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Column - Mumbai Sketchbook - Abhijeet Tamhane

  • Work by Om Soorya
  • Work by Farhan Mujib
  • Work by Ratna Gupta
  • Work by Ratna Gupta
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The heat is on!

Abhijeet Tamhane

Almost all the galleries major galleries made their presence in April. In May, most of them will give in to the tiresome humid Mumbai summer. However, some interesting   shows are still on, like the Ratna Gupta show at Gallery Beyond, or the Vasudha Thozhur show at Sakshi. As these shows draw to a close by first week of May, Ebenezer Sunder Singh's show will open at Pundole Art Galllery.

The passage of May would also bring anxiety about the Monsoon Shows.

Being a Mumbaikar, I always believe that Jehanghir Art Gallery propagated the 'monsoon show' logic to the flourishing private galleries-that-be today. While it was common for the private galleries to showcase their collection, hardly any private gallery went out of its way to search for the graduating talents from and around the city (this gradually changed, after some Mumbai gallerists flaunted their new 'found artists' at the Baroda Display). Then, since 2002, the year when Minal Damani and Prajakta Palav were just out of the J. J. School of Art, private galleries began to have their own Monsoon shows! That did not develop into a trend, however. Have the hungry curators taken over the role of the Monsoon Shows? Or are there any good young artists hiding out there, waiting for their Monsoon?


Groups, if you say so.

Shalini Sawhney of the The Guild is thinking of a 'summer show' for her gallery at Colaba. It is the gallery that gave a noteworthy show to Sukhdev Rathod, Om Soorya, Lavanya Mani and Anpu Varkey. The recurrent energies in painting, the attitude that cares for the form, were visible here. While Lavanya Mani's work challenged the canonically Western notions of a painting, Anpu romanced the Britpop of yesteryears with her autobiographical references. Soorya seemed to have resorted to a visual-making mode that is, to me, 'so very Keralite' (no offence meant here Dear Mr. JohnyML.)!  In other words, Soorya preferred the dramatic shifts of light and dark, poetic and prosaic to arrive on the verge of fantasy and reality. Of his six works, more of less landscapes of a dream, four had a male protagonist. If the protagonist implies the artist's selfhood, his fluidity with the idea of self must be congratulated. Sukhdev Rathod did not do any Ceramic of sculptural work, but his watercolours dealt with the ways of looking at the third, and fourth, dimensions.   While the Cloud remained as a motif, Sukhdev's drawings kept the 'you are in it' appeal.

Another show encompassed five practitioners. From the abstraction by John Tun Sein to the social researcher George K., the show spoke of divergent practices, en route he collages by Farhan Mujib and large-sized paper works by Avishek Sen , who chose to experiment accruing centrality to the 'peripheral' techniques that are still regarded craft. The inclusion of Manish Nai's video-still based work gave a fifth dimension to the quartet.

A critic's sketchbook is bound to be full of such reminiscences. A time will come when they ripe, have a life of their own.   Apart from these rather sketchy jottings about 'group shows'( if you insist calling them so), there were a couple of observations that were noteworthy, but only for the sketchbook.

Panda and the Goat :  While Jagannath Panda's solo ended at Chemould Prescott Road . (Soon to be called "the Chemould". Any clues?) While the work invited enquiry from many standpoints, important among them was Jagannath's quip about how he sees the subaltern migrant classes to a metropolis and their garb-changing strategies to live. When I asked him 'so, the goat has to turn into a tiger?', his cool reply was: it can be the other way! Putting aside your tiger-ness and turning into a goat… an then, 'living- not dying- as a goat' were the tequila shots for my brain!

Mine, Yours and Ours: While Ratna Gupta's 'Metamorphosis Retold', transformed the usual, friendly look of Gallery Beyond, the darkened interiors of the gallery acted as no man's land inhabited by a work so directly akin to the artist's bodily presence, it gave the viewer a feel of being an intruder. It was not until I went upstairs in the same gallery and interacted with a bookrack work that contained some books made by the artist, that I had made peace with the experience. Thanks to the architecture, I could see the whole show at a glance from upstairs! Was it the interactivity of the books, or was it the 'secured' feeling as a viewer who could 'glance' and gaze from a distance? Or, is the question more honest than any conceivable 'honest answer'?



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