Vasant Viraj Naik's portrait paintings satirise on the human character, implying the dormant animal residing in each

Portrait painting from the time of Renaissance to mid-19th century had occupied a hallowed status; a genre concerned with humanity's eternal effort to capture its essence. Within the discourse of modern and post-modern art, portrait painting lost its iconic status to become a site of satire, parody and lampooning. The politics of representation enabled the artist to create portraits that reflected the social, political and cultural milieu.

It is within this context that one can situate the works of Vasant Viraj Naik, a Goa-based artist who showcases his paintings in an exhibition titled “Seize On” at Apparao Galleries.

The portraits which Viraj paints may shock, yet bring a smile as they afford a consanguinity of the humans with the animal world. They suggest the physiognomic and psychological rendering of the sitter. But Viraj has extended the conventional portrait frames by creating hybrid forms with animal or bird heads and human bodies satirising on the human condition and character, implying the dormant animal residing in each. Premising his concept on the tradition of Panchatantra stories that were insightfully didactic, yet questioned human thinking in the shaping of individual personas. In this respect, Viraj has developed his perception of subjects which becomes a network of semiotic clusters. Viraj makes an attempt at reconciling objectivity (the reality of diverse individuals and personalities) with subjectivity (his experiences and responses). For him, individual perspective becomes important with the content of his art work taking on a valence where humour and satire become the protagonists. Hence placed within the discourse of the ‘critical postmodern', his art, which is highly crafted, becomes more accessible and communicative. Critically, Viraj in these series of portraits has ethically engaged in the act of creation rather than ironically detached.

Mixed media

His technique of mixed media transforms into a metaphor wherein Viraj conflates his ideas of hybridity. At a philosophical level, this concept of hybridity implies the constant process of transformation. His colours too reinforce contrast. As Viraj says, he does not communicate rather life communicates to him. After all we are intellectual mask-makers and wearers. While examining the surfaces, he also gets into the soul. Says Viraj, “The portraits convey emotions and anxiety. I have been deeply involved in depicting the face as a beautiful creation in Nature. It assumes colour, shade and charisma.”

The show is on at Apparao Galleries till March 9.