PREVIEW: Sign of Times / Ciby Samuel – Sagar Kamble Show / Sushma Sabnis
Starting 26th March, artists Ciby Samuel and Sagar Kamble present their show at Artists’ Centre, Mumbai, with a bag full of contemporary lexicons. Both dive into the crucible of visual culture to cull out imageries which their vocabulary transforms according to their interpretations of their world. A preview of the upcoming show by Sushma Sabnis
The use of symbolism has played an important role in every society. The creation for symbols and signs has always been seen as an indicator of the growth of a civilisation and the evolution of human kind. Symbols are representations of a mystical idea which cannot be easily interpreted by the lay person. Be they political, religious, spiritual, commercial, cultural or economic in origin, a symbol finds its roots in the way a subject is perceived and understood. From there it is carried further by following generations which add to it their own evolutionary inclusions. Some times these symbols become the last surviving sentinels of an entire civilisation and at times they are intentionally destroyed in protest. One can see such examples in a single civilisation where the reign of a particular king or queen and the legacy they leave behind in terms of culture and socio-economic systems, to ensure their longevity has been destroyed by following or subsequent rulers or when they were defeated at war. But the symbols of faith often have been known to survive the best and worst of times. What makes certain specific symbols endure through time and space and generations that follow? Such questions and their possible answers are addressed in the two person show soon to open at the Artists’ Centre, Mumbai on 26th of March 2019. The participating artists are Sagar Kamble and Ciby Samuel, both alumni of the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai.
Symbolisms in contemporary Indian art have deeper genetic roots in tribal and folk art forms of our country where one has witnessed the minimisation of images and forms, culled from age old customs and ritualistic practices which in turn adhere to nature’s laws. There are several discourses which correlate these narratives and link them to prehistoric times where drawing on walls of a cave / rock shelters was a simple act of documentation of an ritual or event. Rituals have their connective roots in fables and tales which have been devised to bring about social, religious, economical and cultural reforms over centuries.
Artist Ciby Samuel in his water colour works on paper, dips his brush in the deep ink pot of religious faith and paints from his experiences and memory. Samuel travels back in time to revisit his childhood spent in churches and chapels , fascinated by the wall paintings and sculptures dedicated to the stories of Jesus Christ. What one encounters in the works is a quiet sense of layering and depth brought about by various dry brush techniques, and the penitent forms and figures of people intently praying. Some of the works display a kind of detachment, one which arises from having taken oneself away from the din of life and pursuing a hermitic conduct. In some of the works there are gatherings of people around a prophet-like figure during a sermon. Most of the people are portrayed as blurred forms, barely recognisable as human, possibly as a metaphor of an unclear life. Few forms like the one of a clergyman displays a solemn looking figure dressed in a robe and sitting silently. Something in this image reminds the viewer of the artist Nicholas Roerich, for two reasons, one, that the person portrayed bears a faint resemblance to the artist Roerich, and second, to the emotion evoked by the figure, almost mirroring of the silencing effect of Roerich’s expansive works on the dwarfing effects of Himalayan ranges and the lonely pilgrims. There are some works in which Samuel appears at crossroads mentally. Here the works display a variety of choices and people standing at the junctures of indecision and questioning. The demarcated areas are subtly shown using varied layering with contrasting hues. Samuel’s faith has played a major role in his works and yet there is a deliberate familiarity emerging from all the works. So it makes the suite of works a bit more open to interpretation and easy to relate to, rather than coming across as rigid or even fanatical. The artist successfully creates that space within the viewer of the emotion of a ‘pilgrim’ or a ‘person of faith’ through his works and that looming solitude is what he captures precisely.
The works of Sagar Kamble in the show are culled from his intense engagement with numerous heirlooms of tribal /folk / tantric art imageries which have been incorporated, modified, reconstituted, revamped and applied to apt situations in every era. Initially Kamble’s works were an attempt to portray the human condition in society, especially of women. But in recent times, this subject has been approached slightly differently through the visual references of tribal, folk, tantric art imageries. The idea is probably to find those single most important moments in time, where the female form was not just relegated to the purpose for looking pretty or procreation but taken to a slightly higher stance of a sacred feminine. These imageries, where sacred female cults, and practices of aligning the female body to that of Nature herself attempted to alter the course of patriarchal society in every era. Feminism through femininity seemed to become a message in these symbolic forms. Kamble takes these potent concepts of the ongoing conflicts of patriarchy in today’s times and brings out his own revolutionary take using the lexicon of tribal / folk and tantric art works.
What one would see at this rather unique show is how a visual culture is redefined through a constant distillation of imageries, irrespective of their sources, originally generated centuries ago by each civilisation at its creative peak during a specific century, with those existing political, social, natural and cultural situations and belief systems. This volatile crucible of visual culture has often melted down ingredients from generations ago and reformed with the contemporary culture. This mutating and evolving process creates the unpredictable blends of visual culture which could stand the test of time or disintegrate into oblivion depending on the upcoming ruler/governance. What image endures the test of time and what gets thrown into a mental memory incinerator is as unpredictable as life itself.
The show is on view at Artists’ Centre, Mumbai from 26th March to 1st April 2019. A must-see show.