Updated: May 28, 2022
by Ranjan Kaul
The ongoing group exhibition titled An Unlocated Window of Myself at Gallery Dotwalk, Gurgaon, featuring 14 contemporary artists, uses the metaphor of the two-dimensional window frame to comprehend the complexities of the three-dimensional world that lies outside it even as the artists look inwards to reflect and create art, infusing it with materiality, colour and texture. Premjish Achari, the curator of the show, says that the curatorial attempt “is to converge various perspectives on art and art-making, and the specific position of creativity in an ever-changing world.” While the window works as a conceptual space of openness and exploration, he adds that it inversely acts a window to ourselves and “this constantly shifting frame of the window is a space of introspection, reflection, and intrigue.”
For the exhibition, Premjish worked closely with Sreejith C.N., the promoter of Gallery Dotwalk, who says that the exhibition “emphasizes on the importance of creativity in our life. We all look out from the window . . . It is such a casual practice in our life that we don’t think too much about the importance of how much revived we feel through this activity. Similarly, creativity is such a window for all of us.”
I enquire from Premjish what he hopes to achieve from the exhibition at a personal level. "The exhibition has been an important step for me to understand what creativity has become in our times,” he says. “We know, in the global capitalist economy, creativity has gained a new currency. We have repurposed it as a means to an end to suit the current global market. Therefore, I am trying to understand what art has become in these crucial times. Certain important questions I am trying to ask through this exhibition are: What art has become? What do we expect from art? Why does art have to remain useless and non-functional in this surge of creative demands? The various works in this show, from different generations of diverse practitioners, help to form a constellation to reflect on this problem."
Exhibition view (Photos courtesy of Gallery Dotwalk)
It is from this critical perspective that we approach and review the exhibition as we explore the art that is on display and examine to what extent it is meaningful and responsive to the dynamic ecological, social and political climate. So, to my mind the questions that arise are: To what extent can or should art address such concerns? Can or should creative practitioners shy away from burning issues in a not-so-conducive environment? Is there space for creativity sans meaning and function in today’s troubled and disturbing times?
Substance of Faith by Jagannath Panda, Acrylic, fabric, glue on canvas
Untitled I and Untitled II by G.R. Iranna, Water colour on paper
As I enter the gallery the first work that captures my imagination is the large work by Jagannath Panda titled Substance of Faith. As in this work, Panda’s oeuvre largely manifests the conflict between knowledge and faith. Juxtaposing conflicting and shifting paradigms and elements, he makes visible the ruptures and fractures in our understanding of society and the world. In this particular work a monstrous form with a long arm and a dinosaur’s back (which may be interpreted as an aggregation of our cultural and religious inheritance) looms over a feline creature. Another smaller form seems to be paying the form obeisance, but at the same time is impacted with an abstracted tree of knowledge and rationality with drooping leaves and carrying fruits. Against the backdrop of a swirling and ever-changing cosmos are smaller worlds and habitats, a few afloat, adrift and lost. On the bottom right another figure with his/her head nestling baby birds stands steadfast on a pile of books with a finger pointing skywards. The intriguing work provokes thought and is open to various interpretations depending on the position one takes. The interesting use of contrasting media – acrylic and fabric pasted on canvas with glue – reinforces the concept and makes the work more compelling.
Belonging to a family of Shaivite believers and having studied in a gurukul and lived in an ashram, G.R. Iranna is a spiritual inclined artist. In his untitled water colours we see the farming and fertility images – the earth’s body edged with golden sunlight, the blossoms, the shapes of linga-yoni drawn from Indian mythology.
The structural rectangular geometry of the window seems to have been taken literally as we view the work of Chetnaa who deconstructs the existing order to build a new symmetrical, geometric logic in her series, Layered Shadows. While her minimalistic practice that balances the nuances of contrasting blacks and white with the interplay of shadows offers no further meaning, Pooja Iranna, who too uses structured rectangular shapes, explores urban buildings inside out, as it were, and the unplanned and pervasive mushrooming of urban habitat.
Layered Shadows by Chetnaa
Never Ending Expansion (d) by Pooja Iranna
Gigi Scaria’s sculptural installation, Home In-Out, is also suggestive of the unplanned growth owing to urbanization with a row of small dwellings, with just a door and two windows, collapsing into each other reminiscent of Russian dolls. As a satirical comment, at one end dangles a plumb bob, which was used for ensuring precise vertical alignment, hanging on for dear life, as it were, on a metal scale. The artist in his water colours raises similar concerns related to urban development and architecture and how urbanization has skewed and destroyed the ecological balance. In one work a tree is brutally uprooted to make way for urban expansion.
Home-in-Out by Gigi Scaria, detailed view
Home-in-Out by Gigi Scaria, sculptural installation
Untitled by Gigi Scaria, Water colour on paper
Untitled by Gigi Scaria, Water colour on paper
Archipelago by Sujith S.N.
Artist Sujith S.N. with his work, Poet Unknown
Sujith S.N. is another artist who explores the unchecked expansion of urban spaces; at the same time he reflects on the concomitant unsettling sense of alienation and social apathy. In a series of paintings in opaque water colour and gold leaf titled Poet Unknown, the artist uses undecipherable scripts written in the walls of Mumbai where he lives and works. His work Archipelago is a sharp satirical comment on elite urban living oblivious to the surrounding realities where he juxtaposes crowded dwellings against a swimming pool.
It is forecasted that by 2050 oceans will alarmingly carry more plastic than fish (by weight). Potter and ceramist, Prerna Sharma’s series of works is a sharp comment on the damage callous and unplanned so-called development has impacted the oceans and contaminated and kill fish (which we nevertheless continue to eat). Her initial formal training in drawing and painting and the artist's highly developed sense of aesthetics is very much on display in the superbly crafted silent and evocative works in muted tonalities.
By the Seashore by Prerna Sharma, Ceramic sculpture
Arjun Das reflects the predicaments of workers in the unorganized sector through his carved relief works, Stagnation II and They are Deceived using re-purposed wood. Sumedh Rajendran in his two sculptures on display uses disturbing contradictory forms which yet form a composite structure. While in his work Slow Cracks a cut-out figure is pulled out and mutilated to a bent form, Wind is a Shifting Land is suggestive of migrant workers, which also invokes the recent pandemic. Aman Khanna’s quirky and minimalist sculpture in ceramic, Bubble Head with mute, lost-looking heads, is perhaps a reflection on the pandemic and how humans became insular living in bubbles.
Stagnation II (above) and They are Deceived II (below) by Arjun Das, Carved on collected wood on site
Bubble Head by Aman Khanna, Ceramic sculpture
Wind is a Shifting Land by Sumedh Rajendran, Wood sculpture
Slow Cracks, Wood and Marble Sculpture by Sumedh Rajendran
Chandrashekar Koteshwar uses humour and satire in his incongruent works, 180° and Windows, questioning the very process of meaning itself and how meanings are never complete when they are fragmented. Ravinder Reddy’s arresting Untitled sculpture of a woman’s head parodies the ideal feminine beauty in Indian culture. The artist’s choice of materials – synthetic paint and gold leaf on polyester resin fiberglass – is itself a comment on the way natural looks have given way to artificiality.
180° (on the left) and Windows (on the right) by Chandrashekhar Koteshwar
Untitled, by Ravinder Reddy, synthetic paint and gold leaf on polyester resin fiberglass sculpture
There are works of a couple of other artists – Himani Gupta and Manisha Gera Baswami – on display which this review has not covered. While the works of these two artists by themselves meet high standards of aesthetics, I was unable to comprehend their congruence with the overarching theme of the show.
Summing up and extending the metaphor of the exhibition title, art in our country is indeed an unlocated window, where there are few takers for serious and meaningful art and commercial considerations take precedence. To that extent, the exhibition is a noteworthy investigation into the role of creativity and art, and Gallery Dotwalk and the curator must be commended for undertaking this exploration. However, it is a trifle disappointing to not find works that address certain socio-political issues of immediate concern, such as the growing spectre of social injustice and political violence, polarizing majoritarianism, and the rise of authoritarian and fascist forces. Perhaps this is too much to expect from a single show; or is the stifling environment we are living in the real reason, I wonder. Otherwise, the selection of works displayed do reflect creativity and equally have a strong sense of aesthetics. The display is also professionally done, with good lighting and adequate space to view the works, and importantly, readable and complete captions to the works (which is often not the case).
The exhibition will remain open till 29 May 2022.
(Photographs and images of the works are by Ranjan Kaul and the courtesy of the curator, Gallery Dotwalk and the individual artists.)
Ranjan Kaul is an artist, art writer, author and Founding Partner of artamour.
His art can be viewed on www.ranjankaul.com