Two ongoing shows at Jew Town alternate between the mundane and the exalted

Installations stand out in ‘Absence /Presence’; ‘Concerted Terrain’ deals with subliminal layers of conflict.

‘Contested Terrain’ and ‘Absence/Presence’ are two art shows running close to each other in Jew Town. The former at Hallegua Hall is brought by Tangerine Art Space, Bangalore, and the latter at Yousuf Art Gallery is conducted by Zen Studio Gallery, Eramalloor. Both are big shows hosting nearly 70 artists together.

A word of advice for viewers: Visit the galleries on different days and possibly take two days for the show ‘Absence/ Presence’ that showcases 40 artists. Large shows can be mindboggling and tiring to say the least. Both these shows call for concentrated intellectual engagement and thrill onlookers with their high level of application. . Some of the works in ‘Absence…’ are clearly a cut above the rest, amidst many regular works. ‘Concerted Terrain’ has an overall higher scale of approach and application.

Artistic relevance

In ‘Absence…’ the installations stand out not only because of their relative physical presence but also because of the artistic relevance. Vinu V.V.’s untitled installation is impactful as inverted oil lamps with blotches of red paint hang from the roof. K.V. Mathew’s ‘Self Portrait’, an upside down head of the artist, in fibre, attracts by its inverted stance. Nishad M.P.’s ‘Larger Context’ is a slanting big water pot from which flows out black material. Ajilal’s installation of photographs tells the Plachimada story is fine detail. Anil Xavier’s video installation, ‘I am Sorry’, is a chant of apology, a background score, where the artist is shown apologising to every passerby. The act is disturbing as viewers find themselves to be an integral part of a corrupt riddled society.

Abhilash Unni’s ‘Untouchable Victims’ is a mobile from which hang red fibre glass men, victims of societal inequalities. It is an attractive and impactful installation. From all the works, the most delightful one is on the roof top of the gallery, a work by Chitra E.G, a teacher at the College of Fine Arts, Thrissur. A self portrait, the artist has welded big and small washers to create a figure lying suspended in mid air, supported by her thick trunk of hair. The artist is believed to be inspired by magic. The work is visually arresting leaving its story open to interpretation. From the roof top, Mattancherry lies around in the houses below, in open courtyards and narrow congested lanes. A site specific installation called ‘LOVE’ lies amidst an unkempt backyard of a struggling household. The installation is a simple brick row of green plants that spell out love, the text message rising strongly because of the setting.

Yousuf Art Gallery is a new space with probably new organisers. More explicit wall texts will help any work to get a deeper outreach. A curator’s statement is there at the entrance. “Contested Terrain”, explains Leena Chethan in her curatorial statement, “focuses on the interplay between artists and the common ideologies where issues are constantly being contested.” With this in mind, each work forces viewers to look for the conflict, some obvious, some deep seated. The show has a few names familiar to art followers from the city, names like Zakkir Husain, Reji Arackal, K.G. Babu, Sunil Laal.

Sudipta Das’ works are truly interesting, done on paper with tea and coffee wash. The layered interpretations on layers of paper make for an effective style. Pooja Panchal’s ‘She’ and Kriti Gupta’s ‘Folded Realities’, work on paper with mixed media experiment with artistic style. Rajesh Ram’s ‘Daily Life’ is an exquisite work capturing the rustic act of bathing a buffalo. The water splashes are caught in tactile reality.

K.G. Babu has caught the innocence of a little rural girl tenderly and truly. Look deeper and the conflict rises. Sujith K.S.’ ‘The Great Lie’ and ‘The Eden after Paradise Lost’ are two fine works of graphite on paper. Saju Kunhan’s textual work ‘Kochi Welcomes You’ is the artist’s take on the multifaceted aspects of his city.

Both the shows run through March 12.

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