(Indian Express, October 31, 1993)
With the advent of ‘Modern’ epoch into the Indian art scene a hierarchy was construed wherein the traditional art forms were pushed down a step below the modern heirs. Even the Renaissance (period) oriented qualitative distinctions between art and artifact were a sour and tragic issue world over for the traditionalists. Later on the likes of Picasso, Rousseau, Panikkar and Subramanyan negated such paradigmatic norms existing between the Oriental and Occidental essentialities. Henceforth and currently, the innumerable art forms of our past have become the dynamic powerstation for the ambitious artist to bestow himself with several, culturally identifiable links.
The depths, as a result of such an intellectual debate, were hardly present in the (so called) ‘ Vijaynagar Traditional Paintings’ exhibited by the Hoysala Chitrakala Niketan at Venkatappa Art Gallery recently. Brainy or otherwise, but for the works of K.S. Nagure , this group show was mediocre even technically. Nagure handles the essentialities of the craft (line, colour sense, proportions) virtuously and has reduced the over decorativeness by a meager usage of the gesso fold combination. A few typical ‘Ganesha’- forms are even used on fantasy-surreal scales, but time and again they refer back to the miniatures from which the Vijaynagar paintings did emerge chronologically.
Few other artists have tried at drawing out personal styles from the other wise prototyped traditional paintings. The resultant works contain hectically colliding styles of decorative- Far eastern motifs, grotesquely mixed (Rahiman.S.Patil ) or the raw, appealing combination of blunt dark lines, bright colours with a real (designed) cloth as the backdrop( as is evident in Vidya’s “Devi”)
There are also V. Prakash’s laborious but naïve works, A.T. Shelwar’s monotonous compositions of Gods (in pairs) against the pleasant gesso-gold-rendered Prabhavali, Umesh.M. Datar’s miniaturesque, roundish paintings which are more conventional and restless. M.B Ashok Kumar, S.M Chilal and Niganna have more meticulously rendered colours and outlines. Niganna has even dared to use pitch black, a sacrilegious element, for the background.
This eclectic show, even with a few formally concerned sculptures (Raghvendra.K) and slate reliefs (Krishna Kamble) is a literal ‘mixed bag’ show. The participants from Gulbarga (and other areas where art-activities are too ruralistic) while exhibiting at metropolitan centre like Bangalore are over-anxious to exhibit in an ‘unedited’ manner. And the recent show with its alien combination of traditional paintings and more modern sculptures stand evidence.//
A Return Too Soon
(Indian Express, November 7, 1993)
In the immediate past, gallery exhibitions and the monetary value of art works did not play a key role. But currently, a show and the price of an art work can never dictate aesthetic norms-from the quality of the frame to the most personal colour an artist uses- mostly among mediocre and upcoming artists. Thus galleries of varied standards might create uneventful ‘trends’ also: and paradoxically speaking, they alone can introduce artists to the public today, on a large scale.
In the group exhibition at Renaissance Gallerie (2-10 Nov) Supriya Ambedkar and Vinoda Revannasiddiah seem to have returned to the scene too early, for there are few innovations and new elements in their work in comparison to the earlier shows (last year).
Annapoorna Sitaram on the other hand, has produced unconventional monoprints, which are looked down upon by serious print makers, “because they are non-laboriously produced (in comparison with the production of multiple prints). But the final product and the idea thus evident is what counts, rather than the process involved behind it,” she says. Her monotonous and highly patternised factory-background contrasts sharply with the sensuously suspended nude female forms. Marks of treachery and suggestive hand gestures evoke meager stimulus and tend to decorativeness.
Supriya’s earlier doll-like pleasantly coloured, non- descriptively textured and mini sized compositions have undergone microscopic changes: the darker colours in the background become denser, forming an artificed backdrop for the doll-figures to enact a slightly expressive drama. The reliefs and opaque colour patches meagerly attempt to animate the otherwise reserved scenes. A multiple figured composition and brighter colouration hints deviant hopes in her future works.
