Day Three of Art Chennai opened up a fascinating mix of installations, photographs and paintings.

Day Three of Art Chennai carried on its course of exhibiting an interesting and diverse array of art. Beginning with the opening of the installation works ‘Last Pass' by Royas Komu, and Samar Singh Jodha's public art project ‘Discord' at Ascendas, followed by the group exhibition at Ayya, which featured an array of paintings, all take a more conventional painting on canvas form and have a largely spiritual flavour. There was a return to installation at Gallery Sri Parvati, which featured the work of four artists, who exhibited provocative and challenging works, followed by a twin photography exhibition featuring black-and-white images by Pablo Bartholomew and Varun Gupta at Lakshana Art Gallery.

Pablo Bartholomew and Varun Gupta at Lakshana Art Gallery (Photography)

Pablo Bartholomew's “Outside In, A Tale of 3 Cities” made me quite envious. Envious of and nostalgic for a time I've never known — and will never know. Although Bartholomew is known for his photojournalism, the series features the spontaneous documentation of his personal life, family and friends in the 1970s and 1980s, across the three cities of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. I'm stating the obvious here, but there's something so incredibly sexy about the 1970s. And there's something so incredibly sexy about the way Bartholomew's series documents that seemingly halcyon time.

The exhibition is a twin one, however, and Varun Gupta's ‘In Search of Solitude' is featured alongside Bartholomew's work. Although perhaps not deliberate, this makes for an interesting juxtaposition, underlining significant generational shifts between the worlds both artistes' youths inhabit(ed). One of the first things Gupta says is: “I feel like our generation finds itself lost between Nature and civilisation. We can be as comfortable in The Himalayas as we can be at a nightclub. I love to party, but I also love Nature. I become a different kind of person when I do each thing, but I experience the same kind of happiness. And it's not just me, I see this reciprocated by people of our generation, and that's the inspiration for this work.”

The two series work well together because of their different origins and aims, despite their somewhat similar aesthetic. Whilst Bartholomew's work seems spontaneous and unconscious of how iconic the 1970s would later come to be (the cigarettes, flared trousers, and big glasses all seem casually, unconsciously documented), Gupta's feels the weight of it's generational presence, and looks to those self-conscious questions of defining the present: what is our generation characterised by? And how will we come across later?

Whilst Gupta's identifies a proximity between our generation and Nature through several intimately shot landscapes, the signs of modernity in her adolescence are recurrent throughout Bartholomew's series. As personally intimate as his documentation gets — a self-portrait after a night of ‘tripping', a close up of him kissing a woman — a significant portion of the images in the series also linger on those small signs of modernity at her coming-of-age period: a power station framed by telephone wires, a refrigerator in the centre of a room, in between two shelves of books, and most striking of them all, a solar eclipse playing on a television set — indicating a new ability to bring the outside in. Yet these symbols of modern times seemed to have been photographed more with a mild curiosity, rather than the deeply reverential significance attached to Gupta's images of Nature, where he isolates the branch of a tree, or encapsulates the vastness of a mountain within the frame with a sense of awe, looking to them as representative of himself and us. Whilst older artiste's younger self documents modernity in a peripheral sort of way, the younger artiste's lens stares intensely at the natural, looking to it as a solace and solitude as well as a defining characteristic of a generation.

There's something about both sets of works that makes you think of smoke-filled rooms and languid bodies. It's all sort of dreamy and beautiful, and they share a deep sensuousness. But what's especially interesting about this exhibition comes from what the works reveal together — an inadvertent sort of comment on how we perceive the past and the present, trying to define eras and times that slip away all too swiftly, leaving behind just the images and memories from which you try to create definition.

(The exhibition is will be on view at Lakshana Art Gallery until March 18)

Group Exhibition at Ayya

Featuring the works of a broad range of artists, the exhibition at Ayya has a strongly Indian flavour. A significant portion of the works features spiritual iconography, and the exhibition as a whole is characterised by its vibrant, ethnic colours. It features work from artists Anand Pachal, A.P. Santhanaraj, Ashoke Mullick, Asit Kumar Patnai, Atin Basak, Bratin Khan, and others.

(Group Exhibition at Ayya is will be on view until March 31)

Riyas Komu and Samar Singh Jodha at Ascendas (Installation)

Discord is a public art project connected to Samar Singh Jodha's two-decade work in China, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. “These are photographs that I've taken over the last 20 years of my travels,” says Singh. “I never actually took them with the intention of creating this project.” A set of seven concrete slabs, Jodha's collages of images take on poignant suggestion through their jumbled juxtaposition. “It's not about me looking at them,” he says about the human subjects of his work. “It's about me looking at what they're looking at.” The montage style of Jodha's work enables the conveyance of multiple perspectives within a single glance, each of these faces and symbols becoming part of a larger wider fabric that is simultaneously broad yet intimate. There's a quiet melancholy evoked by the close-up of a face next to fragments of scrawlings on walls. A tiny square bearing the inscription ‘You are my heart' rests between corrugated iron walls of a slum dwelling and a man with a towel draped around his shoulders, whose hand on his hip suggests an awareness of the camera and a slight pose, but whose eyes still gain a flicker of surprise. There's a lingering sense of yearning, but the repeated images of various scribbles on walls also gives a sort of childlike innocence to these faces and places.

Riyas Komu's ‘Last Pass' uses both wood and metal to pay tribute to the people of Iraq, seeing the ‘war on terror' as simply a euphemism for 21st Century misadventures. Four footballer's legs appear to serve as pall bearers, carrying a large intricately latticed structure whose shape is immediately reminiscent of a coffin, but could also be a cage — its implications stretching further than what the instinctual response might suggest. Emerging from the space within the structure as well as the spaces between the wood emerge long, slim lines of metal. There is a sense of mourning, and the body that is displaced. The torso supports the structure at its base, but is displaced from the legs, and there is no recognition of a body in its entirety.

(The exhibition is will be on view at Ascendas until March 18)

Group Exhibition (Kumaresan Selvaraj, Aneesh K.R., Sunil Kumar Sree and Saravanan Parsuman) of Installation at Gallery Sri Parvati

On the floor of Gallery Sri Parvati is a fascinating and beautiful piece of art. There are six bowls on the ground, each varying in size, all containing a clear peach-coloured resin containing the silhouettes of tiny birds and circling fish enmeshed between invisible layers. “Everything has something that is more powerful than themselves, and this piece gestures at that sort of hierarchical order of Nature,” says Aneesh K.R. whose work is, indeed, largely preoccupied with Nature. Aneesh's ‘Homage' features piles of stones sprinkled with scarlet kumkum; his photograph “When you want more than you need, your thoughts begin to bleed” capturing a tree streaked with bright red, and heavily saturated green grass, “This photograph, it is what it is. I'm trying out a new medium, but the title and the image together, that says it all”. His works seem to draw Nature into their grasp, adding a dimension of physical contact between the artiste and his contemplation of his surroundings.

Two of Kumaresan Selvaraj's works are called ‘Silence', both featuring bells whose clappers have been pinned down by glue, this silencing one of the most simple of sound-making devices. The paradox of the mute bell is especially interesting in light of the terminology used for describing a bell's anatomy -crown, head, shoulder, waist and mouth — words used, of course, for describing the human anatomy as well.

Also included are Sunil Kumar and Saravanan Parsuman's installations, Kumar's which rest on the concept of the corner — using this space to denote a personal and political secrecy, and an inner train of thought and Parsuman's ‘Accumulation', which is a structure consisting of ball bearings inspired by ant-hills.

(The exhibition is will be on view at Gallery Sri Parvati until April 7)


At WorkSeptember 24, 2010