Sitaram Swain's 'Grey Areas': Concrete concerns

Cloud burst: Sitaram Swain transforms household elements to a larger context

Cloud burst: Sitaram Swain transforms household elements to a larger context  


In “Grey Areas”, artist Sitaram Swain uses cement to comment on the growing urbanisation

A huge eye-like painting, distorted and unaligned on the vertical axis, called the ‘Split Vision' greets you as you walk into Sitaram Swain’s solo show ‘Grey Areas’. The eyeball, also hinting an image of the moon, is painted using cement, which is the basic medium used for painting in the whole project. A little into the exhibition, is placed the show’s centrepiece “Grey Areas”, with clouds painted using cement, depicting the pernicious usage of concrete in our lives, and how it's spreading its legs into all the vacant spaces of the human existence. “The medium cement”, Sitaram explains, “carries the whole narrative of vastly growing urbanisation and usage of concrete in the name of welfare and growth of our society and how it is spreading and blocking our lives in personal and societal conditions.”

Sitaram Swain is an Odisha-based artist known for installation art. He was the winner of the Glenfiddich ‘Emerging Artist of the Year' 2017 from among 810 participants across India and was awarded a three-month residency at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland. ‘Grey Areas' exhibits artworks created during and post the residency.

Describing his stay at the Glenfiddich distillery both amusing and surprising, Sitaram says that the several things that he had to make peace with included how the dark sky of the nights in Scotland, unlike India, stretched only to 2-3 hours, and how the food was without rice. He explains how he combined these two aspects to make a beautiful, sublime visual of the dark night sky filled with sky made of real rice grains – “The Story of Hundred Nights”.

Unconventional ideas

Sitaram is also known for his unconventional ideas and profuse connection with household objects. Owing to the familiarity with these objects for such strong engagement and the reason for using cement as the material for this project, Sitaram explains, “As an artist, my job is to transform such household elements to a larger context, which could be political, universal or sublime. There is great possibility that I always find in these objects to make a dialogue to a larger audience as it connects to everyone because of its universal usage. And cement is a very fundamental material of construction and it carries the whole history and narrative of vastly growing urbanisation. The idea behind choosing cement as a material was, it has a predefined notion of three dimensions, stiffness and solidity but using it as a painterly material gave me a whole range of possibility.”

Describing the title of the project, Sitaram says, “What I want to portray is not just the grey appearance of cement or concrete but the deeper meaning of grey which stand here as a metaphor of uncertainty, anxiety and impermanence. This is again quite relevant to the contemporary situation which is opposite to the nature of concrete that is a strong and a permanent material. But, all around us it seems very unstable and impermanent because of continuous construction and deconstruction.”

Painting flowers, insects, clouds or other vibrant elements of nature with cement hints a strong irony. “The idea is to portray all the natural aspects those are slowly disappearing because of vast urbanisation such as sky, clouds, plants, flowers, etc and again painting them with cement, which is a primary and prominent material in the urban surrounding, gives it a layering of satire on the contemporary Indian urbanisation,” sums up Sitaram.

(The show is on at Art District XIII, Lado Sarai till January 5, 2019.)

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 9:57:45 PM |

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