Vinoda’s assumed to be abstracts are colour plays, with a feel of both plasticity and transparency. A self-taught and non-figurative initiation is now (in the current works) compelling her to trace out naturalistic references in her compositions, i.e. landscape, flora and fauna are sensed in a semi-embryonic stages. Strangely enough, an excellent handling of the off-beat, clichéd Shenoyesque colours are commixed with muddy colours of odd combinations, that too in the same canvas.//
(Indian Express, March 13, 1994)
Several new modes of visual-thoughts were introduced to the College of Fine Arts (Bangalore) a few years ago. Nikhil Ranjan Paul, the main catalyser then (as an art teacher) continues to teach and influence the budding artists, in both positive and negative sense. He restricts his pedagogy to (his) personally favored of painting linear oriented, meticulously rendered, romantically accented. These aspects also dominate the works of the final year students (their group-show ‘Class of 94’ is on till 20th March at Chitrakala Parishath Gallery)
Among them, Late Marish Pal’s works pronounce the importance of the act-of-painting. Bright colours schematically rendered (with elongated faces, torn paper surfaces and the sorts) turning fragments of everyday scene into personalized, but vaguely stylized compositions that were his hallmarks.
Amogh Patel’s colourful abstracts stress on design aspects and colour- lyricism. Otherwise works like ‘Coagulation’ conceal several potentials like free floating colour forms, deprived of gravity (thus nullifying the much obsessed ‘positive-negative spacing’ theory in art).
The paintings of Shashi show various stages of her working methodology, from the rough, animated linear ones to the serenely commoded Banaglaesque works. A clash between the multi-dimensional, expressive colours and the linearity co-exist at the different levels. Conceptually her canvases shift abruptly between different schools-of- thought.
The flat, contrasting dark and bright colours in Monika’s works, together with the roughly modulated human figures, act as ‘vertical-invaders’ in the otherwise narrative works.
Hashmanth possesses a rare ability to construe an existential solidity in her most ruralised, double-figured pictures (ex: ‘Twins’). Though the main focus is on the meticulously masculine rendering, a solid theoretic base for such a colour-blind but sculpturesque picturisation is yet to be derived by her.//
Indian Express, April 3, 1994)
For the past three decades the activities of the Ken school of Arts have been directed and channelised by R.M. Hadpad and his concept of art education has provided utmost freedom to his students (of two generations). As an administrator he has been hindered by lack of art facilities including an art complex as for some reason the government has remained apathetic to his unique approach towards rationalizing art. In fact, the technically more well- equipped college run by CKP lacks art teachers with authentic insights like Hadpad. Even though a highly debatable point, this freedom for knowledge provided within the walls of the Ken school has at least been producing a few most promising and sensible artists (like Sheela Gowda, B.V.Suresh, Chandranath Acharya, Sham Sunder, S.Dhanlaxmi, J.M.S Mani etc) in the otherwise dull scenario of Karnataka art.
Recently, the Ken School of Art celebrated Vasanthotsav by organizing two exhibitions simultaneously at Ken school (both of old and new students) and Venkatappa Art Gallery (final year students). It was a retrospection of the diversified aesthetic outlooks that the school has developed through the decades. The former students works negate any specific style that is usually associated with an art school (unlike the so-called Baroda school style and Shantiniketan styles). Most exhibits shaow an awareness towards global art and visual language. But since there are only two exhibits per artist the show is reduced to being more signatory than revealing.
