Profile : Sachin W Bonde / Feudal Fuel in Fossilized Lands/ Sushma Sabnis
In a world where the human population and its unforgiving dependency on fossil fuel consumption tips the balance of the world’s natural resources, artist and printmaker Sachin W Bonde brings forth a critique which fuels the minds of the viewer, with his drawings, prints and installations..a profile by Sushma Sabnis..
Sachin W Bonde speaks at the speed of neurons buzzing around in Newton’s head, just after the apple found its mark. His ideas tumble out of his mind in speech with the force and pointed directness of a quick witted, observant individual aiming to get to a point in a conversation fast. Artist Sachin W Bonde is a speed racer in art of our times. And he is in a colossal hurry to make his point clear to the world.
His ideas and thoughts behind the works of art are processed after keen observation and adequate grounding. The intricate reticulations of world politics and personal politics may seem like a perplexing jigsaw puzzle to an unaware mind, but to Sachin it is crystal clear. That is what makes his works subtle, satirical and arresting.
Born in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, Sachin is a graduate of the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai with a BFA in Drawing and Painting and MFA in Printmaking. One could see the artist connect the dots of socio-political changes from a village/ town milieu to that of a relentless metro and then transferring to the world at large. This journey of observation and the path that the artist treads upon is quite obvious in his series titled, ‘Oil and Politics’ where he explores the intricate political, social and personal routes that consumption of fossil fuel takes as it changes hands, homes, villages, cities, and countries in the world.
Bringing the attention of the viewer from a world political stance he then traces the route back to the humble village scenario where a beaker of kerosene for the home and hearth uncovers the discriminating hierarchy of corruption and brutality at each step of this ugly war for oil. Indignation crops up and transforms into sarcasm and directed satire at the corrupt practices still prevalent in his village, which ripples across his works on fuel wars.
In a serigraphy work on tin metal sheets titled, ‘Mapping Oil’, the artist puts forth an image of a graph on 64 tin sheets, with gold leaf. The graph depicts the oil production in the United Kingdom from 1975-2012. One could see the rise, dip and fall which depicts the increase in consumption of oil in the world over the last few decades, as opposed to the production of it. Sachin’s work is made with apt wryness and an undercurrent of severity, especially when one observes the etched symbols and imagery on the tin sheets. Camels, elephants trunks, symbols of weapons of mass destruction, oil wells, petrol pump nozzles, fighter-bombers, and markers of dominance like crowns, all show up on the rusting sheets. The rust itself acts as a reminder of the hopeless situation which gets worse as time passes.
When one tries to fathom the reason for such disparity, the paradox of plenty or the resource curse hypothesis sounds plausible as to why a country rich in natural resources is often seen to be economically backward as compared to its less resourceful counterparts. Several reasons contribute to this factor like greed, corruption, mismanagement of natural resources by the government, lack of economic policies etc. This can be seen reflected in Sachin’s work titled, ‘For War’ as he unfolds the apparent drama between two nations, the colonizers (resource seeking)nation and the colonized (resource rich) nation, in the name of progress. The work, an etching on paper, depicts an elephant transporting a cart with an oversized beaker of oil alongside a railroad. The fuel needed to run the railways and charting every inch of resourceful land during the colonial reign is depicted sharply with the beaker covered with a world map showing countries under colonial rule, and enhanced by a man wearing a British flag as a coat, an officer of the Raj. The image is ridden with metaphors of a colonial past and possibly explains the seed of all oil wars. As Nigerian photographer George Osodi’s said, ‘When oil actually becomes a commodity, an incredible visual drama unfolds ..’ as he captured the destruction and decay of the fuel exploited Niger delta in his photography series.
