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Semantics of divinity

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VARIED HUESA work by Sophie Jo
VARIED HUESA work by Sophie Jo

The ‘divine feminine’ concept is explored in an ongoing show featuring the works of several artists

The exhibition “Devi E Nation” is premised on the divine feminine concept, which has been explored through three shows — a group show with eight participating artists and two solo shows by Paris-based Akhittam Narayanan and Delhi-based artist Arjun. The concept has been considered anathema by modernists, who in the mid-19th Century initiated their artistic journey to represent the contemporary world in Paris. But the return of the divine within the post-modern discourse has opened space for an intervention with the sacred, foregrounding different semantics and perceptions.

The visual narrative of the group show is interesting. The artists with their distinct visual language engage the concept of the ‘divine’ to express themselves interestingly. They are Avishek Sen, Basanth Peringode, Cheenu Pillai, Manisha Raju, Mark Rathinraj, Premlatha Seshadri, Saumya Kanti Mukhopdhyaya and Sophie Jo. Among them the artists who visibly excite and titillate the sensibility are Sophie, Basanth, Cheenu, Mark, Manisha and Avishek.

Subtle humour

Sophie’s sensibility in reading the local and the popular is laced with subtle humour as she engages with the playful, long, swinging plait of the local women. The body is detailed with lotus flowers, indirectly gesturing towards the divinity of prosperity — Lakshmi. Her colours are a soft blend of varied hues, imaginatively webbed and woven with her concept. Kerala-based Basanth has been trained in traditional mural art. Yet he marks his contemporary sensibility by transcending the divine and articulating his creativity to engage with the hybrid and the fantastic in myth. The boar (Vishnu avatar) is given an iconic space with its body laced in figurative narration by felicitous line. Most of his works foreground a prominent deity, similarly inscribed with a linear narrative. The earthy colours are bright, yet muted, with his iconography marking a judicious blend of tradition and modernity. Mark, who breathes his style of art through his personalised line, expressionistically choreographing and caricaturing it to be powerful, has extended this vital element to configure the divine with imaginative texture. Cheenu, a self taught artist and a multifaceted personality, brings his cultural baggage of tradition to articulate divinity on large canvases through geometric configurations. Manisha, through contemplative countenances and subtly worked technique, creates an aura of the divine through the sheer force of its sublimation. Avishek’s semantics of Kali’s killer metaphorically translates through juxtaposition of fighter jets next to her ferocious eyes as she triumphantly tramples the figure of Shiva.

Akhittam Narayanan’s works engage with the yantric diagrams, abstracting the concept of sacred and divine through geometric configurations. The works are extremely small within large frames, which is a trivialisation of a talented and an intelligent artist whose works are showcased after a long hiatus.

Arjun’s small format serigraphs are premised on his muse — classical Bharatnatyam dancer Githa Chandran and her expressions. Conflating her with avatars of devi such as Lakshmi or Saraswathi, the iconic is juxtaposed with a kitschy psychedelic background, a common sight in markets displaying decorations, wall papers, gift wrapping paper and artificial flowers.

In a world invaded by insecurity posed by terrorists and biological viruses, these metaphoric images symbolise the contemporary lived reality appropriately visualised by the artist.

The show is on at Apparao Galleries until May15.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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