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Updated: October 30, 2011 18:15 IST

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Harshini Vakkalanka
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Joe’s sulptures explore the entrapment of organised religion or spirituality
Joe’s sulptures explore the entrapment of organised religion or spirituality

Joe Demetro's sculptures speak of his need for god, restrained by a stubborn resistance towards religion while his paintings talk freedom

What artist Joe Demetro has done in the exhibition of his works at the Alliance Francaise, is to exercise his creativity within a framework.

His sculptures and paintings in this context, explore the need for regimented ritual practises that have been and continue to be the norm to experience spiritual freedom. In his paintings, he has used greens, blues, browns, oranges, dirty lavenders and greys, laying them out in concentric shapes in different ways to tell a story.

Since he chose the desert as a spot where men come to seek freedom, and where this spiritual freedom translates into art, the colours that he has used are mostly desert colours.

“My current group of paintings and sculptures bring the sensibilities that all young students are introduced to in abstraction: balancing the formal elements so they mutually complement one another producing a sum that is greater than the parts,” Joe says in the artist statement. He continues, “At the same time, I've tried to explore the question for myself, if the works can have a great deal of surprise, invention, and personal storytelling, while adhering to strict regimented formality: uniform symmetry, and a limited variety of forms and structures, as such is the tendency in the various craft traditions I've encountered on this side of the globe.”

Joe has been living in India since 2001. He has also lived in the Gulf for three years in between.

Some of the shapes he has used, in works like “Venue Beach Thanka” seem like they're based on religious symbols. These paintings have a certain form and structure, but in itself, exude a certain freedom, both in terms of form and colour. Looking at these paintings from a broader perspective, one can relate them to nature itself, which allows its occupants a certain freedom, but works within a structure to maintain its overall balance.

His glazed terracotta sculptures on the other hand are darker and more violent. All of them seem like mutated tanks with guns, windows and doorways. Sometimes there a lot of doors and windows, like in “Chirdak”. Occasionally, there are spokes, like in “Zither” and “Bibichak”.

But all of them look like complicated, multi-layered machinery — like traps laid out for people to walk into. While his paintings explore freedom, his sculptures explore the entrapment of organised religion or spirituality. They do not pose a very pleasant picture, unlike his paintings, which give off a certain pleasant nothingness.

“I've looked for shapes that speak to my own experience: a sense of the infinite that comes from sources ranging from jazz music to video game imagery. They attempt to speak for my own need for god restrained by a stubborn resistance towards religion. They reveal a full embrace of often contradictory attitudes of spirituality advanced through 20th century painting approaches, from the abstract expressionist inclination towards the sublime as well as pop art's effort to subvert those inclinations,” says Joe.

Joe's work will be exhibited at the Alliance Francaise, Thimmiah Road, Vasanth Nagar, until October 31. For details, contact 41231340.

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