Lalit Kala Akademi’s show featuring paintings and sculptures from the gallery’s permanent collection throws the spotlight on the unusual

“Divergent Horizons,” the ongoing show at Lalit Kala Akademi, isn’t easy on the art reviewer. It features 145 paintings and sculptures from the Akademi’s permanent collection, pieces that have been exhibited since 1990. What makes your head swim is not just the sheer number of artworks, spread over two floors, but the variety too — the 145 pieces are by 146 different artists (some collaborative pieces, in which two or more artists worked together at in-house camps). The result is such a multitude of styles and subjects that it becomes hard to describe the show in a few paragraphs.

What one does come away feeling is a considerable respect for Suresh Jayaram, the artist, art historian and curator from Bangalore who put this collection over the course of a couple of visits to the city. He has categorised the pieces loosely into the sub-genres of ‘abstract’, ‘figurative’, ‘urban reality’, ‘landscapes’, ‘animals’ and ‘folk in contemporary art’, giving the viewer, an insight into some of the core themes artists have been grappling with nationally over the last couple of decades, irrespective of stylistic or political ideology.

The abstracts are striking in their varied use of colour and texture. Some, such as Surendra Pal Joshi’s glowing red and gold painting and Manish Pushkale’s gorgeous study in green-blue, ‘Theatere of Turpuoise’(sic) have a woven, almost textile-like finish. Others such as Pandurang N. Deoghare’s cool and mysterious ‘Blue’ and Prakash T. Waghmare’s ‘Untitled-1’ are more muted in hue, playing with mauves and greys, and more delicate, understated texture. Digital works by artists such as Raghavan N. and Shashikant D. that are pure swirls of colour in black space, and quirky, striking works by artists such as Mohankumar T. and Raghava Chary K. (the distressed, dystopian ‘Space’) are pure texture. Still others explore the abstract form in its many enigmatic avatars, ranging from the miniscule squiggles of Saravanan S.P.’s ‘Manuscript’, to the fantastical imagery and symbolism of Shashidhar M. Lohar and Bahuleyan C.B.’s works, from the colourful faces in Nirupa Naik’s ‘Onlooker in a Crowd’ to the arresting ‘Portrait’ by Maripelly Praveen Goud. The sculptures also deserve a special mention, playing with varied earthy, natural textures (Aarti Vir’s ‘Baskets and a Vessel’, Shitanshu G. Maurya’s ‘Untitled’) and smoothly attractive forms, such as Chandan Dawn’s collection of dangling ceramic tops.

The figuratives on display include several distinctive pieces, such as Suriyamoorthy M.’s still-life collage ‘Thoughts of a Family’, Hareesh V. Malappanavar’s smoothly undulating ceramic sculpture of a veena, Chiraya Kumar Sinha’s beautifully adorned ‘Woman, Stoneware’, Razia Tony’s meditative painting ‘Purusha’, Milind Limbekar’s dreamscape ‘Desire’, and Muthukoya N.K.P.’s poignant picture of childhood and poverty, ‘Liberation of Tulsi’.

The most colourful and kitschy pieces come under the ‘Urban Realty’ category. Here, artists creatively explore issues of overcrowding and struggle in our cities (Venugopal V.G.’s ‘Reaching Out’), street life (Sudhakar V. Chavan’s ‘What Next’), popular culture (Ravikumar Kashi’s excellent oil painting of ripped cinema posters, and Gurram Mallesham’s wonderfully loud ‘Charminar’) and our obsession with material things (the ironic ‘Ego’ by Balaji N.).

The landscapes on display are largely dystopian, speaking of a ravaged world (works by artists such as Sanam C. Narayanan and Pinaki Barua) and polluted, crumbling cities (Suchendar P.’s ‘Departure’ and Sudheesh Kottembram’s ‘Herbarium – IIIrd’). Not all hope for Nature is lost, however. There are a few spots of hope and colour — the trees, creepers and flowers in Manoj P.K.’s ‘Uncertain Space VI’, Rajan Krishnan’s realistic ‘Plant’, Aparajithan A.L.’s brilliant blue ocean in ‘Keeper of the flame’, Aneesh K.R.’s star-filled night sky in ‘Variation of Light’, and Eby N. Joseph’s dreamy ‘Giri Deep’.

The most quirky pieces come under the ‘animals’ category, whether it’s Faiyyaz Rashid Khan’s colourful childhood memories of cows, peacocks, cameras and petrol bunks, Shreekant S. Bhogshetty’s bizarre tower of farm animals, ‘Red Factory’, and Gangadhar M.’s take on the absurdities of modern life, replete with monkeys riding goats and models on the runway. Other works are striking in their workmanship, such as Harisha V.’s beautifully etched ‘Owlscape’, Veerabadra Rao B.’s magical, mythological ‘Composition’, Viraj Vassant Naik’s intricate ‘Rhino Ride’ and Asma Menon’s folksy ‘Parrot Speak’. The sculptures here are eye-catching — Elanchezhiyan P.’s energetic bovine sculpture in bronze, and Manisha Singh’s smooth, slithering salamanders.

Some of the most unusual works come under the ‘folk’ category, as they include collaborations between contemporary artists and their folk counterparts. This includes the brilliantly coloured, evocative ‘Tsunami’ by Benitha Perciyal K. and Pattua folk artists Khadu Chitrakar and Radha Chitrakar, and ‘Tree of Life’, a fascinating juxtaposition of the modern and the traditional by Ramani V.V. and Gond folk artists Ram Bai Thekkam and Narmada Thekkam.

A difficult show to review, but a remarkable show to experience. “Divergent Horizons” ends today.