Review: Work in Progress – Tulika Ladsariya / Ornella D’souza
Tulika Ladsariya’s solo show of paintings titled ‘Work in Progress’, glorifies the harsh disparity in the dichotomy of societal structure where the fruits of the proletariat’s menial slog are reaped by the advantaged. The exhibition at Jamaat Art Gallery, Mumbai showcased these mixed-media works till October 8th.
While “exploring labour issues, of language and literacy,” Mumbai-bred but now Chicago-based Ladsariya brings forth the irony of how the waged class will never reside in the houses they build, comprehend books they sell or don the clothes they launder. The poorest of the masses rub shoulders with the best of ingredients, and yet derive zero benefit as they are handicapped by lack of knowledge and facilities.
Ladsariya’s colour-washed canvases freeze the plebs in a work-in-progress mode as larger-than-life, super-heroes looming over urban landscapes studded with incomplete skyscrapers; either plastering cement, shovelling, lifting, heaving, pulling, hammering or drilling. They toil in precarious situ – dangling from dizzying heights, perched on scaffolding, lugging mountainous handcarts of books or bricks on their heads. For the viewer to envisage body ache stemming from onerous labour, gruelling schedules and extreme weather, she tears open the flesh of a washerwoman and construction worker to reveal the skeletal frame beneath. Raising the issue of illiteracy among this community, she superimposes Roman and Devangiri typography along the protagonist on canvas; pasting together scripted paper strips, and even covering bricks in gibberish scribbles.
The canvas is given a 3D dose as bricks, rope and even scaffolding are made to protrude by padding up the canvas. Aside the regular-sized canvases are a set of small scale works forming a unique display showcasing the urban landscape through differing seasons and time of the day. On these, the artist create forms like paper edifices, swatches of gauze, metal and carton, and stray buttons, to signify construction paraphernalia. Bricks are sculpted to appear as miniature buildings or building blocks reflecting the supreme ingredient to create a building.
It is treatment of this otherwise banal subject of class-divide in modern India that saves her from assuming an overtly sympathetic gaze of an NRI. But emotions do creep in when some of the works are titled as the name of the featured protagonist. This diverse play of elements coupled with the grim faces of the labourers gives the urban viewer an opportunity to appreciate the mundane. And perhaps view the bigger picture metaphorically, on how life is a work-in-progress of constant learning and unlearning.