ART Violence or discomfiture is the running theme of ‘Cold Blast,' the show on at the Chaitanya Art Gallery

‘C old Blast', the exhibition of paintings on at Chaitanya Art Gallery is a gust of fresh air. Around 14 works of seven young artists are on show. It concludes on June 7.

‘Cold Blast' suggests violence or, at least, discomfiture and most of the paintings have that effect. But there should have been some means of conveying ‘fresh' as well. The show is contemporary and youthful, rather than young. Of the seven, one is a woman and a non-Malayali, Aditi Pande. The others, in alphabetical order, are Dibin Thilakan, Saju Kunhan, Sudheesh. K., Sujil. S., Sujith. K. and Vinod Balak.

The effect of the paintings is striking since the gallery is stark white/off white. Added to it the sheer dimension of some of the works, it is nothing but striking. The first painting, an oil on canvas, ‘Mumbai-Bombay' by Saju Kunhan seemingly captures the ‘maximum' city's spirit. The effect of the 10 x 6 ft painting is like looking out of the windscreen of a speeding car. The painting conveys noise as well. The other work of Saju's that is on show is ‘Cold Blast', probably that's where the exhibition gets its name from. This one is a print on art paper of a couple of white exploding trucks.

Sudheesh's work ‘Procession in the midst of celebration' is reminiscent of the circles or levels of Dante's ‘Divine Comedy' – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Although in this particular work it's all hell and purgatory, each unto his own hell and purgatory. Therefore there are the contemporary preoccupations …organised religion, politics, culture etc. The characters seem to be on a pilgrimage albeit each with a burden of some sort. His other work ‘Nature Study – 1 Network' is fascinating for its sheer attention to detail. ‘Network' is a spider's net with almost every kind of predatory transaction or relationship. Only that the predators are insects with human heads, therefore there is a human-spider at the centre of the net there are all kinds of prey trapped in the ‘spider's net'. The net may as well be the Internet or technology, after all these have also proven to be predatory. There are many ways in which this particular painting can be interpreted.

Notes to self

Sujil's works on the other hand seem to be like personal notes. One an expansive love note and the other, probably, the result of a night spent looking at the stars and counting them as well. The latter work is perhaps called ‘8-4-2009, 12.24 a.m., 2501 stars' in order to arouse curiosity. Did he count those many or maybe it is artistic license? ‘We are searching for ourselves in each other' is a love letter or painting. And a rather long one at 3 x 12 ft. There is the pink and the blue (for women and men?) and the woman is akin to a dragonfly or some winged creature, holding up a net waistband/belt-like thing with heart-shaped perforations. On the ‘dragonfly's' wings there are messages of longing and loving to the sweetheart. The water colour wash gives the paintings an ethereality that seems to be at odds with the stated ‘theme' of the show, but beautiful in the old fashioned sense of the word.

A green river, a blue-green forest, grey skies and a lone monkey sitting on a branch which seems to sprout out of nothing…the ‘vision' in Sujith K. Sudhakaran's painting ‘Vision after Sermon in a starry night' is rather bleak. There is barren profusion, there is a sense of emptiness that is induced, a sense of bleakness. Is the green river a statement on the ‘ugh' state of waterbodies? The blue-green forest – is it pollution-induced haze? Why does the monkey look bereft of companionship? This painting could be an indictment of the state of the environment or as a religious statement. The next work is religious, there is a star, there is a lamb, a rather well-lit church and an angel comforting a man. There is again that unmistakable feeling of bleakness despite spiritual completeness. Only that the church is a bit too bright, the star rather shiny – a dig at the ‘formalities' of organised religion probably. The solitary lamb seems abandoned and lost …where is its Shepherd? The colours are bold and no apologies for the colours.

Aditi Pande's works are on a superficial level, straightforward and almost sweet, but the young woman in ‘Break Time' and ‘My Little Warriors' raise questions about gender politics. Both paintings have women and both are faceless. While the first painting has the faceless young woman in a classroom full of bright childish graffiti, the second is Gulliver's Travel's-inspired. A woman, a giant, is tied down by tiny ‘Lilliputians' who are men and there is a Dalmatian doing some sort of a jig in a corner. A sleeping woman giant …what a world of possibilities! ‘Break Time' uses lighter, brighter, crayon-like colours and treatment, ‘My Little Warriors' has shades of red, green and black. Wit and humour, unforced, in a painting is rare to come by.

Dibin Thilakan and Vinod Balak's works are the subversive best of the show, and thought provoking too. They draw heavily from those two preoccupations of ours – religion and politics. Politics – personal gender, ideological all have been explored and how! Dibin's works are wantonly and arrogantly irreverent, Vinod exercises more control. Dibin does a reworking of mythology. And the way in which he finds parallels of expression, to say the least, is fascinatingly grotesque. Oddly, in the paintings, there is the female presence which appears to have the upper hand. The media – tea wash, water colour, charcoal, gouache and aqurelle pencils on paper enhance the effect and impact of his works.

Vinod Balak in his two striking paintings engages with Communist ideology. One depicts a pig sty, only that this one is orderly and clean. But the pigs wear some kind of uniform which is, by the way, bar-coded and they seem to be content given the constricting accommodation. The floor of the pig sty is a flaming red associated with Communist ideology. And the other painting ‘My Master is Communist' says it all. A boxer (dog) wearing a red T-shirt with Che Guevara's picture on it, the collar is/has the Chinese flag (with an extra star), there is a necktie which looks like a dagger and an armband with the hammer and sickle insignia. Probably because the paintings are oil on canvas, lending them a texture and feel that only oil paints can give.

Some of the paintings at the show are at their subversive best and those stay with you, it is good to finally see some art for heart's sake!

SHILPA NAIR ANAND

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