The final year students’ works meagerly echo the surreal, fantastic and literal characters that were in vogue in the yester years. (Mainly book illustrations and J.J School oriented paintings and sculptures Ex: the works of Natraj and Subash Kumar.) Some make an attempt to become contemporaneous ( Ravindranath, K.Girish, Gulzar,Prabhu) others pretentiously professional (S.Kammar) and some others show naive archaic awareness of visual modes and patterns (C.Venkatesh, Savitha, Ganesh M.S, Gowri Hegde, Mohan Murthy, Raj Shekhar, Gopal Krishna, Shanmukha Prasad, Salma). If and when these students are exposed to a more active art surroundings as is available in cities like Delhi, Baroda and Calcutta they might diversify and metamorphosise.//
A confused statement on the environment
(Expressweek, Indian Express, August 5, 1995)
Are the contemporary artists getting embroiled in a directionless creative exercise? The genuine options in front of a sensitive artist today are multiple and hence exhaustive. What is generally known as the ‘deconstruction’ tendency in art, that rightfully rejects any singular definition of an art experience, simply refuses to define what art was, is and would be. A creative group’s ‘deconstructive’ tendency should never be a vain attempt. However a couple of such shows will not prove path- breaking either for Karnataka art, until and unless this is actively pursued.
To be more specific, the recently conclude exhibition of the constructions (call it Installations or Assemblages or both) by a few Bangalore based artists (To Be Or Not To Be), were aimed as a protest against the global industrialization which is proving environmentally disastrous. But the final works, the way they were displayed at the CKP gallery (organized by the Max Muller Bhavan) and their interrelation with the photographs of the Alps mountain ranges, Amazon River bed and other nature scenery, revealed the laboriousness involved in simplifying the whole show into a simple message. Even if the gallery display be ignored (in which the artists might not have had a final say) each artist’s work at a sensitive non-superficial level was conveying deviant experiences always other than the intended theme of anti-industrialization.
Consider M.S.Umesh’s work that uses the lorry tube as the medium. When his work is viewed from all around at a distance or a close-up, the frames are distracting. The photographs of Sheela, Ravi and Raghu are all visible at the eye level. Umesh’s works on the other hand, irrespective of their form and content, always distract from above and below. And so on. Thus, Umesh’s work alone, which is one of the best exhibits, is a semi-real being providing the feel of rubber. The single art work, intended as a pro-ecological comment, has at least three extremely different aesthetic, sensual and pictorial dimensions. More than anything, when it comes to formal interpretation which is feverishly sought both by artists and critics, these three functions turn out to be mutually-contradictory notions in a single art work.
As a second example, Sheela Gowda’s work using natural and man-made materials like coconut and bamboo products, along with a Kannada folk song attached to the art work, also does not make a statement of any kind. The raw natural coconut mesh is more man – handled at its kernel. The sensitively handles threads and calculative incisions inside the circular centre can mean the man’s forced signature on natural products. At the same time, the raw edges are pretentiously so, because clear scissor marks are visible over there. This nullifies the former interpretation of this very same work. There is also a third option wherein Sheela’s work, a unit of several seemingly similar fragments, can be argumentatively paralleled with the essential aspect of Pop-art. The other less prominent works in the show, executed essentially in perishable media or video taped (by Shantamani Raghavendra Rao, Ramesh Chandra and others) do not make the statement, i.e. “ To be or not to be”, at all.
Although these artists have used new materials as an art medium, after all of them had earlier worked in seemingly more conventional art media like oil, acrylic and clay, they seem to be operating the newer mediums without updating their content which is formalized and archaic.//
An ambiguous and irrelevant show of graphic prints—Group Show (Ravi Kumar Kashi, Kalpana Prakash Patwardhan, Giridhar Goud & Amaresh U. Bijjal)
(Indian Express, September 2, 1995)
A rare graphic show is on at the Sakshi Gallery. It is rare because these prints are old and its creators are now, mostly preoccupied in media other than printmaking. Neither is it a retrospect of the young artists (a retrospect, in the true sense of the word, is held when a veteran artist feels that it is time to conclude his artistic career). At least three of the four artists (Ravi Kumar Kashi, Kalpana Prakash and Giridhar Goud) are now clear about the direction of their own artistic- visions, though printmaking (except for Kalpana) has become a piece-meal preoccupation for them.
