Breaking the shibboleth about white

`Milk and Skin', works (top and below) by Krishnaraj Chonat.  

FOR ARTIST Krishnaraj Chonat, white is sinister. And milk and skin will sound cruel, but not when it comes clean, bloodless, and odourless in the sanitised purity of fake fur and fleece, fake pearls, and prosthetic silicon.

Playing on the colour of contrasts, Chonat comes up with arresting imageries and gripping visuals, sculpted with loads of meaning. Sinister White, the exhibition currently on at Sakshi Gallery on St. Mark's Road, digs deeper into the social psyche.

Chonat, like most, has lived through social milieus which treat white with awe owing to a sense of respect for its symbolism and for its cultural and religious association to peace, non-violence, purity, and spirituality.

But here Chonat, the artist, takes a break, and shifts focus to white, the colour of hygiene, mute violence, savagery, desire, disease, and the environment.

Juxtaposing, combining, fusing the precious with the banal, the rare with the abundant, the high with the low, the powerful against the voiceless, the political with the artistic, Chonat evokes a set of concerns without specifying the connections.

Breaking the shibboleth about white

Chonat subjects the cow to his "Milk and Skin'' analysis. Using fleece, fake pearls, fibre glass and silicon as his medium, the artist explores: "The genuineness of cowhide could well be suspect, given its existence among the fakes, much like its own identity of supposed male virility, power, obsession, and authority.''

The contrasts widens, the canvas enlarges in the body-culture juxtaposition. Says Chonat: "The body as a biological system, a literal system that exists with its own sets of logic and its own sorts of pressures and conflicts as against culture with its own metabolism and multivalence, engaging in a dialectic conveyed by reference and allusion by association rather than explicit statement transforming the form or image into a psychological image only to help reconnect experience in newly suggestive ways.''

Inaugurated on November 21, Sinister White will be on till December 11.

By Rasheed Kappan