Art

Nemom Pushparaj’s ‘Dystopia’ paints the depressing realities of the times

Trial, Nemom Pushparaj,  (acrylic on canvas, 2022)

Trial, Nemom Pushparaj, (acrylic on canvas, 2022)

A headless figure walks confidently against the colours of the Indian flag. This work from 2002 is called ‘Progress’. ‘Hunting’, a 4x6 ft oil on canvas done in 2014, is about the terrifying incidents of lynching due to cow slaughter. ‘Pandemic’, an acrylic on canvas, deals with the illness that brought the world to a halt two years ago.

‘Oasis’ seems, at first glance, a niche space for beauty and peace, but a closer look reveals that ‘a terrible beauty is born’, in the words of W.B. Yeats. The canvas shows a shrunken manicured space filled with flowers; the elephant ears turn into butterfly wings, building blocks meander into the sky and a parched earth holds a disquiet world.

Nemom Pushparaj’s ongoing solo show ‘Dystopia’ at Durbar Hall Art Gallery features these works and more. Artist, filmmaker, and writer, the former chairman of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi is known for presenting social inequity, injustice and discrimination through his works. In this show, he also addresses the invasion of technology into our lives and the resulting dystopia from an increasingly wired world.

Surrealism and psychology have been recurring leitmotifs in his works from early on, and he uses them deftly in the current show as well. In ‘Dystopia’ (mixed media, 2022), the formidable Salvador Dali shares space with mythological figures on a chess board. It points to a game where there is no winner. Dali and his clock have been a recurring image in the artist’s oeuvre. Krishna is missing in the ‘Shepherd Series’ (2022), where his flute lies thrown and the legs of a figure hang listlessly from atop a time machine. The cows associated with Krishna search for the lost God. Other repeated images are the weighing scale symbolising the judiciary, books and pens for education, and the chair as the seat of political power.

Pushparaj uses strong colours, bold lines, and big figures. There are no grey areas, only metaphors that narrate differently, and hence his craft makes less use of shading and layering.

An alumni of the Fine Arts College (1985) Thiruvananthapuram, Pushparaj is an internationally acclaimed artist. He has authored three books, directed three feature films and been the art director for more than 70 films in various languages. As chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi during the pandemic, he reached out to help the artist community, which was affected by the sudden closure of galleries, exhibitions and a source of livelihood. Many of the works in the show were made during the pandemic. The show concludes on August 20.


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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 10:35:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/nemom-pushparajs-dystopia-paints-the-depressing-realities-of-the-times/article65774783.ece