B.D. Dethan’s painting exhibition, ‘Avastha’, is a dispassionate look at the deterioration of society

A glass filled with liquid has a disembodied human face floating at the bottom, while psychedelic shapes frolic in the background. The spires of a monument rise high above a city skyline, only to emphasise the large arms and face of a forlorn looking entity captured between them. These are examples of the imagery that currently adorn the walls of the Suryakanti Art Gallery at Sasthamangalam, where an exhibition of artist B.D. Dethan’s works is underway.

Dethan explains that the series, titled ‘Avastha’, is a reflection of his emotions related to the times we live in. “Society is at a point where basic values such as kindness and compassion are hard to come by. Open a newspaper or switch on the television and most of the things we see are appalling. It is this frame of mind that gave birth to this series, and while I have tried to keep my emotions and work separate, some things do seep through,” he says, pointing out the many vices he has depicted on canvas. The face in the glass is his take on the effects of alcoholism.

Other images border on the abstract as half-formed human shapes merge with those of animals and human vanity is represented through a clown-like visage that peeps out through a frame.

Dethan’s disdain for the trend of elevating men to the status of gods is evident in yet another work, while a museum exhibit of busts and remnants of civilisations is accompanied by his thoughts on time and culture. “We have seen many cultures come and go, and eventually this is all that is left,” he says indicating the painting, “it is meant to remind us that everything in the world perishes eventually, except time, which is the only constant.”

From civilisations to the present day, he makes an interesting observation on people’s reliance on medicines. “We are in a situation where we are often forced to take medicines and then suffer the side effects in some form. It is not something we can entirely avoid but not something that is particularly good either.” The work in question shows a human foot poised to crush a bottle of pills, deterred by a razor sharp blade waiting above the bottle, promising retribution.

Dethan goes on to elaborate his views on art in general. “I don’t believe painting is just a fine art anymore. Take the example of Picasso, where he fused cycle parts together to create art,” he says, referring to the Spanish artist’s ‘Bull’s Head’ artwork, where he represented the face and horns of a bull using a bicycle seat and handlebars. “The creative vision that led him to see that work where others saw just a jumble of cycle parts, that is what is paramount in an artist. Paint and canvas are no longer the only medium to express one’s vision.”

The exhibition is on at the Suryakanti Art Gallery till March 31. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Sundays.