The many meanings of earth and change

Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh's Speaking Tree  

For a feast of Indian contemporary art, step into Gallery OED (Open Eyed Dreams), on Warriam Road. At its galleries in the basement and on the second floor, five artists are on show. Padmashree Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, veteran artist who got the Raja Ravi Varma Award last year and Sudhir Patwardhan, the doctor-turned-artist, two of the biggest names in the field, are probably showing their works in Kerala for the first time on this scale.

Dilip Narayanan, who runs OED, says these five artists who belong to five generations offer their views on the theme in their works. Their ages speak their views, no doubt. But interestingly enough, the most venerable of them, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, has presented two works, which are digital, the latest entry to the art scene. His Speaking Tree is set in a golden background. “Only the golden background is hand painted, says Ghulam Saheb, over the phone, for a cataract surgery stopped him from coming to Kerala for the show. ‘The Speaking Tree' is part of a larger body of work of Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh's called ‘Kaavad'. A ‘kaavad' is a travelling shrine that is part of the Rajasthani culture. On this joyfully coloured chinar tree, with a light of hope at the centre, (bright orange, yellows etc) a creeper grows all over it, so that the leaves of the tree and the creeper seem that of one tree. Sufi saints, fakirs, sadhus, the Bamiyan Buddha, a car, musicians, a figure that seems to be Kabir and a whole lot of people, a whole new world which merges with the leaves. What you see is a story of coexistence between communities.

The narrative style of the artist is evident in his other work, ‘Ark'. It is also a digital work (a fully digital one, he says) and the city sits lightly in the sky, colonizing it, with buildings and roads. The fringe of the ark in the sea seems a thick line but on closer examination, it is an arc of a city street, the buildings hardly visible to the naked eye. The question of the future of ‘Earth' remains a question mark.

Series on Pokharan

The next in line in the order of seniority is Sudhir Patwardhan, whose 21 works, include bronze reliefs, etching, pastels on paper, canvas and acrylics. His black and white drawings are a study for young artists, for with just a few lines, thick and thin, he creates a flood, a picture of languor in a village scene. The series on Pokharan tells a story, of the change in the landscape in the area after '87. “I used to live near the area and saw first hand the changes,” Patwardhan explains. Three bronze reliefs are part of his oeuvre here. Patwardhan, who had a few works shown at Chitram art gallery many years ago, has given up his medical practice fully now to pursue his first love, art. “There is no one style as such,” he describes his work. For a busy doctor to do paintings, drawings, paintings and indulge in sculpture too, a difficult time consuming past time, his heart must have been deeply into art. “I can now listen to music, paint leisurely,” he says of his life now. Cityscapes are his latest passion. A few are here on show.

The next generation is N. N. Rimzon, whose works fill the entire basement area. The huge egg shape that is the signature of most of his works happens in different avatars. In some, it is a huge black stone, at other times, the shape is in the sky or on terra firma. “The oval shape represents the cosmos and it has a spiritual content in totality,” says Rimzon. And in his sculpture, it a huge white fibre egg. The Stonehenge type granite pieces that are also reminiscent of the ‘chumadu thangis' or ‘athani' found near temples and rural roads form the chunk of his sculpture, called ‘Rock Temple'. It also has black swords thrown in for effect. In his paintings, black lines on a pale khaki background, his trees, like women, are graceful and curvaceous.

Changing landscapes

Rajan M. Krishnan, of whose four works, two are mammoth, has curated this art exhibition. He deals with changing rural landscapes, the paddy fields, the plants that nobody wants. There is a certain luminosity in the chunky works that rivet your attention, in the way he uses colour boldly, though they are not of the bright variety, cold blues and pale greens with white and dark browns, bordering on a deep grey.

Sujith S.N, in his late twenties represents the youngest generation, and his big work, rightly enough, seems to be inspired by Google Earth. The map, like a Google one, is dotted by tiny landmarks and the lad from Palakkad, who has lived in Hyderabad and is now based in Mumbai, sees the city in different lights, rosy on one side and dark on the other. “But I live in Mumbai now and work closely with a gallery there,” he remarks. Apart from the big two, he has eight small works in the show, all showing the different facets of a changing landscape, therefore qualifying to be in the ‘Earth' show.

Not all the works are for sale, for some have been brought just for the show from collectors. The show will till August 14.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:50:54 PM |

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