Monday, May 22, 2017

The Male Fruit by Sajeesh Pallikkara P A

The Male Fruit by Sajeesh Pallikkara P A

May be only a few people in the North know about a bold act of a girl in Trivandrum, Kerala who bobbitised her tormentor a few days back. The molester is a self-styled god man who surprisingly got her mother's support in the heinous act to which she too has been a willing partner as reports say. The girl after severing the rapist's organ with a kitchen knife went to the police and informed them about the injured god man lying in her place. The girl gained not only public support but also the administrative support as the chief minister himself came forward to support her. The god man has been remanded in hospital itself. Trolls and memes are active in the social media. Above all there is debate going on whether one could take up law in hands or not. The first artistic response has come from Sajeesh PA, this year's national award winning artist. He paints a banana bunch where the fruits turn into male organs. The severed stem drips of blood. This visual critique of the artist is on the collective chauvinism of the highly literate Kerala where women irrespective of age are objectified and vandalised. The apparent obscenity reflects the apparent obscenity of the society. A befitting work of art from Kerala that needs a strong soul search regarding gender sensitivity. The irony is that this is the same society that comes out with innovative protests like 'kiss of love'. The latest news is the the state government has employed fifteen transgenders in the Kochi Metro Rail. Sajeesh' work deserves applause and appreciation.

Philosophy as art @NGMA, New Delhi

Work by Korean artist  Kim Ho-Suk at NGMA Delhi.

The NGMA, New Delhi has something new to offer, a solo exhibition of the South Korean ink artist, Kim Ho-Suk. Titled 'Hiding Inside the Light' this show comes as a part of cultural diplomacy exchange between the two Republics, India and South Korea. Sixty year old Ho-Suk is a contemporary artist who follows a traditional style; ink on Hanji paper. These large scale works, hung without frames could be categorised into three: individuals, lifeand death. Minimally done, the portraits of individuals both known and unknown assume mythical qualities in Ho-Suk's visualising. Life and death are interchangeable in this artist; one starts when the other ends. The cyclical continuity of life and death in Korean philosophical tradition stands close to the Indian philosophical outlook. Considering the Buddhist-Hindu proliferation in the South East Asia in general had originated from India, this artist's works don't look unfamiliar at all. The Oriental depth and silence are palpable. Ho-Suk likes fish, cockroach, bees, ants and many other insignificant beings as his pictorial subjects, underlining his advaita. Many a title strangely resembles Hirst's notorious title 'the impossibility of death in the mind of someone living.' It is heartening to see that South Korea respects artists doing traditional works while creating adequate environments for contemporary art. India can take a few tips on this from South Korea. Show continues for a month. Catch it if you can and more importantly if you want.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Saint of Fertility

Work by artist KT Mathai 

As MathaiMathai Kt has not told me anything about this exquisite painting done as a part of the LKA camp recently held in Derhadun, let me call it 'the Fertility Saint'. Done in acrylic on 4'x5' canvas, this is one of the twin paintings about the other I would write later. Reminding the viewer of the Rajput miniature traditions and also the famous Abhisarika Nayika painting/s, this has two central figures: a Sufi like Saint and a tree with buds about to be burst into blossoms. This Saint figure started appearing in Mathai's works after his Clown series and He is a stand in presence for all saints who are dead, living and yet to be born. The cloud is at once a reality and metaphor; it reflects the tonsured hill, together making an hour glass image to represent our losing time. The artist reminds us of the early atrocities done by us against the earth, which was a predominant theme in his works earlier. But there is hope. Pink of the saintly garb shows the femininity and fertility. Lo! Wherever he has passed is now budding to hues and life. The grey of the future would turn colourful as the Saint walks into it. Mathai resonates kumaranasan: do not be inert in meditation. Come, we need more like your here for this earth.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Amma of Ratheesh

