REVIEW : TATVA / The Elemental in Art / Sushma Sabnis
Inspired by the five elements in the Universe, the three artists of the show, ‘Tatva’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery, tried to capture the tangible and the ephemeral elements as seen in their surrounding through their art works.. a review of the not so obvious by Sushma Sabnis.
There is an unspoken umbilical link between humanity and the Universe and the five elements it is believed to be composed of, earth, water, air, fire and ether. These elements have spurred on numerous fields of interpretations and manifestations over centuries, be they in science or art or mythology. The five elements have always inspired the poets, writers, musicians and artists either directly or metaphorically. Most of these elements have played an intrinsic part in the composition of the art works thus produced. This concept of the ‘Panchamahabhoota’ (five elements) is what inspired the ongoing show ‘Tatva’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. The show is curated by Dr Manjiri Thakoor and the participating artists are Sunil Ningule, Prakash Gaikwad and Ajay Singh Bhadoriya.
At the onset, one can feel the groundedness of the earth element in the works of artist Sunil Ningule, a graduate with a BFA and MFA in Drawing and Painting from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. The works of Ningule bring out the correlation between spaces, inner and outer, in an attempt to create a contrast between the accessible, shared and the restricted spaces as he sees them in his surroundings. The works rendered in vibrant hues, could be seen as top views of a city and its burgeoning edifices and structures, vying for every little space to be cordoned off into titled, placarded zones. Buildings, roads, cityscapes and landscapes take a different form in the works as they seem to overlap at times, daring to break through and invade barriers, physical or mental, political or social or private. These could be actual barriers, or metaphorical barriers, and the artist leaves it to the imaginative devices of the viewers to discern for themselves.
Moving from the zones of in/accessibility to the plains of open curiosity are the works of Prakash Gaikwad, a BFA / MFA graduate in Drawing and Painting from Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai. Gaikwad seeks answers through his heavily layered works. His paintings have a quality of being dense in the way the paint is layered as well as the way the motifs are arranged on the pictorial plane. The motifs are forms, either various encountered visuals from memory, or imaginations which conjure them up. These are reminiscent of native Indian motifs and aboriginal art forms, however they may have no connection to such origins. There appears to be a kind of frantic search which manifests in Gaikwad’s works on canvas as well as goat skin works. The imagery comprises of ancient symbols quite liberally used along with textual forms. Tree of life, sacred feminine, sacred geometry, face of time and sun worship are some of the themes which leap out at the viewer from the works. The All-seeing-eye representing the human gaze or the scrutinising gaze of Divinity also makes its presence shown in all the works. The works present a blend of elements which seem to adhere to the basic concept of the show.
From a medley of elements, one moves to a contrast of elements in the ceramic works by artist Ajay Singh Bhadoriya. Bhadoriya has a BFA in Ceramics from Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai and a MFA in Ceramics from Viswa Bharati University, Santiniketan. One is drawn to the way the wall based ceramic sculptures have been hand moulded and then baked to give specific rustic texture to the work. Also one notices the apparent contrast in the medium of depiction, earth, and the imagery depicted, which is windows and doors. The entrances and outlets of structures are symbols of the air element and the light / fire element. The artist brings in these three elements in these works subconsciously pitching them as intrinsic and representational. To add to the textures, the artist chooses to styles small bricks and wooden latticed doorways for emphasising the earth element. The works could be read as standing on the edge of a space which borders the unexplored realm, thus building up a question in the minds of the viewer. This could be read as a metaphor for addressing the unknown in one’s life as they stand at crossroads, equipped merely with their sensorial / elemental apparatus to decipher the unseen.
‘Tatva’ tries to give new dimensions to a much explored subject of five elements and brings to some extent newer perspectives by way of the artworks on display. The artists’ works attempt, in some cases, a direct approach to the concept of elements while a more metaphorical approach could have unraveled the mystical nuances of this myriad subject. This could be a possible evolutionary path in the art practices the artists employ in the future with deeper and more robust addressal and interpretations. One looks forward to it.
(Images Courtesy the Artists and Facebook)