Review: Living in Urgent times / Urgent/ Sushma Sabnis
As urbanites pursue their dreams while being completely rooted in the reality of their surroundings, nine Mumbai based artists spell out their perceptions and observations of their artistic urban lives in a show titled ’URGENT’, curated by Sanjeev Sonpimpare at the Art & Soul gallery. Sushma Sabnis reviews..
We live in an era where individual dissenting voices are silenced and imagination is questioned into oblivion, where the definitions of ‘new’ is so short-lived that the old gets dismissed as obsolete. An urgent rethinking inspired nine artists from Mumbai to come together to address their concerns canopied under one theme of a contemporary urban existence.
Curated by artist Sanjeev Sonpimpare, the show titled ‘Urgent’ opened at Gallery Art & Soul, Mumbai on 1st October. The nine participating artists are, Ajinkya Atmaram Patil, Amarjeet Makkad Obhan, Daljeet Kaur Sehera, Lalit Patil, Nandu Dhurandhar, Raj More, Roul Hemanta, Sanjay Nikam and Tathi Premchand.
As the curatorial note outlines the various aspects of this show, it raises some pertinent questions as to what exactly could one call an ‘urban existence’. More over, what influences does an urban environment have on the artistic mind and how does it effect the art practice and expression.
“..Specificity has become the urgency and “Universal truth” has lost the meaning and importance and so has world dominance..” the curator reiterates.
The show addresses the awkward conflict between the role of globalization which covertly homogenizes the world blotting out the unique, yet at the same time substitutes it with an incessant need for a ‘new and improved’ version to maintain a supremacy of a ‘changeable specificity’. The urgency of living a fast life and keeping up with the every changing version of the ‘new’ is what the show aims to address along with the loss of the vision to even fathom the blurring bigger picture in question.
One could be gently reminded of Picasso’s cubist works when one regards the work of artist Ajinkya Atmaram Patil. An old man sits on a chair calculating his next move on a degenerating chess board. The chess pieces mutate into nuts and bolts which are a metaphor of the old man’s resilience to keep the game of life from falling apart. The work speaks volumes of the ageing citizens in a society and their lost dreams which like the original chess pieces in the work, have withered away to the point where the game itself seems pointless.
The chess theme resurfaces in artist Amarjeet Makkad Obhan’s installation work, where she addresses the ill effects of alcohol abuse plaguing the society, irrespective of social strata. In her fibre bottles, she embeds the pieces of chess, place holders for social class, propped up on metal wires, implying that the intoxication caused by the drink could effect anyone at any rung of society, dissolving all levels of hierarchy. This work also hints at the ruptures and cuts in the fine social fabric when one section of society, drunk on ‘power’, oppresses the rest of the society.
Taking the intoxication theme ahead, artist Daljeet Kaur Sehera’s video work portrays her disdain and objection to the projected roles of women in television serials. The addictive, stereotypical bombardment of the female protagonists, adversely influences the viewers and creates the chasm between reality and virtuality. The artist’s work is a strong polemic against the cliches and the unnecessary burden that women carry guided by these subliminal social conditionings through television serial stories.
Artist Roul Hemanta too tells a story deriving a reference from the Mahabharata. His work titled ‘Bheeshma Sarsaya’ depicts the urban individual’s condition to the core. A silhouette of a man is shown lying on a barbed wire fence surrounded by walls and asbestos / cement sheets covered completely with posters, graffiti, flyers of political campaigns, advertisements, slogans, religious paper bills and torn papers. The silent noise of the ongoing war for supremacy in this urban Kurukshetra on canvas is unavoidable and impacts the viewer as it does the prostrated silhouette. This work in all its loudness, silences the viewer.
The silenced viewers are brought out of their urbane reverie soon as a large hopeful Hanuman towers over them carrying the entire country of the United States across the canvas leaving a Superman dumbfounded. On the other side, an enormous Spiderman tears open his heart cavity to reveal Hanuman through his bleeding torso. Artist Raj More brings verve to his canvas through the humungous art works of his favourite deity, Hanuman. Raised in a village, Hanuman was the only superhero says the artist, but the definitions changed as he moved to the city space where Spiderman and Superman were transported to our shores on swift winds of globalization. However, the artist still believes that the true essence of strength is in his favourite Hanuman. Through both these works, the artist conjoins the elements of memory, culture, links between rural, urban and global, migration, religion and belief systems all together with an effective glue of strength.
Talking of strength the unique blend of installation and sculpture works by artist Lalit Patil reflect his familiarity and interactions with the blacksmiths and proletarians near his studio has given a distinct edge to his works. Lalit Patil creates assemblages of differently cut and shaped scrap metal in four square displays titled, ‘Evolution, luck, death, life’ and his other works are titled, ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Complexity’. All the works have been rendered in metal scrap pieces, welded together to evoke distinct responses of their depictions. While ‘Evolution’ addresses the changes in a human life for survival, ‘Resurrection’ depicts the brass figurine of Mahatma Gandhi rising from a shackled enclosure, denoting the emergence of truth beyond all restraints. ‘Complexity’ portrayed in a checkered layout of metal castings, which appear jumbled and inseparable on one side, while the other side is lodged with religious and war symbols. This sharp work focuses on the complexities which plague the world and its populace under the dogmas of religious intolerance.
The responses to riots which happen in the name of religious beliefs, are captured by the watchful eye of photographer Nandu Dhurandhar. He explains that for a perfect capture, one need not wait for a moment to happen but live in preparation of the anticipated happening. This very urban attitude of ‘living in anticipation of something’ is reflected in his works titled, ‘Sequel story’ a series of photographs of an ongoing riot by a mob, juxtaposed with another single image, ‘Reaction’ of three women watching it happen from a balcony, aghast. One woman urgently speaks on the phone recounting the incident as it happens. This happening and witnessing of the happening is a sharp critique on an urban life.
Artist Sanjay Nikam brings to his canvas the dominance of digital media in day to day living. He brings out the importance of the public as a witness, a subconsciously archiving entity who is subjected to all that happens in their surroundings. Social interactions, community building, advertising, religious propaganda, media and mob tendencies are all varying levels of today’s reactions where at one level the society insists on virtual connectivity and at another level, digitalization sidelines real conversation. The technology which connects individuals from different countries, also ends up distancing them from those close. The minds that create life saving medicines, also destroy lives using weapons of mass destruction. The artist throws light on this growing schism within the developed urban spaces.
Talking of space, artist Tathi Premchand merges symbols of folk lore and superstitious beliefs prevalent in every civilization, to bring forth a series of drawings titled, ‘Ghost of Star’. The geometric, pen, pencil and charcoal drawings on graph paper, trace the build up of thoughts as perceived by the artist. Simple geometric proliferating forms grow in size and explode on to the paper randomly forming nebulous star bursts. The artist talks about folklore and stories he has heard in his childhood about the dead becoming stars in the sky. He links these stars/people and one could discern that the artist hints at the communities and families inhabiting outer space. Through these networking ancestral star bursts, Tathi Premchand correlates the existences of the living on earth.
The show ‘Urgent’ takes a quick look at what the artists of a metropolitan city are observant of today. It would be seen that some align their works on historical and mythological grooves, while some in folklore, stories and fables. Others take a good hard look at the ambient surrounding, derive and draw parallels to tell their own urgent stories of today’s unsung heroes. The show brings out an insightful smorgasbord of perceptions and dynamic expressions by artists today and it is worth taking note of, urgently.
The show is on view till 21st October 2015.