Ravi’s prints (from 1989 onwards) have portraits of men executed in different technical conveniences like lithography, etching and so on. They are necessarily in melancholic mood and along with the expressionistic appearance, stand symbol of Ravi’s personal and vocational preoccupation of the past five years. A kind of impatience towards technical sensitivity uniquely evident in graphics alone (among all art media) is a common strategy that links the works of the three other artists, other than Kalpana.
Kalpana has a satirical tone of narrating experiences through strange nude figures and objects of which Brughel and Daumier were champions. A quality rare among women artists. But her laborious involvement in the technique of print making is so much evident in the final works alone, reduces or dissolves the intensity of her themes. Two dynamic kind of artistic elements are at odds with each other here.
Giridhar Goud’s monoprints (again a contradictory terminology which means ‘a single print!’) and Amaresh U. Bijjal’s mutually unrelated works – along with unnecessary exhibition of an etching plate itself (like displaying a colour palette, instead of the painting)!) which is not even educative about graphic techniques like sugar-bite, viscosity, drypoint- makes the otherwise fair show into a vague one.
The fact that the latter pair (Giridhar and Amaresh) have a raw style of executing art work, is revealed in the forceful lines and images in their work. But Giridhar has controlled those rustic countryside images to an extent. Whereas, Amaresh, in spite of basically being a simplistic expressionist, fails to bring out the robustness of a pair of bullocks, something so powerfully popularized throughout history of art.
The general character of the show is marked with ambiguity. Graphics, in the classical sense of the word, is a medium that demands an intense technical involvement like that of Ajit Kumar Dube.
If artists works in multimedia in order to become more and more contemporaneous and are less sure about the relevance of only the graphic medium, they should not ‘paint a print’ or ‘sketch it’. They should only ‘print a print’.
The fact that these prints are not the respective artist’s present works and belong to the past, also raises the question of the necessity to exhibit them now.//
“Games of Art” paintings by Krishna Prasad K (CKP Gallery)
(The Sunday Times Of India, November 5, 2000)
Krishna Prasad is a young graduate in art, exhibiting his works at the very venue where he did his education. As the title of the show indicates, he paints labyrinths for the eyes. The likes of Chess Board, Kaun Banega Karodpathi are predominantly picturised in this series. In fact, he is attempting a theme which is way beyond his age. He has tactfully created his works which fit to the two important contrasting modes of artistic expression around him. He paints as well as installs paintings – even on the table – so that the audience could literally play a game, possibly.
The paintings are uniformly sized , like the juke boxes in a casino, so that one can choose his own favorite i.e., to look at rather than gamble. The imagination of the bike race in ‘ Karodpathi’ is a mature piece and seems to stand out on its own.//
Avinash Veeraraghavan’s photography (Sakshi Gallery, Bangalore)
(The Sunday Times Of India, November 12, 2000)
There are really innumerable photographs displayed next to each other, without any white space in between. The audience looks at them , but is bothered by the immediate eight photographs all around the piece he is looking at.
The subjects and the visuals of the unaccountable photographs are so vast that they erase off any sense of logical and known methods about looking itself. Hence, it is the way they are arranged , that counts in the show. Another reason for it is that you give a 6”x 4” photograph to the gallery and you can get any photo of your own choice. Hence the displayed visual is ever ambiguous and modified.
The mirrors, used occasionally, amidst the photographs alone create a space as big as the gallery space that we can look at.//
Subhash Kammar’s bull drawings (Cyber Cafi Gallery)
(The Sunday Times Of India, November 12, 2000)
Subhash Kammar’s dissertation at College of Fine Arts was about bulls and the power they generate. Even now, in the present series of bull drawings, he believes that it is the very same. But there is an additional factor to that, which alone, arguably, makes the show interesting. This also acts as the reason that takes the show beyond the mere exhibitory skills of his predecessors, Sunil Das.
The bull drawings are not imagined but recalled from memory. It is a memory of the artist’s childhood days. The fact that they are also recalled gives a comical and humorous touch to the otherwise powerful bulls. Hence the set notion of Indian culture as to what bulls represent is being contested visually.//