Work by Ratheesh T

Mother's Day is gone. Still we are not alone. How it could be? Sang Michael Jackson. Ratheesh T ArtRatheesh likes MJ and knows how to dance like him. In the Facebook I see this work by Ratheesh. Titled 'Amma' this work is done in 2016 and was exhibited in Mirchandani Gallery. This work is multilayered in meaning and autobiographical. Here is a kitchen with a sophisticated chimney, stove and shelves. Ratheesh cooks and serves his mother. There is fish curry, Avial and brown rice. Look at their feet. They have not worn sandals. They remain rooted despite all facilities. Look at the mother; she is dwarfish and impish. She looks like a raw goddess. Did you say savage deity? Ratheesh's facial hairs are styled showing his modernity. But his bare body shows the non-detached nature in him. Haven't you noticed that they left the crockery safe in the shelf and eat from coarse plates? Is modernity just an external demand and in reality it's just a burden to be happily put away in shelves? Ratheesh paints life in its stark appearances but you see when reality is depicted with passion it appears as a dream; fictional. That's why of late Ratheesh paints dreamscapes too so that they look real for the viewers. Ratheesh has polished his language over a decade. His 'Amma' is a work that would last in history.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Letters to Namdeo Dhasal: Taste of Protest Poetry by Chandramohan S

The book, 'Letters to Namdeo Dhasal' by Chandramohan S

Poetry moves and absolute poetry moves absolutely, if we go by Bacon’s style of saying it. What if poetry is created to fuel a movement? That should be a different kind of poetry. Poets separate themselves from the generic fields of poetic utterances in order to write ‘separate/Dalit’ poetry. In such locations poetry is a mutual process; it is created for a niche audience by (a) niche poet. Appreciation of such poetry can happen only in a zone of mutual agreement or mutual critique. Poetry written in this fashion writes off the poetry created elsewhere away from this niche. Can Dalit poetry survive on its own within and without its own genre? While the question remains so, there is an inescapability of ‘Dalitness’ in any poetry created out of a Dalit experience. That’s mostly expressed through the language of utterance. Chandramohan S is a poet who calls himself a ‘Dalit Poet’. His second collection of poems titled ‘Letters to Namdeo Dhasal’ released in Delhi stands proof to his Dalit aesthetics. Why he writes poems? Chandramohan answers: ‘I write poems-People have the right to bear arms’ (Write Poetry). Language and the caste ‘hymens’ are his major concerns as he knows language is hijacked for ideological purposes. ‘The adjectives were abandoned/suffixes and prefixes scrambled/Vowels lynched and hung upside down/epithets beheaded’ (Occupied Language). He proudly says: “This poem is not pimple free/is printed on rough paper.’ (Plus Size Poem). There is an urgency to evoke, there is an anger to protest and there is sarcasm to irritate in his poems. I wonder what makes him a poet, his Dalit experience or his poetic ability? Or are they inseparable? If so can the absence of one cancel out the other? The book is published by Desirepaths, Baroda (Venkataraman Divakar). Price: Rs.150/- A good collection of thought provoking poems.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cats of 99 Lives: Celebrating Cats by Sudhakaran Edakandy

You must be drastically a ‘contemporary’ artist if you have not attempted a ‘cat’ image in your works of art at least once. When artists move from the homo-centric aesthetics to the eco-centric one insignificant beings start appearing in their works. An artist’s greatness and his universal perspective could be measured from the depiction of flora and fauna in his works. Kerala based artist, Sudhakaran Edakandy paints a series devoted to many lives of cats and is currently exhibited at the Lalitha Kala Academy Galleries in Kozhikode. Titled ‘Cats of 99 Lives’ this exhibition features fifty watercolours and three sculptures. Cats are philosophical beings and are great survivors. Their playfulness gives way to some kind of existential seriousness as they grow up. In their detachment they are like ‘Bhishma’ and in their focus they are like ‘Arjuna’. They feature in several comic strips and animation films also. Sudhakaran takes all these aspects into his painterly concerns and has captured the earthly and the other worldly characters of cats. Cats expressing Nava Rasas, a watercolour, is one of the highlights of this exhibition. Sudhakaran’s show is an interesting tribute to our neighbourhood heroes (heroines too) on the roof tops and boundary walls. Also this exhibition indirectly pays rich tribute to the great pictorial traditions like the Kalighat Paintings and the ones created by Ram Kinkar Baij and K.G.Subramanyan. The exhibition continues till 28th May 2017.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Story of Misfortunes: An Effective Installation

