Through the Twilight Zone

REVIEW: Prabhu Harsoor / The Journey through Clarity and Distortion/  Through the Twilight Zone / Sushma Sabnis

Artist Prabhu Harsoor, in his solo show ‘The Journey through Clarity and Distortion’ addresses the conflict between the word and the form as he strikes a rare balance in the twilight zone between abstraction and figuration.. writes Sushma Sabnis

Work by Prabhu Harsoor

It is often seen that for anything to exist, there has to be a play of polar opposites, for in this very opposition lies that key to an innate balance which can be struck for the perfect existence of the two opposing elements. Take the example of day and night, fire and water, good and evil, etc, where the opposites attract and hold themselves in a space which is conducive to the existence of both. Such balances in art are uncommon, especially when two quite opposing styles juxtapose on the pictorial surface. Artist Prabhu Harsoor in his solo titled ‘The Journey through Clarity and Distortion’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery tries to present such a balance in his works.

Work by Prabhu Harsoor

Harsoor is from Tumkur, Karnataka and has been teaching art at the Ravindra Kalaniketan College of Visual Art. His works often come across as ‘abstractions’ and it would be unfair to typecast his works as such. There is a specific figurative element which comes through in the works and along with the precarious juxtapositioning of abstraction though it is not apparent in the works. Harsoor creates textured works, as in the visual can be seen as patterned and spaces of it cordoned off to house a form which leaps out of the work at the viewer. This in itself is a binary depiction, as the two opposing elements which normally are assigned to specific zones on the canvas,  hold their ground and create a kind of equilibrium. 

Work by Prabhu Harsoor

The works from his earlier suite display a conscious engagement with traditional imagery and textual elements culled from scriptures in the Kannada and other languages. Here the works show allusions to line drawings of mythological figures, horoscopes, tantric symbols and yantras, along with the concept of the ‘Beejakshara’ (etymon), which mostly act as textures employed for their forms / shapes rather than anointing specific meaning of their forms to the work. One would find the division of space into two zones, one with the grid like representation of the symbols and etymons and another space which dominates the work with one large form, overlapping at times, occupying the work. This form is often of a seed pod of a tree or a plant as a direct reference to the ‘Beeja’/ seed. In essence this is the conflict zone of the form and the word which represents it. Harsoor deconstructs traditional imageries to create a new reality for these relics of language in a precarious equipoise. 

Work by Prabhu Harsoor

In some of his recent works, Harsoor moves more towards the dissolution of recognisable forms and brings in the gradient of space/ time as an indiscernible stain or an ink blot. Here the textual pattern takes a different turn where the letters seem to be dissolving themselves. The contrast between form and word seems to simmer down a notch and fill the work within a resolute tolerance. These latest works are reminiscent of centuries old religious architectures which have weathered the onslaught of seasons, of politics, of human intervention and of nature’s retaliation. The letters appear identifiable yet like dissipating cloud forms, suggesting how a language ever been created could become extinct over time or mutate into a dialect existing merely as a shell of its original. The meaning, once the unmistakable asset of a word / language, could become distorted, decimating any coherence or genealogy possible. 

Work by Prabhu Harsoor

Prabhu Harsoor’s works are like melting icebergs viewed from space, the patterns changing at the behest of nature’s and human volition, leaving only a distant memory of what once was, a ‘complete’ picture being swiftly relegated to a distant bygone. And yet the visual stands with this salient duality and delicate congruity.

The show ‘The Journey through Clarity and Distortion’ is on till 17th September 2018.

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