REVIEW: Time ..little Time / Lester and Glower Paul / The Clock Ticking on Humankind / Sushma Sabnis
In the recently concluded two persons show ’Time.. little time’, artists Lester Paul and Glower Paul bring to light the true visage of the conflict zone of contemporary society, while time passes by as a silent witness over this looming battle ground… observes Sushma Sabnis
Each day as we look at our television screens or browse through our social media addictions, we encounter the degradation of the ‘cultured’ human being under the ruse of politics, religion, economics or just plain vendetta. Add to it natural disasters and calamities and we have a full blown ‘animal’ in fight or flight mode, primal in its responses, ready to attack any thing for survival. The fall from grace of the human-animal keeps getting worse each day and one wonders if this fall would ever stop. While scientists reiterate the elaborate theories of evolution of cultured homo sapiens from wild animals, one can see the brutal regression from that supposedly evolved ‘intelligent and compassionate human’ deteriorating in the world each day.
What happens when the animal within the human surfaces breaking all masks and skins of culture and sophistry? When under tremendous pressures of external or internal forces, could one see the reemergence of the primal animal in a cultured society? What happens to those intense and sensitive moments of a human lifecycle which shape the very psyche of the society? The answers lie embedded in the highly evocative and intense works of the two artists, brothers, Glower and Lester Paul, whose recently concluded show at the Jehangir art gallery, Mumbai, dared to reveal to humanity a glimpse of the extent of its own degeneration.
Glower has a MFA from Hyderabad Central University (SN School) whereas Lester has a MFA from Mysore University. While both of them believe that their works today are a distant departure from their art education in the colleges, each of them has different issues which they address and depict in their intensely polemic works. Lester, the elder of the two focuses on the concept of the passage of time, and in his multimedia works, he brings about vivid relief elements and textures to depict the thought. Using his own children and family members as muses and models, he depicts the stages of human life, loss of innocence, anxieties of parents, memories embedded within, which are brought out in distinct instances from his own past, a subtle and sometimes direct look at the world as he sees it today, devoid of innocence and compassion. His works are composed with found objects collected from his surroundings, like scrap metal from railway train yards, as his father used to work in the railways, this connection comes forth as a revisiting of his childhood. He lays out the pieces of rusting metal, wood, etc to form the elaborate embossed effects on his canvas. One will find railway tracks, a ship at sea, a church from childhood, a coal engine puffing away at a distance in a landscape, in which he places a plastic doll as a projected presence of the self and a reminder of the childhood.
In one of his other work, a child is shown lying in a boat, floating aimlessly in water. The boat relief in this work is exquisitely carried out and what one sees is the effort taken to bring to the viewer a 3 D imagery from a 2D plane. Lester paints children in his works, the various stages of their childhood, with specific motifs of the passage of time, and the specific indications of the flow of life/ time, which is portrayed in most of his works as a flowing water body. Here he quietly brings out his concern for the future of his own children and those that will inherit the world.
In one or two rather experimentative works, he depicts the picture of a woman standing strong and alone, while a video of a foetus is seen in her abdominal area projected through an opening on the pictorial surface. In another work with a similar technique, he portrays his daughter sitting in a train compartment surrounded with motifs of a comfortable yet uncertain life ahead, while the window of the compartment is shown open to a moving video projection. The other window remains closed as a reminder of the degradation of life if it stagnates. These two works are poignant in the thought process yet the visual blend of two separate mediums, video and painting would probably need a little more tweaking to rise upto the aesthetics of the other works by the artist.
In his most subtle work, Lester portrays the front of a coal engine, moving towards the viewer but the railway tracks seems jumbled up. In today’s times, this work holds fort as it depicts the unpredictability of life and living. It also hints at the abrupt end of things, thoughts, beliefs, loyalties and the irrefutable presence of the one reality of life, death. This work could be seen as merely a physical manifestation of the artist’s childhood reminiscence, or it could be taken as the one truth that governs everything, the inevitable. Without sounding morose or gloomy, the work also talks about the importance of the time spent living well and to the best that life could be.
In contrast to Lester’s works, Glower’s works are more paper based, as he currently uses drawing, painting and cutout techniques in his multilayered works apart from his earlier acrylics on display. Also one would notice the scale of these paper works is much reduced as compared to other works on display. This means that the viewer is automatically drawn in closer to the art work to experience and see the work in its entirety. In the works, the viewer’s eye is drawn inwards into the work, where as in Lester’s work, the relief rises out, above the plane of the canvas. Both of these techniques attempt to portray depth in the works, however, Glower’s work lack the tactility as that of Lester’s canvases. The paper cut out and drawings embedded in the box frames, create a sense of depth, of being drawn into the work and this is the success of this technique.
The topics which Glower focuses upon in his works reflect a sensitive and subtle approach to the dominating issues in society today and he chooses to engage his family members as muses in creating his works. While addressing these distressing issues plaguing the society, he brings about a personal almost autobiographical portrayals in works. The works which appear intimately personal become openly public upon reflection. This, one could see as the success of the works on display.
In one of the most poignant work, the viewer comes face to face with a tiger’s head split down the middle, as a woman’s face emerges from within it. Unlike in visuals of women’s empowerment in various religions and in general where the goddesses like Durga are often seen riding a tiger, here the tiger is shown as a cloak/ skin of the woman emerging from within. The artist addresses the disparities and injustices faced by women in society today based on any basis, forcing them to don the cloak of fierceness to conceal a sensitive feminine soul. While the majestic stance of the Durga or any Goddess is revered by all on one hand, it is this very duality ridden society which shackles, humiliates and degrades women under the garb of patriarchy. This dichotomy is what the artist depicts in this work.
In another work on similar lines and techniques, the artist brings out his own internal conflicts in a diptych like composition. One work has a human head, split down the middle where an unruly untamed bull wields its horns to break free from the chains of sophistication, whereas the other work depicts the bull head splitting open to unravel a human being struggling to break free from the restraints and bonds of conformity. Be they societal pressures or the burden of political correctness, or something as debilitating as existential angst, and the weight of expectations and uncertainty, this work portrays the inner struggle of the artist, which is seen mirrored in the entire world today.
In another interesting work, Glower creates portraits of animals, and leaves one place with a reflective mirror for the viewer to look into and see themselves reflected. Here the play of the prey and predator comes into picture. All the animals, irrespective of their eating habits, herbivores or carnivores, the artist seems to hint that the human is the most hazardous predator with little or no regard for any other life form. This thought gets reflected as a critique on the society in his work where he depicts sheep and wolves jointly walking down the meadow. The acceptance of the wolf / threat to the self, seems to suggest that today, in our society, people choose to be able to identify wolves among the sheep yet are cowardly enough to fight back or even warn the flock. This could be seen as the blind eyed callous approach of various governing authorities towards hate crimes and human genocide across the globe today.
The works of Lester and Glower Paul bring to light the fact that the internal and external conflicts are no longer restricted to one section of society or world. This show is a visage of the entire earth as a conflict zone, over everything from environmental resources, to a place in the world, equal human rights, to the absolute denial of the natural order of things, and the decimation of balance. The works bring the personal in the political and political in the personal to light and try to evoke a response from the viewer.