Work by Ranjeet Singh
Delivery enabling Oxytocin, a hormonal injection becomes a growth enhancing catalyst in several backward parts of India. To procure girls for sex work, in such places, girls are injected with, mostly with the consent of their parents, this hormone for three to four years. By the time they reach their teens they will have the physical growth of young women in their twenties. Then they are trafficked by the agents to the red streets in urban places. Ranjeet Singh ‘showcases’ this issue in a minimal installation titled ‘A Story of Misfortunes’ by presenting the photographs of some of these girls (with their permission and knowledge) in glass jars along with the vials of Oxytocin and syringes. Ranjeet underlines the pathos by placing one gourd/vegetable which is also injected with the same hormone by profit prone farmers. Born in Jharkhand, Ranjeet obtained MFA from the Banaras Hindu University. He has been painting and documenting the lives of the slum children for five years. Currently Ranjeet has devoted his creative energies to artistically represent the life and times of the coals, coal mine works and the drastic environmental and health issues that the mining has caused in his native state. ‘The Black Earth’ was his recent solo show at the Dhoomimal Gallery in Delhi. A version of the featured installation was also exhibited in the ‘It’s Big’ show by the Po10tial Group curated by me in the CKP Galleries, Bengaluru in 2016. Ranjeet Singh lives and works in Delhi.

NGMA Show - Itihaas

Show Itihaas at NGMA Delhi

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA New Delhi) celebrates its 63rd foundation day with a sculpture show. The show is already a month old. Twenty two artists are dusted out of the NGMA Collection and are exhibited in a very innovative way. From D.P.Roy Chowdhury to Sankho Chowdhury, from Ram Kinker Baij to Kanai Kunhiraman you have known and less known artists spread out inside and outside of the old building. The exhibition also reiterates that before 'Gupta' period in Indian art there was a mixed period of modernism here.The invisible curatorial intervention is palpable in the display where the packing crates are used both as pedestals and backdrop. This warehouse look of the show makes an oblique connection between the two existences of a work of art; one, before the people, two, far away from their eyes, in the stores. The experimental display, however at times clutters the view. Deliberate dimming of lights also fails at some places. The title of the show 'Itihaas' is apt for the word connotes not only 'history' but also 'the way it happened'. The wall texts tell us that the catalogue writer should not write poem on the show and display there; very naive indeed. NGMA has now a functional cafe. The blasting air-conditioner is a welcoming respite. But the cafe-man tells me that I am the only visitor since morning. Why don't you make the cafe your meeting place, artists? Now the visiting time too has been raised to 7 pm. Itihaas is a must watch exhibition.

The Art of Baiju Neendoor

Work by Artist Baiju Neendoor
Baiju Neendoor is a Qatar based Indian artist. He took Diploma in Painting from the Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara in 1991. In his paintings he portrays the futility of violence using an Expressionistic visual language. This particular untitled painting done in acrylic in a 5’x 6’ canvas is one of the latest works by the artist in which he responds (or I interpret) to the current phenomenon of serial rapes and gang rapes in India in general and Kerala in particular. The famous Ardhanareeswara concept is deconstructed as if the male and female principles were two layers of entities within the same body rather than a fused being that respects both the sides and does not discriminate. This de-layered being is standing right in the middle of a forked path that runs into a city in the background, represented minimally by the artist. The male entity seems to have all the control as he holds the threads but a closer look would reveal that he is now simply reduced into a tragic figure in a very precarious situation as his male organ is being pulled by the female entity by her left hand in the right hand she holds a pair of scissors. 

The tragedy of the man however does not evoke any sympathy in the viewer for s/he understands that he is the maker of his own fate. This act of a possible de-membering reminds one of the infamous case of Bobbitising happened in the US in 1993. Lorena Bobbit had cut off the male organ of her abusive husband using a kitchen knife. Here Baiju Neendur expresses his angst against the ‘rape’ incidents by empowering the rebelling female entity in the traditional half man-half woman concept. He further ridicules the male by making him hold a polythene carry bag in his left hand to ‘preserve’ his maleness if the menacing act of his female self takes place. I found this work immensely interesting.