To home page

Annual Display in Baroda »


Annual Display in Shantiniketan »




  • Anpu Varkey- Confused Ground
  • Anpu Varkey- Distacne Between You And Me
  • Anpu Varkey- Meeting At The Bridge
  • Lavanya Mani- Fables
  • Lavanya Mani- Fox Story, Blue Coat
  • Lavanya Mani- Fox Story,Sour Grapes
  • Om Soorya- Untitled 2007-1
  • Om Soorya- Untitled, 2007
  • Om Soorya- Untitled
  • Sukhdev Rathod- - Untitled
  • Sukhdev Rathod- Untitled 2007
  • Sukhdev Rathod- Untitled
Thumbnail panels:
Now Loading


Doors of Perception

‘Linkages/Dialogues’, a show at the Guild Gallery, Mumbai presents four young contemporary artists. Johny ML tries to open his doors of perception by conversing with the artists.

Guild Gallery, Mumbai. Summer in Mumbai, seen through a glass of beer looks beautiful. Sunrays refract through the golden liquidity of beer and they produce rainbows in brain. Now you can reflect upon the exhibits on the walls of Guild. Four painters, namely Anpu Varkey, Lavanya Mani, Om Soorya and Sukhdev Rathod are here to make linkages and dialogues between themselves, their works and the viewers. Professional to the hilt, they force the gallery managers to rectify the errors that inadvertently happened in the tags. They look confident and ready to take the world. These days young artists are like that; they know their worth and they know they are very much in demand. They don’t stoop, if at all they stoop, they stoop to conquer.

I confront these four conquerors. I am particularly amused by the naïve expressionism of Anpu Varkey. She is not so known to the art lovers like her three co-artists. However, that does not diminish her confidence. Educated in Baroda and St.Martins, London, Anpu exudes nothing but confidence and professionalism. The locale in Anpu’s paintings is not obviously Indian. They could be from anywhere, especially anywhere from Europe. They show subaltern identities lingering near and around flyovers. They look like idlers engaged in nothingness or drug induced lethargy. In their lethargy they communicate, sing and even witness history and art history. There is action in the background. There are moving people with minimal bodies.

“Expressionism for me is a very raw language,” says Anpu, who has a certain kind of assertiveness in her style of conversing. Yes, this ‘rawness’ could be the only tool that would help the subaltern to express his position, says an art historian. Anpu does not know about that. However, she acknowledges that she has a particular affinity for the subaltern existence though she does not belong to that community. That excites me a bit. How did she negotiate her Asian/Indian/dark complexioned identity during her sojourn in a white country, where multiculturalism was still on debate?

“I was not particularly affected by my Indian-ness or Asian-ness,” says Anpu, “Yes, of course, for a couple of times I have sensed the vibes of racism against me,” she hastens to add. “But I do not consciously work with the issues pertaining to identity. There was a time I used to make a lot of portraits. Was it for engaging myself with the identity politics? I don’t know. But for me painting is an open ended process. The biggest challenge that I face is formal. The images are secondary for me. They come and go. I am still in a process. For me it is not a conclusive language,” opines Anpu.

Am I convinced? I ask myself. Not much, I feel. So I try to trap her in another question. In her works one can see a man standing with a gun under a sign board, saying ‘Rifle Maker’. The barrel of the rifle is like an erect penis. One must be remembering Ernst Ludwig Krichner’s famous painting of the artist with a phallic brush in hand. Many a feminist had read into it. Does Anpu make a critique on the maleness? “For me a rifle maker is a rifle maker. There is no ideological debate involved there,” says Anpu. When I say that most of the people painted here are white and even the Christ is a white Christ, she is really at the edge of her patience. “Do you see only white men here? Can’t they be anybody? My aim is not representation. I play with colours and forms. I do not make any narrative in my works,” says Anpu.

A fellow critic is present in the gallery. She asks me, “Haven’t you had beer before in your life? You are drinking like a fish.” Some occasions are like that. I become very sober when I meet artists. I usually do not get spirited away but spirited into (conversation). Hence, I meet Lavanya Mani, who is already a ‘name’ as she is a recipient of the Kashi Award and is a much sought after young artist. The colours and forms in her paintings instantly remind you of history book illustrations. A closer look would reveal that they are nicely painted and stitched images on clothes. Her choices of images are deliberate and the process of painting too has certain premeditation. One tends to read them within the narrative structures.

