The Complete Picture

REVIEW:  Being Not Incomplete / Vishakha Apte / The Complete Picture / Sushma Sabnis

Artist Vishakha Apte’s solo ‘Being Not Incomplete’ brings her art practice nearly into a full circle in a manner of the mediums she has explored over years and in the glimpses of deeply personal narratives embedded which address the concepts of being ‘complete’ through her works… writes Sushma Sabnis

Work by Vishakha Apte

It is a rare occurrence that one finds congruence between an image portrayed in the work of art and the actual thought which went into making of it consciously or subconsciously. There is a very fuzzy line which determines a good work of art and a ‘compromised ’ one. Works of art could be easily classified by the style or medium employed but these are mere devices like magnifying lenses to look at a work. Just as a human being could be perceived in multiple levels of interpretations, so is a work of art. Each art work thus comes with its specific portals of entry and obviously in figuration these alcoves are often easy to locate. Once located, the narratives spin or spill thereon depending upon the work and its intrinsic speech and the inherent understanding of the viewer. 

Work by Vishakha Apte

At times there is a seemingly deliberate solitude which an artist chooses to relay in their work.. This may not be a mere posturing of the artist’s own nature/demeanour or a portrayal of that which is possibly non existent, but it could be more an indicator of a continuity of the artist’s own essence which extends into their work of art. The art work and the artist become reflective elements of each other and this is what one would encounter in artist Vishakha Apte’s works. To classify her works as soulful / meditative or mere abstractions could be turning a blind eye to the immensity of narratives quietly embedded within her works. 

Work by Vishakha Apte

In her recently concluded solo titled ‘Being Not Incomplete’ held at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Vishakha displayed her paintings, etching prints and ceramic works. The show was more a testament to a variety of explorations which the artist has been embarking upon using different mediums and also a manner of bringing it all under one roof for the viewers to experience all of her findings at once. With a BFA in Painting from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, Vishakha tends to be more of a printmaker in technique and thought when dealing with any medium. In her own words, she dwells upon the reverse process of creating a work as in printmaking and tries to apply similar processes in her paintings as well.

Work by Vishakha Apte

What one would notice in her current series of paintings is the change in her palette. In her earlier works Vishakha has often adhered to a mellow and neutral palette, seldom using bright or primary hues. In this suite of works on display, one is greeted with the deep blues and rich ochres, rusts and candid greens. The works appear more open and willing to interpretation by the looker. Vishakha’s works often straddle the fine demarcations between veiled figuration and bold abstractions. The feeling of a submerged city or an underwater experience is what her paintings evoke at first glance. While these could be the superficial interpretations of the works initially, the artist hints at a deeper level of those mental realms where memories of mundane objects emerge and submerge on a mental screen. The odd shadow play of a tree, the portions of steps lit in the sunlight and the ones in shade, the ruins of an old mansion, the form of a discarded cloth  all show up as elements on the canvas. There is a narrative which is personal to the artist and is left open to interpretations. Some of them indicate a breakdown of a structure, a physical or a mental edifice one so rigidly adhered to once. These forms which manifest and blend with vast colour fields on the pictorial surface often keep the balance of the work intact without ever tipping the scale of compositional aesthetics. 

Work by Vishakha Apte

The prints on display lean more towards figuration where the artist uses the leitmotif of the legs of the human body as an anchoring device in all of these works in the suite. The legs, limbs which are used to stand and walk are the metaphors of independence, the freedom of movement and of courage to take that first step into the unknown. They also are the metaphors of standing your ground and standing on your own. All these subtle meanings show up in Vishakha’s etchings. In some of her earlier works, she creates various types of clothes, hanging off the walls, empty vessels and bags sprawled out on the table as an indication of the emptying of oneself. There are no leg motifs in this work and this could be the artist’s own internal struggle while on her path to that elusive freedom.

Work by Vishakha Apte

Work by Vishakha Apte

In her ceramic installation works, she employs the motif of legs again where in some cases the human torso is also shown relaxed, in a leisurely poise on a chair or a sofa, or lying down on the floor. These are her latest works where she has forayed into a new medium and the works are rich in texture and narrative. The concept of one’s own personal space comes to mind as one goes through this suite of works. Also embedded within these installations is a quiet coming of age / finding one’s own ground kind of confidence which emanates from the works. Vishakha has been one of the artists who chooses to be quite frugal with her words about her works, yet in this solo one is made aware of her clear voice. The title of the show, ‘Being Not Incomplete’ is her way of saying, that she is where she wants to be in her works and her life. ‘Completeness’ is a matter of perception and Vishakha Apte seems to have numerous perspectives on it as in evidenced in her eclectic works.



( Images courtesy : the artist)

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