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Of sacred and profane

Baba Anand adopts a new language in his series of works titled `Credo Collection' mounted at Daira Centre for Arts and Culture. By mixing the religious images of gods and goddesses with ungodly elements, he creates art, which is kitsche in nature.

DECORATIVE ELEMENTS: A number of things are juxtaposed with the print. — Photos: K. Ramesh Babu

A FEW decades ago some of the homes in South India had photographs of the gods and goddesses and even perhaps some prints of Ravi Varma which were embellished in various ways - using fabrics, beads, sequins and even gold or silver foil and zari. One is reminded of this when one sees the works of Baba Anand exhibited at Daira Centre for Arts and Culture. Of course Baba Anand's approach is slightly different. It mixes the sacred with the profane and is more kitsch.

Baba Anand has worked on oleographs of Hindu gods and goddesses juxtaposing them with various elements like Christian icons (Mother Mary and child figurines, postcards of paintings from the medieval ages again Christian in nature, images of churches), gold and plastic flowers, objects from The Netherlands like wooden shoes, windmills and buildings, images of fruits and other worldly ones.

Redecorating the prints (some of which are dateable to the early 20th Century are embellished with coloured sequins) - the sacred with the irreverent elements may be unconventional at first sight. The image value of the work thereby comes in for questioning. But this seems to be a distinct visual vocabulary of the artist - perhaps avant-garde in nature, which gets its roots from his fashion background.

The artist, who also spent some months in France, participated in two shows - Kitsch kitsch hota hai at Mumbai (2001) and Bollywood Show at Hotel Savoy, Cannes, France (2002).

UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACH: The artist has a vocabulary of his own.

Baba Anand has created an interesting final product with various elements loosely woven in together. The Hindu and Christian elements are made to conjoin - which seems to bring in a picture of harmony and yet appears slightly incongruous.

It looks as if it is a mixture of the East and the West with a predominant Western influence. The early 20th Century was a period where Indian artists (the most famous being Raja Ravi Varma) were influenced by European and British artists. The motifs painted were Indian with the Western impact in terms of technique and approach. To a certain extent Baba Anand's selection of such `divine' images seems to be part of this earlier trend of embellishing such images further. But the artist has played around further with certain godly and ungodly things perhaps to impart a universal appeal. In that sense, he displays an unemotional approach to the sacred.

The elements of decoration stem from his fashion background. At times his choice of fur and pieces of velvet in shocking pink (attached to the sides) bear testimony to this. The spiritual fervour may have attracted him to the prints but the presence of things like wooden shoes, flowers (here the artist uses plastic and those painted with gold which are more ornamental), replica of a building in The Netherlands, certainly detracts that spirituality and in the process kitsch takes over. It gives the impression as if the artist wants to make a dramatic impact. The unconventional approach adopted compels viewership in the process.

Baba Anand may have adopted a new and different visual language to create universal appeal but its unorthodox nature may not appeal to many. This exhibition, organised by the Alliance Francaise in association with the French Embassy and Daira Centre for Arts and Culture, is open till July 16 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.).


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