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  • Works from 108 Small Stories
  • Works from 108 Small Stories
  • Works from 108 Small Stories
  • Works from 108 Small Stories
  • Works from 108 Small Stories
  • Works from 108 Small Stories
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Beads at a Wheel

Aakansha Rastogi looks at each frame presented in Manjunath Kamath’s solo show ‘108 Small Stories’ at Gallery Espace and says that they look like beads thrown at a wheel. They make designs and sounds at the same time through the narratives that they create, question the authority of language and social hierarchies

Manjunath Kamath

“Often I work with illusionistic space and even an ordinary element sometimes becomes a fantasy for me. In my painting, I try to portray emptiness”. While browsing for B. M. Kamath on internet I read his above statement about the works (perhaps earlier works). This bit of text supplies us with a continuum to view/ re-view his recent solo exhibition ‘108 Small Stories’ at Gallery Espace, 13th – 20th April’ 2007.

I wish to take up the important phrases that he uses to describe his work, and see the works exhibited under the light provided by him. And, I simultaneously contradict such a methodology by questioning the urgency of an artist’s “originary sensory perception” in order to reach/ de-code/ map an understanding of a work of art. Also to remember is the point that the Kamath’s text that I use to juxtapose with his visual imagery is de-contextualized text, picked randomly to suit my purpose and the authority that I derive through my act of writing. I also wish to conflict or parallel my authority with Kamath’s/ the artist’s authority to choose his images, as he engages ‘the self’ in narrating a story. Kamath isn’t the sutradhar who comes to the rescue of the audience and narrates ‘the missing’, thus linking two scenes, to give a holistic complete story. He only sets the stage and disappears, to let the action happen.

I refer his small-size works in the show as ‘frames’. It’s easy to get comfortable with Kamath’s visual syntax. And a glance more, the mystery behind his transforming images from one frame to other is also observable. Its like as if he puts colored beads on a wheel, and they jump from one spoke to the other, touching and colliding at various points, as the wheel rotates. Given is the condition that the beads do not fall out.

Furthermore, in his solo ‘108 Small Stories’ his palette is selective. The images are neat structures drawn over opaque backgrounds that significantly refract actual images, i.e. virtual image is not only formed at a different location/ point but also the image acquires layers of references corresponding to both our experiential world, and other frames. As he himself notes “element sometimes become a fantasy for me,” he repeats his images with certain changes that indicate change in the idea or a step ahead in the story. For example, a Dalmatian dog sometimes sniffs hallucinatory black smog, or flashes its spotted skin from a royal red dress hung on a dummy, or poses his rear, or sometimes even the royal golden bordered dress borrows the skin of a dog. Hence, a spotted dress to be worn by a princess, perhaps indicating her other identity. In another frame the dog runs away crossing a candle stand, or in the next it’s just a spotted collar band with red button.

Similarly, other elements like a red boot, tiger, mice etc. recur to mediate issues of power and entangled relations, a mess. His allegories become intense through repetition of elements, each time coping with a new setting on-stage. Wit and humor resonates through these mischievous transformations, like the frame in which a table represents a cow, bestowed with an udder by the artist, a semblance after a natural cow; along with a black table underneath representing calf. The product is on the table, a bottle of milk.

“I try to portray emptiness.” Jumping into the skin of others, wearing masks, or metamorphosing into a dumb statue to distance ‘the self’, or rub against ‘the self’, and look at it mockingly. It becomes a play. Child-like play where kids change their identities and characters so simply and quickly. An alternative world full of possibilities. However, this play is again a farce, a technique, for there is no ‘inside’ to ‘the self’. It’s happening only at the level of appearances. The inside is empty. Kamath’s repetition of images constantly points to this hollowness, whence anything can fit into anything, and create composite visual meanings.

Lastly, to revert back to the question of the choice of selecting imagery, I too have woven a story in words to help relating you to Kamath’s works and hence problematize the “authority” – a white ambassador with red light. 


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