The Subliminal Art of Prem Chander
by Ranjan Kaul
The ongoing exhibition of the young, talented artist, Prem Chander, titled Subliminal II, at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) Gallery, New Delhi, is a continuation of his earlier show in October 2022 held at Lalit Kala Akademi. The deeply emotive black-and-white works on display are abstracted and distorted human forms, using charcoal, pen and ink, and acrylic on various surfaces – canvas, paper, pieces of wood, and even disposed cardboard.
At the Inauguration, from left to right:
Prem Chander, Johny ML, Ranjan Kaul, Soumen Bhowmick, Biman Bihari Das, Prof. Naren Sinha
Regular drawing and sketching in the streets for many years, diligently combined with a keen observational eye, has given Prem Chander considerable proficiency in rendering the figurative form. It is this tapasya that has equipped and enabled him to create his unique art – spontaneous, unrestrained, meditative, stemming from the deep recesses of his mind. The defining boundaries of lines of his twisted and contorted bodily forms and spaces merge, blur, become indistinct and translate into rich compositions that offer multiple interpretations.
Declining to ascribe meaning to his art (one wonders if this has to do with the times we are living in), Prem Chander describes his works as essentially one of self-expression and an exploration of the collective human subconscious and spiritual experiences. His monochromatic compositions are a reflection of a range of deeply felt aspects of human life and and the challenges of living in a disturbing social milieu. The abstracted forms depict human subjects in varied poses and gestures, conveying a wide array of human emotions and sensibilities. The works are subliminal, compelling the viewer to look within – disturbing and gloomy, and yet enchanting and contemplative, provoking the viewer and giving the viewer a calming presence, a quietude, at the same time. Many of the forms are contorted as if in agony or deep distress and looking fearful, but then there are also those that are wistful, sitting with vacant expressions, or just staring into space, perhaps ruminating the banality of existence. In the works we often encounter artistic devices such as noticeably prominent hands and feet and elongated heads of farm animal visages that meta-morph into human faces and expressions, depicting primordial, beastly impulses and the human predicament. Some of the forms are juxtaposed with foliage or cocooned within an embryonic form or ensconced in human-made elements such as a wooden sofa, alluding to the inextricable relationship of humans to their immediate environment.
Prem Chander has come to be known as the “gatta artist” because he often uses the uneven surface of packing cardboard to create art that is at once instinctual and mesmerizing. While the uneven and undulating surface of the packing board offers texture at one level, the choice of re-using the unassuming surface that is only used once and then discarded may be interpreted as the artist’s subconscious empathy for the disadvantaged and those that are vulnerable or living in the margins. On this beige-brown undulating surface the artist gives full rein to his emotive power, allowing his subconscious to play out its appointed role through frenzied and effortless lines and brush strokes. Use of space, including negative white spaces, gives his works an element of drama and an added dimension to the works, which together with bold, curvilinear lines and distorted forms make for complete compositions.
Talking about his work, Prem Chander says,” One of the driving principles of my art is that it should be easily accessible to all and can belong to multiple perspectives and cultures. I made extensive use of cardboard as the humble rustic textures and the undulating surface reflect the landscape of the unconscious mind. I have endeavoured to explore the collective human consciousness by connecting it to spiritual experiences. My works are a reverberation of resonating memories, strengthened and recalled by sound, smell, sight, touch and taste This interplay of the five human senses sends unique messages, thereby generating multiple meanings.”
The process of learning through observation, experience and practice, and then unlearning and internalizing this, stripping it down to its bare essentials, has enabled Prem Chander to create art with considerable maturity at a young age. For every serious artist, the journey of art is long and challenging, a continuous process of discovery with no definiteness. Experience, constant learning and greater awareness of the world we live in enriches creative work. These are difficult times for artists, and they have to find ways to respond to the not-so-conducive socio-political environment we are living in. With his dedication and zeal to learn by observation, I feel confident that Prem Chander will evolve and grow as an artist as he explores and discovers new pastures in his art journey.
The exhibition at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) gallery will remain open till 12 January 2023.
(All images are courtesy of Prem Chander and Ranjan Kaul)
Ranjan Kaul is an artist, art writer, author and Founding Partner of artamour.
website: www.ranjankaul.com; insta: @ranjan_creates