Anyone ascending the steps to the top floor of the Lalithakala Akademi art gallery here these days is bound to feel disoriented. Strategically placed on the high wall is a large vertical canvas of a man, with his head and phallus taking the place of each other, walking on an eerily empty landscape. Clasped casually in his hands are two plastic bags, one filled with a few trees and the other with birds. No better placement possible for this critique of ‘unmindful progress’, than on the steps.
This is the painting that welcomes you, and in the process reorients you, as you enter the exhibition of works by K.K. Satheesh, an artist from Ernakulam.
“The works on display is a chronicle of the withdrawal symptoms shown by humans who are going through a process of moving away from being friends of nature to being slaves of technology,” says Satheesh.
Another of the large canvases is placed at the far end of the gallery, giving one an impression of a greenish landscape. But as one inches closer, it turns out to be a circuit board, a trickery on the part of the artist or rather the curator at driving home the point of the whole set. Butterflies fly out from the circuit elements, each of which is named after things which we have lost on the way to progress.
Some other images depict a newborn baby with the end of the umbilical chord shaped like a three-pin plug, a man with trees branching out of his eyes and several other juxtapositions of cutting edge technology and the natural world.
Accompanying Satheesh is K.S. Prakasan, another artist from Ernakulam, whose works occupy the entire ground floor of the art gallery. Seeds and brain are the motifs which run through the series on display here. He uses these two in isolation or together to signify everything, from conversion of agricultural land for industrial purposes to the thought process of an embryo.
“I have used the seed and brain to explore the thoughts, feelings and the quest of a person in a contemporary society. I have used the concept of a mother seed, from which everything originates, in some of these paintings,” says Prakasan.
Lines and dots are used expertly to divide the spaces and to denote specific things. Malayalam letters, some scribbled and some others stricken off, in the cross-section of a seed is used to signify the gradual change in languages that twist certain ideas beyond recognition.
It is easy to draw parallels between the underlying concepts in the works of the two artists, but the form in which these concepts are expressed makes their works diverse.