Indeterminate

October 20, 2012

The space between the progressive and regressive, the modern and the ancient are the subjects of Bharat Sikka’s debutant fine art photography show on at the C&L gallery in Colaba. This is an interesting counterpoint to his otherwise well known fashion, commercial photography. There is no doubt that Sikka has a fine eye and technique, his images  here are shot in urban areas where there is large scale development but as most know in this country there is very little finish, conduits, and debris, unpainted new structures and piles of rubble left un cleared all sit around some how becoming the rhinoceros  in the visual ointment.

 

The images are almost without any colour and they are not monochromatic, they come from an unsaturated, smoggy, archipelago that could be a gulag. These are mostly urban landscapes of stadia, power plant sites, fly-overs and movie studios. There are two images that are particularly interesting, most for where the camera has been positioned. There is some precision to the symmetry where parallel lines meet at a vanishing point, forming a triangulation that is beguiling. The other image is shot from the outskirts of a power plant grid, a patch of red earth looks suspiciously, beautifully out of  place. This is not about a decisive moment but a decisive place that is remarkably familiar. There are people but most are unrecognisable, there is life, but just barely, leaving only the vestiges of a lit bulb or an errant street light. A skeletal tree drops onto a playground that seems joyless. 

 

Bharat Sikkas images have been part of a widely travelled show, many of his images are familiar. While one has waited expectantly for a show that would have taken indian photography to another level, a young observer’s comment sort of summarises the exhibition well, underwhelming. Andreas Gursky , Stephen Shore,  Hiroshi Sugimoto and other conceptual fine art photographers like Gregory Crewdson have done this sort of work some time ago. Many indian photographers are exploring this unglamorous urban space but that is telling in its own way.

Is The Space in Between Love and Hate, Indifference?

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The Doppler Effect

March 19, 2010

8/2/07

A suite of photographs simultaneously spread across two galleries in south Mumbai itself induces many questions. Are these two shows or is it one show divided or is it many shows that happen to be in two galleries, or could these be 51 shows each playing themselves out in disparate surroundings, in your home, office or public space?

Dayanita Singh’s Go Away Closer and Beds and Chairs happen to be positioned temporarily in two distinct galleries, Gallery Mirchandani+Steinruecke and Gallery Chemold, but it is the intention of the photographer that the show travel in a box and be exhibited maybe two or three or 5 or 7 at a time and place undetermined yet.

That is about the only explicit ‘intention’. There are no other motives in the 51 exquisitely printed, rich, square, traditional, silver bromide, and archival prints. In some sense the images are authorless, though don’t try reproducing these photographs unless you want to to invoke a copyright infringement suit.

If you are looking for a Decisive Moment, someone caught mid air over a puddle, then you will be disappointed, for most of Dayanita’s photographs look like they were there exactly the same way monthhours (sic) before and yeardays (sic) after she visited the scene of the crime. Except that there is no transgression, though these could be used as forensic evidence, physiognomy of people that inhabited the place, worked, slept, sat, lived, loved and hated there. In many ways in that on going elastic moment you catch a sense of the familiar whether it is the seat numbers in a theatre or starched Nehru shirts in a glass case. There is a sense of suspended animation, where actions have stopped and words find no utterances. It is a mute world that Dayanita Singh dopplers away closer towards. There are no captions and no arrows to direct the flow of traffic, you could theoretically intersperse one photo with another and form your own curation.

The images are unmemorable, amnesiac in the sense that they would like not to carry too much baggage of history, of human bondage, they are light as you are light or heavy and dour and humourless as you might be, they are musical if you are a percussionist and a novel if you are an author. They are detached and isolated if you are itinerant. They could be you as a schoolgirl flopped on a bed during the afternoon recess making sure you don’t dirty the cover with your shod feet.

It is like reaching home-ostasis.

Quintessential Ashok

March 19, 2010

The timing has never been better for photographers who want to explore the creative world of fine art photography. The market is in a nascent stage but if art is currency then the 1400-point sensex should be a good omen too. There are some photographers who have been commercial photographers only because the market was ready to have them, but some of them felt restricted working to a brief often shoddily thought through, directed oftener by wet behind the ears advertising ‘creative’.

With fine art photography as with painting, sculpture and print making the buck stops squarely on the individual photographer, there is no where to hide and no client, no agency to answer to. It’s you and the jungle. Ashok Salian’s debut solo show on at Jamaat  9 Jan to 2 Feb is like a pathfinders compass, while he himself is searching through five separate subjects, the viewer has to align themselves to magnetic north then journey to the centre.

