Exhibition: The three-member show at Forum Art Gallery strives to bring graffiti into the gallery space, writes ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

The theme for this year's Madras Art Initiative, a collective collaboration of galleries, is graffiti. The Initiative, started in 2009, is an annual art festival to popularise modern and contemporary art.

Graffiti is a form of art that is a product of special urban environment, generating meaning only within public space.

By taking it to the hallowed and confined space of the gallery, it transforms to a politics of representation.

Says Shalini Biswajit, curator of the show at Forum Art Gallery, showcasing the works of three artists — Harsha Biswajit, K. Vinay Kumar and S. Kalaiselvan: “The show has three young minds coming together to sow the seeds of an emerging cross-over culture and thought.”

Lack of spontaneity

However, the indication of cross-over culture is painfully lacking, and the works are constructed digitally — it would have proved productive if the walls of the gallery had been given to the artists.

For, in graffiti, the process of execution is of greater significance than style, content or finish.

Metaphorically, the tagging of the ‘personality' of the artist can gain valence within the gallery space, as represented by Vinay, to an extent. Harsha's works, ironically, are at a philosophical level while Kalaiselvan's is subjective reflexivity.

Vinay foregrounds his perception of graffiti as a medium that lays premium on method and process. He activates the idea through metonymies as his portrait (tag) ATM or 24-hour visibility of graffiti.

In Vinay's works, the deeper implication is about the ‘value' of such an art, for Vinay has conflated currency notes that have economic value.

Kalaiselvan's concept of layering is abstract. He has interfaced with his stockpile of images, such as the horse and the human form, for his creations.

His aesthetic works delight the eye, but don't engage the mind.

Harsha's works — this is his first group show — are conceptually juvenile for a thematic and conceptually foregrounded show as this, because no experiences condition his creative outpouring.

Though the works of the three artists are visually powerful, the whole exercise is reduced to a travesty of the dynamics of graffiti art — a powerful space that relates to society, to a certain age group and to manipulation of visual signs.

A theme as graffiti art needs an imaginative approach when portrayed within a gallery space; unfortunately, it has been made dilettante.

The show is on at Forum Art Gallery till January 24.