Maya Kamath's cartoons still resonate with a scary relevance, a decade after she thought them out; Francis Desousa uses abstraction to bring a distracted mind back to its present senses

It is both frightening and cheering to visit “Maya Jaal”, an exhibition of cartoons by Maya Kamath at the Indian Cartoon Gallery. Maya was probably one of India's only successful woman cartoonists.

The exhibition, a tribute to 10 years of her passing on October 26, 2001, is full of her social and political commentary. What's frightening is that these issues are still relevant after a whole decade, a reflection on India's uneven growth, which is now showing signs of slowing down.

And then of course, as is her wont, Maya's cartoons are most witty and able to bring out the issue at hand quite efficiently through both words and lines (she is a master's graduate in English), making her cartoons a delight to read.

The exhibition begins with a cartoon showing Manmohan riding a turtle with a fellow minister on its back warning him, “Perhaps we should slow down a bit Manmohan… We don't want to be caught over-speeding”. Maya has addressed a whole range of issues on the environment, poverty, economic policy, education, even democracy and cow slaughter.

But what she is seemingly most vociferous about is the issue of women's equality. This she addresses in so many angles: The Chief Justice of India with a pair of scales tipping in favour of a man, saying, “All men are equal. Who said anything about women” or an Islamic extremist fighting for “Freedom for all Kashmiri people', with a caveat “(Except women)” in the adjoining panel showing a woman wearing the ‘Compulsory Burqa'.

She even quotes Shakespeare: “Frailty thy name is woman”. The panel below shows a woman cooking with one foot, balancing some construction material on her head with babies hanging on to her as she holds her drunken husband (Hic!) by the ear.

“Had Maya been alive, she would probably have been the best political cartoonist in India. And though it has been ten years since she passed away, her ideas are still relevant today. Her presentation is simple, witty and humorous. And her cartoons can be easily understood by everyone,” says V.G. Narendra, Managing Trustee of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists.

“Maya Jaal” will be on view at the Indian Cartoon Gallery, 1, Midford House, Midford Garden, off M.G. Road, near Big Kids Kemp, until June 23. For details, contact 41758540.

Of the spaces between thoughts

When an objective to understand one's own inner world becomes difficult, how then is it possible to understand another's? That could possibly be one of the reasons why art, as expression of the inner world, is subjective.

And artist Francis Desousa takes the idea of subjectivity to a whole new level in his exhibition of works, “Complex Machinery…Confused Minds”, at Gallery Five Forty Five.

A collaboration between the Right Lines Art Gallery and Gallery Five Forty Five, it presents a series of partly abstract works largely in watercolours (with some pen and ink work). The artist has displayed three series of works: in pen and ink, mixed media (pen and ink and watercolours), and watercolours, where he places human figures in abstract situations.

“The work is partly based on the problems that one faces with new technology, to which people like me have trouble relating to,” says Francis. The only few things that can be clearly said about the series are: first, that the setting is distinctly urban and largely, indoors.

Second, there is almost always an interaction between the figures and third, the elements in the painting have spontaneously been made deliberately abstract.

“Another subject I have addressed through my works is human relationships. Here in Goa, we live in a family-knit structure where one is always observing people and the way they react to each other,” explains the Goa-based artist.

And Francis finds that technology has taken away from the naturalness of interaction and has also induced a feeling that happiness is in the distant future when something better comes along. So the abstraction is a way of brining the mind back to the present, where joy really lies.

The imagery is complex and features objects and elements that may seem identifiable from a distance but lose their meaning on a close look. That's exactly the point, says Francis.

“When it comes to art, there are always certain objects that are meant as compositional props while others can be clearly defined. That's what makes a painting what it is,” he elaborates, adding that some of his works are a depiction of the spaces between thoughts, where nothing can really be defined, though a lot is happening.

“A painting, sculpture, photograph, or installation should draw you into itself and plunge you into an unknown world where words have no meaning. This, for me, is when it's truly successful.” And his oeuvre itself is quite colourful and inviting.

“Complex Machinery... Confused Minds” will be on view until June 23 at Gallery Five Forty Five, 545, 6th Main, 4th Cross, Indiranagar. For details, contact 9880347039 or 9886050563.