Each of those subjects have names, for Ashok the beginning is where it all started, with the black and white series of four images called Surrealism. The title is a bit loaded and ambitious for all the art history baggage that that brings. ‘It was the pressure to make images for the Exhibit A show’ where commercial photographers showcase their own personal work, and what Ashok calls, laziness, that prompted the exploration. While laziness is often associated with lack of physical get up and go, like some travel photography, you don’t necessarily have to leave home to indulge in it. The ramshackled gala next door to his studio became the scene of ‘organised’ chaos. In many ways you want to return to the scene of the crime, there are elements and a backward Secundrabad stencil along with a woman whose lips are sealed. You have to unravel the secret yourself; it’s a dark world there, rich with texture and light peers through meaningfully. This quartet is the best work in the show, stripped of the realness of colour and 3D, the work is real and surreal hauntingly, brutally, honestly. Much of the work is projected, photocopied, analogue, each work independently and collectively is superb, and where in one photograph there is enough black space around the subjects to minimally speak to you without a concert.

The next Exhibit A 2001, prompted Introspection, the tools and chaos from the gala are all visible and in colour this time. Ashok restricts himself to a limited palette and the ink jet prints come off contrasty and dense. The image with the stark androgynous face has reticulated paint that entices you to touch but like the floating Daliesque watch dials, without hands.

The next series is called Exhilaration the images in vermillion and blue predominantly have a female figure waft across it Garden Varelliesque. The work seems two dimensional, less engaging with much less mystique.  The primary colours do all the work, immediately, form runs away with content.

Masks, the fourth series is a trilogy, they reveal or conceal very little, the slightly fuzzy focus does not add to the intrigue, they are what they are.

Tribute to Yoga is Ashok’s most recent work shown also at the last Exhibit A 2006, Ashok is passionate about yoga and how it has rejuvenated him, the work is some sense is formulaic and the technique improved and more precise, somehow while you are discovering new positions and decoding hidden manuscripts you are left with less surprise and magic.

After you are done you will retrace your steps and go back to the beginning. It shall be called the Saliant (sic) quartet.

10/5/08


Jeet Tahil’s introductory essay The Future Infinitives might be suggestive of a more appropriate title to the current, Gauri Gill’s show of photographs, The Americans.

“Almost Americans”, might coalesce a sense of the images, a kind of people lost in transition searching between Bud Light and Khalsa, a movement and an identity.

As you walk into the gallery you are visually assaulted by more images than might be necessary. The walls seem to be papered with photographs that are not too unfamiliar from the ones most of us have of family and friends back in the USA. You would have to crawl on the floor and get a ladder to see, really view, all the images, so in that sense, the way the exhibition has been mounted at Chatterji and Lal’s gallery shoots itself in the foot.

Many of the images are diptychs and within the image sometimes there is another duality, this then becomes too much of a good thing. Some of the images have been cleverly juxtaposed where you dont know where the wall/post/window ends and the new image begins. Sort of reminiscent of the ‘single take’ music videos of the 90s. There is a sense of inside and outside and sometimes that is the only clue that the images are of the sikh community mostly in the USA. The exhibition is hardly representative of the Punjabi community living abroad but rather a small, almost, extended family album. The Buick in the drive way, the maple, elm, the motel, mobile home or the santaclaus in the window are often the only semiotics to indicate that the images are actually shot in America, most of the others almost could have been made in Ludhiana, Noida or Gurgaon.

The images are of a documentary nature, sometimes the document is almost funny this is represented by a cut out of the Taj, with its fake, cloud filled sky backdrop, dwarfed in a crowded street by the tall buildings around. There are predictably almost ‘monsoon’ weddings, and ‘Bend it like Beckam’ visuals.

The most striking photograph is of a young upwardly mobile, Asian couple getting into their separate automobiles, the lack of communication between them is the most telling. The other photos that make  you look twice are the ones with images within them either on the TV or peering out of the photo frames on the residential walls. The diptych of the shivite, tambrams is reflective not only because its shot in the mirror. And what might be the subject of a more interesting social discourse is of small cutouts of women in saris with news paper clippings, of the American Dream becoming the Nightmare, ‘Parul Patel strangulated to death by her 24 year old husband’.

While the west initially was in search of India, it is Ironic that Indians are in search of the west now when it seems almost unfashionable.