“Yes, I do generate narratives in my works,” says Lavanya Mani, whose words sound more like the expressions of a deeper rumination. Lavanya does not want to make the critique that she generates in her works so obvious. “There is a critique on the grand narratives and I use a parallel and fragmented narrative technique to deconstruct them. History plays a major role in my works,” says Lavanya.

One cannot escape noticing the omnipresence of a colonial critique in Lavanya’s works. Her very use of clothes is emblematic of this. There are playful imageries of colonial travelers, who look like invaders and kings at the same time. By using clothes, she evokes the colonial history of clothes and its indigenous resistances. Carefully selecting images from her own personal archives she employs the traditional stitching as a part of her paintings.

“Certain images are brought in very consciously. Some of them are erstwhile discarded images from my own paintings. They are embroidered, stitched and attached to the clothe surface and they play a pivotal role in generating the narratives. I actively question the patriarchal economy in which the women are subdued to the level of labourers. Stitching is a creative process and it has its own economics. I want to bring them in my works,” says Lavanya.

Lavanya’s works give a feeling of embroidered carpets from a distance. At times they look like colonial maps, which had been made for socio-cultural and political governance. By emulating such cartographic imageries in a very skilful way, Lavanya tries to map out an alternative history. The critique is not overt and she does not use the female ‘body’ in order to exemplify the history of colonial body politics.

Another beer and I am ready to take Om Soorya. Caught between the IT Hyderabad and its own peripheral realities, Om Soorya looks thoroughly romantic and surrealistic in his creative renditions. “I live in two worlds,” says Om Soorya. “No, perhaps I live in three worlds,” he adds. The world of the living reality, the world of lived reality and the world of an internal reality, Om Soorya has all of them in him.

“My problem is a typical post-modern one,” says Om Soorya. “Hyderabad, where I live is one of the IT hubs in India. There are super real buildings with glass facades that make you feel that every thing is transparent. But what you get is your own reflection on them. You never come to see what is going on inside. Then at the outskirts of the city, you see a really transparent life, which is full of heat, dust and shit. During nights both these place looks surreal. There are full of lights, some bright and some dim, however, they look very poetic. And I can not take them as they are. I take these into my mind and where they mix up with the memories and my paintings come from these memories,” Om Soorya makes his kind of introspection.

True to his words, Om Soorya’s works are poetic landscapes, the idealized ones where the poet/artist can live his life as he wishes. There are foliages, starry nights and horizons with golden embers. When he renders the ‘city lights’, he assumes the personae of Wordsworth, who flew over the Lake City and sang about the golden Daffodils. Om Soorya flies over the city, one of his mental journeys, and catches the sight of the golden lights; the temple lights that adorn the shrines of global communication.

“Can you call it your last glass and shall we go out?” asks my critic friend. She does not have rainbows in her brain as she drinks only aqua pure. So I catch up with Sukhdev Rathod. A pleasant young man, Sukhdev is a painter as well as a sculptor. Studied in Baroda, Sukhdev too is afflicted by the Surrealist bug. “My art is not surreal in the strictest sense,” says Sukhdev. “I do not want to create a reality which is away from reality. But I do want to create a grid between the perceiver and the perceived.”

There are grids or perforated facades in Sukhdev’s works. These grids distance the actual image from the viewer. One has to make physical movements to comprehend the actual imagery of his works. The concealment using grids gives a sense of haziness and puzzle. Viewing becomes a kind of problem solving. “I problematize the act of creating the image as well as the act of viewing. The images are familiar though a bit exaggerated. One has to relate with the actuality of the familiar image and the scale of its exaggeration. Through this deliberation one can reach to the inner truth of the object world,” says Sukhdev.

I like Sukhdev’s freshness of argument. But I find the works a bit too perfect. Blameless and picturesque, somehow they loose the cutting edge-ness. Pushing perfection to the next level could end up in the manifestation of ugliness. Sukhdev’s works are in that dangerous zone and he needs to negotiate this zone before continuing with the same style.
It is time to go. I leave the gallery with my friend. On the way, I tell her, “My rainbows are fading. Can I have one more beer and come back?” She says, “Shut Up.”


Home About us Contact