Don’t we push things inside one room when someone comes to visit?” asks Manjunath. Yes, we all do that and we push anything unsavory under the carpet- our relentless survival techniques.

(And this is how the Bathroom Man looks like finally)

Manjunath moves on to another wall adjacent to the banana bunch. He draws huge candelabra, fitted with rollers as in a hospital trolley. From the lit candle a fly travels across space and reaches to a funny scholar sitting on a divan with his royal boots on reading under lights fitted on his head and making speech bubbles in protected shell. Manjunath’s ultimate take on an academic’s distance from the real light of awareness; what a fly could achieve, the bookish scholar never could.

(Making of Between the Light and Scholar)

Friends and artists come in to see Manjunath in action. Amrita Varma of Japa Arts comes in with her smile and camera. She chats up with the artist and me. Then comes Vibha Galhotra, an artist based in Delhi. Artists Mukesh Sharma and Birendra Pani give company to Manjunath. Rajashree Biswal, Asst.Editor of Art Fair magazine comes in to watch the artist working.

(Vibha Galhotra, Mukesh Sharma, Amrita Varma and Birendra Pani)

(Birendra Pani and Rajashree Biswal)

(JohnyML and Amrita Varma)

It was a great day. Throughout the day, I was remembering ‘Man from Vasad with Five Penises Suffering from a Running Nose’ by Bhupen Khakkar. But Manjunath is alright in all sense.


LotusEater said...

Hi J

Fascinating to see the work being done at the gallery. Thanks for bringing it to all of us who can't visit in person. The pics and the writings does justice to the exceptional work by MK


JohnyML said...

Hi Lotus Eater...

Thank you very much...