Tuesday, March 5, 2013

‘Zonal Properties’: A New Arrival in a Future Museum

(Zonal Properties by Sukesan Kanka)

In my studio, there is a new resident: a painting by Sukesan Kanka. As you know, I share K.S.Radhakrishnan’s own studio. Whoever visited this studio at Chattarpur Pahari in South Delhi, has gone back with fond memories of that visit. One could see a few hallmark sculptures of K.S.R here and in the first floor I sit in a beautifully lit space. Here I am in the process of making an archive of Indian Contemporary Art. Also, silently I build a collection of works by young artists who are willing to part with one of their works as a token of their love for me. I have never asked a work for myself from any artists. But over a period of time I happened to have a few works as my collection; a collection constituted mostly by works that had been presented in some of the shows curated by me a decade back. Still I don’t call it a collection. As I have certain very kind hearted friends like KSR and Anubhav Nath, I have never faced a problem to keep these works. So if you ask me whether my art collection is worth reckoning, I would say, it is not yet. But metaphorically speaking, my collection is very rich. Whether my artist friends like it or not, I have a firm belief that one work of any artist whom I know or who have interacted with me at least once belongs to me. I could walk into their studios and collect them at any time. It is a belief. So far nobody has challenged it so I feel that it is a very positive belief. And I am sure if my efforts bear fruits in future the museum that I would set up with the absolute voluntary contributions of the artists, will be the biggest art museum in India. Besides, the archive of eclectic art history books, literature, catalogues, monographs, brochures and invitations, at some point would open a different world of scholastic engagement in art during our times. So welcome to an unnamed archive and museum. You are free to contribute to it. Don’t ever think that your spring cleaning is going to add value to this archive or museum. Contribute what you value in your life; books or works.

(Sukesan Kanka)

Sukesan Kanka is a Delhi based artist. After his studies at Trissur Fine Arts College, Kerala, he worked under the noted sculptor, Valsan Koorma Kolleri. The apprenticeship helped him immensely not only in fine tuning his skills and knowledge but also in understanding the Art World. Born in a family of goldsmiths craft comes naturally to Sukesan. He could make minute sculptures in precious metals as his school time training was in making intricate ornaments. He could make large scale sculptures as he got training under the noted sculptor, Kolleri. But Sukesan chose a different world; a world of drawings and paintings. It was not a boom time decision. During our art market boom years (2006-2008), even the academically trained sculptors turned into painting as two dimensional works were much in demand. Interestingly, many who had been two dimensional works became artists of three dimensional works. It was the irony of our boom years. Everyone was doing everything and Sukesan was not doing anything of that sort. He was silently assisting Kolleri to create large scale sculptures in Laterite stones and copper wires. But Sukesan did not let his interest for art history, drawing and painting die. He kept on studying art history and kept on making drawings and paintings.

When Sukesan gifts me a framed drawing titled, ‘Zonal Properties’ and sees it placed on the wall opposite my chair, in way he pays rich tributes to a space from where he had started his Delhi life almost three years back. Towards the end of boom years, Sukesan came to Delhi. Bengali artists and Malayali artists generally do not miss KSR and me when they come first time in Delhi. First three months of Sukesan’s Delhi life was spent in Chattarpur Studio; a time he still considers as a period of intense learning. Within three months he found his own space, a teaching job, a partner and a small little studio. Sounds like he had a cakewalk in Delhi? Then you are mistaken. He had learnt it in the hard way. Relentless egoless meetings with artists, gallerists, curators, critics and other art world players opened certain doors for him. And he did not wait for his art to pay for his life. He found a dignified life by working in a school; a conscious decision made for not falling into the traps of an illusionary world created by market success gained by some artists during the boom years. Every day he works in his studio after the school hours, and Saturdays and Sundays are for absolute studio practice.


One cannot see a work of art coming out of Sukesan’s studio without reference to art history or general cultural history. He diligently follows art house and classical films, master artists from history and the biographies of world political leaders and scientists. One may even think that Sukesan’s works are the expressions of a creative artist who frantically tries to locate himself in changing times. The ethereal and hellish creatures come up in his works, begetting sins and more bizarre creatures, evidence a period of faithlessness. The images are the emblematic of a time that has been in transition for quite some time without culminating into a resolution. Though the materialistic world challenges Sukesan considerably and shakes up his belief patterns, there is a core in him that remains unshaken that helps him to articulate his visions and concerns through ironic and sympathetic images.

(A Still from Hawks and Sparrows)

‘Zonal Properties’ has a reference to Pasolini’s ‘Hawks and Sparrows’. The constant search of promise or a promised land takes two people to different experiences. A crow accompanies these two people. They are evicted from each place that they visit. Finally, even the crow lays claim of a place finally they decide to settle. By underlining man’s avarice and his inability to stand criticism and philosophy, they kill the crow and eat it. The film is about the displaced people; a displacement in time, space and experiences. Sukesan has experienced the essence of displacement and non-belonging-ness even if one wants to belong, in various ways during his sojourns in various cities and the final settlement in Delhi. Unlike most of the artists who have dealt with the same issue in Delhi or in any other metros in India, instead of referring to the physical manifestations of displacement, growth of suburbs, flyovers, rapid transport systems and so on, Sukesan makes an internal journey and captures those scenes, symbols and metaphors from films or art history. In this drawing, it is a scene from Pasolini’s movie.

There may be a lot of art historical references coming to your mind; from Millet to Van Gogh, from the Barbizon School Painters to the Post-Impressionists. Sukesan is indebted to this art history in a very ardent way. I do not consider that it is necessary for an artist to delve so deeply into art history to create his own works. It is also not necessary that an artist always refers to an existing visual text/code for establishing a new visual language. But when one does it with pure passion and diligence, a sense of purpose which cannot be challenged by any other external forces, we need to take such pursuance into grave consideration. Sukesan Kanka becomes an artist to look forward to in the coming years is mainly because of his pure passion for his works that are created with an absolute sense of erudition.

(Balbir Krishan)

Before I close, I should acknowledge the works that adore my studio/archive/future museum space. What you once you enter is a Sunya Buddha by KSR. It is a Gandhara Buddha head devoid of hagiographic details. Done in Bronze, KSR calls it Soonya Buddha. Balbir Krishan has kindly given me a small painting which shows two male nudes in his typical style. The third work I have displayed is a Chintan Upadhyay sculpture, which is a foot and half in size with golden skin. It shows a typical smart alec baby of Chintan but with an obscured head and hands sprouting from its groin. Somu Desai has given a series of portraits of friends done in Ammonia Prints. Though I have not displayed here, I have a Manisha Gera Baswani photograph with the image of A.Ramachandran standing in front of the plaster cast of his sculpture. I do not want to remember those works that had been gifted to me by artists but lost in a sense as I changed locations in due course of time. But I do remember those works of Shekharbaran Karmakar and Surendrapal Joshi. I am sure one day those works will come back to me. 

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