Sachin uses a multitude of motifs to bring to the viewer’s notice the many approaches which he as an artist employs when tackling a complex subject. Motifs placed as metaphoric symbols are replete in the composition, some precisely positioned and some randomly strewn. In some of the works, the artist portrays animals as resources and the metaphor of nature or the living. Camels synonymous with the desert are portrayed in various ways, at times as a holder of numerous nozzles of petrol pumps, at times as stationary motifs on an emblem where two serpentine petrol nozzles entwined, rise from what was once a water fountain. The entwined nozzles vaguely reminds one of Caduceus, the symbol of commerce associated with the Greek god Hermes, though the staff that holds the two serpents together here is represented by a column of dark smoke. In a work titled, ‘Oil-War 1’, the artist depicts a three legged camel on a crutch, a limping economy and its hump replaced by a large chimney emanating sooty smoke. The land has been drilled till every last drop of oil has been extracted creating a smog, which blocks out the satellites and stars alike, creates acid rain, annihilating the crops and agricultural lands. The bottom of the image shows strands of DNA, which are representative of lost species on earth. The image is a dark reminder of many countries who have lost their lands and souls to senseless oil mining.
In the works titled, ‘World Invaded’ and ‘Witnessing a War’, Sachin takes the liberty of mixing up the symbolism and motifs, by drawing a world map which is blank, surrounded by a coat of arms, imprinted with flags of different countries which have fought and continue to fight oil wars. In the background one could find motifs like a crown, a lotus flower, a chakra, a dagger and a conch, as symbols of strength and valour taken from a comic book preaching righteousness in its subliminal imagery. In another work, the Rubik’s cube surfaces, with bullets of various sizes and shapes in each cell of the cube, depicting brute force as a menacing pair of scissors waits to slice the world into a resource-rich-or-not demographic.
In one of his most recent etching works, one can see Sachin take the ‘coat of arms’ metaphor of representation to a different level. ‘Peace Please’, ‘Made for Trade’ ’50 Stars’ are specific works which bring out the balance in composition, and the ironic imbalance in the subject of reference. ‘Peace Please’ an etching on paper, portrays two camels facing away from each other, joined at their humps which transforms into an antique oil lamp. The camels are shown exhaling the dark smoke of reality, where as the symbol of a banned commodity hangs above the lamp. On the left one sees the symbol of peace / an olive branch and on the extreme right one sees the sign of a petrol pump nozzle. The works aims to strike the balance between the decaying and the regenerative forces of nature, the greed for power and money as opposed to the preservation of life.
Sachin also delves into installation works which one could see off and on in his series, ‘Oil and Politics’. The artist chooses to gather various sized kerosene beakers and etch them with maps and flags of countries which are being exploited or are exploiting the environment for oil production. Maps of the middle eastern countries, are etched in gold on these beakers, which are laid out on a wooden platform painted with the flag of the United States of America. The empty beakers seem desolate, spent and abandoned, like the countries they portray on their surfaces. Sachin titles the work, ‘Penguins with golden beaks’, illustrating the rarity and uniqueness of a species, which cannot survive in warmer climates, and yet, the global warming caused by incessant fossil fuel extraction, has turned it into an endangered species, pretty much like the fossil fuel itself which has undergone over exploitation and is now nearly extinct.
When one goes through the works of Sachin W Bonde, one is led to believe that the art works concentrate more on the portrayal of a dismal world on the decline. However, in most of the works, the artist subtly engages in a dialogue with the viewer, urging them to look at the ugly side of how they may have contributed to this large looming smog cloud. The use of fossil fuels created a demand for it, a demand created the mindless extraction and exploitation of the land. In spite of numerous world conventions about environmental issues, the solutions that have been arrived at fail to address or even see the rapid rate of self destruction the world is headed towards. Sachin captures these obvious ironies which are seen in today’s world, and juxtaposes the unanswered questions of the environment with the proposed ineffective, inept solutions arrived at so far by the world’s political milieu.
He hints that one cannot shirk the responsibility of not being a part of this blame game. Sachin believes everyone is responsible for it and hence it is up to everyone to correct it. The works intend to stir the conscience of not just the careless urban dweller, but all of humanity to sit up and take notice of what lies ahead if changes in lifestyle are not made today and now.
Through his works, Sachin drops the hard hitting idiomatic apple ‘personal is political, political is personal’ on the viewer’s head and sets ample neurons buzzing inside a few brains for sure.
Sachin W Bonde lives and works in Mumbai.