Profile : Santosh Rathod / The Anatomy of Colour / Sushma Sabnis
Artist Santosh Rathod faces the harsh reflection of incongruence and believes that it is only a fleeting mirage which could be laid to rest by firstly addressing internal conflicts..writes Sushma Sabnis
We live in volatile times, in a world torn by an inability to cope with ideologies unlike ours. While expression of ourselves typecasts us into categories which adhere to certain ideologies, groups and coteries, this conflict runs much deeper and is not as superficial. However, there is a much deeper core within, which stands as a pure witness of this spectacle of incongruence and is left unsettled.
The life of artist Santosh Rathod is often spent in silent negotiations of such conflicts. Like everyone else, Santosh is subjected to various crossroads brought about by the situations in his immediate surrounding, and the repercussions of such surroundings on his inner core. His imprinted core translates his concerns about his day to day life and his art. One can glean the conflicts and its responses from the array of delicate and robust manifestations embedded within his art work.
When one uses the word conflict, it need not necessarily be seen as an outside-of-the-self phenomenon. Conflicts could be internal, for instance, in the case of Santosh, the earlier works display sharp figurations and these in the recent works give way to absolute abstractions. One wonders when this transition happened and why.
“I found my self being limited by form and figure. Figuration is something I learnt at college and I was very comfortable with it, until I began addressing situations and thoughts which cannot be ‘figurated’, that which can be symbolized as something but is not the ‘thing’. This created a huge conflict in my mind about my art practice itself and led me to a subdued figuration mode of art practice” he explains.
While abstraction is not non-figuration, the artist focuses on a soft accommodative style for expressing himself. In his earlier works, the figuration stands out as an indication of the control over the line. The forms, often anatomical in nature, display a dexterity of interpretations and possibilities. However, in his own words, “they lack some essence which is so intangible and ethereal that figuration can never grasp, but which is clearly articulated in my mind”. Such an admittance to an intense duel within himself is a commendable thing especially in a world where unspoken wars are waged against something as abstract as a ‘sentiment’ giving rise to a plethora of symbols, symbolizations and other branding paraphernalia which is used more to assert and annihilate than to acknowledge and accept.
In some of the earlier works of the artist, he paints imageries which are more symbolic of fantastical realms and idealism which may or may not align to absolute reality, but in his mindscape there are optimistic views which get annunciated in the art works. In a work titled ‘Family’ he portrays a few butterflies in the visual sharing a few moments of ‘light’ depicted by a few bright yellow spots, this probably is an image of his own experiences of childhood where the moments of light have become imprinted on the psyche of the artist. Similar light spots can be seen in his portraiture of a lady titled ‘Krishney’.
Two works which are opposite in visual depictions and oddly at the same time work on similar thought, are the images of an anchor, which is the object of focus placed centrally in the visual, and another painting which depicts a winged human form, flying away to the horizon. While these two depictions at first glance contradict each other with the thought of anchoring to a ground and flying off the ground into the open sky, respectively, they bring into focus two very sensitive aspects of the artist’s addressal. An anchor stops the directionless, drifting movement of a vessel in an open sea without imprisoning it, whereas wings depict the lifting off the ground, firstly to get a perspective of the bigger picture and secondly as a movement which breaks open any barriers of restricting oneself to a ground. While the anchor plays the role of a skill at something, the wings are the imagination that the skill flies upon. Both these metaphors embody a subtle lesson in moderation, while a ship or vessel is not built to remain in a harbour, the wings cannot fly for ever without tiring and returning to ground to rest. This lesson of moderation and knowing one’s limits, in times of rampant social, political, economical battles is brought about in the most sensitive ways in Santosh’s works.
In some of his other figurative works, he questions the identity of who he is, where he portrays an accidental death of a person, while several human presences witness it detached and unaffected by the spectacle. The artist questions himself; is he the detached spectator or the performer of death? He subtly questions his stance as a human being on the retaliatory squirmishes which happen in any locality fraught with communal tensions.
As his works move from figuration towards abstraction, one becomes aware of some form of obscuring of strict lines and values, void spaces get created and divided with a single element of form which dominates the work as a whole. This colour demarcation seems to be a mental one as well as a physical one, as the artist steps into the realm of textures and colour fields even as he places on foot firmly in figuration. Later works like ‘Sword’, ‘Dream for another flat’, ‘Totyar’ portray a semi abstract style addressing symbols and emblems of war, human desire, greed and terror.
In his fairly recent series of works, the artist seems to be a bit withdrawn about giving his perspective about the world, to the world itself. This could probably be because of the surroundings that he lives in and his own experiences of moving from figuration to abstraction. For the artist the whole picture is always the preferred perspective, but not every one would be blessed with such intuitive vision. While regarding colour as a language of expressing his intangible thoughts into a visual, Santosh often encounters the ignorance and apathy of the viewer. Undeterred the artist continues adhering to the truth of his core. As he walks along his own hometown, he witnesses colour used and misused in a variety of ways and what he concludes is that every colour has been forcefully claimed by some outfit or the other. Be they of corporate, political or religious nature, the claim outdoes the essence of these silenced, organic pigments which do have a voice of their own.
This brings Santosh to the basis of his current ongoing series where colour plays the protagonist and each association and interpretation of it becomes the layering and texturizing of these vast colour fields. The works deal with terrorism, a misplaced ego issue which lost control and direction and continues to feed off innocent and greedy simultaneously. His works depict the 9/11 massacre, the innumerable wars over oil/ natural resources, and land acquisitions in the most poignant way. In these works, Santosh elevates the humble colour pigment from being a tool used in art making to that of an irreplaceable, vital organ which redefines the anatomy of art itself.
Santosh Rathod in his works depicts the addressals of conflict zones outside and believes they are merely projected mirages of the state of the inside of humankind. If one would find the courage to calm their internal conflict zones, the world would automatically reflect tolerance and harmony.