REVIEW : A PO10TIAL for Art / Sushma Sabnis
While the struggle to stay afloat in a stormy art market dims the hopes of many a brilliant artists, there are a few who shine like a lighthouse and illuminate the path for most others on the verge of giving up hope. A group of ten artists, Po10tial, shows how to keep the faith.. observes Sushma Sabnis
The sky looks distressed, the rain on the land of promises, Mumbai, seems to come in spurts like an intermittent cough by choked clouds. Much like the looming clouds hanging over the harsh recession-sobered art scene. The human mind is built very peculiarly. In times of great distress, the mind- body synergy compensates and maintains its balance beautifully to function, often exhibiting an extraordinarily creative and resolute response. Irrespective of the distress being physical or mental, the mind and body become alert and respond with complete clarity and precision. One could say that the optimal potential of an individual mind-body unit is tested to the hilt.
A similar situation has provoked a response from ‘Po10tial’ – a group of ten artists who exhibit annually at various cities in the country. This year the theme chosen was ‘Black and White’ and the works and the transformation of the gallery space of Artist’s Center on Rampart Row, Kala Ghoda is worthy of mention.
The theme has been explored by each artist at multiple levels of understanding; some very personal and some public and political. The interesting note of observation would be that none of the artists have deviated from the strict requirement of ‘black’ and ‘white’ in their works, yet, the eclectic expressions on display more than make up for the much awaited rainbow in the dull overcast skies of the art market.
One would be drawn to the friendly demeanor of the artists and that would put the viewer at ease instantly. Artist Annaraya Hangargi, from Gulbarga brings a set of acrylic on paper works which transport the viewer to a childhood memory of school. The luminescence of education is subtly brought out in the style of naive art, as the works seem to bring out the child in everyone. The works depict slates which have been written on by the artist. The stark contrast of the dark grey slate, adorned with beads for abacus in some, show some letters of the Kannada alphabet while some depict drawings as if made by children. When asked about the work, the artist smiles and talks about his affinity to the two shades of black and white, also in his opinion colours soften the stark truth that black and white represent. For Annaraya, black and white is an absolute truth and he chooses to portray it in through an innocence of a child’s mind.
For some black and white stands for presence of vision and lack of it, as in the works of artist Maushmi Ganguly, on paper, which are displayed along with an audio playing in a dark enclosure. Maushmi brings together two disparate mediums to put forth her black and white aesthetic. She spent time with visually challenged people as part of her work, recording their reliance on auditory signals and stimuli. Hence the audio captures the ambient sounds which stand in place for visual narratives for a visually challenged person. While the portraits depict the faces of the people she interacted with, the audio work stands out for its simplicity and its intense implications of black and white. Maushmi addresses the sensorial aspects of black and white in her works.
The works of artist Akhilesh Kumar comprise of a set of watercolour on paper drawings and an installation in wood. Alternating black and white stripes, the artist takes the viewer on a journey of the mundane, such as a visual of a zebra crossing and transcends to the level of a naturality. When asked what black and white means to him, the artist states examples of nature, day and night, good and bad, light and shade, earth and space emphasizing the all -encompassing magnanimity of Nature. Akhilesh also believes in the defining quality of black and white, while contrastingly he portrays the untamable movement of nature. His works stands out for the transition of a single thought through two disparate mediums.
From the untamable essence of nature to the constant exploitation of Nature by humankind, artist Kuldip Karegaonkar strikes a sombre note in his deciphering of black and white. The artist in his quiet demeanor explains his perspective of the struggle for survival by cotton farmers in his home town. For Kuldip, the colours black and white denote an essence of beginning and end of things. As for farmers, the sowing season indicates a wait for the black clouds of prosperity to shower themselves on the stark dry white of the land, the white of the perfect cotton flower set against the dark soil, the loss of hope as the clouds refuse to shower the land ushering in a period of famine and hopelessness, is depicted in these works. Kuldip entwines the element of poetry into the works and gives textures to some of the works with the Marathi alphabet. When seen from afar these letters appear like dried up cottons saplings on the parched hopes of the suicidal famers. The works stand strong as a polemic to those unfortunate deaths and to victims of political greed.
The work of reticent artist Mallikarjun Katke, from Gulbarga urges the viewer to distend their level of imaginative thinking. What if there were switches to turn positivity and negativity on and off? The work on display comprises of a wall mounted pair of switches, created using precisely cut stretched canvases. One of the switch is black in colour with a white background and the other is white with a black background. The artist has turned the white switch ‘On’, indicating that it would be the best state for the human mind to be in. Be it in human behaviour or thinking, the stark polarity of black and white is depicted in this sharp work. The work also stands in for the sudden switching of human emotions in light of total personal gain.
Artist Sandesh Khule’s perception of black and white also captures the numerous grey tones in the lives of his muses. Sandesh creates abstract depictions of women’s issues. The artist marvels at the multitude of strength that women exhibit in times of peace and strife and through mundane existence. While they play many radiant roles, they aim to colour the lives of their loved ones while themselves living in shadowed silhouetted existences. The abstract oil and acrylic on canvas works of Sandesh bring the attention of the viewer to the textural nuances, where he chooses to radiate the lines of black, white and grey outward as a metaphor of the sun or star; the selfless celestial body.
The darkness of black takes this artist on a journey within, shutting out the white light of the outside world. Bringing a layered perspective of black and white to the viewer through his abstract works on paper, artist Santosh Rathod tries to glean the multiple layered human consciousness. The works are assemblages and acrylic on paper hiding a sense of a veiled unknown. The viewer is left wondering what lies behind the transparent, opaque and translucent layers, what emotion and connections follow suit the fragmented elements in the works. The artist sows in the viewer’s mind a seed of self-reflection.
The show also displays works of Goa based artist N Kanhaiya, which bring to the fore the concept of a loss. He juxtaposes a few ordinary human figures who have their faces covered by some kind of a cloak or mask. The very fact that the viewer is not privy to the face or eyes of the protagonist and vice versa, depicts the loss of the most important thing for human survival – communication. The work is textured in the background with numbers and symbols which portray the breakdown of language. The black and white of this artist’s works lie in an absenteeism and blinding out of the viewer and the figures in the images, hence a loss.
Artist Sukant Panigrahy uses the unleashed flow of paint to create near abstract fantastical imagery. Only on keen observation one could find the faces and figures in states of unison. The artist opens up the canvas and works for the viewer to decipher as they want. The works display a sensuality and freedom of movement in the application of colours and forms. The black and white of cosmic creation and celestial presences leap out of the works.
The show also displays the works of photographer, Mrityunjay Kumar. The photography works are is black and white adhering to the theme of the show. The works on display portray the black and white lives of the urban dweller, where freedom and captivity contrast in each frame. The narrowing alley with light at the other end, the setting sun sealing the silhouettes of hopeful humans, urban edifices and a heart drawn in the sands of time, a man sitting atop a tall building above whom two flying birds circle, mocking him, are some of the works from this series. The artist seems to try to bring the brief moments of peace in an urban life in his captures.
The show ‘Po10tial’ works on the strong premise of artists helping each other out through rough times. In times such as these when other artists sell their souls to the devil for much less, these few brave warriors uphold not just the quality of their art, but serve as a beacon for the rest to follow and emulate. Definitely worth a watch.
The show is on till 18th July at the Artists Center, Mumbai.