REVIEW: Contemporary Trajectories / Contemporaneity and The Artist / Sushma Sabnis
The Nine Fish Gallery at Byculla, Mumbai opens to a new show ‘Contemporary Trajectories’ which explores the various realignments of styles and visual aesthetics in contemporary art practices by four artists from the country.. writes Sushma Sabnis
The New Great Eastern property in the busy suburb of Byculla is hidden away in plain sight behind opaque fences and one least expects it to conceal sprawling spaces within. The Nine Fish Gallery is located within this space, far from Mumbai’s Art District. Remodelled from old textile mills, the gallery is now showing ‘Contemporary Trajectories’ which opened on 16th February 2018 and is presented by the art initiative, Dot Line Space as one of their ongoing art events after its art camps organized last year.
As the title ‘Contemporary Trajectories’ suggests the show looks at various levels of aesthetic and artistic engagements using contemporary lexicons, employing an array of art practices which when mapped under one canopy, do appear to be specific trajectories or routes taken by the artists to put forth or at times even illustrate their respective thought processes. The artists are referred to as ‘mid career’ in the concept note, and it is fair enough as the four participating artists in the show Braj Mohan Arya, Rahul Mukherjee, Shardul Kadam and Shilpa Nikam all seem to have arrived at their respective visual languages after intense explorations in their oeuvres. Here the ‘mid career’ refers less to their age and more to their continued engagement in their art practices.
Artist Braj Mohan Arya’s work comes from the unusual explorations of boundaries between figuration and abstraction. When one looks closely, the style of Arya’s work is typically figurative yet the thoughts he wishes to bring to the viewer are exclusively abstract. In some of his works, he portrays the simple gatherings of people in society. The changes seem not too drastic and in his works splinters of post modernism break away into the new contemporary visual forms. The colour palette adheres to the post moderns yet the application of paint is contemporary. The constant battle between known imagery and attempts to re-form new imageries seems apparent in Arya’s works. This could be the an artist’s honest attempt at discarding the relentless visual bombardment in a globalised world that he inhabits, and a quest to find a pure and simplistic representation for his thoughts.
Taking the concept of expressing abstract thought through a lexicon which adheres to figuration, artist Rahul Mukherjee binds a unique, private – public dialogue about space, its limitations, physical and mental, exploring through the understanding of it in different ways. His works, paintings as well as small wood installations are representative of these interesting oscillations between a private dialogue one has with themselves about how we see ‘our own space’ and how we occupy and relate to that space outside of us. These diverse, politically charged dialogues become the basis of his art works especially in the paintings, where he uses food as the limiting or liberating factor to demarcate spaces, while in his installations he takes it one step further to make specific shapes, which could be reminiscent of objects which occupy a historical space, literally or metaphorically. The space is an abstract entity and Mukherjee brings in his figurative tool kit to explain his art processes and their results.
Artist Shardul Kadam may seem to have a very direct approach to his thoughts which go beyond merely exploring a human face through portraitures. However simplistic his renditions of people in different situations the deeper thought which one often glosses over is the intensity with which he depicts the faces. In the work titled ‘Soldier’ and ‘Philosopher’ one feels the hypnotic almost questioning gaze of the protagonist upon us. The painting stares back and seems to defy the onlooker’s gaze. This technique was seen in Renaissance paintings where the gaze of the protagonist in the painting was kept directly on the viewer, unlike in pre-renaissance paintings the gaze often remained demure and averted from the viewer, giving a sense of submissiveness of the protagonist, also hinting that the viewer is the owner of the objectified protagonist. While Kadam’s work employs the elements of decorative patterns which he uses as a background in most of his works, he ensures that the background plays a silent fertile field for observation of the out-standing face portrayed. The abstraction that Kadam builds in his very definitive portraitures is the premise of these portraits itself. Who are they by themselves and who are they to the artist? These questions remain a mystery.
Amongst all the other artists in this show is an artist who chooses almost intuitively to adhere to an absolutely non-figurative mode of expression. Artist Shilpa Nikam, brings to the show an open and direct addressal of her explorations using the abstract vocabulary. From a seemingly simplistic rendition of the abstract alphabet to a more complex and intense work, Nikam brings out the clear flamboyance of abstraction in her own personal abstract style. She uses agencies of texture, space demarcations, pauses, paints and ruptures within the work to portray the depth of those ambiguous, inexpressible thoughts which occupy her mental and physical realms. When one does look at some of the works on canvas, one is reminded vaguely, of a harbour scene or shipping boats at sea; here the artist does not shy away from the education of landscape painting she derives from her student life, which still plays the role of a potent stimulus in her works, off and on. So one arrives at the conclusion that this artist and her works differ from the others in the show as she expresses the abstract thoughts in the abstract lexicon, while others choose the glossary of figuration to express an abstract thought.
What the show, ‘Contemporary Trajectories’ has revealed quite simply to the viewer is a glimpse into the inner workings of a contemporary artist’s thought process and art practice. The way they respond to today’s world, their space in the world, their understanding and endurance of it, which is aptly judged in the dissimilarity of the artistic expressions offered. This show among others to follow moves in the direction of giving hope for the future, in terms of addressal and art historical documentation of the contemporary art practices prevalent in the country at this time. A must see show.
The show is on view till 4th March 2018 at Nine Fish Gallery, Mumbai