Review: Prabhakar Kamble / The Path Less Travelled / Sushma Sabnis
Artist Prabhakar Kamble tries to negotiate his journey through the realms of inner and outer world conflicts, as he transits through landscapes of human insecurities in his solo show ‘Agitation of Restless Mind on at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, observes Sushma Sabnis
When an artist sets out to uncover the differences between his outer world and inner realms, a zone of neutrality is necessarily needed to negotiate and maintain sanity over the emergent conflicts. This is what artist Prabhakar Kamble creates through his solo show, ‘Agitation of Restless Mind’ on at the Jehangir Art Gallery. He creates a neutral space which invites the viewer to correlate or reject as per their inner world sensibilities.
The art works of Prabhakar, be they drawings, paintings or installation works, are culled from that which is completely experiential. For the artist, the interactions with fellow humans and the outcomes of these intense or trivial engagements, formal or informal, themselves become entities of existence and points of contention. So he recognizes these people according to the attitude or social behaviour they display. It gets to a point where people are mere orbs of energy with specific dominating traits, good or bad and they are limited to these one or two characteristics.
He likens such natural tendencies to the comprehensible in human behavior, which can rarely be changed. These ‘orbs’ with attitude, do not represent in actuality the figure or a strict form of a person but are brought to the viewer merely as body parts, eyes, lips, ears, which become the leitmotifs on canvas. Almost like a hologram the behaviour of an individual stands apart from the corporeal body, a distinct ethereal form in the artist’s mind and observations. He portrays them with equal conflicts and contrasts merging on the pictorial surface using neutral colors contrasting with the abrupt and unpredictable shots of bright and hot colours.
Some times a pair of eyes are repeated over and over again on a shaft as if this human form is nothing but a day dreamer, or observer, or even a voyeur. One could interpret it the way they want, but the artist says “ ..these are distorted human figures and faces for me..they look insect like, animal like, as I try to depict their animalistic behaviors, but they are human”. In an almost Kafka-esque twist, one would actually feel the figures resembling mantid heads and roaches torsos after a while. The artist tries to imply that the ‘animalistic’ behaviour is what the humans are embodying now a days, if one would just look around themselves. The senselessness of violence, intolerance and fanaticism is what he subtly addresses through the works.
The irony lies in the fact that ‘wild’ animals are peace loving and more tolerant than today’s ‘highly refined, top-of-the-food chain humans’. While social instincts of groups, herds and families developed in the animals long before human race evolved, the anti-social behaviour that the human kind displays in today’s times is rather misplaced. So when one calls violent human behaviour as ‘animalistic’, it sounds inappropriate. It could be that the traits of extreme violence towards one another and the environment by humankind are genetic mutations or even desperate survival anxieties, but it cannot be justified in Nature today.
The agitation in the artist’s mind surfaces when the expected social behaviour of a person stands at odds with or clashes with the primary instinct of their reaction to a situation. Seldom do these two aspects match in a human being and like a fictitious superhero, who wears a mask to play vigilante at night, while surviving as a timid nobody in society by day, the psychological confrontation of the dual roles played by one being acts as a stimulus to the artist. He portrays these nuances of mental and societal dichotomies in his works. Classified as ‘political correctness’ or ‘accepted social behaviour’, diversity and dissent are swept swiftly under the carpet and voices are stifled or buried under eons of bureaucracies. Some are even silenced by agencies of corruption. One is reminded of the Orwellian phrase, ‘Some animals are more equal than others’.
Prabhakar’s installation works are a direct portrayal of these and many such prevalent dichotomies in society. After having had a long tussle with one such conflict, he chose to galvanize his installations with the one thought that has been on his mind ever since his tryst with bureaucracy and authorities. He creates two wall installation works titled, ‘Sweet Box’ and ‘Greed‘ where rows of coins are placed in the containers, a mithai box and a steel platter respectively, decorated with silver foil. Both the works deal with the unavoidable aspect of currency as the code of corruption and negotiation.
Some of the paintings hold a particular y – shaped formation which the artist believes is the gender representation in his works. He brings in nuances of his village customs and social norms as he paints another work with sacred feminine forms, building the irony within each work. The religious and political exploitation of animals and humans is depicted in most of the works. When the personal becomes political and the political is beyond one’s control, the system acts as a cancerous organism. The rot spreads slowly and steadily hollowing out an entire system, however strong its foundation when it was built. This thought takes the form in the installation, ‘Accumulative’, where the artist places three glass jars of varying sizes, with ‘pickled’ money. The coins are dowsed in fibre, and the metaphor of hoarding/ greed is brought into focus. Saving for a rainy day, be it pickles or money.
Another interesting near opposite take on the subject of hoarding is that of the Uttarand (Marathi) concept titled ‘ ‘Still Practicing’. Here the artist takes inspiration from a specific placement of earthen pots in corners of rural kitchens. The triangular placement is a means of preserving grains or letting vegetables/ fruits ripen. In his installation, Prabhakar places a brain on top of the pots placement as a metaphor of different kinds of thoughts which undergo ripening and distillations to hone the human mind.
In his work titled ‘Suppression’ a small wooden chair with its seat and back rest furnished with the world map acts as a seat of power. On this chair, are placed a few bullets aimed at a tambourine (daphali / halgi). The tambourine represents the people’s voice which is larger in size than the chair which governs its speech.
While the installations are fairly direct in thought and depiction, the artist chooses to play out the game of hide and seek with the viewer as far as his paintings are concerned. The veiled messages in his paintings about the human condition are a stark contrast to the directness in his installation works. This in itself reflects the conflict and restlessness within himself and his fellow humans.
The show ‘ Agitation of Restless Mind’ is on view till 6th June 2016 at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai