The Personal as a Process: Kala Sangrah 2

by Shujaat Mirza


The new year that has just begun has seen a heartening trend of almost back to back, well-curated art exhibitions that have replenished the senses that had been deprived of the primary feel of art in its usual environs. This applies especially to those of us who were eagerly looking forward to going back into the rhythm and rigour of a cultivated aesthetic experience which only a physical dimension can satisfy. Continuing this trend, a very interesting line-up of artists – present students and alumni of the School of Fine Arts, MSU, Baroda – have been showcased in the second edition of the institution’s annual group exhibition Kala Sangrah. Brought together by veteran sculptor and MSU alumni, Vijay Roy, the focus of the show was experimental and process-based art.


In Madhav Vyas's work, space, silence and presence act as the unspecified protagonists that vocalize a story despite the absence of any linear narrative. It specifically hints at the broken and staggered journeys that he himself has experienced – not being at one single place long enough to form lasting connections despite the willingness and intent to make meaningful bonds. Art is a projection of our inner anxieties, expectations, hopes and ambitions, and this gets most reflected in his works. We see a pure and honest appraisal of a life without glossing over any aspect of it and presented before us as a maze that we must delve into and yet that stays like a perplexing reality. He makes the simple deliberately complex because the most minimal is also the most difficult to express, just like our everyday reality.


His use of material is also guided by the need to assimilate and contextualize these phases. In “Unsettled Tranquility I”, for example, he uses emulsion as a base over which he applies charcoal. He owes the choice of the base medium to his childhood remembrance of working with emulsion and distemper to colour the house during the festivals. He derives the image of a typewriter keyboard and its back-end machinery from an actual model he had bought from the weekly flea market in Baroda, to connect to his thematic concern about the dire necessity to register our life stories. The typewriter, in a way, carries both the story and the graphic element, hand in hand, Baroda having been a significant turning point in his life journey. Baroda represents a fullness of an arrival, a destination where he can possibly forge meaningful connections after his fractured travels. The brick walls showcase the campus and the figures are familiar people, while the shabby wash basin in the far left corner shows his acceptance of life with the accompanying warts and what-have-you. This debut exhibition thus also marks a coming to terms with his own self and he doesn't flinch in showing us his struggle to reach till here.


In Vyas’s exhibited works space is defined not merely by its spatial limits but also by the way in which these boundaries collide and intersect and correlate with the other layers of consciousness that are embedded in the memories of each junction. Having lived a largely itinerant and peripatetic life with no permanent address, the sense of transitioning and flux is central to his work. And it is this that is part of his larger struggle to retrieve those memories into final moments on canvas. Doing so, he also rationalizes, somewhat peculiarly, these different phases of life that he relates to, not just through sharp images from the past and present, but also through the materials associated with those times. He has also done a few other works in charcoal and gouache on Wasli paper as well, displaying a fine understanding of different mediums.


Unspecified Tranquility I, 78 inches × 30 inches, watercolor, charcoal and emulsion on art paper, 2018

(Image courtesy of the artist, Madhav Vyas)


Unspecified Tranquility II, 19.5 inches × 14 inches, Watercolor, charcoal and emulsion on art paper, 2019

(Image courtesy of the artist, Madhav Vyas)


Hitesh, 16 inches × 11.5 inches, gouache on Wasli paper, 2020

(Image courtesy of the artist, Madhav Vyas)


Dinesh Prajapati's works, made on acid-free, handmade paper, meticulously create a layered exposition of his longings, in a clever tribute to the miniature tradition through a deliberate divergence from it, wherein instead of using ready-made materials he creates both the material and the medium. He uses pulp prepared from natural sources to stellar effect by generating the atmospherics through a flurry of hand movements and a rigorous texturing achieved by laying one coloured pulp layer upon another. The effect is a distinctive delineation of nature and contemplative wide expanses purely at the instance of an insistent immediacy. He creates the very medium as his emergent canvas on which his work materializes, thereby merging the persona of the artist with that of an artisan, combining the best of both worlds. He thereby crosses the limits of space and scale through textural embellishments: size is pitted against extreme minimalism in a way that grand landscapes of utmost serenity are constituted from the taxonomy of a kinetic dexterity. The visible byproduct reveals a masterly control over form and content.


Boat in the Water (close up), 47 inches × 91 inches, pulp painting on handmade paper

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Boat in the Water, 47 inches × 91 inches, pulp painting on handmade paper

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Falcon in the Wind, 43 inches × 91 inches, pulp painting on handmade paper

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Himanshu Jamod is a seasoned artist who brings a technical prowess to bear over his works, shaped over the years. Alang, the graveyard of ships, known for its ship-breaking industry, which lies in proximity to his native Bhavnagar, is the inspiration and muse. In this series of works he uses the rare combination of metallic shades in an earthy armature and with a prominent base colour, which defines the image in the contexts of the moods and cleverly plays upon the viewer's subconscious to elicit a specific emotion from the moment. His partiality to half-rusted and half-faded colours syncs with the sense of loss that a ship-breaking yard is permeated with as well as a sense of being in between two worlds – where a ship arrives at the end of its life cycle and is broken down into parts and traded off. There is a certain sense of things coming to a halt, not as a reprieve but as an end of a voyage, and yet a monumental serenity descends upon us as well like the strange calmness that comes after a storm, like the Ship of Theseus perhaps. In “Embankment” the tilted ship seems stranded in mid-sea like a stationary occult figure reminiscent of a Greek myth. In “Retrieve 2”, the broken-down ship seems to glow in a starry night like a sunken treasure retrieved from the depths of the ocean in a night that decorates it with stardust. Using stroke upon stroke to generate the desired texture, he gives each painting a unique coat in accordance with the subject matter, imbuing the surface with a ductile tactility.


Entrance, 13 inches × 17 inches, acrylic on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Tug, 12 inches × 15 inches, acrylic on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Retrieve 2, 48 inches × 48 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Embankment, 60 inches × 60 inches, acrylic on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


In Payal Rajput's works, her ancestral home in Shahbazpur, on the outskirts of Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, looms large, both as an objective reality as well as an reimagined ghost town that she seeks to return to, having shifted her primary residence to Bijnor. This relocation and dislocation is at the heart of a convergence and separation that she grapples with. In doing so she comes to terms with both the loss of memory and change of circumstances through her artistic depiction of this angst. The familiar walls, courtyard, open spaces come alive, in stark relief. As she is now further removed from them after coming to Baroda to pursue her art course, the works acquire even more urgency and additional relevance. And within this storm of nostalgia she finds meaning through her art. A home as an approximation and a reimagined place is central to her work. Going back to the familiar through a mental landscape without any photographic reference and owning it as an answer to homesickness and a way to find her moorings, she applies layers of tissue paper to create a thick canvas upon which she traces her journey of colours and known spaces. She uses oil colour and print transfer to get the desired effect on the tissue paper surface and uses a faint hue to depict the imagery, as if it were, a negative or a sepia-toned image from the past. This arduous and time-consuming process would have perhaps helped her to lose herself completely in her task and mitigate the longing for the places she left behind.


Ghar 2, 10 inches × 12 inches, oil colour and tissue paper on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Ghar 1, 40 inches × 76 inches, oil colour, print transfer and tissue paper on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Ghar 1 (detail), 40 inches × 76 inches, Oil colour, print transfer and tissue paper on canvas

(Image courtesy of Shujaat Mirza)


Madhurjya Dey, originally from Haflong, Assam, trusts a patchwork storytelling format where he brings his innate love for all forms of poetry and narration to good use in a visual flow of images to further his expression. In the displayed work, ''The Shepard Tone'', a motion reel is replicated, emphasizing multi-pronged narration of events in a haphazard but designed synchronization. Purportedly about a letter describing the walk of a person who narrates it in his letter to his brother who has been banished to another place, it speaks about simultaneous uprooting and displacement that take place when a person enters a new place as an 'outsider' while also becoming a stranger in his earlier home that he has been forced to leave. And a further sad turn of luck takes away his fixed livelihood even in the place he has been removed to. In the present times where some people are marked out as infiltrators and vilified as the source of all troubles, the work takes a long hard look at this phenomenon by positioning the precarious situation of an individual in an oblique way. The emergent art becomes an ode to his literary and cinematic influences while also showing his reliance on poesis. His aesthetic stylebook is heavily influenced by an unapologetic international sensibility to perhaps universalize the message.


The Shepard Tone

(Image courtesy of Madhurjya Dey)


The Shepard Tone

(Image courtesy of the artist, Shujaat Mirza)


Kiran Kumar Roy, an IT professional with no previous background in art, is a self-taught, amateur photographer, is an exception in this exhibition, but embodies the aphorism that sometimes the exception is the rule. In creative photography the gambit is to go beyond the obvious visual field into the realm of craftsmanship and create an illusion that alludes to the perceived reality. This transforms it towards a broader awareness that jettisons the temporality of the captured moment or image and pushes it towards a captured permanence. Functioning as a spider's web to capture the viewer’s attention through a clever mimesis even while seeming to fall back on standard photographic tropes, these images leap beyond the formal format. And what seems at first glance a picturesque shot hides a clever manipulation that subverts the perceived reality – the sunset where the sun almost resembles a hand, the orb-like bell suspended in mid-air, the rainbow like a mysterious figure moving in the sky, the chameleon cavorting in its element as if posing for a shoot, a paraglider that seems like a lone eagle in the sky. For a debutant his photographs show a remarkable finesse and comfortable handling, as well as a compositional sense and command over the visual language.


Light Tunnel, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


Freedom of Line, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


Eager Chameleon, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


The Bell, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


Day Before Full Moon, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


Rainbow, 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


Untitled (Sunset), 12 inches × 17 inches, digital print on glossy paper

(Image courtesy of the artist, Kiran Kumar Roy)


The group exhibition is in a way a cornucopia of diverse manifestations of creativity that expand the idea of art into newer directions while also using methods and references from past traditions. Aspiring to be a true collection of art, as its name suggests, in the present era of mutability and random inter-changes for transient pleasures, a return to a more deliberate craft is indeed a welcome change.


Shujaat Mirza is an intrepid art aficionado, curator and critic, with a passion for

multidisciplinary art. His primary area of interest is art at the intersection of visual aesthetics and verbal semantics. He is also a poet and writer and his work has been published online as well as in literary magazines.


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