11/2/08

Rameshwar Broota is a fine artist and that would it seems be enough credential to explore other mediums and the message. This, his first show of photographs is intriguing. There are aspects to the show currently on at Sakshi Gallery which tie in the painter Broota with the photographer, the metaphors of man and man-made re surface.

The exhibition as a whole is graphic and impressive, impeccable prints, clean mats and aseptic white frames retain prints that go all the way up to 130”. One can forgive the bruises some of the prints have received in transit.

There seem to be at least three types of images and the connections between them seem tenuous and fragile at best. The strongest work is where Broota goes back to his flaccid phallus though he seems to have lost it in one of his self portraits. Where through digital fragmentation an illusory piece of hirsute skin lands up in the receiving hand at the crotch. Penis envy takes on a whole new meaning. The machine gun toting soldier morphs into a phallic canon’s plunger.

The finest and most powerful image is the one with ducts sucking in a genuflecting Broota. The diptych is effectively crafted, digital skullduggery not intervening in the illusion. The negative space, graphic diagonals, textures and subtle colours of skin and tin are gorgeous. In the same room, is an image of a man wearing an ominous, Hitlerian, uniform in the foreground of an a deserted beach, with Panzer like impressions on the sand, scrutinising a swimmer who has just emerged dripping, with sexual innuendo. There is the viewer, the voyeur and the spectator all being examined. Censorship is implied in one of the images with a braided cable stay running diagonally across the portrait but the cable is pixillated and is so amateurishly cut and pasted to the point of discredit.

Broota is fascinated with his fingers, he shoves his phalanges into all sorts of orifices playfully making flaccid penis’ and if that was not enough producing mirror effects of the same. The photographs with the stretched gummy fingers are just plain trite and woefully executed.

The urban portraits from travels abroad with partner explore the surreal. The man in aviator glasses suddenly at the horizon develops a flurry of skirts, this sort of Ardhanareshwara is old hat and juvenile.  Most of the portraits are completely avoidable. Then out of blue pops a pink pony in a meadow. The role of the gallerist/curator is not evident.

Digital image manipulation is an awesomely powerful tool in the hands of the deft and creative. Where it is best used is when it is least noticeable. But where it shows up is when it intervenes in the process and the practice. The image at the entrance of a ships bulkhead door is a clean, white abstraction of fresh paint and haiku shapes of handles and hinges. Whether the saturation tool or contrast sliders were twiddled is immaterial, the image is glorious for just being.

Broota has concern for a universal ideal of what might constitute ‘quality, without which a work of art ceases to exist’. From at least the time of Fiboacci to Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, philosophers and mystics like Thomas Aquinas have alluded to Integrity as being that corner stone.

There is a old adage that is familiar to photographers, when in doubt, blow your images up, size does matter.

Many fine artists today think they can get away with dabbling with a new medium in the hope of being a renaissance person. But especially with the established, the scrutiny should be more exacting and demanding.

Indeterminate

March 19, 2010

28/2/08

The space between the progressive and regressive, the modern and the ancient are the subjects of Bharat Sikka’s debutant fine art photography show on at the C&L gallery in Colaba. This is an interesting counterpoint to his otherwise well known fashion, commercial photography. There is no doubt that Sikka has a fine eye and technique, his images  here are shot in urban areas where there is large scale development but as most know in this country there is very little finish, conduits, and debris, unpainted new structures and piles of rubble left un cleared all sit around some how becoming the rhinoceros  in the visual ointment.

The images are almost without any colour and they are not monochromatic, they come from an unsaturated, smoggy, archipelago that could be a gulag. These are mostly urban landscapes of stadia, power plant sites, fly-overs and movie studios. There are two images that are particularly interesting, most for where the camera has been positioned. There is some precision to the symmetry where parallel lines meet at a vanishing point, forming a triangulation that is beguiling. The other image is shot from the outskirts of a power plant grid, a patch of red earth looks suspiciously, beautifully out of  place. This is not about a decisive moment but a decisive place that is remarkably familiar. There are people but most are unrecognisable, there is life, but just barely, leaving only the vestiges of a lit bulb or an errant street light. A skeletal tree drops onto a playground that seems joyless.

Bharat Sikkas images have been part of a widely travelled show, many of his images are familiar. While one has waited expectantly for a show that would have taken indian photography to another level, a young observer’s comment sort of summarises the exhibition well, underwhelming. Andreas Gursky, Hiroshi Sugimoto and other conceptual fine art photographers like Gregory Crewdson have done this sort of work some time ago. Many indian photographers are exploring this unglamorous urban space but that is telling in its own way. Is The Space in Between Love and Hate, Indifference?