Anil Thambai paints. In his paintings flora, fauna and art history take newer shapes. Heady concoction of images, right? Anil used to bring images from the technological world to the world of vegetables. Those were not surreal works because they were real to the hilt, till he shifted to hardcore art historical images. Like Lilliputians, the images created by world class masters move around in his canvases.
(the Factory at Luhari Village)
What does Anil Thambai do when he is not given any canvases or colors? What does he perceive in nature and the interpolations in nature? Can he come up with something that would correspond to his existing ideas and trigger a few new things? At Sandarbh,
, things seem to have worked out well for Anil. Luhari Village
(The beginning of Factory Outlet)
Across the road that winds into the innards of a backward village there stands a huge factory that produces more smoke and sound than any identifiable products. And behind it there is a vast stretch of land undulating and disappearing into a valley from where occasionally girls and boys pop up with curious eyes and doubtful smiles.
(Painting the pillars)
This land has a boundary wall that runs several meters along the road side and then takes a right turn towards the valley. The boundary wall however is no longer a boundary wall. The pillars remain and the walls have become holes. The angry villagers have pilfered bricks from it. Or the holes in the walls tell you about their anger against the new occupants?
(Anil at Work)
Anil says the latter is the case. He speaks to the people out there and they tell him that the land belongs to them. But the multinational corporation came in a few years back, showed them wads of currency and got the land away from them on throw away prices. That is the history of civilization ever. People wear strange clothes, strange languages and strange weapons come in and take away your land and other possessions. When it is done by foreigners we call it colonialism or imperialism. And what do we call when it is done by our own people?
(Slowly they transform)
There are no ‘our’ people today. We have only ‘our’ interests. There is a clear divide between us and them. So Anil looks at those skeletons that remain out of the walls. The series of pillars vanishes into the valley from where the girls come and look at you. Are they real or apparitions?
Anil makes out that the pillars are for real. They have divided the land into our and their. He looks at the pillars and something triggers in him. He decides to paint them black and white alternatively. Then suddenly someone steps in from nowhere. He is obviously not from the village. His attire shows that he is right from an office. He represents the corporation there. Anil tells him that he is not here for encroaching the encroached land. He is here to do some art.
(from one of the angles)
The man looks at him with suspicion and asks whether his art is going to be permanent or temporary. Anil tells him that is only a temporary work. Relieved, the man goes back. And Anil continues his painting the pillars black and white. Slowly, the pillars start looking like the lines of a barcode.
(A panoramic view of Factory Outlet)
Yes, that is what Anil wants to make. He wants to make a barcode out of it. Then he cuts digits out of cardboard sheets and paints them black and white alternatively. To suggest a barcode he pastes these numbers on each pillar. Now the barcode is ready. Against the setting sun and the rising sun, the barcode stands there reminding you of a sale deed.
(Anil Thambai with his work)
Anil Thambai calls it ‘Factory Outlet’. Literally and metaphorically it is a factory outlet. The land is in the backyard of an existing factory. And it is an outlet. Factory outlet is the showrooms where the wares are sold in cheaper rates. Here ironically, the land is taken away from the people of the village on cheaper prices. An irreparable damage has been done. To underline this, the pillars now converted like barcodes by Anil stand tall.
(Anil Thambai and JohnyML at the site)
It is impermanent. In the coming days, the apparitions from the valleys are going to take away the digits cut out from the cardboard sheets. The cows are going to rub their bodies against the pillars. The boys are going to urinate under each pillar with a vengeance. The village elders are going to look at these pillars with some sort of nostalgia. Anil’s alteration of these pillars into a barcode might not affect them. But it could affect those people who come from the cities to do picnic here and litter up the place with cultural waste. They understand barcodes. They understand Bar Codes too. Silvaasa is a place where there is no liquor duty.
(Another panoramic view)
The black white stripes remind you of Robert Motherwells’ stripes. Do they? Not exactly. This is the jogging of a historian/critic’s imagination. But the black and white obviously stand for certain things. According to Anil Thambai, the black and white show the racial difference between the powerless and the powerful. It shows the good and bad in the social parlance. It also shows the exchanges of black and white money in the market as well as in the land deeds.
‘Factory Outlet’ is one of the most successful works by Anil created at the Sandarbh Nature Art Workshop. And interestingly, this is the first site specific work by Anil Thambai. When he leaves
, Anil says, he is inspired, ‘inspired to do more site specific works.’ Luhari Village
Let us wish him all the best.