(Freedom is Away when the Greedy One Tempting Us- by PK Sadanandan)
First of all let me thank all those artists who acknowledged my call for an online show on the Independence Day of India. It was too short a notice for any exhibition. Had it been informed to the Guinness Book of World Records, this online exhibition would have been registered as the quickest online shows ever. But this absolutely does not matter when it comes to my practice. Out of the people who acknowledged the call in the facebook only six artists responded with their works and I am extremely thankful to them. Out of the six four are from Kerala (my home state), one is from Vijayawada (Andhra- therefore technically South India) and one is from West Bengal. The call was given out on the eve of the Independence Day and definitely it was not a good evening to sit and do some work, especially to respond a curatorial idea of ‘Freedom’. I understand that the thin response not as a discarding of my idea but as the constraints of the artists themselves. Artists are not people who could be prodded to do art. But there are artists who are spontaneous to respond. Now let me present the works of those artists who have sent their works to me.
‘Freedom is Away When the Greedy One is Tempting Us’ is the title of the small painting by P.K.Sadanandan who has been creating mural style paintings for over three decades. The painting done out of natural pigments on canvas, contains a symbolic yet poignant moment. In an open yet confined space we see an oppressor and the oppressed facing the viewers as if they were from a museum display. The oppressed, a farmer seems to be strangely happy in his ‘bonded’ state. What I would like to see here is the relationship between the State and the Subject/ the Market and the Consumer/the Dominant Ideology and the Blind Follower. The word ‘temping’ in the title functions here as a key to the work, which despite all the possibilities of shaking off the chains, often the human beings are ‘tempted’ by the chains. Stating of the obvious in an exaggerated fashion could be a call of provocation to wake up and ‘turn your light’ not for the raining is falling but revolution is calling. P.K.Sadanandan had done a very large mural in the last Kochi Muziris Biennale depicting the life and times of Kerala.
(Work by Palash Paul)
Palash Paul is an artist from 24 Parganas District, West Bengal. Though I have not been able to see many of the works by this artist, the present work that I have with me (as an image) is done on a sheet of paper which has the word ‘FREEDOM’ printed out in reverse. The word is interpolated by a single black ink stroke that goes up towards the right top corner and ends in a small flower like formation which I would like to call as the signature dots than a flower. What makes the work intriguing is the artist double denial of the idea of freedom. First of all he ‘reverses’ the word; the reversal itself connotes the reversal of everything that is connected to freedom in India. The inking over it, a sort of vandalizing seems to be a response of a helpless citizen in this country (of any country) who stands before this lofty idea of freedom but with no devices to exercise it. The work is at once graffiti-esque and calligraphic. The ink stroke somehow turns out to be a signature, showing the artist’s optimism to go forward and high. And with a sigh he signs off with the dots at the end of the line.
(Work by Shaji Appukkuttan)
Shaji Appukkuttan is an artist who has been searching for the spiritual manifestation of the world where the saintly beings lead the way for the existential ones. Shaji, despite all his spiritual trips appears to me more as an existential artist and in the present untitled drawing he presents an esoteric world view that combines all his ideas about existence and human transcendence. Freedom, for Shaji is something to be attained personally, not as a collective activity even if he is ready to be a part of the crowd that cries freedom. Here in the drawing we see a mythical tortoise carrying a triangular world on which the ‘yogi’ (definitely not the UP kind) rests, doing a strenuous posture without any strain. Perhaps, in this context, I would read it as a work that tells us the strain of the world which drains the idea of human freedom for money and power and how the saintly figures doing the balancing act for all. This is also a cryptic symbolic representation of the idea of freedom that does not have anything to do with the apparent material world.
(Freedom of Co-existence by Shivkumar Kappala)
Shivkumar Kappala from Vijayawada titles his work, ‘Freedom of Co-existence’; it is a simple feeling and an aspiration too. The work is romantic, innocent and a bit naive too. What we see is a man looking at a parrot that has just come down near his face without fear. Both the man and the bird are not in shackles. They communicate silently through eyes. However, this is a moment of reconciliation with the human and the animal world/nature, which could be collapsed at any time. The idea of co-existence could be collapsed when the avarice of human beings gets stronger than his compassion. This mutual gaze is romantic at that the same time evoking the flimsiness of the moment. The bird/parrot, which is often portrayed as a bird in captivity is free now, but for how long we do not know. The artist seems to mean only good to the world hence I restrain myself from reading too many meanings into it.
(Work by Balucharan)
Balucharan from Trivandrum has presented an untitled work that in a way presents the origin myth. In the garden of God, Eden, the paradise everyone was happy. The primal man and woman were happy in their freedom. Everyone co-existence; the lion and deer drank from the same pool. None knew what cruelty was. This looks like a wonderful photo opportunity for all of them before a God who has just come there with camera. Everyone faces the artist/god/photographer. This is the romantic idea of the artist about a world of freedom. Everyone is happy in his/her place. But as we know the ‘after story’ which has been told in many different ways, there would be a ‘sin’ that would bring in all the human follies including the subjection of man by man, woman by man and nature by both man and woman. Hence, this is a group portrait before war.
(Freed(O)2m b y Narayanan Mohanan)
Narayanan Mohanan is a Kochi based graphic artist and has an experience in the advertising field. And his work shows it. As a graphic artist and visual communicator he picks one of the most poignant episodes from the recent political realities of the country and gives it a visual representation. The title of the work is ‘Freed(o)2m’. It is freedom with the ‘O’ representing oxygen. The reference is to the recent ‘gas tragedy’ in Gorakhpur where around 71 children died due to the oxygen supply failure. The national colour and its strength dissolve the way the bodies of the suffering people in India, the colours forming an ‘O’ and the Ashoka Chakra taking the shape of 2. The cry for Oxygen and the possible asphyxiation due to the lack of it is connected to Freedom and the lack of it by the artist. Also, using this minimal expression, the artist says that the country has been reduced to a ‘0’ by taking away the oxygen/freedom of people.
There could be a question of the quality of the works presented here. Their quality could be adjudged only on comparison and I have not made any attempt to compare these works with any other work of art or aesthetic model currently existing. They are treated as they are given to me. And I find that is the most truthful way of doing it because these artists have shown their sincerity and faith in their works. Perhaps, in another context, in comparison with many other works dealing with the same theme, these works may not be discussed in detail by the viewers. But I leave that to the viewers. In the meanwhile, I wish all the best to these artists and to all those artists who celebrate India’s freedom today.