Objects of irreverence

Loaded with mystery and enigma — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash  

"I'VE ALWAYS been interested in paradoxes, puzzles," says Kiran Subbaiah, our boy from Madikeri presently doing rounds in Amsterdam and whose stunning objects of utter irreverence can be viewed at the Chitrakala Parishat till tomorrow.

Why irreverence? Because of the way his objects are perceived, constructed, made to look, and `operate'. Some typical examples: Truth Puzzle is a box of paradox, where the key of a lock is visibly inside the box, which is itself secured by the lock. How does one get the key out of the box to unlock the lock? Love All, whose centrepiece — a football whose bubbles are formed of closely stuck matchsticks, is positioned in the centre of circular carpet made up of side patches of matchbox, so essential to ignite the match.

Beneath a Pretty Star is a grounded paper kite whose balangochi is made up of a series of rubber hands interlinked with iron handles, the last hand holding the tapered rope, which in turn is connecting chord with the kite. In Mother Frugal and Her Promise Child, a clay pot holds not only the pulley but also one end of the rope tied at its neck, the other end having been secured to a `pulley-less' miniature well — a clear case of role reversal?

Kiran is obviously a man of few words, an interviewer's nightmare, permanently wearing a look that seems to tell you, "Why are you asking these stupid questions? Just go and enjoy my work."

Ask him about personal details, he simply refers you to his website. Try to hold his attention on his views on life and art, Kiran coolly gets up and walks to up to wind his His Dog's Voice — an expansive aluminium loudspeaker bearing wooden arrows at one end and a hand-wound mechanism at the other that makes it roll around on the floor.

If still Kiran and his work hold your attention, it is because every one of the objects is loaded with mystery and enigma. Some of them also whisper suppressed (wry?) humour while others rejoice their obvious and self-contained contradictions.

In any case, you can't but wonder about his ability to manipulate his memories, to change the face of his dreams. Just look at the water-filled aluminium bucket fitted with a metal pipe whose other end belongs to a tap (Discontent Content). Or the salt mound with its precariously balanced, pebble-filled glass tumbler holding lumps of rock, plaster, cloth, paper, expanded polystyrene, and cotton wool in sequence, defying gravity (Thirst). And those cleverly placed mirrors secured by nuts, bolts, handles creating illusory reflections in Ubiquitian Bust, even as the lone photograph, I Shall Never Pee The Bed Again, hinges a cocksure adult coaxed to relive his traumatic childhood memories.

What is the creator trying to communicate through these works? It may be better not to ask any questions. Suffice it to remember that Subbaiah once confessed that knowledge can be quite disappointing, and issued a commandment that the beauty of a dream, after all, lies in its impossibility.

But do those words of wisdom answer the viewer's questions? Perhaps, one need not hunt for answers to enjoy the delightful works of a shy artist who reluctantly lets out that his creations may have more to do with mathematical and functional aspects and hardly with beauty or aesthetics.